On Sunday, we explored the biblical reality that God has been personally present with humans through human history. Whether it was individual humans like Abraham and Moses, nations like Israel, and now throughout the whole Earth through the Church, God's great desire and plan is to be present to His whole Creation, and especially to us, His image bearers (see Genesis 1:26-27). That Making Room for Jesus, a core expression of our vision for 2021 as a church, is all about Making Room for nothing less the God Himself - present to us, even in us, and then working through us.
The truth is, this can be hard to believe for us. God, wanting to be present to me. The Creator of this Universe wanting to show up in my world. The Jesus who literally calmed storms by telling them to "Be Still!" (see Mark 4:39) and healed so many in acts of miraculous power wants to be present to me. Even more than these, the Holy Spirit, God in His person as Spirit, wants to dwell in me (see John 14:16-17).
Today, I want to deal with "presence blockers." Ways that we view ourselves, God, and the Holy Spirit that block us experiencing Him personally - His personal presence. May you find fresh encouragement, and even freedom, to encounter the living God through these thoughts.
Blocker #1 - The Way We See Ourselves
One of the chief ways we can stop ourselves from experiencing God's presence is in how we view ourselves or what we believe about ourselves. A common way we can express ourselves is, "I'm not worthy" to experience God's presence. Elaborated further, this can mean: "I'm not spiritual enough"; "I'm not spiritual enough"; "I'm not prayerful enough"; "I'm not consistent enough". The list goes on. The bible speaks clearly to this belief that can block us from even daring to want to and try to experience God's personal presence:
"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."
You and can have confidence to "enter the Most Holy Place" and "draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings". The Most Holy Place was the place in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple where God Himself dwelt amongst His people. You and I can be where God dwells, can draw near to God, by faith. And how is this possible? Not because we're good enough, not because we've prayed enough, not because we're consistent enough, indeed not because of us at all. But "by the blood of Jesus...a new and living way"! By faith in the forgiving and cleansing sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross, which included His shed blood and broken body, we can draw near to God - be in His presence, by faith!
Blocker #2 - The Way We See God Generally
Another way we can find ourselves experience a "block" from the presence of God is in how we view God. We can feel like God is hesitant, or in some mysterious way distant and avoidant of being with us. By way of an indirect illustration, Jesus' interaction with a man who desperately wanted healing for his leprosy, which itself was a very isolating disease, helps show us God's real heart towards us:
"A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed."
Jesus was indignant at the question of His willingness to heal this man, and in the context it seems clearly to be an indignation born of His complete willingness to heal and help this man in his debilitated state. How much more, if Jesus is God with us (see Matthew 1:20-23), does this tell us God is willing to be with us. To be present to us. To be in our midst as His sons and daughters.
Blocker #3 - The Way We See God the Holy Spirit
Thirdly, we can tend to struggle with understanding how God works in our lives by presence of the Holy Spirit. We can tend to understand God the Father, because He clearly reveals Himself in the Bible, especially throughout the Old Testament. We can understand God the Son, Jesus, because He is clearly testified to in the New Testament. But God the Holy Spirit - He's a bit hard to grasp, come to terms with - and as such we can leave God the Holy Spirit in the too hard basket. This belief becomes a blocker to God's presence with us - the Holy Spirit. If you struggle to understand the Holy Spirit, and how He fits in our Christian life, I can thoroughly recommend this resource by Dr Gordon Fee. But let me give you three bible passages to help you understand and become convinced of who the Holy Spirit, and how He wants to work in your life:
The Holy Spirit was promised to be with us and even in us by Jesus (see John 14:16-17).
The Holy Spirit is understood to be essential to what it is to be led by Jesus (Romans 8:14).
If you need a good list of Holy Spirit bible verses to study further, here's one such list.
Freedom to Encounter the Living God
God wants nothing less than us to experience Him freely. Personally. And the Holy Spirit is the key for us who live in the times of the New Testament. And this all starts with what we believe.
Where you have needed encouragement that God truly does want to be with you, and at work in you, personally, take courage. Where you have been stuck, feeling far from God's Presence or unable to encounter Him, be set free to encounter Him through the truths of God's word found above.
The truth is, the Holy Spirit, God's Presence with and in us, is essential to living the life God has made us to live - to go and make room for people who are yet to know Him, to grow in our relationship with Jesus, and to gather and make room for people.
Come, Holy Spirit - heal our hearts, renew our minds, and encounter us we pray. For the Glory of God, and the restoration of true humanity throughout the earth.
Written by Ps. Rob.