Within every human breast rages this desire, driving him forward. Many a person confuses the object of that desire and spends his or her entire life striving for the unobtainable. Very simply put, the great passion in the heart of every human being, who are created in the image of God, is to experience the awesome majesty of God’s presence. The highest accomplishment of humanity is entering the overwhelming presence of God. Nothing else can satiate this burning thirst. -AW Tozer, Experiencing The Presence Of God
A busy religious life devoid of God’s presence
Have you ever been haunted by the idea that there should be more to the Christian life than what you are currently experiencing? I will admit that I have frequently felt that way. When I read in the Psalms how the saints of old delighted being in God’s presence I feel an ache overcome me and I want the intimacy and joy that they experienced.
We need to know the difference between the omnipresence of God and the manifest presence of God
One of the things we learn in God’s Word is that there are different ways to understand and experience the presence of God. In Psalm 139:7-12 we read this:
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
What the Psalmist is describing is the omnipresence of God. To say that God is omnipresent is to say that he is present everywhere. But Scripture also describes the manifest presence of God.
“You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” -Psalm 16:11
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and hit filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. -Acts 2:1-4
The manifest presence of God is when he reveals himself in a unique and clear way. It seems that the pathway to true joy is found in only one place, God’s presence. When we experience the manifest presence (or some refer to it as the relational presence) of God we find that our hearts are impacted and we are spiritually transformed. The reason why it is imperative to make this distinction is that we can affirm with our minds that God is omnipresent and yet never truly experience his power in our life. Our greatest spiritual need is to go beyond the omnipresence of God and into his manifest presence.
We need to be aware of what is keeping us from the life transforming presence and power of God
What are some of the barriers that keep us from experiencing God at a deep level?
- We don’t truly have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is possible to be religious, attend church, and still not know God personally.
- We allow distractions and busyness to keep us on the surface of knowing God. How many hours do you think you devote to a screen during the week compared to meditating on God’s Word? Social media, the news, entertainment, busyness, all work in such a way to keep us on the surface of what it means to know God deeply.
- We numb our pain with worldly pleasures. This is a temptation that I face on a regular basis. There are hurts and wounds in our heart that we refuse to deal with. So, instead of doing the hard work of laying our hearts bare before God we self-medicate. Alcohol, shopping, TV, exercise, perfectionism, sex, and work are all ways that things that can keep us from allowing God into the deep places of our life.
- We are stuck in a habitual sin. We have given up the idea that we can experience spiritual victory in a particular area of our life and we have grieved and quenched the power of the Spirit of God in us.
- Truth be told, we really don’t like the idea of God being God in our life. We might not say this out loud, but completely surrendering our life to the manifest presence of God does not sound like all that much fun.
We need to know what we must do to experience the life transforming power of the manifest presence of God
So what do we do to actually experience the presence of God in our life? As I have been reading and studying God’s Word I believe these are the primary ways that we can experience God today.
- We experience the presence of God when we are honest. Ask God to give you a desire him on a deeper level (this is where I am at right now). God already knows where we are at spiritually so we might as well just be brutally honest with him.
- We experience the presence of God when we repent of our sin. Darkness and light can not co-exist. God will not put up with false gods and idols in our life. Spiritual renewal and revival are preceded by confessing and turning away from our sin.
- We experience the presence of God through reading God’s Word. Are you soaking your heart and mind in the truths of God’s Word on a daily basis? One area that I want to grow in is not only reading and studying the bible but actually meditating on it.
- We experience the presence of God when we pray. Prayer is talking and listening to God. It is in these sweet times of fellowship that we can go deeper with God. I have been challenged recently to come to God and to just be quiet in his presence. When was the last time you spent 10 minutes just being quiet in God’s presence?
The last thing I should do is act like an expert when it comes to revival. I have never lived through anything like what I have read about in the Great Awakening. But it seems to make sense to me that genuine revival among God’s people would need to be preceded by a growing awareness and desire to be in his presence.
Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as you ponder the idea being in the manifest presence of God.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” -Augustine