Practising the Presence of God, By Femi Aribisala
What the thief wants to kill, steal and destroy is our relationship with God.
Most Christians don’t know what it means to be saved. If you ask us, we are likely to say we are saved from the agony of spending eternity in hell. Or we might say we are saved from our sins, even when we are still sinful. While the latter might be true to some degree, it fails to identify that salvation is particularly from the consequence of our sins. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23). So, if we are saved from sin and its wages, we are saved from death.
But then most of us were abstracted from the death from which we are saved. When we were dead, we did not even know we were dead. We thought we were living. As far as we were concerned, we were alive but were saved from future eternal death.
However, this is not the verdict of the scriptures. The scriptures tell us we are saved from present death. It says when were still in our sins, without the salvation of Jesus, we were dead (in trespasses and sins). (Ephesians 2:1).
What then was the nature of this death?
Quite simply, the death was separation from God. We were dead to God and to godliness. We had no relationship with God. Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10). That life is defined by fellowship with God. God is eternal life. (John 17:3/1 John 5:20). Abundant life means spending unending life with God.
John declares that the purpose of preaching the gospel is that others may also be redeemed into this special fellowship: “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3).
Christianity then is actually not a religion. Christianity is not about going to church or studiously reading the bible. Christianity is about having an intimate personal relationship with God. Jesus redeemed us from being sons of men to being sons of God: “And because (we) are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into (our) hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). Because we are sons, God has given us his precious Holy Spirit.
The true Christian life then is a life of fellowship with God. Jesus says: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10). What the thief wants to kill steal and destroy is our relationship with God. Jesus paid the ultimate price. He gave his life in order that we may be reconciled back into a fellowship with God that had been killed stolen and destroyed.
Safeguarding Our Redemption
Now that we are reconciled, it is imperative that we should guard our renewed relationship jealously. Under no circumstances should we allow it to be lost or stolen again. With Jesus on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51). That means we can now “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
The privilege of our new intimacy with God was the yearning of the priests of old. The psalmist says: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 41:1-2).
In the olden days, only select priests could enter the holy of holies and come into God’s presence. Moreover, they could only do this at appointed times and with much fanfare and circumspection. When Uzziah had the audacity to enter the holy of holies unauthorised and to burn incense upon God’s altar, he was struck with leprosy. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
But now, because of the completed works of Jesus, we have an open invitation to come before God. We can come into God’s presence any day, anytime. The temple of God is no longer a physical building. The redeemed are now the temple of God, in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit of God himself. We no longer need to worship God on some mountain or in remote Jerusalem. We now worship God “in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24).
Nevertheless, the problem with us is that we are often satisfied with so very little of God. God has infinite treasures to bestow, but we content ourselves with moderate sensible devotion. Instead of jumping into the ocean of God’s abundance, we stand on the sea-shore and only get our feet wet.
This is clearly unacceptable to God. God, “the Desire of All Nations” (Haggai 2:7), cannot stand people who are not very passionate about him. Jesus says to the Laodicean church: “I know you well – you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15-16).
God is God. He knows he is God. He does not like being ignored and will ultimately not accept being taken for granted. “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11).
Therefore, if we have received the Holy Spirit, we must not behave as if he is not here with us. We sometimes live in the same house with somebody without talking to him or her. That is the spiritual situation with most Christians. We are born again, but we carry on with our lives as if God is still remote. But he is Jehovah Shamar: the God who is always here. (Ezekiel 48:35).
Can you imagine a couple who just got married living like complete strangers? They live in the same house, but in different separate rooms. They do not communicate; they don’t even say hello. How can we do this with God? How can we live with him and snub him? Since we invited him into our life when we accepted Jesus, we must involve him in everything we do.
Don’t even think without including him in your thoughts. The psalmist calls those who fail to do are evil: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (Psalm 10:4). When Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, there was no room for them at the inn. Make sure there is room for God in the inn of your heart.
Now that we have God, everything we do should now be determined by the presence of the Holy Spirit who now lives permanently in us. Jesus says: “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Solomon counsels: “In all your ways acknowledge (God), and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6).
Because of his presence, we can no longer do what we like. We must now do what he likes. “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike: ‘What’s next, Papa?’” (Romans 8:15).