When it comes to success in team sports, who you have on your team matters. If you’ve got the best player on your team you’ve always got a chance at winning. In the gospel you are promised a huge advantage. Not only does God do something for you, He promises to be with you and help you. For the Christian, no matter the circumstance, there is always a sense that you are never alone and are never helpless. In our last post we looked at two ways that God is with you – God’s Love and God’s Gospel. In this post I’d like to look at a few more.
- GOD’S WORD
I’ve often heard it stated that, ‘God is not the Bible’. This is sometimes stated in order to justify someone’s communing with God apart from the Bible. I am not against worship. I love to sing songs to God and about God. I am not against times of quiet solitude and contemplation. These are helpful means by which we commune with God. The statement though raises an unnecessary dichotomy and an unfortunate misunderstanding of scripture.
Throughout the Old Testament God created two chief means by which He could be with His people. He spoke to them through his Prophets and met them in the tabernacle and the temple. This is especially seen in Exodus.
God spoke to Moses his prophet saying,
‘And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst’. Exodus 25:8
God continued by giving Moses specifications on how to build the tabernacle beginning with the Ark of the Covenant, which would be God’s throne. It was here that God said he would meet and speak to Moses. But don’t miss what is also specified.
‘And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you’. Exodus. 25:16
In the Ark was to be the Testimony that God would give to Moses. That is: the Ten Commandments or God’s Word!!! The only piece of furniture allowed in the Most Holy Place was this Ark where His presence and His Word resided. It was here that God met with and spoke to Moses (Num. 7:89).
22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. Ex 25:22
Throughout Israel’s history these authoritative words from God grew in size and were added beside the Ark of the Covenant (Deut. 31:24-26; Josh 24:26 etc).
God may not be the Bible but you cannot separate God from His Word. They always go together. God meeting with and speaking to His people in Exodus prefigured the communion that believers now have with Christ. In John 15 Jesus used the illustration of a vine and branches to encourage his disciples to remain in communion with him. Throughout the discourse Jesus notes that to abide in Him is to abide in His Word; to abide in his love is to obey his word. Again God’s presence and God’s word go together.
The Spirit’s primary vehicle for making God’s presence more real to you is in and through the scriptures. As you read them, listen to them, discuss them and sit under the preaching of them, God is ever present with you speaking to you in order to strengthen you, encourage you, prepare you and make himself known to you.
- GOD’S PEOPLE
God’s promise is to be with His people. Therefore it’s important to realise that this is where He is – with His people. It’s easy in our narcissistic, egocentric culture to think through the lens of the individual – God is present with me! While true in some sense, the promise has always been a corporate one. Consider what Jesus’ first word was when he taught the disciples to pray? Can you remember the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6? The first Word was not ‘Father’ but ‘Our’. It was corporate. It was communal. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus, speaking in the context of church discipline noted that ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.’ God is present among His people.
This is why it is such a tragedy to see so many so-called Christians disconnected from the church today. Yes the church is imperfect. Yes the church is sinful and often hurtful. The church is made up of sinful people in need of a righteous saviour. But in and through the church God is present and by His Spirit and His word God is healing His church. The Apostle Paul teaches that as God was in the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament, post Jesus’ resurrection, the church is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17). His Spirit dwells in His church, the new temple.
If God is present with His people then you can be sure that God is with you as you are with His people. And He is with you to uphold, strengthen and establish you.
If you want to experience the blessing of his presence, you will find him among his people. The church that Jesus builds is where he delights to be. This is where his words are preached, his sacraments are administered, his people are discipled, and his glory shines. It is among his people gathered that God has historically brought revival. The outpouring and experience of his Spirit most often comes to a people gathered. Joe Thorn
- GOD’S GIFTING
How many times has God blessed you through the gifts of others? Whether it is an encouraging word, an act of hospitality or a monetary gift, all are a means of God’s active love towards you and being present with you. There have been countless times that I have prayed to God for help, encouragement and strength and God has provided this through his people.
1 Corinthians 12:7 says, ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ Paul continues by listing various gifts the Spirit gives His people. Paul wants the church to be aware of God’s presence and activity through the gifts given to the individuals in the church. God gifts every person differently but as the church express these gifts for the edification of the church, the church experience God’s presence. Don’t underestimate God being with you through the small things people do for you.
When the church use the means that God has given them to love and serve others, Jesus is present.
- GOD’S FILLING
Numerous times in scripture we see God moving in peoples hearts or spirits. Nehemiah said that God had, ‘put it into his heart’ (Neh. 2:12) to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. There was no command. No audible voice. Rather he had a sense that God was speaking to his spirit to take up the mission. Paul’s spirit was ‘provoked’ as he saw the city of Athens filled with idols and then remained to reason and preach the gospel (Acts 17). God’s Spirit communes with our spirit. God is present with us in our hearts.
In fact it is through the Spirit’s witness with our spirit that we are assured that God is our Father.
‘…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God’ Rom. 8:15b-16
Thomas Goodwin, a famous puritan, used a great analogy to explain this experience. He speaks of a father swooping up his toddler son into his arms, swinging him around and saying, “You are my son and I love you” In that moment, the boy has in no way become more his father’s son in a legal sense. He is and will always be his father’s son legally. However by being caught up in his father’s arms he feels his sonship more deeply- more intimately. This is what happens when God’s Spirit fills you. You sense his love more greatly. You experience His presence more closely.
In our next post we will look at Gospel Promise #3 – God In You!!!