Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Experiencing God's Presence

In many of our churches todays much is made over experiences of a spiritual nature. This is so often the case that individuals or churches are made to feel that if they have not experienced some miracle, healing or spectacular event that there is something lacking and that individual or church is somehow second rate. The problem with this way of thinking is that does not consider God's point of view. What we want to see and to have to validate our faith is perhaps not what God has in mind for us. What we see as the most significant signs of faith may not be so in God's sight. What can be more important from heaven's view than another soul placing his or her trust in Jesus for salvation? Furthermore, what can be more precious in God's sight than his child walking in close fellowship demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians five? The true test of experiences is not how spectacular they are but how they demonstrate our relationship to God our Father. Many professing Christians have prayed a prayer or had an emotional experience but don't have evidence of an ongoing relationship with the One Who paid the price for their sin. The most important experience a Christian can have is to see God actively working in his or her life.

The first step to experiencing God in our lives is to accept His provision of salvation by inviting His Son into our hearts. Only when we've been born again can we have the relationship we so sorely need. An emotional experience won't do. In fact we may feel little emotion as we trust Him, but that does not take away the reality of that trust. God is the One that brings us to salvation. He is the One that gives us faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We have but to receive (John 1:12). It is after we have received Christ into our lives that we walk with Him experiencing His presence. As we experience His regenerating power with in us we draw closer to Him in love.

II Peter 1 talks about knowing God's grace and promises. Peter begins by telling us to add virtue to our faith. Virtue is doing what is right to do. Consequently, Peter is telling us that if we want to really know God we need to follow His will and to do what is right no matter how unpopular it may be. We can seek for spectacular events, but we will not really know the reality of God's resurrection power within us until we determine to do what is right. The world is changing and seeks to mold us into its ways. What was once seen as wrong is now accepted as right. People who trust God are criticized more frequently and even called evil as we take a stand for God's principles. We cannot turn to Man for a definition of what is right. We will not know what is right until we study God's Word.

And so, Peter tells us to add to virtue knowledge which comes to us in two levels. First, we study Scripture to know the Truth. From God's Word we know Gods hates lying, adultery, stealing, hatred and so much more. Second, we learn as we obey His Word, of His love for us. As we obey a righteous God we experience His righteousness and we understand His love for us. As this process ensues we are partaking of His divine nature escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust (II Peter 2:4). And still, Peter goes further, add self control, endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness and Godly love. These things will make us abound; we will not fail in Christ if they are ours.

But having all these things is not an automatic process. Peter tells us to be dilligent as we add these things. This means to keep at it. If we want to experience God we must continuously seek to do and to live His will. As the little boy imitates his father and feels closer to him as he does so, we draw closer to our heavenly as we imitate Him.