Monday, April 11, 2022

The Presence of God and Spiritual Senses

"Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down" (Isaiah 64:1)!

Come down from where? Does God come down from where He is or to where He is? Where is He? Is God up there but not down here? What did the prophet mean by "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down"? If He left heaven, then He was no longer there. If He was no longer there, then He was no longer on the throne. If He was no longer on the throne, then would not the angels have ceased to cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord GOD Almighty”, although they cease not night and day to utter these praises?

The awestruck Psalmist expressed, what was to him, the wonder that is God. He lovingly gazed upwards and said, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him” (Psalm 8:3-4)? No doubt that these holy Spirit inspired words are true, no exaggeration, and more than just a reflection of one’s imagination; these words conveyed an intimate glowing inward reality sparked by Divine visitation but in what way was the Psalmist’s wonder ignited? How did God visit Him? Did God rend the heavens and come down as some flash of lightning before His eyes, shaking the earth beneath his feet? Did God step out of eternity into time, out of spiritual into material, out from His throne down to His footstool to visit him, for the prophet did say, "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest” (Isaiah 66:1)? While the Psalmist’s prophetic insights were fulfilled in Emmanuel, God with us, the word made flesh, there was indeed a secret, an experience unveiled only to broken and contrite souls, who tremble at God’s words (Isaiah 66:2). This was the secret of the presence of God.

Shall God travel? If so, how long will it take Him? Shall He go from point “A” to point “B”? If God can travel, then He can be measured and if He can be measured then He is a finite being. In many places throughout Scripture God is doing something in one place and visiting another, yet how can this be? The all-consuming reality and joy of all creation is that God is everywhere present, in all places, all the time and that there is no distance between visitations and events where God is, for God is everywhere.

Solomon declared, "But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built” (2 Chronicles 6:18)! God cannot be contained therefore He cannot be measured, and He cannot travel anywhere because everywhere God is. God never travelled from one place to another; He never literally left His throne, heaven is not literally a place where God sits down, and the Earth is not a literal place for Him to rest His feet. With God, distance, time, and any increment of measurement is needless, for, “He fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23); God travels nowhere when He “visits”; rather, every visitation, encounter, etc., is simply God manifesting Himself. The Psalmist understood this. He cried, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:7-8).

When the prophet called upon God to rend the heavens and to come down, he was calling on God to manifest Himself, and that to a rebellious people, whose righteousness was as filthy rags. He was calling on God to make His presence known, so that insensible creatures could be made aware of Him, and feel the pain of their revolt, and learn to hate it and to depart from it by the fear of God inspired by His presence. Not only that, but more so that a spark of diligence would ignite into a hot pursuit of God, that they would truly find Him, and having found Him, to love Him.

The apostle exhorted a wayward church who had drifted away from God, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). They didn’t drift away from God by inches, feet, or miles but through their sins they lost touch with the sensible presence of God. They were becoming so insensitive to God’s feelings, presence, and thoughts that the apostle used bold expressions to call them to repentance, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4)!

When we are truly born again our senses are awakened and made alive by the Spirit through regeneration, to perceive and to know God. God manifests Himself to those who humbly place all their trust in Him for salvation. This is the promise of the new covenant. Our sins and our lawless deeds are remembered no more, and the forgiveness we have received is realized by the presence of God within. There is an internal rest, an enduring peace, hope and joy, and a loving nature emerges. At last, the life of Jesus is brought forth. We learn to intimately perceive what God loves and what God hates not merely because we read about it but more importantly because we have personally felt it deep within our inner being. Our senses have come to life through the new birth, but our senses must be further trained to mature in Christ. Many content themselves only with a momentary, a “way back when”, “a several years ago” elapsing encounter with the living God. The manifest presence of God has become for them, at best, more of a cherished memory rather than the life-giving reality burning inside. They remain babes, not weaned from the milk, spiritual dependents who have not pressed on to perfection. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Not that mature believers do not need Christ’s gifts to the church i.e., apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, but that they cannot relate to the words of John, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (1 John 2:20). For this reason, the apostle did not cease to pray for the church, “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:15-17). This was a church that was saved by grace through faith, who were once past feeling, enemies of God through wicked works, dead in trespasses in sins, yet, his ceaseless prayer for them was that God would grant to them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The Greek word for revelation used here is pronounced ap-ok-al'-oop-sis, meaning manifestion, disclosure, be revealed, and the Greek word for knowledge is pronounced ip-ig'-no-sis meaning to know fully. The apostle was pleading with God to grant to the church manifestation of Himself that they might know Him fully, not merely through letters, sermons or others gifts, but through inward personal experience, that, the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened, that they would know what is the hope of their calling, and what is the glorious inheritance they have saints. That they would know these things intimately and fully. Notice, that the apostle translated God manifesting Himself to His church, as eyes being opened. It is not God who is absent, away, or distant, but that we have become insensible to Him. We have lost pursuit of God. The prevenient grace of God aroused our hearts to search for the meaning of life, to feel the guilt of our sins, our rejection of God’s righteousness, and the judgement that awaited us if we did not change. We then began to seek the LORD if haply we might feel after Him, though He wasn’t far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:27) but life happens, distractions arise, doubts and fears assail, and we get off course, as did the Jewish church to whom James wrote his severe exhortation and we are told, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). God was with the patriarch Jacob his entire existence, for God is everywhere and nowhere is He not but it wasn't until God manifested Himself to Jacob in a dream that his inner senses were awakened by that manifestation so that he said in Bethel, "Surely God is in this place and I knew it not" (Genesis 28:16).

The presence of God, the manifestation of God, is what awakens our spiritual senses and brings them to life. It is what makes us sensitive to what He loves and to what He hates; to what brings Him grief and joy. It teaches us how to abide in Him and to walk in love. It is what empowers us to pursue holiness and to perfect it in the fear of God, as it is written, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20). The mountain was smoking, there was thunder and lightning, God was speaking, and only Moses drew near. Moses heard God; the multitudes heard thunder. The multitudes were afraid of God, but they did not fear Him. They were afraid of the presence of God, as was Adam in the garden when he hid himself (Genesis 3) but Huis fear was not inside of them. Adam knew he was naked, he knew he disobeyed, and through sin he became afraid of the One who would walk with him in the cool of the day, although the presence of God was there when Adam took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. God was seeking reconciliation. He asked Adam, “Where are you?” This was not due to God’s ignorance, but God wanted Adam to come out from hiding, to bring his sin into the light of His presence, and to confess and forsake it. Adam did, but only a handful of the Israelites whom God bore on eagles’ wings drew near. Their hearts were hardened. A hardened heart cannot hear God, see Him, taste, touch, or feel Him.

The way to restore sensation is to draw near to God by cleansing our sinful hands, purifying our hearts from doublemindedness, and humbling ourselves in the sight of God, going boldly to His throne of grace (James 4:8-10, Hebrews 4:16). The way to sensation is by instantly obeying those inward Spirit born inclinations called “My voice”, as it is written, "TODAY, IF YOU WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS” (Hebrews 3:7-8). The longer we ignore that gentle nudging within, the easier it will become to live with it. Eventually, we may lose all sensation and become past feeling once again. Callouses do not appear immediately.

Take heed.

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“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless...Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death...I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.” From Justin Martyr's first apology 150 A.D. Martyred A.D. 160