Let’s start with a question – are you living for Christ or are you living in Christ?
It’s important to ‘be’ before we try to ‘do’. We find our true identity in relationship to God, and as we pursue His presence, everything else finds its rightful place.
The presence of God has been a central theme throughout the scriptures.
God placed Adam and Eve in a garden growing in the land of Eden. God would walk through the garden in the cool of the day and visit them. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God they were banished from the garden. Being in God’s presence was a sign of His blessing, and being cast out of it is a curse.
God called a people for Himself, becoming present in new ways to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Later God showed the people of Israel the way through the desert through a cloud and a fire, both signs of His presence. He had them build a meeting tent, a tabernacle that signified the presence of God with them. It was a place where the realms of heaven and earth touched and came together.
…Everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Moses often longed to be in the presence of God. Others would see and worship from their tents. It’s a tragedy to worship from such a distance when God wants to speak to us as with a friend. This is His heart. This was the original plan, as we see in Eden.
Later the prophet Isaiah looked forward to the messiah, saying he would be ‘Emmanuel’, which means ‘God-with-us’ (Isaiah 7:14).
Later still, John wrote that in Jesus “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The original word ‘dwelt’ there is the Greek word for tent, linking back to the tabernacle. In Jesus divinity and humanity dwell in perfect union in one person. Heaven touches and overlaps with earth.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
God is looking for friends. Let that sink in.
God has come from heaven to earth to be with people. He wants a relationship with each one of us.
James urged us to draw near to God (James 4:8). This is an invitation, to meet God in ‘the secret place’ (Matthew 6:6).
The purpose of prayer and worship isn’t about trying to impress others but about connecting with the Lord and His presence. Friendship with God is what’s on offer for us. This is not light or frivolous but a real relationship.
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
In the tabernacle, and later the stone temple, there was a curtain concealing the most holy place. When Jesus died that curtain was torn by an act of God from top to bottom (so not by any human hand). Through his blood Jesus has established a new covenant with God’s people, a covenant in which there needs be no curtain dividing us from God’s holy presence. Quite astonishingly we become temples hosting God’s presence, both individually (1 Corinthians 6:19) and corporately (1 Peter 2:5).
Now no other mediator than Christ is needed. Because the Father promised the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks, we can enter God’s presence any time, whether on our own, or better, together.
This presence will transform your life. This is the glory of the good news of the gospel, and it is our astonishing privilege and duty to invite everyone into that intimate relationship with God.