Friday, September 8, 2017

Immanence of God

The best selling devotional book of all time by Sara Young is Jesus Calling Enjoying Peace in His Presence. I understand how we all want to feel or experience the presence of God in our daily existence. But do we recognize God when He is present?

God has an attribute of immanence or presence within the universe He has created. God also transcends the universe or He is above or beyond it, more than it. God is in creation. Paul tells us in Romans 1:19 “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s visible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  Have you ever stood in awe in the Red Wood forests or on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean? Have you watched the eagle soar or the porpoise swim? God is not hiding these incredible creatures for us not to see, but to enjoy and know that He is near and in all things. You see He has created all things and is in all things. Can we hide from Him or His creation?

Biblically Scripture has many references to this permanent aspect of God’s character. Jeremiah 23:24 says, “’Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” The Apostle Paul told philosophers on Mars’ Hill that He is not far from each of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being and we are His offspring (Acts 17:27-28).   The Book of Job references the indwelling and sustaining spirit or breath of God, As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils…The Spirit has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 27:3; 33:4).  If He withdrew His spirit and breath we would all perish.   The Psalms declare the immanence of God. “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Psalm 104:29-30). Clearly the creation accounts in Genesis stress God’s involvement and Authorship of creation. God’s breathing life into us is also present in other OT books such as Ezekiel 37 where God’s Spirit breathes life into the dry bones in the desert.

The NT has passages in Matthew talking about His control of nature, birds and flowers by the Father. He is active in the regular activity of nature. God is present in everything, not just the spectacular or miraculous. Nature does not have an independent status. The phrase “Mother Nature” is replete with humanism and some unknown force or presence. We are not talking pantheism here where God is everything and everything is God. That view gets stretched out to one saying that we are god.

This later thought is very different than that of the Holy Spirit living with and within us as John 14 tells us. We are made in His image and likeness, but are separate from God. He is uncreated and He creates us. His Spirit lives within us and counsels us in His truth and brings us peace. There is not good in humans, God gives us it when we come to faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. What God has created is good, good in Him.

God is not a person, but we can have a personal relationship with Him or one that we can experience with all of our senses through His Holy Spirit. This is the experience that I have had of feeling His lifting me off the floor in his “perfect” love. His healing of diseases in others and me is the active immanent nature of God. Yet God knew that we needed a “God with skin on” as a little boy once said. So He sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world that we would know Him, the person of God incarnate. He did miracles that we might know He was and is God.

God is ever present and David said about Him, I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand…You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11; Acts 2:25,28).  In the OT God needed to show the Israelites His presence with visible things such as the pillar of cloud and fire that led them in the desert. The “Bread of Presence” on the altar in Exodus 25:30 along with the Arc of the Covenant were palpable signs of God’s presence. The Psalms 31:20 speaks of the “shelter of your presence you hide them” and Psalm 89:15 says “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.”

We walk through life often dull to the presence of God and only concerned about ourselves. Yet God wants us to see Him in all things and hear His voice like the still small voice that Elijah heard and Samuel believed as his calling into ministry saying, “Here I am” (1 Samuel 3:4).  Today God speaks primarily through His Holy Spirit and God’s Word, the Bible. Hebrews 3:7 says, "So, as the Holy Spirit says;’ Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”  God is ever present and can reveal Himself any way He desires. I have had the extreme privilege of hearing His voice speak audibly while in the office of a Christian counselor. God said, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).  The counselor heard the voice but not the words. I describe this theophany, manifestation or appearance of God in my book This is the way, Walk in It. At the time I had no idea that these words were from the Bible giving me my calling into ministry.

I don’t know how and when God will appear to you next. Keep your mind and heart open to Him everywhere you go, expecting to see Him. I end this essay with the doxology from Jude, the brother of Jesus:

   To Him who is able to keep you from falling and o present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! AMEN.

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