While I can look back through the Bible and see God's presence dwell with his people in both a perfect world and a broken world, the notion of living in the perfection that God originally intended, and with the Creator in a relationship that he originally intended is an eternal reality that I wish to pursue here on the earth.
Last month, I shared my journey through the Old Testament, as I discovered the ways in which God's presence dwelt with a broken humanity and the ways in which humanity interacted with His presence. God's presence was to be feared and approached with all caution and reverence. It was only through the blood sacrifice of animals that humanity could even approach the mercy seat upon which God's presence rested.
But by the time I finished the Old Testament and started reading the book of Matthew, I found the most tangible presence of God that has ever walked in our broken world.
I found a God who wanted to be close to his people, who wanted us to dwell daily in his presence, and who wanted His presence made known on the earth. In both his life and his death, Jesus Christ forever changed the way that God's people experienced his presence. His teaching announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God amongst his people, and his death paid the final and perfect sacrifice so that his people could participate in the presence of God without shame.
The veil in the Temple that separated God's presence from an unjustified humanity was literally torn in two when Christ surrendered his life. No more blood was required; Christ had paid the price for all of humanity's brokenness. The way was now open for all to experience and to dwell in the presence of God, just as King David had wished thousands of years before.
A New Testament Reflection
As I read through the rest of the New Testament, I read of Christ's disciples who not only experienced the arrival of God's presence in the form of the Holy Spirit, but were empowered by this presence to extend the Kingdom of God beyond what I believe was humanly possible at the time. Though they were hunted, persecuted and martyred, God's people seemed to be continually renewed and empowered by that indwelling presence of God.
The writer of Hebrews paints an image vastly different from the one that I get reading the Old Testament, and it seems to reveal the source of their empowerment: 'Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,' (Hebrews 4 verse 16).
I am floored by the thought that an open invitation to be in God's presence is extended to me on a daily basis because of what Christ accomplished. But what does that look like? How can I continually dwell in the presence of God to be fully empowered and enabled for His purposes? One thing I know for certain: God's presence is no longer restricted to a place or specific circumstance as it was in the Old Testament. It is something that we are welcomed into at every moment, something that should consume us, and flow through us.
A.W. Tozer in his classic book 'The Pursuit of God', calls out modern Christianity saying 'The type of Christianity now in vogue knows this presence only in theory…According to its teachings we are in the presence of God positionally, and nothing is said about the need to experience that presence actually.' My goal is to experience that presence everyday that I am present on this earth: to cooperate with God in prayer, to place Christ at the centre of everything that I do, and to dwell on His Word and on his actions in this world.
I believe that if I was to pursue the presence of God as King David did in the Temple; if I was empowered by the presence of God as Christ's disciples were empowered, then not only would I experience the tangible presence of God, but the Kingdom of God would come ever closer to the earth. Wherever the presence of God was felt, a profound impact would be made, allowing whoever was walking in that presence a blissful glimpse at a perfect, unblemished world - a glimpse of an eternal reality yet to come - a glimpse of heaven in the present.
'The Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God,' (A.W. Tozer).
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html