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Experiencing the Presence of God (Delighting in God part 2)

I’ve heard it said that if you removed the parts of the Bible that deal with the presence of God, you would end up with the genealogies, Proverbs & Philemon, and maybe not even that!

Everyone recognizes that this is one of the most important subjects that there is, yet very little is written about it apart from the description of some experiences. So here I am attempting to begin to develop the theology of the subject.

I believe that there are three ways that the Bible speaks about God’s special presence:

  1. His presence everywhere
  2. A special manifestation of his presence
    • External, e.g. in the O.T. from his presence in Eden, through to his temple presence
    • Intimate, through the Spirit e.g. Experienced by David and by New Covenant believers
  3. The chosen place of God’s final “residence” among his people (Rev 21:3)
    • We have a foretaste of this when believers are gathered and the Spirit makes God’s presence felt

So the big question is: Why do we often not experience God’s presence the way we would like to?

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Response to "the polite cessationist"

First, thank you for your sincere response! I am going to respond back to you point by point. I appreciate also the comments of RB.

  1. How do you know this voice was from God? Is there not a philosophical-statistical possibility that this is from Satan or a demon that is trying to get this man’s thoughts away from Christ and his promises in the Word by glorying not in the person and work of Jesus Christ but rather in a subjective supernatural experience ? Surely you must logically see that there is somewhat of a chance philosophically speaking.
    • If we look at cold statistics, people do on occasion think God speaks to them. However, Mary had been dying for several months so for the voice to be accurate to within 2 minutes would be highly unlikely to be a co-incidence but not totally impossible.
    • Richard is not a charismatic and attends a cessationist church, so this makes him imagining it even more unlikely.
    • However, Jesus tells us to judge prophecy by the fruit. (Matt 7:15f) The fruit was that Richard:
      • has great joy and peace (fruits of the Spirit) as a result
      • has continued to give glory to God over the events
    • I am concerned that you place the Word in opposition to subjective experience as if we can have one or the other.
      • Jesus promised the Spirit as a comforter.
      • If our relationship with God has no subjective component, it is mere knowledge and we do not know Christ.
  2. Were there other person’s in the room who heard it?
    • It was not audible. Richard said “God spoke it to my heart”
    Thus to be PRECISE every time the Bible talks about the voice of the Lord is it not actually the voice of the Lord rather an Angel who is sent on God’s behalf to speak for Him.
    • What about when Jesus appeared to Ananias (Acts 9:10f) and Paul (Acts 18:8f)?
  3. If this was a true revelation from God then of what use is it to the church. How does it benefit the global church?
    • The prophetic words given in Acts 15:32 were for the purpose of “encouraging and strengthening” some individual brothers. If their words were relevant to the global church then God would have caused them to have been recorded in the Scriptures. Genuine New Testament prophecy sometimes had only a local purpose.
    • How does this make one more holy?
      • This is an excellent question and is the right one to ask. Richard has not stopped praising God for what he has done and giving him glory. He has also received peace through the events. These sound like fruits of the Spirit to me.
    • It sounds alike an attempt of Satan to create spiritual pride
      • I am sure that there is a great danger of gifts producing spiritual pride, but let us not forget that it is the spiritual gift of knowledge that Paul singles out in 1 Cor 11 as sometimes leading to being “puffed up” Yet of course that would not lead us to deny the value of spiritual knowledge!
      • the same logic would lead us to say that the gifting of a Bible scholar is a result of Satan’s work because it could lead to pride
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Looking for Pleasure in All the Right Places

I have just preached two sermons on "Delighting in God". I am interested in the "normal Christian experience" of joy in God. Peter says:

"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" [1 Peter 1:8]

But is that the experience of most Christians?
We tend to relegate this kind of thing to "Bible times" or a few odd characters in church history. I maintain that this kind of almost ecstatic experience of God should not be regarded as an optional extra, reserved for a few, but is a requirement for a healthy Christian life. What do you think?

Part 1 notes and download: Looking for Pleasure in All the Right Places
The second sermon will be online in a few days.

My friend heard God speak to him this week

Richard and Mary Bailey
Mary in 2002, with Richard in the background

Mary died on Tuesday. She was 73. She and Richard would have been married for 28 years at the end of May. Richard had a very difficult childhood and was taken away from his father to work on a farm. Both of them had hard lives and struggled in many ways but came to know the Lord with a simple faith.

Mary has been in a nursing home for several years and towards the end was suffering terribly. Richard had been praying that God would take her home.

Things came to a head on Tuesday evening and it was so distressing for Richard that the nurses suggested he left the room, so he went to get a cup of coffee. Half way across the street God spoke to Richard. He just said, “Don’t worry. I have answered your prayer! I have taken Mary home.”

Richard immediately turned around and went back to the building. A nurse met him and said, “They want you up on the third floor right now!”. Mary had indeed been “taken home”.

He keeps talking about the look on Mary’s face. Her eyes were fixed wide open in awe and amazement and she was smiling. Moments before she died she must have had a glimpse of the one she was going to be with. But what he talks about most was that a light was actually shining from her face and body as if it were lit up from the inside.

(I asked Richard if he minded me sharing these facts and he said, “Oh no! It’s a testimony!”)

I was wondering what a cessationist would make of these events.

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Two dangerous errors regarding repentance

There are two common errors regarding repentance, both of which I believe are quite dangerous.

  1. That is is a purely intellectual activity. Sometimes people with a little knowledge of Greek misunderstand how language works and pull apart the Greek word for repentance: metanoia and claim it means a change of mind. Well of course that is part of it, but only part. The danger of this teaching is that it puts a lot of emphasis on the feelings
  2. The second error is to make repentance a work that has to be done before coming to Christ.

I believe that a combination of these two ideas delayed my own salvation for years since I found myself unable to work up a strong feeling of guilt for sin, and thought that I could not come to Christ until I had these feelings of repentance.

I have just written an article which describes these errors and does a study on the use of the word in the Old and New Testaments.

I also preached an evangelistic sermon on "What it means to repent" which is based on Acts 17. There is a certain amount of overlap in content, but the sermon is obviously much more popular in presentation. The notes and audio download can be found here:
What it means to repent - Acts 17

Light and Life Community Chapel

Last Sunday we were staying in a cottage in the Bruce Peninsula and visited Light and Life Community Chapel, Tobermory.

Tobermory Church Location: Tobermory (Bruce Peninsula)
Address: 7347 Hwy 6, ON, Canada
Google map: link to map
Sunday Meeting: 9:30am
Pastor: Jerry Clubine
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (519) 596-2939
Cell: (519) 379-1689
Affiliation: PAOC
Website: lightandlifecommunitychapel.nexo.com/

The Pastor, Jerry Clubine, was preaching on Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He pointed out that poverty is usually considered a bad thing, so how can Jesus say it is blessed?

The answer is in how we define what it means to be poor in spirit. What Jesus is talking about is a recognition that we do not have what we need by ourselves, but need God to give us a “download” of his spiritual filling. The poverty is a recognition of need.

I think this was an excellent explanation of the text, but I had a couple of thoughts about it afterwards that I would liked to have been able to discuss with Jerry.

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Fundamental Structures in Paul

I remember coming across this phrase as a section heading in Paul, an Outline of his theology by Herman Ridderbos. It was so exciting to read and I felt as if whole vistas of understanding were opened up to me.

That book together with Resurrection and Redemption by Richard Gaffin are two books that have made the biggest impact on me in my understanding of the Apostle Paul.

I imagine these concepts like a great range of underwater mountains that penetrate the surface of the ocean as groups of islands. In the same way, once you grasp Paul's underlying framework, you can see it poking through in numerous places in his letters.

For me, one of the most fundamental of the fundamental structures is Paul's teaching on the "Two Worlds", or if you prefer, "Two Aeons". Jesus leaves the old, entering the tomb and then is raised a new being. We follow by virtue of being united with him. This my picture of how I think of it:

The Two Worlds/Aeons

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Microsoft, Moses and the Burning bush

What does Microsoft have to do with Moses and the burning bush?

Back in the early 90's, Microsoft developed a remarkable piece of software, Windows NT. (Anyone who knows me will know that I am no fan of Microsoft but this product was an exception.)

What was most amazing about this software was that conventional wisdom was that it was impossible to develop something of that size and complexity in the timescale, even with a huge team. In 1994 a Wall Street Journal writer named Pascal Zachary obtained permission to interview all those involved and write a book.

The book is in some places shocking and even a little scary, because it becomes clear that what enables the project to succeed is the cult-like leadership qualities of the project leader, Dave Cutler, and his abilities to motivate his "followers" (employees) to the point where nothing else in their lives mattered, outside of working on his team. Here is a quote from the book:

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Vision for a Toronto Church

I was mulling over my thoughts about our vision for Newlife Church and I came up with some key concepts. We want the church to be diverse in culture, age and social level. We want all the gifts in operation. We want evangelism and growth, strong teaching, and a love and care for people that addresses the social problems of the city and gives hope to the hopeless. God’s presence should be our delight and the source of our strength, and finally we want to be a resourcing church that is missions minded and plants other churches, acting as a strong base.

As I was praying about what to preach on, the example in Acts 13:1-3 of the church in Antioch came to me. Then I remembered there was more about the same church in Acts 11:19-30. I read the passages with increasing excitement as I realized that all of my points were found in the description of this church—even the ethnic/social diversity of the church and the caring for social needs. Here they are, (and honest, I didn’t plan there to be seven!)

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What it means to live under the New Covenant

Last Sunday evening I spoke at TACF on the subject of "What it means to live under the New Covenant" as part of their "Equipping series". Of all the subjects I speak on, this is probably the one that is most important and foundational for the Christian. It is also one that I get very excited about.

I have uploaded the video to Youtube:

If the above video does not play smoothly for you try the following link:

Please don't be offended at the way I have involved the audience in role-playing some of the scenes. I am not trying to be disrespectful to God, I just feel that there is much more of an impact when people are more involved.

All my notes (fairly detailed), illustrations and Scripture passages are at loveintruth.com/newcovenant - What it means to live under the New Covenant

The video can also be downloaded to your computer from the following links:

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