Passions and Visions - A pursuit of God’s presence
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ mat dwell in your hearts through faith – that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3: 14-19
This prayer is clearly a priority in Paul’s heart for God’s church in Ephesus. These people are already disciples of Jesus and so his prayer is not that they would come to follow Jesus for the first time. Instead he is praying that those who already know Jesus would know the reality of intimacy with him. What Paul is praying for here goes way beyond just knowing on an intellectual level – it is experiential.
It is our conviction that both on an individual level, and corporately as church, we need to be pursuing the presence of God. Since Pentecost, the presence of God is experienced through the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Holy Spirit, being God Almighty, is always present, but this is different to an experience of his presence. What Paul is praying for, and what we need to pursue, is a conscious experience of his presence.
There are many instances of this in the Psalms. In Psalm 63, David expresses his heart like this:
“O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
David knows that God is always everywhere, but he is not experiencing God’s felt presence. What he expresses is a desperate hunger for God’s felt presence. And so that’s what he pursues. Similarly, Jesus took time to pursue the presence of God, and encouraged his disciples to do the same. (Matthew 6:5-6)
Why is this a priority for us as a church? First, this is a relationship. We are loved by the Father, and he expresses his love to us through the felt presence of the Holy Spirit; as his children, rescued and adopted into his family through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we love the Father and we love to experience his presence and hear his voice, both individually and together. We were made to be with him and he has made this possible again through Jesus, by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Second, all ministry flows from this kind of intimacy with the Father through the Holy Spirit. What Jesus said in John 5 holds true for us: “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” We only want to be engaged in the things that the Father wants us engaged in, and the only way that we find out what he wants us engaged in is to spend time in his presence, listening to him.
Third, the Holy Spirit does the work of making us holy, set apart, increasingly like Jesus. As people who want to carry the good news of the Kingdom of God into the world, the more like Jesus we are, the more he will be seen and experienced. And the more we experience his presence, the more of a taste we’ll have for pursuing holiness in our lives, and less of taste for anything that hinders his work in and through our lives.