On Sunday evenings I have been teaching out of a book by Jerry Bridges entitled “The Pursuit of Holiness”. Not normally one to use other people’s materials (for teaching), I have found this book extremely helpful in communicating God’s command for us to be holy as He is holy. While discussing why we struggle so with understanding holiness, the question was asked “What is the beginning point of all holiness in the believer?” The answer was simple … God is the fountain of all holiness because He is holy. If we are to be holy we need to be with Him.
The last couple of days I have been thinking on this, and a few foundational truths have become apparent to me. In the first place, Christianity, at it core is not about black and white written on the page objective truth. Christianity has as it foundation piece, the supernatural reality of God’s presence. Before God chronicled (in writing) the beginning of the world, His relation to men created in His image, mans fall, warped condition of men hearts in Genesis 6, the flood, His call to Abraham and the rise of the Hebrew people, He lived what was written in present supernatural relation to men. Before God reveled His holiest name… “I AM that I AM” in writing as He superintended Moses, He was present in His supernatural person with men as “I AM that I AM” whether they recognized Him or not.
The faith once delivered to the saints is rooted in this truth. When considering Jesus as Isaiah 7:14 declares Him to be “Emmanuel: God with us” we are faced with something that is the foundational piece of our faith. Jesus Christ was not just a teaching or an allegorical pinnacle of human righteousness. Jesus is the reality and fulness of the Godhead in a living breathing body . From God’s written word we know this as objective black and white reality. History has proven Jesus lived and lives. This objective written truth is experienced, by faith, in the joy of forgiveness, the blessing of sanctification and our desires to live to glorify Him. Yet we must be careful no to forget, that as Jesus is the living and breathing Messiah (God with us) who was experienced by real people (past tense), we are to experience Him in the reality of His real supernatural presence, even now.
All truth is founded on the truth that God, even seen in creation, that God is and He is transcendent and imminent. We can understand “transcendent” to mean above all, past finding out, immeasurable, wholly unique. As the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts. In spite of being transcendent, He is imminent or near. Paul, the apostle, gives us insight into this truth in Acts 17:22-31.
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Interestingly, Paul defines the transcendent “UNKNOWN GOD” as being near to each one of us, close enough to see our sin and overlook it for a time. Paul relays that although God is so high and holy and “other” than us, He is intimately involved in where we live and who we are associated with. He is “I AM that I AM” in present, supernatural reality, even to those who are not in Christ. This is where we are called to consider this foundation piece that is our foundational “peace” a bit further. I realize that writing that our faith is not at its core a black and white written on the page reality primarily, is to invite the vitriol of some, but the statement is true. Let me clearly say, I believe the Word of God, as we have it in its written form is God breathed and God’s revelation to men about Himself. The written and spoken Word of God is that which proves the truth, that our faith at its core is a living, experienced, supernatural, ongoing relation to God. This takes place through His presence with us. Consider what the scripture say…
John 14:15-18 (NKJV) “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever– the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:23 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Colossians 1:27 (NKJV) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Although an O.T. passage of scripture, we can overlay Proverb 3:5-6 on the book of Acts of the Apostles to see the present supernatural personal involvement of our God among His children. In Acts we see supernatural manifestations, saints in conversation with the risen Christ, in time direction from the Holy Spirit, union with the heart of Christ to judge, and do wonders. Yet where is He in these ways in our day? The scriptures say nothing of the end of His manifest presence among the saints of God? How did we arrive at a place where we know the truth about His Presence and power among the saints, yet seldom if ever experience it? The answer lies in how we have taken truth as a knowledge base of facts, instead of allowing truth to drive us into the fullness of His Person.
We believe right objective truth about Jesus, redemption, atonement, sanctification and the like, yet we have stopped short of the ultimate end of all that wonderful truth… That Emmanuel: God with us would be fully manifest in us, in all His presence and power. “That you being rooted and grounded in love would be able to comprehend with the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes understanding that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesian 3:17-19). We never ignore the objective written word of God as WE NEED IT, but our primary foundational peace is the reality of His supernatural presence with us. Without this foundational peace, we have a house built with objective absolute truth only. We live in an orderly, rational and safe dwelling. Our house is good to look at and strong. It can whether storms and provide a sense of purpose, yet if we are quiet long enough we will hear the deafening silence of His missing manifest Person.
Let me challenge you not to simply dismiss these thoughts as overly mystic or hard to grasp. Consider how often we talk about salvation being a relationship. If we declare we have a relationship to a person, and when asked can provide no tangible information pertaining to that relationship, how unlike a relationship that relationship would be. Apply this logic to our “relationship” to God. When was the last time He spoke to you? When was the last time you recognized Him in your presence? When was the last time He provided you with vital information, instruction, protection in a way that was not mystic but in real time? Do we really know Him with us at all, past a mental ascent that its true because the bible says so? Consider Paul’s own prayer…
Philippians 3:8-11 (NKJV) Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul’s prayer was not that he would know truth about Jesus, but that he would know Him through the intimacy of personal contact and experience. Paul wanted to experience Jesus in such a depth, that would bring him into union with our Savior, more closely than the one flesh union between a husband and wife. To Paul all objective truth flowed to the ocean of Jesus supernatural Person. The apostle was immersed in Jesus. His immersion in Christ, and subsequent plumbing of the majestic depths of Jesus, made every absolute written Word of God brim with life. Are you experiencing the depths of Jesus Presence? Don’t wait… Get apart with Him and dive in.