Don’t believe for dry times. Believe for the manifest presence of God
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus taught the twelve to expect to live in God’s manifest presence.
I look back over forty years of Christian living and realize how much teaching I’ve heard that tells us how to live the Christian life even when we don’t sense God’s presence. These are great lessons, lessons we all need at one time or another.
But as we’ve taught the church to be faithful and consistent in our dry times, we’ve overlooked something: Jesus’ insistence that we can expect God’s manifest presence. While trying to learn to be faithful in dry times, some of us have decided we’re best off not to sense God’s presence at all. That’s unfortunate. Here is what Jesus said:
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
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.” (John 14:21-23)
Notice that Jesus calls us to show our love for God by keeping His commandments. If we love Him, we act on His words; and as the Father sees those acts of love, He responds with love and Jesus promises to manifest Himself to us.
Judas didn’t understand. “Why would You manifest Yourself to us, and not to the whole world? Wouldn’t it make more sense if You showed Yourself to everybody, so they all would believe?” It’s a question many of us have asked, but Jesus understood how God’s manifest presence works. He reiterated the promise: God would like to manifest His presence to everybody, but He can do so only with those who love Him enough to act on what He tells them.
You and I can love Him enough that He will manifest His presence to us, and we can position ourselves where His manifest presence can spill over and touch others. People have done this at various times in church history; we usually call it a revival or an outpouring.
Our obedience is not legalism; it is our loving response to the words of God’s grace.
Why is obedience so important? When I first came to Christ, I thought it was a matter of being so righteous that God would decide to reward me with His presence. But Romans and Galatians make it clear that we gain real righteousness by faith, not by works. So I had to adapt myself to the idea that the obedience Jesus calls for is not the obedience of the law. We don’t earn His presence. He gives it by grace.
As I’ve wrestled with the promise of God’s manifest presence, I’ve learned that God graciously tells us how to encounter Him. We love Him by keeping His word. Sometimes we keep His word by receiving it and pondering it. Sometimes His word calls us to repent of the way we’ve done things before. Sometimes His word calls us to act.
But repentance and acts of faith aren’t the works of the law, by which we try to earn the blessing of His presence. Instead, His words to us are words of grace, telling us where our divine appointments will be. He tells us to repent so we can clear the air of the dust and smoke that prevent our seeing him. He commands us to do something, and when we obey it positions us to meet Him.
He isn’t telling us how to earn anything; He’s telling us things that help us discover Him. It’s as though God Himself has decided to play hide-and-seek with all humanity, but then He speaks to us, giving us clues that help us find Him. Those of us who love Him enough to listen and to act on what He says will stumble upon His manifest presence.
Jesus gave us these keys so we all can live in His manifest presence.
Perhaps these words look theoretical, but many of us have found that they work in real life. If we make it a priority to listen to Him, and then if we act on what He says, we encounter His manifest presence and get to see Him do surprising things. Just as a sample, here are two of my own experiences.
I received a word of knowledge in a workshop, but it didn’t seem to connect right away. Two weeks later, it released a flow of the Spirit in a church I was visiting – but not until I risked my reputation and spoke it. I had to act on the word to meet God’s manifest presence.
One morning I sensed that God wanted me to sing spontaneous worship to Him, using a soaking CD I had recorded as background. Within half an hour, I was in a rich manifest presence of God. From there, God gave me a strong prophetic word for my home church, which I was able to give a few days later. But again, the key was to act on the word God had given me.
I could give many testimonies, but in each case I didn’t earn the blessing of God’s presence – His words simply told me where I would meet Him. My stories are samples of what every believer can have, but it’s up to each of us to choose to act on what God speaks to us. Are you hungry and thirsty for God? He’s hungry and thirsty to manifest His presence in your life.