Christmas is definitely a spectacular display of God’s presence. John 1:14 (HCSB) says, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In the Message, Eugene Peterson says that “God moved into the neighborhood.” What a wonderful picture of a divine invasion that caused man to reconsider and refocus on what is really important. God showed up at the appointed time (Gal. 4:4-5) after the prophets foretold of His arrival, with angels appearing, shepherds praising and the wise beginning their journey to find Him.
God invades our lives personally, corporately and, at times, even nationally. This is when it is clear, beyond debate, that God has shown up and accomplished what only God could accomplish. Mary said in Luke 1:46-47, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 2:14 records a heavenly choir of angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward man.” Luke 2:20 says, “The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.” Are we seeking the invasion of God in unique ways to do what only He can do?
In Presence Centered Church, Bill Elliff says,“Throughout history, God has graciously interrupted our lethargy with heavenly invasions of His presence!” There are Christmas, the resurrection and Pentecost to name a few — times where God showed up and we can clearly see the difference that His presence makes immediately. In the wilderness, Moses refused to move forward without God’s presence. David understood that the fullness of joy is to be found in His presence. The church at Laodicea became lukewarm and sickening to the Lord because of the lack of His presence. Are we okay moving forward without His presence?
Just because you are attending church does not guarantee that you are growing in Christ. Just because you are pastoring a church does not mean you are experiencing God’s manifest presence or that you are spiritually healthy. Just because you are sealed by the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that you are presently walking in a close powerful connection with Him. For some reason, and there are many, we start out well when we become a believer, but so often we do not end well. You can serve the Lord without the power of the Holy Spirit by following Him in your own strength and according to your own wisdom.
Pentecost is one of those times when the invasion of God changed everything from walking in our own energy to being able to accomplish what only God could do. The early church was instantaneously different, and the world could tell. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 24:49: “And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” One version says until you are “clothed with power.” Here is the reality — the early church would never be able to accomplish what God called them to do in their own authority or by their own energy. They needed Him!
Dr. Charles Stanley defines the power of the Holy Spirit as, “It is that divine authority and divine energy which God releases in every one of His children in order that we may live a godly life and a fruitful life.” Dr. Stanley reminds us that because we have been called to live a supernatural life, it requires a supernatural presence. Also, because God has called us to a supernatural work it requires supernatural power. Here is the good news. Jesus promised us two things before He ascended back to Heaven — that He would always be with us (His presence) and He also promised to endue us with His power (John 14:16-17).
Think about the evidence of the Holy Spirit in the early church of Acts 2. The love for one another was apparent and undeniable. The power of the Holy Spirit was evident to all because of the transformation being seen and the commitment of the followers. Forgiveness was not just for those you already loved but for your enemies and that was unbelievable. All of a sudden, common men and women became bold proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who once cowered in fear were now the champions for the cause of Christianity. God’s presence turned this “ragtag band of believers” into a movement to be reckoned with.
Now that 2021 is only a few days from being over, allow me to ask you some questions about your spiritual walk and the spiritual health of your church.
Are you passionately and unceasingly seeking the invasion of God through His manifest presence in unique ways to do only what God can do? Are you experiencing God’s intimate presence regularly and daily? If you have ever tasted God’s presence, you long for more. You know the difference between an environment filled with God and an environment void of His presence in your prayer life, quiet time, worship services and the ministry of your church.
Are you content with a church that can be explained by what you can do, what you can plan and what you can accomplish?
Do you long to see and experience more of God’s presence?
Do you passionately desire to build a church where God is pleased to dwell? Think about Rev. 3:14-22 and the church at Laodicea.
We desperately need God’s presence, and we need it now, tomorrow and every single day of our lives. Bill Elliff challenges us to submit to the constant ruthless evaluation of our lives and our church with this question, “Is God present?” The recognizable difference is always God’s presence!