King David, “a man of God’s heart” first asked the question, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwellin Your holy hill?” (Psalm 15:1). He then goes on to answer by listing out eleven specific traits required in man to become eligible to dwell in God’s presence in His Temple or mountain. Lord Jesus justifies us before the just God through forgiveness of our sins but the Holy Spirit through the process of sanctification, daily process of transformation, blesses us by keeping us there. To permit entry into His presence is His mercy but to remain there demands commitment on our part to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Difference between being and remaining in God’s presence – We seek the Lord for various reasons, some personal demands and some spiritual, though most of the time it is for fulfillment of some demands. To achieve this we are required to withdraw our minds from everything else, the clutter and sounds of the world, and be attentive only to God’s Divine presence. We bring ourselves into His presence to honor Him by remembering that He is our God whose love is displayed in His Son and His redeeming sacrifice.
To remain in God’s presence is a willful act of adoration, love and worship through rejoicing through remaining prostrate before Him in spirit awaiting His command, to listen to Him. Prophet Samuel was left by His mother Hannah in the Tabernacle to serve the Lord but the child was attentively ready to listen to God’s call even at night. Twice he rushed to Eli, the High Priest, mistaking him as the caller to finally reply to God –“Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening”. It was this remaining in God’s presence with readiness to listen to Him that as Samuel grew up the Lord was with him and “God did not let any of his words fall to the ground (1 Samuel 3:7-10 & 19). Remaining in God’s presence is just being there presenting my nothingness, misery and helplessness before His glory to be filled with His love.
Omnipresent God cannot be restrained or bound to a place for “The Most High God does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48). In Old Testament times God’s presence was manifest in the Temple in Jerusalem but with the coming of the Son of God – Immanuel – God came to be with believers but not restricted to a specific area. Remaining in God’s presence would obviously work in two spheres – our experience of His Divinity and His expression of the same. Our experience would relate to our realization of all of God – His Word and His promises and commands – more intimately. In this His power, love and other traits produce results in our lives by transforming us continuously and gradually while this process has become a great and pleasant blessing from our Savior Messiah. It is this that the Psalmist says about, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing” (psalm 100:2). There is rejoicing in coming, rather intense, joyful, satisfying and transforming being expected and received in His presence.
The second part relates to God’s manifest presence from His side. “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters” (Psalm 114:7-8). When we continue to dwell in His presence, God exerts His influence in special ways to cause us to experience the sweetness of His reality in miraculous ways. Then, whether we realize it or not stunning things, miraculous events start occurring in our lives or around us.
Recognizing God’s presence – It is difficult for us for ‘His ways are not our ways’ and with our earthly sinful nature we are unable to gaze into the spiritual realm. The story of a man seeking God’s presence and finding four foot prints while he would walk on the seashore in the sand clarifies this point. After sometime the man fell in very bad times and lost everything and in that state, to his utter amazement, found that there were only two footprints on the sand. The times changed and he prospered again and to his surprise found the four prints again, to make a sarcastic comment to God – even You left me in my bad times. But God clarified, “The two footprints were mine for I was carrying you in my arms in your times of trouble”.
Lord Jesus, just before His ascension into heaven, promised, “I will be with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Earlier while talking to the disciples about His death He clarified, “It is good that I go so that the Helper can come” (John 16:7). Lord Jesus in his physical form as man was bound by the physical bounds to a specific place but the need of the Helper being for all believers, coming of the Holy Spirit was essential. Because God has promised us, He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), we can receive fulfillment of this promise in faith for that is how we are required to live (Romans 1:17). We can be sure of His presence whether we are in good or bad times, in difficult or painful times or in abundance of everything, though we may not notice His presence. How many times we get saved from a disaster about to happen in our lives that we escape ‘by just a hair’s breadth’ for God intervenes to save us.
Ways to sense God’s presence – There can be no foolproof way to do this but as per Scripture taking certain steps in our life helps in this realization. First, confess your sins to Him, come clean before His presence for sin affects our sensitivity. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my inequity. I said, “I will confess transgressions to the Lord and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5). If we do not sense His presence because of avoiding the thought of Him and His Son for long, confess what is in the heart and ask for an ear to hear His voice again. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Come clean before Him, get cleansed through confession and restore the communication flow again by getting into His presence.
Two, Read Scripture aloud – speak aloud God’s Word and let the sound, sense and power of His Living Word overwhelm you by His magnificent presence. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) and His Word is living, active and sharper than a two edged sword (Hebrew 4:12). Let the life force of the sound of His Word pierce your heart through conviction, inspiration or determination and remove all darkness from with within to instill deep faith that sees His presence.
Three, Sing His praises – “I will sing to the Lord all my life, I will sing praise to You my God” (Psalm 104:33) for we sing praises to someone we adore and this brings us closer to Him by opening the doors of our hearts. Singing praises to the Lord helps us shift our focus from self to God, helping us connect to Him and enjoy His presence.
Four, Call out His name – In the Old Testament 16 names have been attributed to God as relate to some specific blessing from Him. On the one hand He is Yehovah Rapha – God the Healer; Yehovah Yireh – God who sees (the need) and provides or Yehovah Shalom – God is Peace. Call out to God for there is power in His name and receive His manifested presence for the specific need/prayer. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), so call out to Him to feel His presence, His peace to calm our troubled hearts.
Five, Pray to Him to cry out expressing your need of Him and His Divine presence. “I cried out to Him with my mouth and He was extolled with my tongue” (Psalm 66:17). This is a cry of a child to his Father, who is in heaven, expressing his deep and heartfelt need for His guiding hand. It is opening out the heart to Him to feel His presence and power that restores relationships and energizes. Go alone for a walk for exercise increases blood circulation brings new energy to body and soul to seek Him.
Six, Remind yourself of past blessings – During difficult times and trials we are most vulnerable to attacks of the devil’s lies. Israelites forgot such great miraculous deeds performed by God for them in Egypt and during their journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:9; 16). God established different festivals coinciding with the harvesting season where all Jews were supposed to gather together to worship God and remember His marvelous deeds. Such remembrance ensures that we do not take these for granted. Scripture command is to write God’s commands on the hearts (Proverbs 7:2-3) and we can maintain a journal or a diary recording daily blessings. Such record can then be referred to during hard times to encourage self.
Seven, Renew your mind daily – “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is a command and not a suggestion. If we do stop all activity to rejoice in His presence, then God will cause such stops and these can be very painful. When we are involved with God in such closeness, we are made to experience spiritual realities – World is far bigger; I am not in control nor the centre of the universe – God is; He does not need me and I am expendable. But the most important fact is that nothing can come in the way of my relationship with God except I myself. We cannot sense His presence in the fast lane of life, except in a calamity, and doubts assail our minds during this busy period of our lives. Fill your mind with the Word of God and “the power of His Word will break all bonds, of sin and fear” (Romans 12:1-2).
Three ways to renew the mind – Read, memorize and meditate upon the Scripture and then let the Holy Spirit, God who is ever present with us, to remind you to dispel doubts and fears. The result of remaining in God’s presence leads us to spending time to do good and holy deeds to remain in His presence (Psalm 1:2-3). “Lay up these words in your hearts and souls and tie them as bands on your hands” (Deuteronomy 11:18) so that you remain in the Divine presence of God and His Word.
Identity of those residing in God’s presence – We are called not only to abstain from doing evil but to also actively pursue doing good (Galatians 6:9). Towards this end the Lord has blessed us with the indwelling Holy Spirit – our Teacher, Guide, Advocate to help us “keep our eyes focused on Lord Jesus” in following Him in word and deed. Lord Jesus declared “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30) and His traits must be visible in those who are in God’s presence.
First, loves truth, speaks and lives it – In such a person there are no lies or half truths, irrespective of what others may say or think. Our likes block His truths and we lose His protection.
Second, loves others as himself – Lord Jesus summed up the entire law of the Old Testament (Ten Commandments) into two – love God and your neighbor. This love is expressed by honoring them through our words and deeds both, avoiding all gossip most of the time disguised as prayer request.
Three, honors righteousness – The ruler of this world, the devil, is full of wickedness and so are his followers. On the other hand our role model is Lord Jesus and we are to be like Him for in our sinful nature it becomes difficult for us to despise the wicked and love others. In the presence of God loving the poor, the needy and valuing truth while chasing things of God becomes easy.
Four, value commitments – God is a God of promise and of fulfillment for His “Word cannot return to Him void, without fulfilling His command” (Isaiah 55:11). God enjoys making promises and then watches over those who trust Him despite the visible signs, symptoms and the circumstances. In God’s presence only one who values his promises can remain for if we do not, how can we expect God to fulfill His promises?
Five, values people – This is in line with the third point but we are ready to love others at some cost to ourselves whereas valuing people involves preferring someone else over promoting self. God is in the business of promoting others and in that receives their love and those who are in Him and with Him also do so.
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10). Having been made like Him there is an earnest deep seated desire in mankind to get into and remain in God’s presence forever. Every religion preaches this but Lord Jesus, ‘the only way’, takes and keeps us in His Divine presence forever – with the indwelling Holy Spirit on earth and in heaven, in the promised abode!