Leaving the World
On the Mountain with God
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Many claim to wish they could see God. They would boldly ask Him questions to His face about why He did this or that. Most often they make these claims from the safety of their own homes. They rarely make these claims in places like churches where they suspect He might really show up. Certainly not in the middle of a worship service, where people are praying, praising, preaching, healing, giving, prophesying, speaking in tongues, etc… the doubters don’t speak up in these places.
Perhaps they are just being polite. But then again, I have met… no, even more, I have been and impolite doubter at times. No, I don’t think it is common courtesy that keeps our questions away from places where we suspect God might show up. I think it is something much more banal. We want to ask the questions but we don’t really want the answers.
This teaching of Jesus is less about predestination and more about our natural human tendencies. (If you want to deny free will, then you can just claim that God puts our fear of Him into us.) Personally, I think it is our own weakness we have due to listening to the lies the world tells about God. We may get angry at God from time to time, but there is a part of us that is also terrified of Him. God comes to us and instead of opening the door to Him, we run out the back door. We are not chosen, because we won’t even show up in His presence. Few people will really seek His presence at all.
Staying with God
When God surprises us showing up in front of us, we often are at a loss for what to do. It is those moments, as we stand there terrified, that we experience some of the best aspects of God. Paul tells us that it is his gentleness that leads us to repentance, not his holiness and power. He is patient with us in our awkwardness, even as we find it terrifying to stay there with Him.
Our old nature fights against us, because it dies in His presence to make room for our new life. That is what is happening to us spiritually when we feel convicted and guilty of our sins. Some of these sins we may have been unaware of, but we find them revealed in the light of God’s presence.
He speaks to us… and we can understand Him clearly. It seems counterintuitive that we could understand the God who created and holds the universe together, but it is true. It is not that we know His language. He speaks to us in ours. He speaks plainly. I have never met a person who told me that God spoke to them and they did not understand it. We may learn deeper levels of those words given to us, but it is always something we can grasp initially. Comprehension is not our problem. Motivation is.
His will goes against our will. Just as our flesh fights and leads us to flee from Him, so does it fight against submission and obedience. The life that is a lie still has claws and teeth and fights to grasp control back away from us. Following our instincts never leads us to a choice. Listening to God always brings us to the choice. Will you leave this world behind and follow God?
Will we submit and obey or run away?
Where do you find God’s presence?
What does God say to you?