Naked – Hebrews 4:13-16
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:13-16
I became a Christian at the tail end of the Jesus movement inside one of its tracks known as the charismatic renewal. To many evengelicals the word charismatic conjures images of old line Pentecostalism with its legalism and emotion. I stumbled across this a few times but it was very isolated. I remained in the charismatic camps in spite of its stigma because when I told mainline denominational christians about my initial encounters with God I could see I had become persona non grata. At best they held out the limp right hand of fellowship.
The troubling aspects for them were my reports that I had heard God’s voice (very clearly) and that I had felt his presence (very strongly). Since their relationships with God often revolved around studying his word (very seriously), there was an inevitable and unfortunate impasse. It was unfortunate because I needed them and they needed me. This is just the way it is in the body of Christ; all parts are essential.
I don’t know why, beyond the fact that he wanted to, but after repenting about a wild weekend, knowing that I had lost a sense of his presence (even thinking he might have erased my name from The book), God allowed me to experience his presence for a full hour while speaking the clearest, most precious and penetrating words I have ever heard. The good news was three fold. My name was still written (I gathered quite permanently) in The book, that he still makes his presence known and that he still speaks to men. The bad news (I have thought since) is that he has not spoken that clearly or allowed me to enjoy his presence so intensely since.
I lived for a long time for the express purpose of conjuring up this experience again. Oh the miles I have traveled and soul gyrations I have logged in this effort. In my heart, I have asked a thousand times, “Why Lord, would you allow me to taste of Nirvana only to withdraw it from the menu?” I have not received any exhaustive revelation to my question. I just know that the Person who spoke and Whose presence I enjoyed is the One I want to spend eternity with and that this life is really all about Him. I also cannot help but desire that all men might know this Person.
This too has frustrated me. “Lord, its obvious you can knock a man of his horse on the road to Damascus or reveal yourself to a man on the road to Tulsa. Why don’t you just do this to all the world which you are on record as loving, desiring that not one perish?” I have no conclusive revelation on this either. So what’s a body to do? As Christians living just briefly in a perishing world where we have the cure for an eternally fatal disease, what should our lives look like? More and more, I am coming to the simple conclusion that we should simply live Life, not demonstrate Him as much as simply enjoy Him as the gift of God He is.
I propose that we put one foot in front of the other, leaning into the reality that whether we can feel him or hear him as clearly or as intensely as we might like, we are never hidden from his sight and that he is nearer to us than our own skin. I suggest that we reconcile our errant thoughts (that often postures us as victims) with the reality that Jesus has experienced whatever we are facing. We then hold fast to our confessions of his sufficiency and draw near to Him by simply acknowledging his nearness to us.
If I have learned anything it is that we cannot conjur up his presence. We must simply enjoy it. And since, we are in continual need of His life, we must live continually presumptuous of his presence, acknowledhging that He has gladly given us his Life, His Spirit and His kingdom. He lives in us and we live and move and have our being in him. Maturing in Christ, in large part, involves sinking our roots deeper and deeper into these unseen realities of his eternal kingdom. Here we have rest. Here our foundations cannot be shaken because they are resting utterly upon him. Christ alone is the hope of glory.
In learning to live at rest in Him, we will pass through many seasons where we think we may die if we do not get a word from God or a fresh sense of his presence. While these seasons might seem to be our worst nightmare, they are the things that our deepest and sweetest dreams can be made of.
While on this earth, in our temporary fleshly homes, it is faith that pleases God. This requires that he withhold exhaustive revelation, pat answers and the formulas we would like in order to make our lives work out. Yet, if we just keep putting that one foot in front of the other while looking to him as our life, we will find that in the end we have been built to overcomes and we shall have an inheritance in both this life and the next which will cause us to bless the days of drought with all our hearts because it was there by faith that we came to know him alone as our abundant provision.
As to the why of my God encounter, it remains a mystery. All I know is that no one is at a disadvantage with God if they are without a dramatic experience. In fact, those who do keep putting one foot in front of the other are blessed especially when the light on their path is dim and they cannot see or feel him as they might like.
Jesus said to him (Thomas), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29
Father, help us to navigate by faith, trusting that nothing about us or your world has escaped your notice. Help us to rest in the eternal realities which you have spoken which allow the birds of the air and lilies of the field to so effortlessly proclaim your faithfulness and sufficiency. Help us to live so securely in you, so openly and honestly with you and each other that something new and eternal radiates out from us to all those around us who are yet to taste and see just how truly good you are. Truly Lord, it is you with whom we have to do. Amen.