Within each human heart there exists a deep, hidden, unexplainable desire and the lives of most people are spent in a restless and fruitless search for something to satisfy that desire. The search is fruitless because we are always looking in the wrong place, blind to the fact that this driving, seeking and striving was put there by God and is only able to be satisfied in the presence of God.
Man is made for fellowship with God; it is an intrinsic part of his created condition. Sin has cut us off from obtaining that intimacy with God that is inherent in our humanity. Unbelievers, of course, don’t know that the deep yearning within, that restless searching, is for God. They don’t believe that there is a God. But many Christians too, are unable to explain the unsatisfied state of their souls. They know God, they say, yet they remain in a state of restless dissatisfaction, frustration and insecurity.
The story of humanity is one of endless searching to satisfy this hunger that gnaws at the soul of man. Yet there is nothing that will satisfy it except that for which it yearns and for which it was made – intimacy with God. Only the presence of God can fill the void that has been left in the soul of man since Adam made his fatal mistake and rebelled against his creator. Mankind seeks to satisfy the hunger by filling the void with those things that Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower; “the pleasures of this life, the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things” – riches, romance, drugs, power, celebrity, position, status, entertainment and a vast array of useless and unnecessary luxuries and material “things”.
Mankind seeks to redeem the loss of divine, eternal and imperishable fellowship by the frenetic pursuit of distractions of any and every kind and by the acquisitive accumulation of what is temporal and perishable. Instead of laying up treasures in heaven, he stores them up in this world where, like himself, they must decay. This is the great tragedy of life. A hunger that cannot be satisfied other than by that which is unknown to the hungry.
But in most believers, too, that hunger remains unsatisfied. The believer seeks to satisfy that hunger by joining with a religion, and while that may provide some religious comfort and social fellowship it is a form of self-delusion and it inevitably transpires that, as Milton put it, “the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed”. They are not fed because they are looking in the wrong place. The latent desire in every breast was placed there by God and only God can satisfy it. But Satan places many hindrances in the path of those seeking the blessing of fellowship with the Holy Son of the Holy God. His energy is directed at deceiving believers away from the divinely ordained goal of intimacy with Christ. His success can only be described as spectacular.
If living continuously in the presence of Christ is the purpose for which we are called then it must be said that this is a goal that many, if not most, never achieve. And yet abiding in the presence of God is what we are made for and called to; “Abide in Me” Jesus said. And if we are unable to fulfill this destiny in our lives on the earth, how can we be expected to be able to achieve it in the next? This world is the place of preparation; it is the dressing room in which we are clothed for eternal life; where we learn to wear the robes of righteousness. This much, Jesus made plain.
We seem to have become somehow desensitised to the truth of the gospel, applying human reason rather than the Holy Spirit to its interpretation so that, instead of bringing life, it will lead to death. “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life” Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 3:6).
The great teachings of Jesus have suffered from the distortions of demons and the hypocrisy of men to the point where they have become like the chanting of religious mantras, loud proclamations of faith in God without there being any intention to obey Him.
Christians are trivialising God; they are giving Him the leftovers; they are relegating Him to second, third or even last place. Instead of seeking first the kingdom of God, He is fitted in to busy lives, often resentfully, so that “more important things” can be done. This is what the Bible describes as profanity and it is widespread throughout the Christian world of the West.
Profanity – bebelos in Anglicised Greek – is making the holy thing common and is characterised by contempt or disregard for sacred things. It is akin to desecration, with the exception that desecration is most often an act of the unbeliever, whereas profanity is an act of one who belongs, at least theoretically.
In the scriptures, Esau is described as a profane person, because he sold his inheritance for a meal . This is profanity in its ultimate sense – despising the inheritance, preferring the things of the world or the flesh to the things of God.
Profanity is the spirit of the age, in which the people of God choose to follow the doctrines and traditions of men so as to seek false religious comfort rather than come, in humility and repentance, to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find the grace without which there can be no peace with God. Because God’s people profane His name in this way, there is a strong likelihood that the sons of the bondwoman will overcome and supplant the apostate sons of the freewoman who have despised His inheritance.
There can be no doubt that the Christian world, at least in the West, is not only under assault, but retreating against the strong surge of the Muslim tide. While Christ is victorious, His apostate people, relying on themselves and the doctrines of men, have so compromised their faith as to be facing defeat and overthrow. This is what happened to Israel, the type and pattern of God’s apostate people, and it is happening to apostate Christianity, the fulfillment of that type. The warning given by Jesus to Israel should be ringing in the ears of His people today; the kingdom will be taken away from those not producing its fruit .
We read – “For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them” (Hebrews 12:18).
Here is profanity; the rejection of God’s voice, the refusal to listen. And what reason do the scriptures give for this refusal?
Verse 20 tells us; “For they could not bear the command”.
God was asking of them what they did not want to give. “Let Moses speak to us”, they said, “not God. We don’t want to hear from God, it is too frightening”.
Today, too, people cannot bear God’s command and choose to listen instead to the voices of men. In thus turning away from God’s voice to the voices of fellow fallen humans, they are able to apply their own reasoning to what is spoken and, since it comes from men, mortal and fallen, just like themselves, it becomes justification for not obeying. The message of Jesus, on the other hand, is unambiguous; “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Who Are We Listening To?
There are several reasons why Christianity has fallen on such hard times in the West. We have spoken of one reason being that Christians are not listening to God, but to men. This is the choice of many and is a reflection of the compromised nature of many believers. A hard religious shell can surround the heart and make it almost impossible for God to be heard. The unbeliever has a better chance of hearing God than such as these.
But Satan gives even more diligent attention to him who earnestly seeks to be obedient to Christ and he applies his diabolical energy to placing many obstacles in his path. The scriptures, however, reveal these obstacles to us if we give careful heed to them.
One obstacle is to deceive believers as to the One whom they are seeking; to divert them away from the true Christ to “another” Christ. Listen to the resurrected and glorified Christ Jesus talking to John in which He speaks of three seasonal aspects to His earthly manifestation.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
Consider these three aspects:-
This is the manifestation of Jesus in the past. He was in the beginning with the Father; He manifested to Old Testament saints in various Christophanies such as Melchizedec; He became incarnate and lived on this earth as a man born of woman; He was crucified died and was buried for a sacrifice for the sins of the world; He rose from the dead and set the captives free. This is the Christ that was, in a nutshell. This is the manifestation of Christ as the son of Joseph, the suffering servant Messiah of prophecy, about Whom Israel was deceived.
He is Coming:
This is the manifestation of Christ as the son of David who will come to establish His kingdom in the world. His coming is foretold not only in the Old Testament, but also in many passages in the New. Jesus spoke of it Himself in Matthew 24 and 25 as did Paul in writing to the Thessalonians, Corinthians and others. This is the Second Coming, celebrated in Christian tradition.
What of this One? This is the voice of Christ Jesus, the expected Prophet spoken of by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18), the one speaking to us today from heaven through the Holy Spirit, whose function towards believers is “to teach you all things and to bring to your recall all that Jesus said” (John 14:23-26); “to bear witness of Jesus” (John 15:26-27); and “to lead you into all truth, speaking not from Himself but only what He hears from Jesus; to make known to you what is coming and to glorify Jesus by hearing from Him and making known to you” (John 16:13-15).
This One – the One who is – is the One to Whom we are meant to be listening; His is the voice that we must hear, not the voice of men; He is the One with Whom we have to do, according to the writer to the Hebrews.
“And there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).
This is Christ manifest as the One who is.
He is the One from whom we get life. It is not the “One who was” or the “One who is coming” from whom we get life, but “the One who is”. This is the manifestation of Christ Jesus to us here and now, not in the past or in the future. This “one with Whom we have to do”, refers to the living Presence of Christ with us at this, and every, moment. We cannot get life from the “One who was”, although it was His work that enabled us to be able to receive the “One who is”. We cannot get life from the “One who is coming”, although we will live eternally with Him in heaven. It is only the “One who is” who can minister to us, speak to us, call us, shelter us and guide us.
The False Voice
The scriptures identify one who is described by many names but who we know as the “False Prophet” and the “False Christ”; these are names given to the spirit of anti-Christ upon his prophesied eventual manifestation into human form; we can describe him as the false “one who is”. He too, is prefigured in prophecy and described in scripture as the False Prophet (Revelation 16:19-20) and as the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He too, is speaking today; he too, is speaking from the Word of God, just as he did to Jesus at the time of His temptation.
He is not talking about what is, but what was and what will be; he turns our attention away from the true One who is, in Whom only is there life and holiness and righteousness and salvation, and instead focuses our attention on the One who was, or the One who will be. What this false one is talking about is referred to by scripture as “another Jesus”.
“For if one coming proclaims another Jesus whom we did not proclaim or you receive a different spirit which you did not take or a different gospel which you did not welcome, you are enduring well” (2 Corinthians 11:4).
This “other” Jesus – an allos Jesus in Greek – means another of the same sort. What does this mean?
An allos Jesus is the same Jesus that is revealed in the scripture except that He is circumscribed to the extent that He is Jesus the Saviour only, not Jesus the Lord. This is the Jesus of modern Christianity and this allos Jesus is the outcome of a “different spirit” than the Holy Spirit and it leads to a “different gospel” than that contained in the full body of scripture.
This allos Jesus is our friend and He loves us, so nothing bad will happen to us; this “different spirit” says that we can claim the salvation He offers without any strings attached; the notion of yielding to His Lordship in our daily lives is alien to this “different gospel”.
The unworldly virtues of which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount are honoured in the breach by those following this allos Jesus; instead of poverty of spirit we find the rankest pride; instead of meekness we find fleshly arrogance; instead of mourning we find pleasure in this life; instead of hungering and thirsting after righteousness we find men seeking after the deceitfulness of riches; instead of mercy we find harsh judgement; instead of purity of heart we find vain and fleshly imaginations; instead of peacemakers we find resentment and taking offence.
This allos Jesus is a fleshly Jesus; He is the Jesus of phileo, not agape; this is one of the great errors of Christianity.
The tragedy for Christians is that they are mostly listening to the wrong One. Our services are filled with messages of what Christ has done for us, or what Christ is going to do when He comes. There is a great paucity of teaching on what Christ is doing now; what He is saying, where He is leading. There is virtually no audience in the Church for the One who is; there are no “ears to hear”.
The task for Christians is to discern the true voice of the true Prophet, the true “One who is”, speaking to us from heaven. This is something that each individual believer must search for and find himself. John tells us that we have no need of men to teach us, since the Holy Spirit has been given to us for that purpose. Thus, we should not look to men to teach us about these things. The Holy Spirit waits patiently to speak to those who have ears to hear. We must turn aside from the doctrines of men and instead seek the voice of the “One who is”, not the “One who was”, or the “One who is coming”, but the “One who is”.
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused Him who warned on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).
No warning could be clearer. Don’t turn away from the One who is speaking from heaven. The One who is speaking is the “One who is”.
And “he who comes to God must believe that He is” (Hebrews 11:6); not was or will be, but is. All sorts of people know that He was and that He is expected to come again; even the demons of hell know that. But knowing Him now and what He is presently saying and doing is the key of knowledge (Luke 11:52) that brings life.
The “I Am”
Moses asked God what he would tell the people when they asked him who had sent him. “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel; ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). Surely another way of putting this is “the one who is”. He didn’t say “I WAS sent me” or “I WILL BE sent me” but “I AM sent me”. God went on to say that “this is my name forever and this is my memorial to all generations” (Exodus 3:15). So God is still the “I AM”, not the “I WAS” or the “I WILL BE”.
He is still relating and fellowshipping with us in the present, not the past or the future. That is why Jesus told Satan at the temptation in the wilderness that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Every word “proceeding”, in the present tense, not every word that has proceeded or every word that will proceed.
The Greek word that is translated here as “word” is rhema, not logos, and means the word that is being spoken now, the “proceeding” word, not the whole body of scripture which is the logos. The rhema is not inconsistent with the logos and indeed derives from the logos. The distinction is that the logos is what God has said, the whole body of scripture, whereas the rhema is what God is saying now, being that part of the logos that God is bringing to the believer under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
In the presence of God, when He speaks, what you will hear will be the rhema, the “word proceeding from the mouth of God”.
There are many who know the logos and who have never received a rhema. But when God speaks to us today He does so in a rhema and it is only when you are in His presence that you will receive a rhema. That is part of His security system.
W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, says “The significance of rhema as distinct from logos is exemplified in the injunction to take ‘the sword of the Spirit which is the word (rhema) of God’ . Here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with scripture”.
In summary, the logos is the Word of God spoken; the rhema is the Word of God speaking.
We Are Opposed
Why is it that we come in and out of the presence of God? After all, man was made to dwell with Him so why is it so difficult to remain there. The answer is that when Adam sinned, Satan struck a stake in his heart and he died in the spirit. All of those born again in Christ Jesus have, in a sense, a hole in the heart, a legacy of that fatal blow.
We all have leaky hearts and thus, life and truth leaks away. The leak cannot be fixed in this life; we must continue to fill our hearts with God every hour of every day if we are to remain secure in His Presence. Otherwise, we will fall short (Hebrews 4:1) and drift away (Hebrews 2:1). Drifting away is a gradual thing, so gradual that you can hardly notice that you are drifting. But the end of it all is that we fall away (Hebrews 3:12) and are lost. Beware of the leaking heart.
Paul wrote; “For a great and effectual door has opened to me, and many are opposing” (1 Corinthians 16:9). This is true of all of us; we are opposed. That is why Jesus told us to strive to enter in by the narrow gate that leads to life; but that striving is against Satan who opposes our every move to dwell in the presence of Christ. Why? Because holiness is only to be found in God and we can only be holy, as commanded, as we are in the presence of the holy one. Satan opposes our gaining entry to the Holy Presence with all His might; he wants company in eternity. And, alas, he will have plenty.
Many are opposing Paul warns us; that is why he also warned us that we don’t struggle against flesh and blood; that’s not where the striving is, although we often think it is. No, the striving is directly against Satan, who will always try to lead us away from the presence of God as we draw near. And he knows how to do it, being the author of man’s destruction. He knows too well the weakness of our flesh; far better than we know it ourselves. The only safeguard against Satan’s wiles is to remain in the presence of God and not to depart from it.
According to James (James 1:14-15), there is a fivefold path to death;
i) exelkomenos – being drawn away or out from the place of refuge in Christ;
ii) deleazomenos – being enticed or lured as in to a trap
iii) epithumia sullabousa – strong desires or longings are conceived
iv) tiktei hamartian – sin is given birth to and
v) thanaton – death is the fruit of sin full-grown
Once we are able to be in the presence of God we must strive to remain there; it is what we are made for, to partake of His holiness, to partake of the divine nature. We are called and chosen that we might become just like Jesus. This is almost blasphemous in the ears of most Christians in these days, yet it is true. After all, if we are not meant to become like Jesus what was the point of His incarnation, death and resurrection? How can He become the first-born of many brethren if we are not meant to be like Him? How is it that all those receiving Him and having faith in Him have authority to become children of God, unless it means we are to be like Him?
The Church today conveniently shelves the critical verses of scripture, such as; “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1) and “pursue the holiness without which no-one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) and “Be perfect….” (Matthew 5:28).
The presence of God is what makes us holy; that is why we are so violently opposed when we draw near.
Going Out and Coming In
“And He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore unto our fathers” (Deuteronomy 6:23).
This was what God did for Israel; brought them out from the land of bondage that He might bring them in to the land of rest.
But this pattern is also something that God repeats for each individual. This is what God does; He brings us out and brings us in; only He can do that. We cannot bring ourselves out nor can we take ourselves in. Unless He brings us out we will remain in bondage to sin for the rest of our lives.
But note that there are two steps here; going out is step one, going in is step two. They are separate steps and in Israel’s case, they were separated by forty years of wilderness wandering. In the case of Christians also, those two steps are inevitably separated by a wandering in the wilderness of the confusion known as modern Christianity, before they are able to find their way into Christ.
In Israel’s case, the generation that was brought out was not able to be brought in, because of unbelief. That is also the case for Christians.
Unbelief doesn’t mean that Israel did not believe in God; they did. And so do Christians. But unbelief, in the sense that it prevented Israel from entering into the promised land of rest, was their failure to trust in the word of God. They believed, but did not trust.
Instead of relying upon God and God alone, Israel tried to do it on their own. They did not have the faith to obey God, just to believe in Him – a different thing altogether and a condition that is endemic in modern Christianity. Even when the Israelites were brought up to the edge of the land of rest, they did not have the faith to enter in; “And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” as the author of Hebrews puts it (Hebrews 3:19).
This is the danger for Christians also and we are warned of this in the very next verse; “Therefore we should be fearful, lest having been left a promise to enter into the place of rest any of you should seem to fall short of it” (Hebrews 4:1).
It is in the fallen nature of man to believe in God, but to not trust in God. Adam walked in the garden with God but failed to take Him at His word. That propensity to trust in ourselves rather than in God thus became entrenched in the psychogenetic makeup of man.
We cannot bring ourselves in, although we spend years trying to do so, but these are wilderness years. Unless He brings us in we will remain in the wilderness; it is Christ, and Christ alone, who must bring us in. For Him to do that, we must let go of ourselves and let Him have His way with us, just as, in His life in this world, He let go of Himself and let the Father have His way with Him. “Though He was a Son, He learned obedience from that which He suffered, and being made perfect He became to all those obeying Him, a source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). Obeying Him, there’s the rub.
If we let Him, He will not only bring us out, but bring us in, to live with Him and the Father in unbroken fellowship. This is His promise for this life, as well as the next.
“The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 121:8).
In the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31), we read that they met Jesus, although they did not recognise Him as He walked the way with them, Emmaus being seven miles from Jerusalem, a distance that would take about three hours.
In this time, the disciples spoke of Jesus, the One who was, and who had been crucified. Jesus pointed out to them, from all the prophets, that the Messiah had to suffer in His first manifestation as the son of Joseph, the suffering servant Messiah. Their hearts “burned within them”, they said later, but still they did not know Him. They knew about Him and about what had happened to Him, but they did not know Him even though He had explained to them from the scripture that the Messiah had to suffer.
As they turned off the road to go into Emmaus, Jesus made to continue on His journey. But they “constrained” Him, the scripture says (Luke 24:29). This word “constrained” is the Greek parabiazomai and literally means to compel by using force (para intensive and biazo “force”). What it signifies is that the disciples were earnestly entreating Jesus to remain with them and “abide” with them that night.
This is what we must all do. Jesus stands ready to be with us, in us and alongside us, but we must be earnest and sincere in our pleadings for Him to manifest to us by the Holy Spirit. Everything else must be put aside if we are to hear His voice. Had the disciples not “constrained” Him, they would never have come to know him as He was, the One who is, the living God. They would still have known Him as the historical figure to Whom all those dreadful things happened. But they would not have known Him as the “One who is”.
The story continues and we find that as they supped, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (Luke 24:31). They didn’t open their own eyes; the scripture says that their eyes “were opened”, and the verb “open” is in the passive voice. The word translated as “knew” here is much more than that; it is epiginosko in Greek and means to know intimately, or to know by relationship.
So what this story teaches us is that we have to press in and constrain Jesus to hold Him earnestly, if we are to hear from Him. As we do He will reveal more of Himself to us and we will come to “know” Him more deeply. It requires effort. Jesus Himself said that we must strive to enter by the right gate to go on the narrow path that leads to life. The disciples strived in their constraining Him to abide with them. Life was the result for them.
Sowing and Reaping
The time to learn to abide in the holy presence of God is in this life. The scripture shows that it is possible to be saved and have eternal life and yet not see God. It seems that there are those who remain outside the Holiest of Holies in the afterlife. This is apparent from what Ezekiel writes of the Levitical priests and the sons of Zadok. The Levitical priests are still able to be servants in God’s sanctuary but they are not allowed to come near Him to serve Him or His holy things. This is a consequence of their turning away from God and leading His people astray. They will be appointed to housekeeping duties. Moreover, none of those uncircumcised in heart will enter God’s sanctuary.
The sons of Zadok, on the other hand, who were faithful when the Levitical priests were not, shall come near to God and minister to Him and stand before Him and come near to His table. There is a qualitative difference between the prospects of the Levitical priests and the sons of Zadok.
In the New Testament, too, we find scriptures that delineate between those who are able to see God and be near to Him and those who are not. For example;
“Seek peace with all and the holiness without which no-one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
This seems unambiguous enough. Unless we are holy, we will not see the Lord. We may still, nevertheless, be saved and live forever; but we will not see Him. Like the Levitical priests we will be engaged on household duties.
“….that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
This teaching gives the lie to those who claim and teach that holiness is imputed. It is not; it must be partaken of; it is His holiness, not ours.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
This suggests that those who are not pure in heart will not see God. Does this refer only to the lost or can it also mean those who, like the Levitical priests, failed to be faithful?
“And that servant, the one knowing the wish of his Lord and not preparing or acting in accord with his wish, shall be much beaten, but the one not knowing but doing that worthy of beating shall be beaten little. Rather, to those given much, much will be expected from them and to whom much was entrusted, more is demanded of him” (Luke 12:47-48).
This is the economy of God at work. The closer to God we are, the greater is our responsibility to act in accordance with the closeness of that relationship. If we say we know God yet do as we would do ourselves, then we profane the name of God and will suffer the consequences.
The Heavenly Model
“See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5); so said God to Moses. Why is that? Because in that pattern is revealed to us many things about God and the heavenly tabernacle in which He dwells.
The earthly tabernacle is made up of an outer court for the gentiles; unbelievers.
Coming inwards the next area is the outer tabernacle for the Jews.
The next step is in to the Holy Place, where the priests attend to the altar of incense and the lampstand and the showbread.
The final step is in to the Holy of Holies, the very presence of God that the priest entered but once a year and then not without the blood of sacrifice.
The design of the tabernacle is such as to delineate the degrees of closeness to God that may be achieved. The outer court of the gentiles represents the world of the unbeliever; they are unable to enter the tabernacle at all but must remain outside until they have faith to enter in. This corresponds to the first seed in the parable of the sower. The seed is taken away by demons before it can germinate.
The outer court of the tabernacle is the place of coming, where believers come in and beyond which only the priests were able to proceed. Most Christians remain in the outer court, not wishing to proceed any further and thus be separated from their fellow believers. Moreover, every step closer to the Holy of Holies involves cost to the self-life; a cost which most don’t wish to pay and which they are taught they don’t have to pay.
Although under the Old Covenant, only the priests could proceed further, under the New all believers are called to be priests and thus, all are expected to proceed in nearness to God.
The Holy Place is the place of following, where those who take up their priesthood are expected to enter and offer their sacrifices to God. The showbread speaks of the Bread of the Presence, the Word of God perpetually, and our partaking of Christ Himself, the Bread of heaven.
The lampstand signifies Christ as the light of the world, its seven candles prophetically referring to the seven typical Churches of Revelation and also the seven spirits that rested upon Jesus as prophesied in Isaiah .
The altar of incense speaks of the place of worship and prayer and also signifies the work of the Holy Spirit within the believer. The prayers are to be led of the Spirit. No strange incense is to be offered . The strange fire that is forbidden speaks of false worship.
It was while Zacharias was serving at the altar of incense that God spoke to him about the son he would have who was John the Baptist. God will often speak to us when we are in this Holy Place at the door of His own dwelling place.
The final place is the place of abiding; the Holy of Holies wherein dwells God. There is no veil denying access to the believer any more, but there is still a security system. Only the holy may enter into the holy place of God. In the holy place itself we may hear from God, speak with Him and feel His presence; yet we are not in the Holiest of Holies.
To be there, in the holy presence of God, we must come in Christ Jesus only; no flesh may enter on such holy ground. The flesh must be dead and the spirit alive in Christ before one may come to the throne of God. Our Mediator is there always, even when we are not, and His desire is to bring us in, but there are conditions that we must meet before that can happen. The overriding condition is that we must be dead in our flesh.
We are not able to come in while the outer tabernacle still stands and the outer tabernacle is the old man, the man of flesh. He must be dealt with utterly before entering in to the presence of the holy God. In a sense the holy place corresponds to the soul, which must be surrendered; while the Holiest Place corresponds to the spirit, which is yielded up to God.
The life of Jesus was thus;
He depended upon the Father alone;
He obeyed what the Father told Him, only doing and saying the things that the Father told Him to do or say;
He was tempted as we are – to do His own thing. That is the only temptation we face – to do our own thing instead of that which the Lord tells us.
One of the reasons that Satan has triumphed over Christians is, firstly, many don’t believe there is such a creature and secondly, he is much smarter than those who do and he knows more of spiritual things than we do. But John tells us that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world . But the key is to be IN HIM. If we are not in Him He is not in us; and the only way to overcome those spirits that oppose us is to be in Christ Jesus, our refuge and our fortress.
The presence of God brings life and light; without that holy presence we are lost in darkness and death.
The scripture tell us; “……in him we live, and move, and have our being…..” (Acts 17:28). If we don’t we will lead frustrated and unsatisfied lives. But I will only ever know as much of God as I am prepared to give up of myself; He can only fill what I have emptied; even more tellingly, I will only ever know so much of God as I am prepared to put into practice in my life. No more.
If Christ is not central to my life, who is? The answer of course will be the same for each one of us; the self. We are either God-centred or self-centred. It is not possible to be part God-centred and part self-centred; we are kidding ourselves if we think that is possible. When God is not in the centre, self is; and when we lose God we become gods ourselves.
Those whose lives centre on themselves become self destructive and miserable. They do what they like but don’t like what they do. They cling ferociously to their life unaware that this is the surest way to lose it (Luke 17:33).
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). This begs the question; what do you treasure? Is it “things” such as material comfort, home, family, business, religion? All of these can be treasures of the heart. Or is it the presence of God? This is the only treasure worth having. The presence of God is a treasure worthy of the longing heart. It is what Jesus described as the kingdom of heaven which, He said, “is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). My treasure is the presence of God; it fills my heart. The heart is where the desire is and I guard the desire and the heart itself.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Take Up Your Cross
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Taking up your cross is a personal thing; I cannot take up my cross in company. Though I may be surrounded and encompassed by a throng of believers, yet my cross is mine alone. Upon it, I must offer the sacrifice of my life to God.
Taking up my cross marks me as a man apart; even more so in these days of “crossless Christianity”. Taking up my cross marks me as a living rebuke to the apostate Church for whom the cross of Christ is too burdensome and inconvenient. Paul called these “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). To them, the man with a cross has no friends; his walking after Christ will separate him from the fellowship of Christians as much as it will separate him from the world.
Sadly, modern Christians feel too much at home in the world. They have so adjusted to the world about them that they have become an integral part of the world’s social order against which they should be struggling. But Christianity is accepted by the world and fits in snugly; it is compatible with the world and the world is compatible with it. BUT;
“He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38).
The disciples, humble fishermen and workers, were transformed by living in the Presence of Jesus. They spent each day with Him in all the work of His ministry over three years. They dwelt with Him and He with them. It was His presence that was their school; it was His presence that provided them with training, strength, courage, inspiration. In all their difficulties He was with them. The same is true of us and more so. “Lo, I am with you always”, He said (Matthew 28:20).
And they all went on to take up their own crosses and to suffer that which lay before them, in which they proved worthy of Him.
The Presence of Christ is the secret of holiness. Instead of sin indwelling we may have an indwelling Christ to conquer sin. What transforming power is in the presence of God! We can be transformed by nothing but the presence of God! That holy presence, alone, has the power to transform me.
Try as I might I cannot do it. In all my striving I may change some externalities of behaviour but I will remain a sinner and I will return to my sinful ways. Transformation is the work of Christ the High Priest.
We must needs make room for Him to do His work and not deceive ourselves into thinking that there is anything we can do except surrender utterly and put off that old man so that the Lord may take over and have His way.
If we read the Word and find that we are called to be holy how is it that we sin so readily? From whence comes disobedience? The answer is, of course, that it comes from our struggling to obey a remote Christ, an allos Jesus – the “One Who was” – instead of the “One Who is”.
The rhema has a power that the logos lacks; the power of the Word proceeding from the mouth of God. All of the great saints of the Bible were empowered because God was present with them and commanded them. That is why Satan’s desperate work is to turn us away from the One Who is to the One Who was or the One Who is coming.
The presence of Christ is the only power a believer has to obey; that is why it is so powerfully opposed. It is simply impossible to be in the Presence of Christ and not obey Him. The consciousness of Christ’s presence is the key to faith and obedience.
With Him at our side every hour of every day we will soon find that sin falls away and we begin to thrive and grow in the joy of divine fellowship. This presence is not to be a sentiment or an aspiration or a thought or a notion; it is meant to be a reality giving us life and power; the power to live the life that we are called to live.
The Old Covenant just gave the Law, with no power to obey it. The New Covenant offers us, instead, the very nature of Christ Jesus. The task for a believer then, is to learn how to dwell continually in the Presence of Christ Jesus. “Abide in Me” He said.