Evangelical believers are famous for seeking to share our faith in Jesus by leading with the message that "our sins have separated us from God." There are certainly some passages in the Bible that, as isolated verses, make such a case from a certain angle. The ironic problem is that most believers, after coming to faith and connecting with God more personally, begin to see very clearly how God was working in their lives before they came to "saving" faith. Indeed, the fact that God was always "nearby us" and exercising His grace toward us are keys to properly understanding our life story and bringing healing to our broken hearts. Immanuel has always been nearby us - oftentimes offering us help in ways we didn't necessarily perceive and sometimes intervening to protect and preserve us, As Paul informed the philosophers of Athens - "His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'".(Acts 17:27-28) Paul's first message to them didn't emphasize their separation from God, but rather His presence all about them! Maybe more of us need to consider taking this angle in our approach?
Was Psalm 139 that reveals "the unavoidable God" only true of king David, or is it true for everyone born into this world? "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb." (Psalm 139:13-15) Apparently there is something more original about us than sin! I call it original design. Human beings fall short of the glory of God, but we are yet "image bearers". In scripture, God's great salvation involves the renewal of the original creation, not its eradication....just peruse the end of Romans 8 for confirmation.
I believe that the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and all He accomplished in His life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and the pouring out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the earth shifted the entire cosmos. The good news is even better and more powerful than many of us have conceived. "The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world." John 1:9
In no way do I want to minimize the essentiality of individuals choosing to believe in and follow Jesus to receive God's eternal life into our souls. However, I do want to make sure that we see things about God's nature, goodness, kindness and common grace as they really are and be careful about sending people a message about a kind or degree of separation from their Creator that is simply not the case.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us....2 Corinthians 4:6-7
These two verses are rich with layers of meaning for us. The voice of God that spoke light into existence out of the darkness has spoken again in new creation. This time the powerful light is appearing in human hearts that have been darkened by so much waywardness and its attending pains. This divine light imparts to us the experiential knowledge of...or intimate experience with...the very glory of God. Glory is a weighty word in Scripture, and one we do not use much in our culture. Glory implies things like luminescence, weight, renown, eminence, splendor, grandeur, elegance and excellence. In the language of our day, we might say, "truest beauty". This is what we have touched and, more importantly, what has touched us through receiving the good news of Jesus and the eternal life He breathes into us by the Holy Spirit. This encounter with glory is referred to in v. 7 as a "surpassing power" that belongs to God Himself, but that He has invested in us. Finally, we touch such glory when we "see" the face of Jesus Christ, who was and is the fullness of the Godhead in human form. When we "see" or discern His face, and even "faces" or facets of His being, we have a revelation by the Holy Spirit of the nature of God. This adds new depth, meaning and transforming dynamic to "seeking the face" of God. Father, show us the face of Your Son.
In a vivid dream from the Lord this morning, I was a part of a team of scientists who had been doing extensive research through the years. We had made a breakthrough discovery that would change the world on a very basic level as it would inspire a massively helpful paradigm shift for people across the globe. We were getting prepared to inform the world through a press conference. Some of our team members were tempted to elaborate on the report, but we actually needed to keep it profoundly simple. It was compared in my dream to Einstein's breakthrough in physics - "E equals mc squared".
Then I saw what we had discovered. It was a more fundamental understanding and intentional application of John 15:4-5 - Abiding in Jesus Christ ==> Fruitfulness. I knew that some people had experienced this reality in the past, but somehow, amid the cacophony of voices, the continual practice of "abiding in Christ" had been "lost on" most believers. But now, the Holy Spirit was highlighting and unveiling this absolute essential factor for true success in life. He was making it accessible to and practical for all the children of God. This dynamic focused on whatever good we might accomplish or whatever true successes we might enjoy...these things were, ultimately and literally, based on what Jesus had done for us and would do through us. God wants to download...not a new theory...but a new operating system into our beings.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.