Can we experience the presence of Almighty God on a daily basis? I believe Scripture is clear that we can, and in this article, I will provide four “steps” that will help us achieve this tremendous reality: be accepted; be aware; be active; and be alert. I do not claim that this list of steps is exhaustive. In fact, the majority of material in this article is merely meant to give the reader some foundational principles that will provide a starting point for further practical studies on living a life of dwelling in God’s presence.1
Step 1: Be Accepted
19Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Mankind can only approach the majestic presence of the Almighty “by the blood of Jesus” shed during the redemptive work of Christ2 on the cross.3 When we acknowledge our sinfulness and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior4, we appropriate His redemptive work for us5 , and we become recipients of the greatest opportunity humankind has had since the Garden of Eden: the opportunity to walk once again in the cool of the day with the God of the Universe.6
In Hebrews 10:19-22, we are encouraged to have “boldness” to enter the “Holiest” – the place of God’s manifest presence. In the Old Testament, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year, and then only after performing seven days of cleansing activities7 to ensure he was fully consecrated (as well as providing him some degree of certainty that he would come out alive!8)
We however, because of the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross as our “High Priest”, are encouraged to draw as near to God as the High Priests in the Old Testament did. Jesus’ death on the cross has consecrated believers to enter the holy place of God’s presence with “full assurance” that we are acceptable to the Almighty.
It was in the “Holiest” Place where the priests saw the shekinah11 glory of God over the Mercy Seat. We may never see God’s presence in such a vivid demonstration. Yet figuratively, He is inviting us into the very same place where we can stand in awe of His glorious presence. Let us not forsake the invitation that God has given us in Hebrews 10 to “draw near.” What an awesome privilege to be invited to enter into the very presence of Almighty God, because of Christ’s work!
2. Be aware
Jeremiah 23:24 (New Living Translation)
Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” asks the LORD.
This verse applies no matter who you are. Like Adam and Eve, some people may try to hide from God12, but to no avail. He is always there, wherever you are. We are always ‘in’ His presence. Here in Jeremiah, the nature of His presence is not manifestational, as it was over the Mercy Seat; rather, it is a universal presence that enables the Creator to always be with His creation.
As believers, we can appropriate this step by maintaining a conscious awareness that His presence is ‘ever present’ with us. When we are at home, when we are at the store, when we are in the car – wherever we are, so is He.
A conscious, daily pondering of this truth will prove to be of great comfort to us when we have struggles in life. It will also help us to elevate our minds from this earthly plane to His heavenly realm: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
In addition to God’s presence being universal, He also indwells believers.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
What an astounding thing – that God Himself has chosen to dwell in us, His adopted children!13 We are never alone. He is with us through joy and pain, in blessing and heartache, while we are awake and while we are asleep. Always. He is closer than our very breath. In fact, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
3. Be Active
Hebrews 10:19, 22
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus … 22let us draw near … .
These verses call us to boldly draw near to His presence. This may appear to contradict the implications of His presence being universal and His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, so let’s examine this admonition to “draw near” from two perspectives: our perspective and God’s perspective.
Our Perspective: Our drawing near to God comes from our hearts’ desire for more intimacy with the Creator of the universe; an intimacy much deeper than His cosmic presence gives and more intimate than even His indwelling presence provides. It is an intimacy not unlike a bride’s desire for her bridegroom’s embrace, or a child’s longing to be held by his or her father.
God’s Perspective: God longs to dwell with us in the sweet fellowship that was lost in the Garden because of sin. Now, since Jesus died to pay the price for sin, the Father is ever bidding, ever inviting humanity back into companionship, to dwell and commune forever with Him. He desires to be intimate—friends or lovers, if you will—with those whom He created and deeply loves.
Not to belabor the issue, but to reiterate it because of its profound implications, we can enter into God’s glorious presence with a “humble boldness” because of what Jesus accomplished for us.
We may sometimes think of God as a taskmaster with a list of ‘chores’ for us to do. In reality, His heart beats with both a love for us and a desire to fellowship with us. Jesus issued an invitation in Revelation 3:20: “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends” (New Living Translation).
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I will not be dealing in depth with all the practicalities of pursuing God’s presence. However, I feel I would be amiss at this point not to present at least a few personal examples.
One example is my spending quiet time before the Lord, inviting Him to “hang out” with me. I have found this practice extremely beneficial, particularly on cold, wintry mornings, lying face down near the fireplace. As the warmth of the logs permeates my body, the warmth of God’s presence penetrates my heart, and I simply find myself basking in His love.
A second example is when I allow the Holy Spirit to lead me in what Scripture passages to meditate on. I try to follow a yearly Bible reading regimen, but I have the most blessed times thumbing through the Scriptures, waiting for the Spirit’s guiding, and listening to His instruction. What a beautiful way to learn about God—being taught by Him!
Moving on in our study, we find in the following Psalm a writer articulating a strong desire to be where God was:
Psalm 84:2, 5
2My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
5Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
The psalmist’s longing for God drove him to make the pilgrimage from his perhaps distant home to Zion—the place where God’s manifest presence dwelt. This pilgrimage of many was not like a short car ride to a local revival meeting. In some cases, it was an arduous trek through a wilderness that required persistence and determination to complete. The psalmist’s hunger for God’s presence fueled him with “strength” in the quest to find the presence of God at the end of his destination—always trusting that when he arrived, God would be there.
May our hearts cry out for God’s fellowship to such a degree that we will not rest until our pilgrimage finds us in the place of His presence! God is bidding us to “draw near” so that He may touch us with His glory, His awesome grandeur, and His everlasting love. Oh, that our hearts would be reciprocal in our yearning to touch God! Why not invite Him to spend some time with you today?
4. Be Alert
1 Kings 19:11-12
11Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
Before the events described in this passage, Elijah had witnessed God send fire from heaven to burn up two bulls in a ‘duel’ with the Baalic prophets14. Now, possibly hiding in a cave from an adversary, God told Elijah to stand “before the Lord.” As Elijah did, it appears nature itself reeled from God’s passing presence: a strong wind tore the mountains apart, an earthquake occurred, and a fire broke out.
What is relevant for us in this theophanic15 encounter is that although Elijah, in his prior confrontation with the prophets of Baal, saw God send fire down from heaven, now in this passage, God was not “in” any of the terrestrial phenomena Elijah had just witnessed. The Lord came with a “still small voice.” There is an immense difference between strong terrestrial disruptions and a small voice.
Perhaps Elijah needed to learn that theophanic signs and wonders do not always indicate the intimate presence of God. On an intimate level, God is more likely to come to us in stillness and quiet. And since He neither shouts nor always make a grand entrance, our alertness becomes crucial.
We need to learn how to recognize God’s still, small whispers to our hearts because those manifestations of His presence are just as breathtaking as the earthly eruptions caused by God’s glory. God wants to speak to us intimately—what a remarkable thing! God can move mountains before us and the spectacle may only provide an impersonal encounter. But when God speaks to us in a “still small voice,” this reveals how intimately He wants to commune with us. In fact, it is not fallacious to say that God wants to speak to us much more often in the context of intimacy than through the extravaganzas that can cause goose pimples to erupt on our skin.
What about those in the Old Testament that witnessed God’s presence daily, in fire by day and a cloud by night?
34Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Imagine someone seeing the presence of God in such awesome splendor. Imagine their seeing it each day and every night. Is it possible that such a sight would become common or ordinary to the degree that it no longer filled the viewers with awe as when they first saw it? Is it possible that some days they would not even look to see God’s manifest presence because they’ve seen it several days in a row? And is it possible that one day, when they finally looked to see it again, it would be gone? Now what? God moved on, and because of their complacency of experience, or their lack of lasting awe, they missed it when He did. Now what do they do? How will they know where to go?
In the above story, I mixed elements from the factual account of the Israelites in their desert wanderings, given to us in Exodus 40, with a hypothetical “what-if” scenario. I have done so hoping to illustrate the following point: if we look for God’s manifest presence to come to us only in certain extraordinary ways, we could miss Him when He comes to us in various, perhaps gentle ways. Although it’s unlikely that the Israelites would have not noticed when the cloud or fire of God’s presence moved on, it’s possible that we can miss Him when He comes to fellowship or talk or lead us in quiet, tender moments.
We need to develop a “vigilant adaptiveness” to His presence—a holy and humble acknowledgment that God can sovereignly choose how He speaks to us and leads us. We also need to avoid becoming routinized in how we expect to experience God’s presence. When these two criteria are met, we will be less likely to miss the sweet presence of God when He manifests Himself to us, in one way or another.
Understanding our acceptance by God because of the blood of Jesus, being aware of God’s universal and indwelling presence, actively seeking His manifest presence, and being alert to the varying unveilings of Himself to us will help us to experience more of God, more frequently.