God’s Manifest Presence
Another aspect of God’s omnipresence is God’s manifest presence. This is where it can get scary for many people. It also can stir much controversy in the church. When God shows up it can get messy. I will use a line from the Chronicles of Narnia which captures this thought.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Man in his nature likes to be in control it makes him feel safe. We in the Evangelical Church have systemized and theologized Christianity in an attempt to understand a infinite God which gives us a feeling of being in control. Unfortunately in our efforts to understand we have sanitized Christianity into 5 steps to being a good Christian and we miss out on the relationship that God desires to have with us. God doesn’t like being put into a box. When He shows up it has a tendency to mess up our neat and orderly world.
Wayne Grudem defines the “manifest presence” of God as “a special anointing for a special task at a specific time.” He also clarifies it further when he defines the work of the Holy Spirit. “The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world and especially in the church.”
Understanding the definition takes away some of the mystery and uneasiness some people have with God’s manifest presence. Knowing that when we see God’s manifest presence that He is accomplishing a special task that He has in mind which will enable us to take part in what He is doing.
The Purpose of God’s Manifest Presence
Another part of demystifying God’s manifest Presence is understanding God’s purposes in manifesting His presence. The Bible give us a pretty clear understanding behind the times that God manifests His presence.
- God’s Promise (Relationship)
I think the God’s number one reason to manifest His presence is relationship. God desires to have relationship with us. It is hard to have a relationship with someone in a book or someone that we are told about. We can only truly have a relationship if there is a personal interaction. Jesus promises to manifest himself to those who “love” him.
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:21-23)
Wow. Jesus tells us that “we” (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) will make their home with us. The truth of that is amazing the God of the universe will make His home with us. If only we could walk daily in the reality of that we might live our lives differently.
- Provide a Basis for our Faith
This one is another earth shaker. Many of us have been taught all our lives the song “Jesus loves me” which says, “Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so;” We are told that our faith should rest solely on the Bible. Paul seems to think otherwise. He tells that our faith should “not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
“2 And I, when I came to you, brothers,1 did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you bin weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV)
- Proclamation and validation of the Gospel (Act 4:29-30, Luke 4:18)
This one is also not with out controversy. Some will say that all we need to do is proclaim the Bible says, but if we look at Luke 4:18 it includes proclamation, healing and deliverance. When I was with Campus Crusade for Christ or CRU, a friend of mine took the Jesus film to a remote village in Africa. The local witch doctor told the people that if they watched the movie that they would have to die that same way that Jesus did. So only about 20, out of the village of 250, came to see the movie publically. But there were many who watched in the shadows because they had never seen a movie before. That night 5 people indicated a decision to ask Christ in their lives and a small bible study was started in the village. One day several months later the chief of the village met with the man leading the Bible study and said to him. ‘I saw your Jesus heal in the movie can he heal my dying son?” So the man prayed “Jesus I saw you heal in the movie can you please heal the chief’s son.” The son was healed and the whole village became Christians. They sent missionaries to a neighboring village and the local which doctor put a curse on them and their whole village became sick and the only way they were made well was having one of the Christians pray for them. Many in that village became believers also. There are thousands of stories just like this where God manifest His presence and heals someone and many come to know Him.
- To Fulfill Prophecy ( Isa 35:5-6, 61:1-3, 53, Dan 12:2)
- As a Sign of the Last Days (Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28)
Examples of God’s Manifest Presence
There are times that God’s presence is more manifested than others. Below are some biblical examples of God’s manifest presence. I could provide numerous stories for each example that are happening today all around us. But for brevity I just want to lay a good biblical foundation.
- During Ministry – “the power of the Lord was present to heal” Luke 5:17 but in John 5:1-20 Jesus only healed one person.
- During Prayer – “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt 18:20).
- During Worship – “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2).
“But thou are holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”(Ps. 22:3 KJV)
- During Evangelism – “My message and my preaching were. . . with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” (1 Cor. 2:4)
- Saul of Tarsus saw brilliant light, thrown from his horse, heard Jesus audibly, was temporarily struck blind. – Acts 9:4
- Paul struck the man blind. – Acts 13:11
- The disciples healed the sick, cleansed lepers and cast out demons. – Matt 10:8
- Unbelieving guards were thrown to the ground – Jn. 18:6
Discerning God’s Manifest Presence
Jonathan Edwards give us some guidelines in discerning God’s manifest presence. They will help us to sort out what is hype and emotion and what is truly God moving to accomplish some special task at that time.
- Does it bring honor to the person of Jesus Christ?
- Does it produce a greater hatred of sin and a greater love for righteousness?
- Does it produce a greater regard for Scripture?
- Does it lead people into truth?
- Does it produce a greater love for God and man?
Results of being in God’s presence?
There are several results of being in God’s presence:
- Joy (Psalm 16: 11); sense of faith, hope, & love (1 Cor. 13: 13)
- Rest and peace (Ex. 33: 14; Phil. 4:7, Ps 31:19-20, 91:1-2)
- Conviction of our sins, repentance, and response of obedience to His Word; response of consecration of ourselves to God (Isaiah 6: 5-8; John 16: 8-10)
- Response of praise and thanksgiving (Eph. 5: 18-20; Psalms 134, 135, 136)
- Effectiveness and success in service (Gen. 39: 2-3; Judg. 6: 16, Deut 28:12)
- Refreshment (Acts 3:19)
Application of being in God’s presence?
How do you facilitate experiencing the manifest presence of God in your life? Let’s look at a few ways that we can facilitate this.
- First thin is ask yourself if you are experiencing the things that are listed above. And Ask the Lord to search your heart and see if there is any sin that is hindering your life. Then confess it to Him and and Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit.
- Claim God’s promise to manifest Himself to you. (John 14:21-23)
- Hang out where God is hanging out. There are many good churches and conferences where God manifests His presence. Check them out.
- Provide opportunity. God likes to hang out where He has an opportunity to touch people’s lives. As in the examples above: during worship, ministry, prayer and evangelism. People ask me how come God manifests Him self in your theology class and not others? The simple answer is not that we are any more spiritual we just provide opportunity for Him to show up and He does.
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