Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I Am There Among Them

Chuckle: “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels grateful and has no one to thank.” -- Wendy Ward
Quote: "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." --Corrie Ten Boom
"For where two or three gather together (in my name) because they are mine, I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20 NLT).
Here, Jesus looks forward to a time when He would no longer be with His disciples in a physical body, but would be with them in the person of His Holy Spirit in His spiritual body, His church. Jesus' words assure us of His Spiritual presence when we assemble for worship, and they give us all the motivation we should need to come together for united prayer and worship. But Jesus' words also open the door for some serious questions about the nature of God's presence.
Jesus promised to be with us when we gather "in His name" (NIV). But what does "in His name" really mean? What are the conditions that assure God's presence with us when we assemble? Is it possible to come together and participate in "worship" activities without God's presence? Is there a difference in God's omnipresence (being everywhere at once) and His promised presence when His people gather in Jesus' name?"
I have an interesting and insightful book entitled, "Doing Church Without God." The author, Larry R. Sinclair, makes the disturbing assertion that "we are organizing and programming the Holy Spirit (God's presence) right out of many churches." He draws the distinction between God's omnipresence and His "manifest presence." Paul E.Billheimer puts the distinction this way, "Although God is omnipresent, He is not everywhere in benign influence."
Mr. Sinclair describes God's manifest presence as the unhindered activity of the Spirit of God, as He reveals Himself and convicts people of sin and refines, purifies, and renews His people. When God works visibly in these ways among His assembled people, everyone will have no doubt that it is God's manifest presence accomplishing His purposes for His people.
It's easy to slip into the mindset that worship consists of an hour of scripted and choreographed activities designed to make us feel good about having been there. We can become calloused and view worship services primarily as social events where we get to fellowship with our friends, hear good music, and enjoy a great sermon. These are important components of worship services, but we should assemble anticipating a personal, life-changing encounter with God. Our desire should be to have our lives transformed by God's Spirit because we have been in His presence.
Whether we are among the two or three or a large congregation, let's examine our hearts and pray that God will find us worthy of His presence. Let's not become like Sampson, who "awoke from his sleep and thought, 'I'll go out as before and shake myself free.' But he did not know that the Lord had left him'" (Judges 16:20 NIV). It seems God's manifest presence had departed the church at Sardis. Jesus said, "I know your deeds; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are (spiritually) dead" (Rev. 3:1 NIV). Evidently, their reputation for being alive came from activities rather than God's manifest presence.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

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