The Paradox of God’s Presence

 

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A cursory reading of Old Testament books like Leviticus can easily leave a person scratching his or her head. As we read about the ways to live in God’s presence, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds amid the descriptions of rituals, sacrifices, matters of purity, feasts, and the roles and requirements of priests. If we do we will miss the central theme of what our eyes are skimming.

 

The centrality of this is God’s holiness and how we can come into the presence of a holy God.

 

How we do it shows our respect and honor for his holiness. That He shows the way is evidence of his love and longing that we no longer be separated from Him. He desired to enter into a covenant relationship with his people.

 

587086-Jerry-Bridges-Quote-The-pursuit-of-holiness-is-a-joint-ventureEven though the New Testament reminds us to be holy and somewhere we know or have heard that God is holy, we have likely heard more messages and read more books about God’s love than God’s holiness. If we are asked to define it, too often our words trip over themselves.

 

At some point we have heard and understood that to be holy is to be set apart as unique. As one who desires to follow Him, we are to be unique as well and not look like those who are not his. Sadly, we too often look, talk, and act much like those who do not claim Him.

 

Holiness is not a quality of character that comes in our human DNA.

 

Our sin nature (not unlike the stories we read in Leviticus) gets in the way of our relationship to the Lord. The place where we may get lost in the weeds in Leviticus is God teaching his children how they (sinful) can risk living in his holy presence. (All those animal sacrifices and purity laws seem impossible.)

 

God is well aware of our condition ever since the first bite of the fruit in the garden that was not to be touched. He knows well that it separated us from Him and He has been showing us the way back ever since.

 

Of course God had a plan for that, a plan to bring us into wholeness again through the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb, Jesus. He offers us grace, mercy, and love, but He also provides for transformation. He sets about transforming our character, showing us that we are called to holiness. And that is only something his transformation can accomplish.

 

The thing about holiness is that no matter how much we try to do or say what we know 319585-Elisabeth-Elliot-Quote-God-is-God-Because-he-is-God-He-is-worthywe should and practice all the things we see as a part of Christ, we cannot really make ourselves appear holy outwardly (let alone inwardly).

 

Holiness includes goodness and such Christ-like characteristics can only occur with a transformation of our heart by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Then that can be expressed in our external actions and only then.

 

When the Lord starts cleaning house in our hearts and souls, it is no quick tidying up. Beyond the obvious clutter, dust, and dirt He may see, there are those other things that we hide or don’t even recognize about ourselves − our motives.

 

John Eldredge puts it this way in his book, The Utter Relief of Holiness:

 

 “Everything we do has a motive behind it. This is such a helpful category. It will be the dawning of a new day for us when we can simply accept Jesus’ offer of genuine integrity by looking at our motives.”

 

 Looking of our motives is not for the faint of heart.

 

bloom-blossoms-buds-87452That quest will expose more than we often want to see of the core sin issues that plague us in this life. We will see how often we do things or say things to gain favor or avoid consequences or punishment, how often our fear of man rules our choices. We will also bring to light the truth that our efforts to meet or maintain a moral standard, a life of integrity, miss the point. His interest is not in the letter of the law or doctrine, but rather in the spirit of it.

 

We don’t throw those standards out the window, but a transformation of our heart to wholeness and holiness is the only thing that can bring us to living by love as the Lord does (along with the other higher laws that were central to his life). Once it is woven into the fabric of our being, it is what allows us to love Him and serve Him above our desire to please others. And that is evidence we are set apart.

 

The work on the cross and our acceptance of the Lord’s grace means He now lives in us. That doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does accomplish something we could not do otherwise:

 

What is crucial here is this: now we have an option. Without the cross, sin would simply rule in us and over us unchallenged. The hope of genuine goodness could never be ours. But because of the work of Christ for us and in us, we now have the possibility of living a life filled with the captivating goodness of Jesus.”  

John Eldredge

 

God knew what it would take to get to the heart of the matter − our hearts. No amount of animal sacrifice or ritual could accomplish what we needed to be reconciled to Him who was wholly pure, good, and holy.

 

What is the paradox of living in God’s presence? 

 

Living in the presence of our holy God is living in pure goodness, but we cannot forget it becomes dangerous if we rebel or insult God’s holiness.

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17 thoughts on “The Paradox of God’s Presence

  1. It all begins with our heart, doesn’t it? Transformation into who God created us to be happens when we allow the deep pruning of our whole beings. The more life experience I journey through, the more I realize that I need to surrender my heart and the emotions that consume me. Your words today point us back to God and embracing His presence. Thank you for this encouragement.

    1. Yes, indeed, it does, Mary! I am ever grateful for His grace that doesn’t do all the pruning or surgery needed in now chunk, but does it over time little by little as I yield and He knows when and how I can bear it.

      I am appreciating getting to know you here and through your writing each week.❤️

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I was just having a discussion with my mother yesterday on how no matter all we do, humans will always be sinners, but that does not detract for God’s holiness (this came forward because of all the troubles within the Vatican), and your post makes total sense to me.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this Teresa! Your words bring encouragement to my heart as I seek to sense the Lord’s direction for whatever I write.

  3. Thank you for your focus on God’s holiness! You are right, it is not often what we hear and read about, but I do love those calls to be holy as He is holy. I find that it is only as we renew our mind and quiet our hearts in regular prayer that we even have a chance. Yet oh the constant struggle to continue to do those things. 🙂

    I’m your neighbor at Tea and Word Tuesday.

    Blessings,
    Babychaser

    1. You’re welcome! I felt led to make holiness the focus as I think we too seldom do so. I agree with what you shared here. Thanks for reading and taking a minute to comment. That is a blessing to me!

      Love your handle (Babychaser)😊

  4. Loved this post on a subject I’ve been diving deeply into for the past 2 years! I loved your comment that holiness just isn’t part of our human DNA. I’ll have to check out Eldridge’s book. I don’t think that was out when I was doing the research for my book, Holy in the Moment. Love the quotes you shared. I’ll share your post on my FB page.

    1. Thanks, Ginger. I am blessed by your comment. The book was released in 2013 by Eldredge. The title of your book is very appealing. when do you plan to publish it?

      Thanks for sharing this on your FB page.

  5. Oh Pam! The Lord has been cleaning house in me recently! I didn’t realize how many attic spaces are filled with hidden motives! And then there’s the cubby holes that have taken me by surprise! It’s been good, but painfully so! Only because I know He is doing this for my good and His glory. i’m even coming to the place of opening doors I didn’t even know were ignored!!!

    Grateful for your challenging insight💕
    Gail

    1. Ah, friend, our Lord is faithful to know just when and how to move in each of our lives to accomplish what is needed. I think that process continues for each of us over time because He knows we could not bear to see it all at once. He is a faithful and tender physician to bring us healing.

      So glad this blessed you❤️
      Hugs

  6. Dear Pam,
    Oh you have so many good thoughts to ponder here. Truly, “looking at our motives is not for the faint of heart.” But this thought touched me so much today: “a transformation of our heart to wholeness and holiness is the only thing that can bring us to living by love as the Lord does.” Looking up at Him, letting Him transform us, is the only way we can honestly look at those motives too. It would crush us without Him there in us to show us the transforming that He is the process of working in us. This was such a confirmation that I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Bettie! Thank you for sharing how this post was used by the Lord to confirm Himself to you. That blesses my heart. I pray you are doing well and experiencing an abundance of His grace.

      Hugs,
      Pam

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