What does it mean to practice the presence of God in our world today? How do we juggle the demands of frantically busy lives with time for devotions, church and fellowship groups? Should we even try to make time for reaching out to our neighbours and those at the margins?
These are questions that all of us grapple with as we struggle to follow Christ authentically in our world today. I am more and more convinced however that we go about practicing the presence of God from the wrong end. It is not about spending more time in church or even reading the Bible, important as these may be, it is about allowing our lives to be open the transforming power of the Spirit 24/7.
To be truly holy people – intoxicated by the presence of God and drenched by the life of the Son, we must:
- Strive to be ourselves not what someone else wants us to be. Pharisaic rules and regulations have no place in people who have been freed by Christ. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need regular scripture reading and church fellowship but it means that these need to be shaped around what makes you feel fully alive to the presence of God rather than around what someone else does. What makes you feel alive in the presence of God? It might be meditation or writing songs or painting pictures. It might be having coffee with a friend or preparing a meal for a stranger. If these make you feel close to the heart of God they need to be nurtured and strengthened. What makes you feel alive to the call of God on your life? These too are practices that need to be developed and encouraged.
- Be constantly aware of the world around you. Listening and looking for the activity of God, learning from the voice of God, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, are central to the lives of truly holy people. Much of who Jesus was and what he did resulted from his amazing awareness of people. He noticed Zacheus hiding in a tree, he felt the unclean woman who touched him in the midst of a crowd, and he heard the anguished cry of a blind beggar above the din of those who shouted for his attention. His sensitivity and insights meant that he could immediately put his finger on their deepest needs and respond in a way that drew them closer to God. I suspect that in those moments he too came closer to God.
- Seek always for intimacy with the One whose nature is love and whose greatest passion is the inbreaking of the Kingdom of peace. So often our seeking after God is focused on what God can do for us and for our own personal comfort. it is not about growing in intimacy with a God who cares deeply for our broken world and constantly reaches out in compassion and care. This kind of intimacy comes at a high cost – in fact it costs us everything. It cost Jesus and many of his early disciples their lives. It costs us our self centered, self involved lives. But oh the joy that it brings, the joy of participating with God in the creation of a new world of righteousness and justice and peace. This kind of intimacy doesn’t just transform us, it transforms our world. And the closer we grow to God the more we crave it and we become more and more willing to give up everything else to attain it.