I remember a time in my childhood days when I tried to picture what God looked like. The best image I could muster was that of a very old man in with a long, flowing robe and a full white beard regally sitting on a golden throne. My image was by no means original; I probably borrowed it from a movie.
Many years later I attended a debate at a local university between a Christian and a prominent atheist. And while I have difficulty recalling the names of debaters, I remember well the confident argument of the atheist: “God does not exist because God cannot be measured.” I wouldn’t mind seeing his attempt to build a machine to measure God. Comprehending an infinite God presents an obvious challenge for finite humans!
John 4:24 tells us, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (NASB).
Spirit is of a totally different nature than the matter of this natural world. God is omnipresent (everywhere) and yet we can be completely oblivious to His existence.
I find the Apostle Paul’s famous Mars Hill sermon quite fascinating:
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us . . . . Acts 17:24-27 (NASB)
The presence of God is so near to the unredeemed soul, and yet so far. While God is physically everywhere, to the sinful human He may as well be hanging out on the far end of the universe. Pondering these thoughts might lead us to believe that it’s entirely impossible for any human to know the presence of God, and such would be the case except that our Creator has an unwavering desire to draw near to us.
So how do we go from being oblivious to God to knowing His nearness in a very real way? We begin by recognizing that the Bible speaks of three dimensions of God’s presence:
- The omnipresence of God
- The indwelling presence of God
- The manifest presence of God
In this understanding lies perhaps the greatest good news element of the Gospel—that self-absorbed, sinful humans can become the dwelling place of God. As stated by Paul,
This is what the Bible calls being “born again”, or “born from above”. (John 3:3) The idea is that sin and God cannot peacefully coexist, God must therefore keep His distance from unredeemed people or the torment would probably be worse than that of hell. God’s loving remedy to our insurmountable problem was the sacrificial death of Jesus on that horrible instrument of death—the cross. The power of His sacrificial blood is the answer to sin’s separating power.
Wow! We can be reborn as covenant members of God’s family! The Holy Spirit literally comes to dwell within us, fusing with our human spirits and bringing them to life—an existence that is out of this world!
Again, these are difficult concepts for us to grasp, but this is where faith meets reality. It’s not about us somehow trying to measure up to God’s unattainable standards of perfection, but simply letting go of our pride, believing the Gospel message and yielding to God’s loving will.
I can’t imagine a higher honor than to be a dwelling place of God. It makes me want to live in a manner that honors Him!