I have found a new book: Cultivating God’s Presence: Renewing Ancient Practices for Today’s Church by Richard J Roberts which has been helpful in the way I look at how I relate to God. But, and there is a big but, Roberts makes no mention of the fact that Jesus made it possible for our heavenly Father to send the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit to indwell our Spirit to enable believers to live the Christian life. There is no way we can live a holy life without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear that anything good in our lives is a result of the Holy Spirit, The fruit of the Spirit is the Christlike character: a character that reveals what Jesus is like. It is the outward expression of the holy nature of God in the believer. It is actually the development of the life of Christ in the Christian.
In 1 Thessalonians 5;19, Christians are commanded, “Do not quench the Spirit.” We must stay connected to God and always ask Him to help us say not my will but your will be done this day. We must obey God and allow the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus. Becoming lax in demonstrating the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit is dangerous to our spiritual life. As Christians, we believe that the Holy Spirit is our guarantee or down payment on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1: 21-22; Ephesians 5:15-21)
Imagine the Holy Spirit as a roaring campfire. What happens to the fire when we stop putting in the fuel and instead throw dirt on it? It goes out. It no longer produces the light or heat for which it was started. In the same way, if we neglect our relationship with God and become focused on the things of the world, we will extinguish the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives and no longer produce the fruit of the Spirit.
In addition to the importance of showing others how God’s Spirit can work in our lives, Christians must never underestimate the importance of fulfilling the covenant we made with the God of the universe when we were baptized and received the greatest gift of all: His Holy Spirit.
We all want to experience God’s presence. However, the presence of God is not amenable to a program, nor to a spiritual self-help manual. God is often elusive and even though we pray for his presence the Spirit is not at our beck and call. Jesus reminded us that the movement of the Spirit, like the wind, can be felt but He cannot be controlled: ‘The wind blows where it wishes’ (John 3:8). We cannot guarantee a certain outcome by adopting a particular spiritual practice.
WALKING WITH GOD
“Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.” Genesis 5:22
“Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:24
Enoch was clearly someone quite remarkable even though he lived a somewhat normal life fathering sons and daughters. It is as if the author of Genesis breaks with facts and figures and has to tell us about this person that enjoyed the companionship of God as an ongoing continuous experience. The phrase ‘walking with God’ conjures up a life of constant fellowship with him on the earthly journey. Enoch’s fellowship with God was never broken; his lifespan, unlike that of his forebears, was not limited to a given number of years. Rather, from the moment he commenced his walk with God, Enoch experienced eternal life, beginning right here on earth.
It seems important that we are told, not that God joined in with Enoch’s walk, but that it was Enoch who joined God on his walk. He walked with God, rather than God walking with him. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it is an important one. While we often ask God to join in with and bless whatever we may be doing, ‘to join our walk’, Enoch in contrast, joined God’s walk. The psalmist hints at a similar dynamic when he wrote, ‘Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths’ (Psalm 25:4). Enoch’s life and walk with God raises the possibility for us of a more consistent experience of God’s presence.
Jesus spoke of our having constant fellowship, a constant walk, with God. He made it possible for our heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell our Spirit to enable this walk:
‘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 14:23
This is a promise of the presence of the Father and the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. But notice also that Jesus tells us that God’s presence is cultivated by obedience to his word, so this is a conditional promise. The promise of God’s presence is not an enticement nor even a reward to keep us on the straight and narrow path. It is simply the outcome of our obedience.
Matthew’s Gospel, in particular, links our eternal destiny with the way we live now, rather than emphasizing a set of beliefs (Matthew 25: 29-30 and 40-46). Grace is a deep appreciation that we are the recipients of God’s wholly undeserved kindness. Grace is often experienced in worship, as we realize how profound the Father’s love for us is, and that experience in turn leads to deeper worship. It is this experience of the mercy of God which changes our attitudes and leads to sacrificial discipleship (Romans 12:1-2). As we respond to God’s grace it inevitably makes us more gracious as people full of gratitude which spills over into acts of kindness to others.