As far back as I can remember, it has happened in my walk with Jesus. It occurs in the evening hours as I think through the discussions and activities of my day. Then, I’ll find myself in conversation with Jesus. As I process, His presence comes closer. The more aware I am of His closeness, the more questions and insights unfold. I can’t fully explain it, but there’s a connection there that I know every follower of Jesus can cultivate. Then in a time-stand-still moment, He speaks, and I am pulled out of my realm into His.
For a moment, I can resound with the Apostle Paul’s decree that “in Him, we live and move and have our being….” For a moment, his thoughts engulf me, and I look away from my temporal reality as it fades into the consuming awareness that He is God. Sometimes the intensity of this convergence lasts only a few minutes. Other encounters stretch out for hours. He speaks, and I listen. Questions grow dim in the brilliance of His peace-emitting presence. This place is the connection He prepared for every believer thousands of years ago. (John 14:2) This is the place where Jesus promised to come and meet with all who seek Him. (John 14:23)
These eternity glimpsing moments are not the result of strange, mystical patterns or sequences. As I think of how my soul has grown in this dwelling place, I recall the signposts that have led me to this haven of relationship. The biographies of many goldy men and women who attested to a similar union with the Father pointed me to this place. What was their secret? How did they construct this place of abiding with Jesus? More importantly, how can you build a similar union with Jesus?
This pathway to living with the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence begins with the simple and powerful discipline of taking in and meditating on God’s Word.
This is a timeless truth. Our soul can only be changed and fortified to sustain in the presence of Jesus by consistently hearing and applying His Word. God’s words to us, as He said, are Spirit and life. This means they have a living ability to create in us a place for engagement with Him. (John 6:63) When God speaks, His words construct in the listener’s mind a reality that must exist if they desire to encounter Him again and again. The Psalmist David, a presence-seeker, lays out this passion and process of internal transformation by asking,
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalms 24:3-5)
Note the final gift one receives in this passage- righteousness. This is not merely a forgiveness of sins, though it may include this benefit. Rather, receiving righteousness speaks to the infusing of God’s divine nature into one’s consciousness. As we approach God, we fall short if we merely engage Him for an experience of emotional bliss. True worshippers draw near to their Creator to become one with Him, to have their nature unified with His. To be this person, the attribute of righteousness is vital. Our default nature must be holy (uniquely committed) to sustain the power of Jesus’ glory or weightiness. Just as the walls of a river dam are reinforced with towers of concrete, rebar, and soil, so the soul of the believer must be constructed to house the forceful and intrinsic power of God’s presence.
How do we prepare our souls to be a place of God’s dwelling? Only through knowing and obeying the Word of God. This revelation is unfolded to us in King David’s writings. Maybe he learned this truth in his first God encounter as a King? In his hope of getting the ark (God’s Presence) near his home in Jerusalem, David experienced a valuable lesson. (2 Samuel 6).
As the story goes, the ark of God’s covenant with Israel fell into the hands of enemy nations long before David took the throne. When the ark was returned to Israel, it was left in Kirjath Jearim for twenty years. (1 Samuel 4-7) When David finally became King, he made plans to bring the ark closer to his residence. With thirty thousand men, he triumphantly began a procession to his beloved Jerusalem with the ark in tow on an ox-driven cart. The parade flawlessly proceeded until they came to the grain-threshing floor by Nachon’s house. As the cart leaned to one side, Uzzah, an attentive escort, reached out to push the ark back on its platform. Immediately, God exploded into the moment and struck him down. Then we read that “David was displeased because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah.” (2 Samuel 6:7) The description that God “made a breach” is a gentle way of saying God split Uzzah in half. Like a surging bolt of lightning tearing through a feeble pine tree, God struck down Uzzah. David and the children of Israel were terrorized and wisely halted their religious procession. They decided to investigate their error. In his book, the God Chasers, Tommy Tenny beautifully lays out this story and the spiritual implications it holds for us today. This moment was David’s first life lesson in approaching the very real and powerful God of Israel. From this moment and subsequent encounters with God, David pieced together the revelation of how God’s people should prepare themselves for His nearness.
In a poetic verse, David’ directs us with these parallel commands saying,
walk in the law of the Lord, keep His testimonies. He continues by instructing us to seek God with a whole heart, walk in His ways, keep His precepts and statutes diligently, look into His commandments, learn His righteous judgments, and hide His Word in our hearts. (Psalms 119:1-24)
This passage essentially directs us to know, obey, and make God’s word the lens through which we process reality. This may be difficult to completely apply at once, but it is vital to making one’s soul a place for God’s abiding presence. In the flood of opinions and information that seeks to drown and wreck every structure of righteousness in our minds, we must fortify our perception by pushing out the world’s way of thinking and creating a place where God’s presence will be welcome.
Practically, this means creating habits to take in more of God’s word than social media posts, articles, news broadcasts, and other friendly opinions. You cannot have the overwhelming presence of Jesus manifest in your life if you have the blasting voice and images of the world in your ears and before your eyes. The call to holiness is not to empower the believer to judge unbelievers. No, the call is an invitation to construct righteous habits that will allow you to process God’s way of thinking within your own. His way of processing, as we know, is much higher than our own. God’s ways of dealing with our reality are as high as the heavens are above the earth. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
So how do you develop your soul as a place for experiencing the continued presence of Jesus?
- Shut out the voice of the world. Refuse to turn to your phone for entertainment, posts, videos, and other time-fillers. God will not compete for your affections and attention. Remove the current behaviors that steal your time and draw your affections from Jesus.
- Create habits of reading, meditating, and discussing God’s word into your schedule. You must allow His Word to shape your reality. This can only be done if the volume of God’s Word going into your ears and before your eyes is greater than any other input. You may say, “I don’t have time to study God’s word for hours daily.” True. But all I am recommending is that you replace your Facebook, Instagram, and social media scrolling time with reading and meditating on Jesus time. You’ll be surprised how this habit swap will start transforming your soul and mind.
- Finally, this is more than a mere exchange of the information you receive. As you are in God’s Word, you will be challenged to obey God’s counsel in matters of forgiveness, conversations, finances, and every aspect of your daily life. Obedience is the foundation for building a place for God’s presence.
- Finally, here’s a prayer I’ve taken from David’s text in Psalm 119:33-40 that you can pray as you pursue a greater awareness of God’s presence.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.
Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You.
Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your judgments are good.
Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me in Your righteousness.