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Who Can Dwell in His Presence?

This entry is part 17 of 54 in the series

"One Thing Have I Desired"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

The Life of Faith

Central to the life of knowing God and thereby loving him ultimately, is the life of faith. Since we live in the presence of an unseen God, faith is needed. Faith is the medium of exchange between the heart that wishes to know God, and the God that wishes to be known. All this brings us to the matter of of our new natures and our position in Christ. If we love God by knowing Him as we dwell in His presence, what gives us the right to dwell in His presence? What exactly has the Gospel achieved so that we can fulfill the Great Commandment? What must our faith rest upon to keep communing with God in his presence?

A little while ago, the press reported on a couple who had been arriving uninvited at very high-level political parties, one of them held at the White House. This couple convincingly acted the part of invited guests, but in fact they were impostors. Eventually they were caught, and found themselves under investigation. People do not walk into a Presidential dinner uninvited. If that’s true of the President of the United States, is it not true of the Creator of the Universe? Can human beings simply walk into his presence uninvited, as they are, and remain there as long as they please? The Bible does not teach this. As much as the Bible also praises God’s common grace in giving rain to all people everywhere, as much as it says that the very heavens declare the glory of God, as much as it emphasizes that he is not far from each of us, it also says that entry into his presence is restricted. Loving God is not something we can do naturally.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)

The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. (Psalm 5:5 )

David described the kind of person that can dwell in God’s presence:

A Psalm of David. LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psalm 15:1-5)

Man cannot stand again in God’s presence unless his sin is dealt with. As much as God showers the whole world with gifts, these gifts only serve to further indict hard hearts that respond without gratitude and submission. God’s common grace seen in creation is not a sign that all people are reconciled to him and can stand in his presence. We need atonement. We need to have our sins forgiven, and to be given positive merit in the form of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Quite simply, we need a new heart. This radical change of nature is what Scripture describes as fundamental to loving God.

The Glory of the New Covenant

The New Covenant is precisely what enables a man to fulfill the Great Commandment of the Old Covenant. The glory of the New Covenant is that it is an interior miracle that works outwards, rather than an external work which we try to internalise by our own efforts. God supplies what He demands: he calls for ultimate love for himself, and he enables it through the miraculous granting of a new nature. The Old Covenant prophesied of this enablement:

“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying,`Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer 31:33-34)

And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for the good of their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:39)

“And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

With the coming of Messiah Jesus, the promise of a new heart was fulfilled.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (Joh 3:3-5)

Being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3)

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5)

This is the gospel we preach to unbelievers: those who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are born again, and receive new natures, fit for Heaven, and enabled to know God. But amazingly, we Christians who have embraced the gospel are prone to forget its application to our lives. We are inclined to view it as the key that unlocks the door of salvation, and little else. We fail to see how the gospel is crucial to Christian discipleship. Paul did not merely say that the gospel was the means of salvation.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand. (1 Corinthians 15:1, emphasis added)

We stand in the gospel. It is our position, our standing, and it is the reason we are able to keep living in God’s presence, now. We are not gate-crashers when it comes to worshipping God in his presence. Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:2:

Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

The gospel, this grace, gives us access to God. It is a Christian’s position and provision. It is his new nature that enables him to love God from the ‘inside-out’. The position of the Christian life is the place from which a Christian lives the rest of his Christian life. The position of the Christian life is the foundation on which he builds. The gospel is not something we are to forget about once we are converted; it is to be something we keep in front of us all our days.

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David de Bruyn

About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.

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