People of the Presence

“Dad, what’s behind the curtain?” “God is my son” “Wow Dad, so if I go behind the curtain, will I see Him?” “No I don’t think so son … but perhaps you will feel Him. Anyhow you can’t go behind the curtain, only the High Priest is allowed in the Most Holy Place.” “Gee Dad, so the High Priest gets to know what God feels like?”  “Yes son, in fact he comes out of the Most Holy Place shinning, and sometimes he has the word of the Lord for us.”
Can you imagine such a discussion between father and son about the Temple in Old Testament times? The curtain separated all Israel from the Most Holy Place where God’s presence was. The High Priest went in to the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer a lambs blood for the sins of the nation. There he met with the living God. It was the place of His Presence.
But as Jesus breathed his last breath on the cross the Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (from heaven to earth). Did it mean something? Yes, the barrier of sin between God and His people had been removed by the sacrifice of Jesus (the eternal Lamb), and God’s Presence was breaking out – His space and His people’s space were becoming one. The people of God would now know the presence of God, just as the High Priest knew it.
Fifty days later the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. Why? Because God’s Presence was leaving the Most Holy Place and coming upon His people. There’s a lesson in this. The Presence is the Spirit, and the Spirit is the Presence.
Christians are called to be people of God’s Presence. Wherever we go we should carry the Presence with us. It’s a bit like being a prince or princess. In ancient times if someone stretched out their arm and you saw gold bracelets on their wrists and gold rings on their fingers, you would probably say, ‘Wow, who is that?’ They had to be someone special, a child of a wealthy ruler or king. In the same way God wants His sons and daughters to wear His spiritual gold. He wants us to be people that wear His Presence, so when people sense His Presence upon us they say ‘Wow, who is that?’ It was like this with Jesus. People asked ‘Who are you?’ They noticed he was a person of spiritual power, character and authority.
Moses left God’s Presence with His glory upon him and His word in his mouth. In a similar way believers on the Day of Pentecost had God’s Presence come upon them like fire and they spoke as the Presence enabled them. The Presence of God brings the prophetic – it enables God’s people to speak by the Spirit, pray by the Spirit, see by the Spirit, and walk by the Spirit.
In Revelations 1: 9-14 John says ‘On the Lord’s Day (a Sunday) I was in the Spirit’ and God then gave him a vision of the future that is documented in the book of Revelations.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 to pray in the Spirit and Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1: 20-21 that prophecy is uttered as one is carried along by the Spirit. All of these men describe what happens when we are in the Spirit, or in the Presence.
Let’s be clear, being in the Spirit is quite different from the Spirit being in us. The Spirit is in believers all the time, but believers are not in the Spirit all the time. And it is when we are in the Spirit, or when the Spirit is upon us that the prophetic begins to flow. It is also when we are in the Spirit that we are refilled with the Spirit. Paul says in Ephesians 5: 18 that we should ‘be filled with the Spirit.’ The Amplified Bible says ‘ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.’ Scholars point out that the Greek word for ‘be’ or ‘ever be’ is present tense continuous and indicates that we should continue to be filled with the Spirit again and again.
At the Vineyard we like to welcome the Holy Spirit to come upon us. We already believe he is in us but we ask Him to come upon us to guide us, empower us, fill us and minister to us. We believe that when the Presence of God comes upon us God’s rule and order is upon us – we call it ‘kingdom breakthrough’ or ‘His kingdom come’ but really it’s the Presence and Kingship from behind the curtain that is upon us.
At the Vineyard we also block out a time of uninterrupted worship where we sing for about 20-30 minutes. It is a time of adoration; a time when we express our heartfelt love for the God of the Most Holy Place. This adoration is our fragrant offering that rises before the throne of God, just as the altar of incense sent up fragrance before the curtain of the Most Holy Place. It is in this moment of adoration that God’s Presence descends upon us, and out of this Presence that the prophetic begins to flow, and God’s people are filled afresh. The verse above continues saying ‘be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.’ It seems that there is a strong connection between musical worship and the Presence of God.
This last Sunday we felt God’s Presence weighing upon us as we sang simple love songs and even afterwards as the sermon was preached God’s Presence lingered and tears flowed. These are precious moments for us to be topped up.
If the Temple was the place of God’s Presence then the priests were the people of God’s Presence. And in 1 Peter 2: 5 we are told that all believers are now a ‘holy priesthood.’ We are called to be the people of God’s Presence, we are to carry His fragrance, and we are to wear His gold. People should look up and say ‘Who are you? What is that presence I feel?’ And we should be able to reply saying, ‘It’s God’s Presence, do you like it?’

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