As we begin a new cycle of life, with summer holidays behind us and a new school year ahead of us, it is time to revisit the theme of “Encountering God’s Transforming Presence.” This week we speak about Encounter …
The chief goal for my life, and for those who choose to be under my pastoral influence, is to be continually transformed into the image of Jesus. Fortunately, this happens to be God’s goal for every follower of his as well. I am profoundly aware that this transformation will not happen through our own self-effort. We need God’s enabling grace so that we are not conformed to this world’s way of thinking but are transformed into the image of Jesus.
This is how the Apostle Paul put it, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Paul here is referencing Moses and the transformation that happened to him. So impacted was Moses by his encounter with God on Mt Sinai that his face literally shone with the glory of God! Wow!
However, because that glory began to fade, since it was a lesser only skin-deep Old Covenant, Moses started to wear a veil. You see, like the people of Israel, it’s one thing to be conscious of God’s presence it’s another thing to encounter God in that presence.
In the far superior heart-level New Covenant, the glory that we have received is never meant to fade away. Rather, that glory is only meant to increase! As that glory increases we are transformed by degrees into the image of Jesus! The way for that glory to increase is for us to continually “behold” God. What we behold is what we become.
How do we encounter God today?
There is an endless variety of ways that we can encounter God today. Let me share five:
- Worship – Whether it is a corporate or individual worship experience, we know that God inhabits the praises of his people and as we worship him with open hearts and outstretched arms, he meets us and we are changed. I thank God for the variety of styles of worship that are available for the Body in this age. We can all find some worship genre that suits our palate. The key ingredient though is a heart full of adoration and thankfulness.
- Word – Whether it is public preaching or private Bible study, we can encounter God through his Word. We know that as we listen for his voice through his Word, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is the primary way that I experience God. I love when I open up the Bible and a fresh revelation hits me right between the eyes! My heart burns; my emotions are touched, I feel the word, I feast on it and I am changed.
- His Body, the Church – this is probably a less obvious way of encountering God for those who are individualistic Western believers. We tend to think of encountering God on a purely vertical level. It’s God and me, me and God; forget about them. However, to our detriment, we don’t orient ourselves around meeting God through encounters with His people. We are all made in His image; and where two or three are gathered in his name there he is, yet we are not really expecting God encounters as we interact with each other. Hence a massive devaluation of the corporate gathering in the Church today – especially in the West.
- Holy Communion – Meditating on his Presence in the Holy Communion has provided me with powerful life-changing encounters with Christ. I have wept with deep gratitude, awe and affection because as I’ve taken the time to reflect on the Cross I’ve had a glimpse of the majesty of Christ’s sufferings on my behalf. Instead of getting bogged down in theological arguments about whether the body and the blood actually change, if we meditate on Christ and his Passion, WE will be changed.
- Prayer – For all of us, we can encounter him in our place of prayer, our “tent of meeting”. As Moses spoke with God face to face as a man does with a friend, so can we. Of course, if we are attentive to his voice, we can encounter him any time in the day and even in the most mundane of moments, because he is always with us.
Some people can have quite dramatic, Moses-like, encounters with God. Others have less dramatic but equally life-changing encounters. Others, like me, tend to have more gradual “aha” moments when a revelation will dawn on me and it will change the way I think. Our ultimate goal in life though is to be transformed through encounters in his Presence. Let it be, Lord!
Father, would you awaken our spirits to the truth that you’re not just a good idea to be believed, you are a person to be encountered. Jesus, help us to be attentive to the various ways that you desire to meet us and transform us. Holy Spirit, you make all these things real to us. Please do so for every hungry heart reading this. Amen!