Face to Face
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“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.”—Philippians 3:10
Paul says, “I want to know Christ,” and what he means by this is that he wants to know him personally; not just intellectually, but through experiential interaction and involvement with Him. He means through the good and bad times, the joys, the sufferings. Anything that is true of Christ, he wants to share in.
In Ephesians 1:17, Paul writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” This is written to the church in Ephesus, people who are already Christians, and Paul is telling them they need to know Christ better. That can only be done through an ongoing development of their knowledge and experience of God.
The Christian life, however, is not defined by experiences. They become history a day later. It isn’t defined by feelings, which are up one day and down the next, nor is it defined by our activities. The Christian life is defined by a developing relationship with God. We can have a relationship with Christianity and with our church, and be very concerned about Christian doctrine. We can be born again of the Holy Spirit but fail to have a relationship with Christ Himself.
There are many people, particularly in ministry, who have a “side-by-side” relationship with Christ. They work with Him, seek to obey Him, trust Him, and want to know His mind and His will. They’re on Christ’s agenda and want to experience His power to see His work accomplished. What they have in effect is a “business partnership.” It’s all about their work with God and an eager desire to fulfill His purpose. It’s wonderful, but lacks a certain intimacy in that God wants to share in the deepest recesses of our hearts...
Essential to the Christian life is spending time alone with God, where nothing is hidden, and we’re open and vulnerable. It is through this “face-to-face” relationship that we receive the best God has to give us … in coming to truly know and experience Him.—Charles Price
Striving toward God’s presence
In the deep recesses of man’s soul lies an overwhelming yearning toward the Creator. This is a common thread through all humanity, created in the image of God. Unless and until that desire is fully met, the human soul remains restless, constantly striving for that which is ultimately unattainable.
To any discerning Christian, it is easy to see that men and women are in an awful spiritual and moral mess today. A person must know where he is before he can comprehend where he needs to be. The solution, however, is not within the scope of human endeavor. The highest ideal or accomplishment of man is to break from the spiritual bondage and enter into the presence of God, knowing that you have entered welcome territory.
Within every human breast rages this desire, driving him forward. Many a person confuses the object of that desire and spends his or her entire life striving for the unobtainable. Very simply put, the great passion in the heart of every human being, who is created in the image of God, is to experience the awesome majesty of God’s presence. The highest accomplishment of humanity is entering the overwhelming presence of God. Nothing else can satiate this burning thirst.
The average person, unable to understand this passion for intimacy with God, fills his life with things, hoping somehow to satisfy his inward longing. He chases that which is exterior, hoping to satisfy that inner thirst, but to no avail.
St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, captured the essence of this desire in his Confessions: “Thou hast created us for Thyself and we are restless until we rest fully in Thee.” This explains, to a great degree, the spirit of restlessness pervading every generation and every culture—always striving but never coming to the knowledge of the truth of God’s presence.
John the Revelator voices something quite similar: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”1 It is God’s great pleasure for us to fully rest in His presence, moment by moment. God created man expressly for … His pleasure and fellowship. Nothing in or of this world measures up to the simple pleasure of experiencing the presence of God.
The spirit of restlessness breaking across the sea of humanity testifies to this truth. Our whole purpose as created beings is to utilize our time delighting in the manifest presence of our Creator…
Intimacy with the Creator separates man from all other of God’s creation. The great passion buried in the breast of every human being created in the image of God is to experience this awesome majesty of His presence… We are born to ascend into the very environment of God’s presence where we belong.—A. W. Tozer2
Finding true love in His presence
God created man in the first place to love Him and others—to love and enjoy Him forever, and to try to help others to do the same. It was God who created love and gave man the need to love and to be loved, and He alone can satisfy the deepest yearning of every human soul for total love and complete understanding.
So although the temporal things of this earth can satisfy the body, only God and His eternal love can ever fill that aching spiritual void of every man’s heart which He created for Himself alone! The human spirit, that intangible personality of the real you that dwells within that body, can never be completely satisfied with anything less than utter union with the great and loving God that created it.
He is the very Spirit of love itself, true love, everlasting love, real love, genuine love that never ends from a lover who never leaves, the lover of all lovers, God Himself. He is pictured in His Son Jesus Christ, who came for love and lived in love and died in love that we might live and love forever!
If people could just understand the magnitude of the Lord’s love—how truly unconditional it is, how vast and deep and wide and unending it is—it would solve so many of their problems. They would find freedom from so many of their fears and worries and regrets. If they could just understand that, then they’d know that everything is going to work out, that He is going to cause everything to work together for good, because He is in control of every detail and His hand on their lives is perfectly loving.—David Brandt Berg
The most valuable commodity
God only knows why He put so many of this world’s most precious commodities in such hard-to-get-at places. If it was to test our wills—to see to what lengths we would be willing to go and what price we would be willing to pay to get to them—it worked.
Whether probing for oil beneath the deserts of the Middle East or within the Arctic Circle, or plunging into the subterranean dark and cold to mine for gold, diamonds, and other precious metals and gems, the most determined of us brave some of the world’s harshest conditions and risk life and limb to get to the source and strike it rich.
But even for the fortunate few who succeed, is it really worth it? How long will their riches last, and how much real happiness will they find in the meantime? When you stop to think about it, their triumphs are really tragedies if that’s all they’re left with.
Isn’t it wonderful, though, that God put the very most valuable thing in life—the one thing that can truly satisfy and last for eternity—within reach of everyone? I’m referring to His love, of course. “God is love,” the Bible tells us.3 He is love itself—the wellspring from which love in all of its other wonderful forms flows.—Keith Phillips
Published on Anchor March 2021. Read by Jon Marc.
Music by John Listen.
1 Revelation 4:11.
2 Experiencing the Presence of God (Gospel Light Publications, 2010).
3 1 John 4:8.