Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Infinite And Indwelling Presence Of Almighty God - Romans 11:36-12:2

Image result for goldfish
Romans 11:36-12:2 36 "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 12:1  Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Introduction: Thinking upon God's infinite presence

As I write this post today, I'm sitting beside my goldfish. The fish swims in its tank, unaware of the water that is upholding it and sustaining it. The fish gets fed by me, it's owner. If there were no aquarium (which I bought), the fish would have no home. Ultimately of course, nothing would endure were it not for the almighty presence of God. Like that fish, many Christians carry on their day with hardly a second thought about the reality and personality of the omnipresent God that has direct influence on every point in space. 

Whether by directly moving on any of those points, or moving on such points by secondary and tertiary means (His Providence at work through natural laws, history, governments, men's wills) - there is not one square inch of space that, in the words of the great Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, Christ cannot say "mine!"

I don't want to retain ignorance of God's presence like my goldfish. Rather, I find it needful to cultivate a heightened awareness of His all pervading reality. The late author A.W. Tozer remarks:

"The world of sense intrudes upon our attention day and night for the whole of our lifetime. It is clamorous, insistent and self-demonstrating. It does not appeal to our faith, it is here, assaulting our five senses, demanding to be accepted as real and final. But sin has clouded the lenses of our hearts that we cannot see that reality, the City of God, shining around us. The world of senses triumphs. The visible becomes the enemy of the invisible, the temporal of the eternal."

Tozer then concludes:

"At the root of the Christian life lies belief in the invisible. The object of the Christian's faith is unseen reality." 

God's omnipresence is His infinite presence

Reflection upon Romans 11:36-12:21 gives us a way to understand how the Christian is to live in the presence of God in heightened awareness of God's activity within them and through them.

God's omnipresence, we could say, is His "infinite presence" that can influence all points in the universe and including the universe itself. All things are equidistant to God. To illustrate, picture a man at the supper table. He has before him his plate and all the utensils. He can reach out and affect anyone of those objects, since they're all in front of him. 

All of creation is before the living God. Not only do all things lay before Him, God also is present at every place and moment in history and space. Medieval theologians referred to this aspect of God's omnipresence as His immensity. God's presence suffuses the fabric of time and space whilst keeping Himself distinct and separate from it (i.e. another aspect, God's transcendence). 

This expression of God's presence we could tag His "infinite presence". True, ultimate reality is not inanimate, material and non-personal (such as our universe); instead, the true, Sole, Ultimate reality is Living, immaterial and personal - i.e God. He is dynamic ever-moving. He is identified as three persons: Father, Son And Spirit. All three Persons are this very movement and identity of Almighty God.

How the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence enlightens the Christian by the renewal of the mind and spirit. Romans 11:36-12:3

Romans 11:36 leaps off the page. This one verse of Romans 11:36 is an Bible in microscopic form. Note the words: "from Him" - that is, God the creator; "through Him", that is, Christ the redeemer"; "to Him", that is, Christ our soon coming King; "to Him be glory for ever, amen", that is, the Spirit's work of bring history to its culmination when Christ returns and then hands all things over to the Father. The entire canon of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is expressed by Romans 11:36. I find in this verse a perfect expression of God's omnipresence. 

When we transition in Romans 12:1-3, we find the command to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Paul is beginning to discuss what we could call God's "indwelling presence" in the Christian. Here we see the Christian presented as a living sacrifice, much like those sacrifices brought into the temple at Jerusalem in Paul's day. They were brought for presentation to God, for offering and for expression of worship. Those sacrificial animals were set apart. Death would result. The sacrifice left the world of the living to give its life to point the way to the Author of life. The sweet aroma that wafted its way throughout the temple precincts would remind worshipers of their purpose for living - to know God. 

The Christian is a living sacrifice. He or she is to come of their own volition. The remainder of Romans 12:1-2 instructs not only action, but surrender. Just as Jesus went willingly to the cross to give His life on our behalf, we too are to follow in His steps (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21). 

We find a command in the passive voice: "be transformed by the renewing of our minds". Too often we find the temptation to "be conformed to this world". Passivity in the things of the flesh leads to swift spiritual decline. We find too often the tendency to put things in cruise control and let the world dictate our agenda. However, such passivity must be opposed and then exchanged with a passivity to God's presence in the believer. 

So, what is meant by Paul when he writes: "be transformed by the renewing of your mind"? Two New Testament passages, speaking in almost identical terms, shed much light on this statement made by the Apostle. The first is found in another of Paul's letters, namely Ephesians 4:20-24

"if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

The second passage that expounds upon the meaning of "renewing of the mind" is discovered in the Apostle Peter's second epistle, 2 Peter 1:4-5a

"For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence....".

Renewal of one's mind entails the combination of spiritual and moral transformation. The Christian is passive, in one sense, yielding to the Spirit's inner working. Yet, at the same time - especially in light of Peter's words - the Christian is actively participating with the Holy Spirit. He or she does so by means of "adding" to his or her faith the needful works and Spirit-wrought virtues (i.e. the fruits of the Spirit, see Galatians 5:22-23).

The indwelling presence of the Spirit of God empowers the Christian to live out the will of God

At salvation the Spirit of God comes to indwell the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). Christians are described as the temple of the living God, both individually and corporately (Romans 6:4-12; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; Ephesians 3; 1 Peter 2:4-11). God's infinite presence, accessible to anyone, manifests in its more obvious expression by the indwelling of the Person of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:16-18; 15:26-27). Only by the Spirit can one test or prove that good, acceptable and perfect will of God (i.e. the scriptures, see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Hebrews 4:12).

Closing thoughts:

Today's post featured Romans 11:36-12:2. We noted how God's presence can be understood by two headings: His infinite presence (i.e. omni-presence) and His indwelling presence (i.e. the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. The presence of God, by the Person of the Spirit in the Christian, enlightens them to their spiritual identity and their need to participate in the life of God within them. The Spirit's enlightening work also empowers such persons to live out the will of God found in the Word of God. Such truths alert us to the pervading reality of God's desire to work in and through every Christian His powerful and mighty presence.  

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