You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11 (NLT)

In recent weeks we have once again been made aware that there are many confused Christians. On the one hand, they claim to be born again, yet more than two-thirds of them do not believe that the only way to God is through Jesus.

While some of it may be attributable to a lack of training in sound doctrine, it is doubtful that that is the complete picture. There may be some exceptions, but it is inconceivable that most of them would not be attending churches that affirm scriptural authority and inspiration. It is also improbable that the majority hear teaching that would deny the exclusivity of faith in Christ.

So if it is not a denial of sound doctrine and teaching, what could it be? One possible explanation could be that they have never really experienced what it means to be in God’s presence. Without spending time in God’s presence, God’s word will not come alive in someone’s heart. We contend that when we are in God’s presence, there will never be any doubt that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

Outer Courts and Inner Courts

During the days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the Temple’s outer courtyard was referred to as the “Court of the Gentiles.” Nearly anyone was permitted access, in part because Herod wanted to show off the Temple and all its earthly glory.

In the courtyard, people mingled from many nations of the world. Undoubtedly, many of them were without an intimate understanding or knowledge of the God who made this Temple his home. It was probably in this area of the Temple that Jesus taught and preached.

In the outer court, there were many opinions and ideas. There were probably debates between the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the Pharisees. During various holy days, Jews and proselytes from many nations would gather. It was likely that it was in the outer court that Jesus overturned tables and drove the animals away.

There is nothing wrong with being in the outer court. It is a place to “let our light shine before people.” It is where we can sing God’s praises and declare “that he has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” But unless we venture inward to the Holy Place and even further to the Most Holy Place, we will be unable to experience greater depths of God’s presence.

Position Changes Perspective

Allow me to illustrate with two examples how a move into God’s sanctuary can change our perspective. The first is Isaiah: It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Isaiah 6:1 (NLT)

Whether or not the death of King Uzziah was the catalyst for Isaiah’s vision or merely a coincidence, it was in the presence of God that he saw and experienced things that would forever change him. It was a powerful encounter, filled with awe and wonder.

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Isaiah 6:4–5 (NLT)

It was overwhelming in many ways. Isaiah was unsure what would happen next, but he had a new revelation about himself and the people. God’s presence brings everything to light, but not for condemnation. First came the realization of his sinfulness, but then the angel brought redemption.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” Isaiah 6:6–7 (NLT)

Finally, Isaiah was ready to answer the call: Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8 (NLT). Ministry would take place outside of the Temple, but it is in the presence of God, in his sanctuary, that we are prepared and made ready for the task. Isaiah saw the King, and his questions were addressed.

Seeing Clearly

Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, offered this confession: he declared that God was good to those whose hearts were pure, but nevertheless, he almost stumbled because he envied the success of ungodly people. Their wealth seemed to insulate them from the problems of ordinary people. They pay no attention to God, yet their wealth multiplies.

Asaph almost got to the point of abandoning his hope in God and betraying other people. The turning point for him came when he went closer to God: Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. Psalm 73:17–18 (NLT).

After his confession and encounter with God, Asaph saw and understood that he only had one desire: Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:25–26 (NLT)

In His Presence

Sound teaching and doctrine are essential, without a doubt. However, it is an encounter with God’s presence that will shake us out of our uncertainty and fear. Once we have experienced the presence of the Lord, we may be inclined to linger in the Holy Place or even the Most Holy Place. However, our work is in the outer courts and beyond.

It is in the sanctuary that we are made ready for ministry. We relish and crave the opportunities to be in God’s presence, and it is there that our perspective is aligned correctly. We must set an example and encourage others to spend time in the presence of God. In the presence of God, there will be no doubt that the only way to the Father is through Jesus.

Steve Ekeroth

 

Photo by Min An from Pexels

2 Comments

  1. Rev Jan Michael Nace on November 12, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Excellent article.

  2. Fred augustine on November 20, 2021 at 4:45 am

    Yes well said!
    Yet again another timely word for the body as a whole.
    Thank you

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