Loving God (3)
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42.1, 2
The divine prerogative
Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” (Jn. 21.15-17) When Peter confirmed – with evident shame – that He loved Jesus, Jesus told Him to “Feed My sheep” (v. 18). If Peter truly loved Jesus, He would demonstrate that love by doing what Jesus commanded.
An important principle for loving God emerges in this story: We are not free to love God on our own terms. We’re neither clever, consistent, nor constant enough to love God however we think is best. If we love God on our terms only, we are doing little more than satisfying some impulse that arises from within us. Such love may make us feel better, but it costs us nothing. Jesus told Peter that the love He required of him, that self-denying pastoral care of His sheep, would cost him his life. As, indeed, it did.
Only God is able to show us how to love Him; and loving Him means, as He shows us, loving His Presence. Like Peter, rushing to get ashore to see Jesus, they who truly love God will long for and seek His Presence.
Longing for God
The sons of Korah were gatekeepers in the temple, that glorious place where the people of God came to be in His Presence (1 Chron. 26.1-19). Their work entailed letting people into the Presence of God. We can imagine that, as they saw eager worshipers going past them, and heard singing from within the temple, their own longing to be with the Lord would have been kindled, their expectation of His Presence heightened, and their desire for the Lord made even stronger. Certainly, this is what they expressed in Psalm 42.
We know that we love the Lord when we long for Him like a thirsting deer, when our soul longs for the refreshment only He can provide, and we can scarcely wait for the next opportunity to come before Him. The anticipation of being with God, day by day and throughout the day, fills us with holy excitement, and renews us in hope.
Waiting on God
Once in God’s Presence, we’re not looking at our watches. We wait for Him to make His Presence known. We wait on the Lord, offering our souls for His inspection, declaring our love for and trust in Him, seeking mercy and grace to help in our time of need; calling on the Lord to show us His ways, and lingering over His Word as He does; calling on Him to grant us more of His salvation as we promise to wait on Him “all the day” (Ps. 25.1-5).
Why would we soon depart the Presence of our heavenly Father? The company of our Savior and King? No wonder David, in seeking the Lord’s face and desiring to know His ways and goodness, counseled us to wait on the Lord, gazing on His beauty, and meditating in His Presence (Ps. 27.8-14, 4).
Enjoying the Lord
As we wait on the Lord, He brings us into His joy.
God wants us to delight in Him (Ps. 37.4). He has made being in His Presence an experience of unspeakable joy (Ps. 16.11). As we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and contemplate the glory that radiates from the face of our Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 4.6), we know true joy, lasting peace, and unbounded hope. The more this becomes our experience in the Presence of God, the more we will long for these times, and wait patiently before Him to bring us into His joy.
Waiting on God is not burdensome, because it yields holy spiritual pleasures such as cannot be described, and which can go with us throughout the day.
Abiding in God’s Presence
For our God is with us wherever we go (Ps. 139.7-12). Jesus promised to be with us always (Matt. 28.20). He has also seated us with Him in heavenly places, that we might at all times abide in His Presence, seeking Him, delighting in Him, hearing Him, wondering at His glory, and serving Him in all we do (1 Jn. 2.24-27).
We love God when we seek the filling of His Spirit, the vision of His Son, glimpses of His glory from creation (Ps. 19.1-4), and the hope of our calling in Him (Eph. 5.18-21; 1.15-23). We cry like Moses, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33.15). As the Presence of God goes with us, and we abide in Him throughout the day, we dwell in His rest and draw on His power to live as His witnesses to the world (Ex. 33.14; Acts 1.8).
Celebrating God’s Presence
Our love for God, by which we long for His Presence, wait on and abide joyfully in Him, and live in continuous communion with Him, leads us to celebrate His Presence in worship, witness, and good works. Like rivers of living water, the Spirit pours out celebrations of the pleasures of God in all our words and deeds (Jn. 7.37-39).
God calls His people to love Him by loving His Presence. We see this from the earliest days of His Law, when God gave careful instruction to the people of Israel concerning the tabernacle, the priests and their garments, the offerings and sacrifices by which they would commune together, and the days of worship and celebration He prescribed. The Law shows us God as calling His people to His Presence, preparing them for His Presence, meeting with them to receive, renew, and bless them, and sending them forth from His Presence to live according to all the counsel of His Law.
Being in the Presence of God is the essence of how we love Him, just as it is the essence of how He loves us: “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31.8); “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28.20); “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16.7, 13, 14).
God loves us so much that He gives us His Presence always. Let us each day, first thing each day, like Peter, casting himself into the sea, cast ourselves at Jesus, that we may know His Presence with us, and we may rest in Him.
1. What opportunities throughout the day do you have for entering the Presence of the Lord?
2. How would you encourage a fellow believer to nurture greater longing for the Lord’s Presence?
3. How does the Law of God show us that God wants His people to be in His Presence?
Next steps – Transformation: Begin your day in the Presence of the Lord, waiting on Him with praise and thanks. Then abide in His Presence throughout the day, celebrating His Presence with you in prayer, singing, and witness.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Loving God's Presence
- T.M. Moore
- August 19, 2020
Does your soul pant to be with God?
Loving God (3)