The Blessings without the Presence

Are we making idols of our blessings?

The Blessing of His Presence (1)

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you area stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33.3

Abundantly blessed
Even the most superficial analysis of the state of the Church in America will reveal that Christians are a people abundantly blessed of God.

New churches are starting every week, and new mega-churches crop up with regularity. Existing churches which are not abounding with new facilities and burgeoning budgets are at least holding their own. Training programs of every sort abound. Money continues flowing into churches and out from them to a wide range of ministries and services in local communities and around the world. A Christian subculture of media, publishing, higher education, Internet services, and many other products and opportunities continues to flourish.

Besides these corporate manifestations of blessing, American Christians enjoy the highest standard of living of any generation of believers in the history of the Christian movement. Truly, Christians in this country are a people abundantly blessed with good things from the Lord.

It’s difficult, therefore, to reconcile all this bounty with the strictly marginal impact the Church is having on almost every aspect of life in our society. Where are the blessings of God’s exceedingly great and precious promises flowing into the dark and dangerous places of American society? Into the dank recesses of a corrupt pop culture? Into the secular mind-traps of public and higher education? Into racial and economic divides? Into every sector of ethical and moral life? The nation in which Christian churches and other endeavors are flourishing continues its relentless death-spiral into relativism, narcissism, materialism, hedonism, and serfdom.

American Christians abound in blessings and good things from the Lord, yet we have not demonstrated the will or power to persuade our neighbors to forsake their vain materialistic hopes and seek the Kingdom not of this world. The Christian worldview that obtains in today’s churches holds no thrall for contemporary secular and unbelieving people.

Is Jesus present?
What’s going on here? Since Christians are a people blessed of God, to flow His blessings as far as the curse of sin is found, we should expect that, as fully blessed as we are, many people would be streaming into our churches to know the Lord and His grace (Mic. 4.1-8).

But it’s not happening. The reason is because, as blessed as churches are, people all around us, looking upon us with materialistic and narcissistic eyes, consider themselves no less “blessed” than we are, and all that without the added obligations and hypocrisy of organized religion.

That is, the Christians most nonbelievers see and know don’t look all that different from them. They do their work the same way, spend their time and money on similar pursuits, indulge the same small talk, wear the same clothes, watch the same programs and films, and are as fully immersed in the pop culture world of entertainment and frivolity as the next person. To our unbelieving neighbors, our churches appear to be little more than a place where people who can’t make it otherwise in this hectic world go to find succor and safety amid likeminded, small-minded friends. Possessing as much in the way of material and diversionary blessing as we, our unbelieving neighbors prefer to spend their available time enjoying their prosperity and friends in pursuits other than church.

But if Jesus Christ were present in our churches, in all His radiant glory, holiness, mercy, generosity, joy, and love; and if He were truly manifesting Himself in the daily lives of believers, in every area and aspect of their lives, would our unbelieving neighbors be as indifferent – even hostile – to the faith as they are at present? Would they not see a hope and presence unlike anything they’d ever known? And would they not seek to know at least the reason for such a different way of life?

When Jesus walked the earth, people flocked to Him in multitudes, both seekers and detractors, because His presence filled the space He occupied with grace, truth, authority, holiness, hope, and power. This is what is lacking on the part of believers and our churches today.

Blessings with the presence
It’s quite possible that Christians today have made an idol out of the blessings of the Lord, seeking Him only for what He can do for us, give us, or make better in our lives. We want the blessings He can give us, but do we want Him? We rejoice in the many good things He provides, but do we know the joy and pleasure of His presence with us, His beauty enthralling us, His holiness bending us in fear and wonder, His joy sustaining us in every trial, and His power at work within us, transforming us into His image?

We have become so eager for the blessings of the Lord that we are in danger of losing sight of the Lord of the blessings, Who is Himself the supreme blessing of all.

God will continue His blessings on His people, but that’s no guarantee that He Himself will continue with us. The greatest blessing God intends to bestow on us, and through us to our sad and weary world, is the blessing of Himself. Take away all the other blessings of God, every temporal or material boon or good, and if all we have is God Himself, we have all we need for fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16.11).

But we will not seek this greatest of all blessings, nor will we share it with others, as long as we are content merely to enjoy the good things our loving Father provides us day by day.

For reflection
1.  How do you experience the blessing of God’s presence?

2.  Why do you think Christians don’t stand out as filling the space of their lives with Jesus? What’s keeping us from realizing Ephesians 4.8-10?

3.  Is it possible that the blessings God gives us could become idols to destroy us? Explain.

Next steps – Preparation: Have you mapped your Personal Mission Field? Watch this brief video (click here), then seek the Lord for guidance each day to help you bring the blessing of Jesus into the spaces and people of your life.

T. M. Moore

This is part 5 of a 5-part series, Living toward the Promises. You can download this week’s study as a free PDF, suitable for personal or group use, by clicking here. You can learn more about living toward the promises of God by ordering a copy of the book, I Will Be Your God, from our online store (click here).

We invite you to register for the free online course,
One in Twelve: Introduction to Christian Worldview. In this course, we provide a sweeping panorama of how life in the Kingdom of God unfolds in an age in flight from God such as ours. Set your own schedule and study at your own pace. Learn more, and register for One in Twelve, by clicking here.

The Lord uses your prayers and gifts to help us in this ministry. Add us to your regular prayer list, and seek the Lord concerning whether He would have you share with us. You can contribute to The Fellowship of Ailbe by using the contribute button at the website, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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