“How is the indwelling Spirit not relational?” – David Crabtree

Presence is Delicious!

I love a good coffee in the morning! It’s more than just being attracted to the aroma, and flavor of quality coffee. It’s more than caffeine’s ‘wake-up’ call, though, if I am honest, I will admit to being happy with the ‘increasing glow’ of its influence. It’s the ambiance, the “feel-good”, and the “presence” it brings.

I have many good associations with having coffee. I always start my days with a coffee, sitting in a comfortable lounge chair, a book or three, and a reflective time with God. I know the coffee isn’t everything, as I would enjoy all the other activities without it. However, I have good memories around it and a keen sense of presence that has nothing at all to do with coffee but everything to do with HIM. His presence means everything to me.

Indeed! Presence is a Delicious Word!

One of my favorite books, and certainly one that I have read many times over the years is Gordon Fee’s “Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God”. It’s a brilliantly written condensation of his much larger book “God’s Empowering Presence”. Both, I think, are essential reads for anyone in ministry. Many many times Fee’s sentences sent me walking in meditative circles asking God to help understand clearly what I had just read. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand Fee’s eloquent English, it was more having to deal with my mindset and preconceptions about subjects relating to the Holy Spirit, New Covenant and how we live well (joyfully and righteously) in Torah-free Grace. The coming of the Holy Spirit really did make any other dependency other than Jesus quite redundant. I wasn’t quite ready for that radical departure from my early thinking, yet I was hopelessly drawn to the truth that living in and by the Spirit truly grants both freedom and empowerment for righteous living.

Let me quote Fee…

“Presence is a delicious word—because it points to one of our truly great gifts.
Nothing else can take the place of presence, not gifts, not telephone calls, not pictures, not mementos, nothing. Ask the person who has lost a lifelong mate what they miss the most; the answer is invariably “presence.” When we are ill, we don’t need soothing words nearly as much as we need loved ones to be present. What makes shared life—games, walks, concerts, outings, and a myriad of other things—so pleasurable? Presence.

“God has made us this way, in his own image, because he himself is a personal, relational being. The great problem with the fall is that we lost not only our vision of God (that is, his true character has been distorted) but also our relationship with God, and thus no longer knew his abiding presence.

For Paul the coming of Christ and the Spirit changed all of this forever. At the heart of things Pauline is his understanding of the outpoured Spirit as the coming of “the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:13; Gal 3:14). While this promise especially included the renewal of the prophetic word, for Paul it also meant the arrival of the new covenant, anticipated by the promised “circumcision of the heart” in Deuteronomy 30:6 and prophesied explicitly in Jeremiah 31:31–34: “I will make a new covenant . . . and I will write it on their hearts” (NRSV). This prophecy was shortly thereafter picked up by Ezekiel, who expressly linked it to the Spirit, whom God was going to “put in you” (36:26–27; 37:14).

Above everything else, as fulfilment of the new covenant the Spirit marked the return of the lost presence of God. Here, then, is one of the more significant areas where the Spirit represents both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new covenants. The continuity is to be found in the promised renewal of God’s presence with his people; the discontinuity lies in the radically new way God has revisited them—indwelling them individually as well as corporately by his Spirit.” 1

Savouring His presence is a privilege and a reward. The same as spending time with a dear friend. Words flow, presence is felt, friendship is reinforced, joy and peace settle in. All good. All necessary in getting to know someone. As Jesus said, “I’m not going to leave you lonely… I am sending Someone exactly like Me… and He will guide you into all truth.” (John 15 & 16) That friendship with the Holy Spirit is not a reward for a long-live life of faithfulness. It is a necessary start to an eternal life of friendship with God.

1. Fee, Gordon D. – Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. p.9, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996


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