Understanding Our Struggle With God (Article 17-3)
Today’s study focuses on a very important topic: The presence of God in our lives. Let’s begin by looking at a verse from Luke 17:21. This verse states: “ nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you”. We often focus on the second coming of Christ, the time in which the world will come to an end as we know it. Yet, many of us forget or don’t reflect on the fact that Christ has already come and He has taken residence within the soul of the believer. So, the question we must ask ourselves is that if this is true, why am I still looking for and waiting on Christ? Why am I preoccupied or overly concerned with His “Second Coming”? The truth is that as believers, our purpose and journey has already been defined and determined in His First-Coming. With it comes the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Christ In Us
For many believers it’s not difficult to acknowledge and believe that Christ was born into the world as a Nazarene and ministered to the truth according the Father’s will. Nor is it difficult to acknowledge and believe the works He performed on the Cross and that He is in fact our Lord and Savior. What is difficult for us is to believe is that Christ resides in our souls as it once was in the time of our divine parents – Adam and Eve. Without this true understanding and belief, it is impossible to experience Christ’s fullness and power within our lives. To better understand this point, let me summarize our journey with God. For me, the entire bible can be summarized in four (4) major parts.
All Was Perfect In the Beginning - In the beginning, scripture tells us of man’s walk with God during the time of our divine parents: Adam and Eve. At this time, God resided in man’s soul and reigned over His life. Man had no sense of himself, for all he saw and was aware of was God. Scripture points this out when it says in Genesis 2:24-25 "And they (Adam and Eve) were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”. They were not ashamed because they didn’t have any sense of themselves, only God. Before their fall from God they were “one” with God and God was “one” with them. Man was in a perfect state of humility, meaning he had no sense of himself. He knew who he was in relation to God and his need for God in all things. God was the “alpha and the omega” – the beginning and the end. There was no need or incentive for man to focus on anything else other than God.
Man's Falling Away From God -The second major story of the Bible points out man’s disobedience to and falling away from God. By means of his deception and lies, Satan convinced Adam (by way of Eve) that he could be like God. To achieve this, he only needed to eat of the fruit that God forbid him to eat. We refer to this event as man’s “original sin”: His fateful decision to disobey God. When man ate of the fruit, sin entered into his soul where God resided. Without his knowledge of what he did or the consequences there of, the sin which entered him led to the evicting of God from his soul, for God and His holiness will not dwell with sin. With the loss of God’s indwelling, came the loss of God's reign over man’s life and the lives of his descendants. It was at this point in time that man’s sense of “self” (pride) was ushered into the world. We have ever since focused on ourselves leading to our continuous sense of shame, fear, guilt, greed, anger, frustration and unhappiness. Despite this tragic event, God did not give up on man. Instead, He stayed with man. We see this in Exodus 29:45 where God states: “I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.” God could have rightfully destroyed man for his egregious disobedience, or could have chosen to abandoned man forever leading to an eternal state of death and suffering. Yet, despite the pain and hurt we caused Him, God chose to remain with us. With man’s pride came his quest for self-preservation, self-sufficiency, self-indulgence, self-entitlement and self-righteousness. In sum, man now exists as a "selfish" being. Our selfish nature drives us to describe essential qualities that constitute our uniqueness or essential being of existence, and with this, the determination of what makes us happy. Whether we like to admit or not, we see ourselves as a God - an all knowing and all powerful being that has full control of its destiny.
Man's Relational Struggle with God - The third part of the bible describes man’s relational struggle with God and God’s struggle with man. Man was no longer “one” with God, but rather separate from Him. Man chose to reign over his own life, and has preferred to keep it this way ever since. Even today as followers of Christ, we believe more in our own abilities to achieve our own happiness than God’s ability. Man's sense of “self” and desires to please his flesh is built on a sinking foundation – a foundation that is poorly conceived and flawed, for this foundation is built from a spirit of pride and not humility. We no longer live an existence of “selflessness”, but rather a life of “selfishness”, and as a result have enslaved ourselves to our fleshly desires. We have lost our ability to effectively communicate to God, for our point of origin is not spiritual in nature, but fleshly (carnal). This leads us to continuous reject and disobey God’s will and what commands us to do. In an effort to rein us in, God’s very first commandment to us not to, “have no other gods before me”. The “other gods” that he refers to is not money or statues, but rather man himself. We are the “other gods” he warns against following. In the greatest sermon ever given to man, the Sermon of the Mount (referred to as the Beatitudes [the secrets to happiness]), Christ tells us in the first of the eight presented beatitudes, that “Blessed (happy) are those who are poor in spirit, for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.” In this beatitude, he’s telling all of us that it is impossible to be happy and experience power and joy of God’s Kingdom until we recognize and act on our spiritual poverty – meaning our recognition, understanding, and accepting our need for God for all things. To accomplish this, we must submit and surrender our will to the Fathers’ will, thus allowing His indwelling (taking up of residence) within our souls.
Man's Opportunity to Become "One With God" Again - The final part of the bible (less the Book of Revelation) addresses, by means of His Son’s (Jesus Christ’s) ministry and His Works on the Cross, God’s restoration of humility back into the world (by means of Jesus Christ) . We refer to this period of time as the time of “Grace”, an unmerited (undeserved) gift God gives us stemming from His unconditional and eternal love for us. Grace is a gift we cannot return to the sender, but can only accept. It remains at our door step. We must only open the door and bring it into the house. To accept this gift (His unmerited [undeserved] favor for us) we must only believe and accept the One He sent – Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Most important to remember is that grace is our final call to come to home.
Christ Restored Humility Back Into the World
It is perfectly logical to ask, how did Christ restore humility back into the world, thus making it possible to become “one” with God again. The answer is that Christ came and served the Father’s will and only His will. Christ was “one” with the Father, and His only sense of His existence was based on the Father existence and who He is - the Creator of the universe and everything in it - the One and only Almighty God - the “alpha” and the “omega”; the all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing, and all-loving God.
Christ's Second Coming Is Not For the Sake of Believers
The second coming of Christ is not for us as believers, for Christ has already come and the Kingdom of Heaven is already at hand. So, when Luke tells us in 17:21. “nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you”, we must conclude that we need not search out or wait on the Kingdom of Heaven, for it is already here. Our challenge as believers, is to give up our “self” in order to create the void necessary for the Holy Spirit to occupy. It is only by this means can we have any hope to overcome the sin which dwells within us. It is sin which focuses on the “self” and is opposed to becoming one with Him. Until we do this, we will never experience the fullness of God’s presence, power, and love. Even as believers, our greatest nemesis (adversary) remains our pride. Before each and every day begins, focus on the Christ in you and ask Him to take control. With it is our only hope to overcome the "self" which rages the spiritual war in our mind for our soul.
God tells concisely tells us “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). Are you truly asking of Him? Are truly listening?