Closeness to God | How Close Is God to You? And You to God?
- Summary: My pastor used to say of Christian believers, “You’re never alone. There’s always you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” That sounds comforting theologically. How does it work in day-to-day life? Let’s evaluate ourselves — How close is God to you? How close are you to God?
John 20:21-22 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
- • Before we come to Jesus in faith and repentance, we are separated from God by our unforgiven sins (Isaiah 59:2). Then we have a saving encounter with Jesus Christ, and everything changes! We receive Him, we believe in Him as Lord and Savior, we repent of our sins. And the bible says that in Christ we become a “new creation … the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- • In the Scripture above we see Jesus appearing to His followers after his resurrection from the grave. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, He had just made a way for mankind to receive forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47) and to come to God the Father through Him (John 14:6). In this post-resurrection meeting with His disciples, Jesus imparted to them the Holy Spirit. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (vs. 22). This was reminiscent of the creation when “…the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7, NASB).
- • Before the cross of Christ, the Holy Spirit did not permanently dwell within believers. But anticipating His cross, Jesus promised His disciples that “the Spirit of truth … lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). Before Jesus provided our salvation at the cross, the Holy Spirit was “with” His followers. But Jesus promised them something far better — “He will be in you.” And in John 20:21-22 (above) we see Jesus fulfilling that promise. Reminiscent of Genesis 2:7, where biological life was imparted to Adam, Jesus breathed into them the ultimate “breath of life,” the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Trinity. They were “born again … born of the Spirit” (John 3:3,6).
- • How close is God to you? If you have been born again, He is inside you by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, wrote the apostle Paul, “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” (1 Corinthians 6:19). By reflecting on the beautiful imagery of Jesus “breathing” the Holy Spirit into His born-again followers, we can envision a closeness to the Spirit almost like the very breath coming in and out of our bodies.
- • There is more, so much more, to be revealed about God’s closeness to us. Let’s read on.
Acts 1:4-5,8; 2:1,4 …[Jesus] gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” …  you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth… [2:1] When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place…  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
- • The Holy Spirit is in all born-again believers. Then in the promised baptism with the Spirit He fills us to overflowing! This is an an activity of the Spirit that is wonderfully distinct from our salvation experience. In Acts 1 Jesus was speaking to His disciples, into whom He had already breathed the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). They were already born again, born of the Spirit. But now, in Acts 1-2, Jesus is promising them another marvelous act of the Holy Spirit upon them — “(1:5) 'You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … (1:8) you will receive power' … (2:4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
- • Every born-again believer has the Holy Spirit living within. Those early disciples did. We do too. Then Jesus promised another Holy Spirit functioning in their lives (and ours). The Spirit would not just live within them, He would literally fill them, baptize them, fully immerse them to overflowing with His presence. They would begin to minister in power (1:8). They would speak in tongues as the evidence of having received this new Holy Spirit baptism (2:4). They would have a new sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading — “…as the Spirit enabled them” (2:4).
- • So to summarize so far, how close is God to us? (1) His Holy Spirit has made His very dwelling in the body of each believer in Jesus Christ; and (2) those believers who will receive the Spirit’s further blessing for them become filled with/baptized with the Spirit and begin to minister in great power and supernatural sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice.
- • Is there more to this blessed divine closeness? Yes indeed!
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we [Father and Son!] will come to them and make our home with them.”
- • Not only does the Holy Spirit live within the believer, but we have also the extraordinary privilege of having God the Father and Jesus His Son come to us and "make their home" with us!
- • That is such an honor that I can hardly get my finite, human mind around the thought — the Father and the Son making their home with me! There is of course a literal fulfillment of this after Christ’s Second Coming and after the Millennium (Revelation 21-22). But Jesus seems to be clearly telling His disciples that believers can enjoy a spiritual sensing of the Father’s and the Son’s presence right now, in this life. To experience this blessed closeness of God, we are exhorted by Jesus to do two things: (1) to love Him and (2) to obey His teaching.
Deuteronomy 4:7 “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”
- • Now there’s a guiding principle if ever I saw one — “God is near us whenever we pray to Him.” This places experiencing the closeness of God directly in our hands. When we pray to God, He is near us, wrote Moses. We can initiate a time of intense fellowship with God simply by praying to Him.
- • There is a similar experiencing of God’s close presence to be had in times of worship — “Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3, KJV). The same could be said of meeting with the Lord in the reading of the Scriptures — “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). Since the bible reveals Jesus Christ to us, often when I begin to read Scriptures I first pray what Peter wrote — that is, that I may “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Hebrews 13:5-6 …God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
- • Do you sometimes feel very alone? friendless? like a lonely “pelican of the wilderness … like an owl of the desert”? (Psalm 102:6, KJV) Well, God has a great word for you: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!”
- • Jesus called His disciples His “friends”! (Luke 12:4; John 15:14,15) In Anchorage, Alaska, my wife and I once met an elderly couple from China as we were taking a walk. The language barrier was almost total, but we smiled and did our best. Then the lady began to sing very sweetly in Chinese, and we quickly picked up the melody and realized that she was singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”! Well, we happily joined the song in English and had a great worship time with two Chinese Christians on a country road in Alaska. And what was the theme? — Our friend Jesus! I was touched when the elderly gentleman said in halting English “Jesus … friend.”
Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- • Every time you begin to minister in any way on behalf of the Lord, remember: He is “with you always!” He gave His Great Commission to the Church, and we in the 21st century are still His “Great Commissioners,” as my friend George used to call believers.
- • Jesus doesn’t send us out by ourselves. No, He comes along; He is with us always as we go and make disciples of all nations. I believe that the early disciples were aware of His presence as they ministered. For example, consider Acts 9:33-34 — There [Peter] found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up (Acts 9:33-34). I am confident that Peter felt and was encouraged by the immediate presence of Jesus the Healer, who had told Peter, “I am with you always.”
- • As you step out to share your testimony, to visit a hurting friend, to pray for someone who is sick — whatever you do in His name — remember that Jesus has not left you alone to do His work without His help and encouragement. No, rather, He is always there with you and for you. Take comfort from that, and minister with His power, His guidance, and His compassion.
James 4:8, ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
- • This verse sums up much of what we have looked at. God the Father, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit are all deeply committed to having close fellowship with you.
- • All that remains is for us to do our part — that is, to draw near to God. As we do so, the bible assures us that He will draw near to us. Draw near to Him in prayer, in worship, in the Scriptures, in assembling together with other believers. God will faithfully draw near to you, and you will experience a divine communion, a heavenly “koinonia” that will bless and uplift and energize you in ways that nothing of this earth can do.
Check out our related sermon: Draw Near to God
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©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.