Experiencing the Freedom of God’s Presence
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
God created us to know and experience freedom.
It was never God’s intent that we who were created in His image would experience slavery, oppression or evil of any kind. It was only after the rebellion and fall of Adam and Eve that sin was introduced into the world and humans began to do evil to each other.
This is often the question that comes up in our Alpha Course that so many people ask:
“Why is there so much suffering and evil in the world?”
It’s a challenging question because the atrocities we’ve seen take place throughout history – that we even witness today – are difficult for us to even imagine, let alone comprehend or explain. We can’t imagine that people could do these things to other humans, to families – to children. We’re correct when we say that it’s inhuman!
Even though we see how humans have a capacity for evil, the Bible says the root of it is very inhuman. James 3:15-16 says it’s demonic. These unseen spiritual forces work to oppress and destroy while also working to keep mankind enslaved to sin and blinded to truth. They seek to keep us from the freedom God created us to have and that Christ died to win back for us.
History shows us that the price of freedom always comes at a high cost as we remember many who fought and died so that we could live with the freedoms we have today. The ultimate price for our freedom from the slavery of sin was paid when God gave His Son to die on a cross for us.
History also shows that freedom is precious and must be continually upheld – that freedom can easily be taken away from us if we don’t guard it. Paul warned us in Galatians 5:1,13 that even the freedom we have in Christ must be upheld:
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery…For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
What’s important when we have freedom is what we do with it. With an enemy always looking to re-enslave us, we must contend to walk out our freedom in Christ.
Do you feel like you struggle to keep your freedom? Maybe you find yourself falling back into patterns that enslave?
One of the reasons we offer Freedom Session here at Coastal Church is so people can not only find and experience freedom, but that they can be equipped to continue walking free. For some of us this could be a crucial next step.
Finding Freedom in God’s Presence
So how do we experience walking in our freedom every day?
Let’s look at our freedom from the perspective of God’s presence. 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us that wherever we find God’s Spirit or God’s presence, we find freedom. Darkness, oppression and slavery can’t stand in His presence.
I’m convinced a key for us to stay free in our walk of faith is to seek out His presence in our daily lives.
What do we mean when we say God’s presence? It helps first to recognize there are three aspects to God’s presence:
- God’s omnipresence. We understand that God is omnipresent – God is everywhere. David said in Psalm 139:7, “Where can I go from your Spirit, where can I hide from your presence? …for wherever I go you are there…”.
- God’s personal or indwelling presence. Jesus said for those who believe in him that he would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us (John 14:17) and he promised he would always be with us till the end (Matthew 28:19-20). Whether we feel Him or not, God’s presence is there within us.
- God’s manifested presence. This is where God chooses to manifest Himself to us in a way that’s tangible – that’s experienced. It’s where we can sense or feel His presence, but it may or may not involve our five senses or our emotions. When Psalm 34:8 says “taste and see that the LORD is good”, it’s not referring to our natural taste buds, but our spiritual senses.
The Era of God’s Manifested Presence
In the Old Testament God revealed and manifested himself at different times, but generally it was limited to a few and limited to one nation – Israel. In the New Testament we see that through Christ, God has chosen to manifest and pour out His Spirit on all people, from every nation whether young or old:
“In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)
We now live in an era where, through Jesus, God wants to reveal and manifest himself to the world. In this era, God’s manifested presence is not meant to be rare or uncommon. It’s meant to be poured out everywhere. It’s meant to be a regular occurrence for believers to experience His presence manifested among us.
What Brings God’s Manifested Presence?
Is there anything we can do to experience God’s manifested presence in our daily lives?
It might be surprising to find out that God has freely given us access into His presence and there are many things we can do that bring His manifested presence. Here are just a few:
- Worship – Psalm 22:3 says God inhabits the praises of His people. I often experience and hear more testimonies of people being overcome emotionally by God’s presence through worship than almost any other. Whether it’s at church, at home or even in our cars, many of us have experienced God’s tangible love and presence as we worship with music.
- Prayer and Intercession – Every Saturday morning in corporate prayer, in our life groups and in our personal prayer times, we experience a sense of God’s presence as we take time to pray. We sense Him showing us what to pray for and bringing release and breakthrough as we pray for His will to be done.
- Preaching/Speaking the Word – Just as in the early church, when God’s word is spoken and preached, the Holy Spirit manifests and works with us to confirm the word with signs following (Mark 16:20).
- Doing/Obeying the Word – Of course, it’s not enough to just hear the word, but Jesus said if follow and keep his commandments that we would experience his love, and he would manifest himself to us (John 14:21).
- Gathering – Jesus said where two or more are gathered together in his name, he is there in the midst of them (Matt 18:20). Every gathering we have, whether it’s our weekend services, our small groups or other events, is an opportunity to experience God’s manifested presence among us.
- Unity – Psalm 133 shows us a beautiful picture of how unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ provides an environment for God’s presence and blessing to be experienced.
- Waiting – Sometimes in our devotions and structured times with God we just need to wait a little longer in His presence – just wait for Him to move or speak to us.
- Inviting – Often you’ll hear it said in churches around the world, “Come, Holy Spirit.” God loves to manifest Himself where He’s been invited.
- Praying in the Spirit – As we spend time praying in other tongues, we build ourselves up and there’s a tangible sense of God’s presence as we pray.
- The Gifts of the Spirit – The Bible also calls these gifts in 1 Cor 12 the manifestations of the Spirit because they are tangible expressions of the Holy Spirit moving through us and among us.
All these things uphold our freedom in Christ and allow for us to experience God’s manifested presence.
Until Christ returns let’s keep walking in these things and in our assignment to help as many as we can to find and experience the freedom we have in Christ