Face-To-Face With God
Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:6)
We cannot know ourselves unless we see ourselves as we are in the presence of God. Nor ca we come to know God without viewing ourselves in a new light. The presence of God, therefore, does two things: it makes us conscious of who He is, and it makes us aware of who we are in His glorious presence.
As Moses stood in the presence of the God who is a consuming fire, but found he was not consumed, he must have felt as though every last element of superficiality was being stripped from his being. In that context there could be no pretense; nor, in the desert, was there anywhere to hide. He was alone, with God, awed by his presence as the One who called Himself “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14)
What does it really mean to stand in the presence of God? In the Old Testament, to be “in the presence of God” often translates a Hebrew expression meaning “before the face of God.” It conveys the idea of coming face-to-face with Him. More than that, because no man can see God’s face and live (as Moses learned- Exodus 33:20), being in the presence of God may carry the sense of standing before One who is able to scrutinize us, who can see all our actions and reactions, even though we can never know or understand Him. For God dwells in unapproachable light. What could be more awesome than to stand in the presence of God- and live? There was nothing in the world more awesome that Moses could have done than to stand before the mystery of God’s being and the majesty of His glory; yet not die.
One of our greatest needs in coming to know Godwin our day is to recover a sense of what it really means to stand in the presence of God.
There’s an old hymn we sing that goes like this:
What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His face
The One who saved me by His Grace
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me to the promised land
What a day, glorious day that will be.
There is in the heart of every Christian a longing to see the face of God, to be in His presence and to feel His touch in all the fullness of what that can be. Many of us have viewed that experience as a futuristic event in heaven, but the question remains of whether we can at least get a glimpse of God and a brush of His touch and an inkling of His presence.
We know that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were certainly in the presence of God for we are told that He walked with them in the cool of the evening. But what about after the Fall? Again we read they were in God’s presence and that God covered their sins with the skins and the blood of innocent animals so they might be in His presence. We read of Abraham being in the presence of God as God visited him in his tent. We certainly know that Moses was in the presence of God on several occasions, once when on the mountain with God, his face shined with so much of God’s glory, he had to wear a veil over it so the people could look at him. We read of Isaiah in the temple who saw the “Lord, high and lifted up”. We know that Peter, James and John saw Jesus in His glorified appearance on the mountain. And we read of John’s experience of seeing the glorified risen Christ on the Isle of Patmos.
I want to share something that I believe. I believe that we all need to experience such an encounter with God that allows us to “stand in His presence.” This indescribable experience is in reality available to every believer. We sometimes quote scripture or say words without ever seeing them become reality. For instance, we say;
“Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God,”
This very scripture indicates the possibility of entering into the manifested presence of God and experiencing seeing God face-to-face. This verse says that Christ has opened the veil and that no longer does God hide His presence and glory from His children. Yet many of us never experience very much beyond the earthly realm. As a matter of fact, I’m aware that most will write this concept off as an impossibility for us in this day. Peter as he is giving the Gospel to Cornelius makes an observation:
“Opening his mouth, Peter said: “Most certainly I understand now that God is not one to show partiality [to people as though Gentiles were excluded from God’s blessing], but in every nation the person who fears God and does what is right [by seeking Him] is acceptable and welcomed by Him.
Therefore, we must conclude that if God made Himself know to others then He will surely do the same for us.
The second thing that I believe is that like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we believe that the scripture that says “no man can see God and live” indicates a physical death. We know that Adam and Eve did not die physically that day when they sinned. We understand that their spirits died and sin robbed them of eternal life just as sin robs us of the eternal life. We know that when we sin, we do not automatically die physically but Paul’s says that as we live in sin we are literally spiritually dead. In light of this, I believe that we’re we to see God “face-to-face, we would die to self. Our old ways, habits, and sin nature would be put to death and the new us would be resurrected. We know this symbology in the ritual of baptism:
“We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection. We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin [ending its power and paying the sinner’s debt] once and for all; and the life that He lives, He lives to [glorify] God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.”
So once we have seen God, our old sinful being dies but a new and glorious being rises from that death and the life we now live is the life of Christ in us.
The very need of the church and Christians in general is this need of being in the presence of God. Every Christian gathering should have as it’s focused purpose that those who gather enter into the very presence of God Himself. We cannot afford to settle for anything less than an encounter with God for nothing else can change us. Nothing else can save us, nothing else can break the power of sin over us, and nothing less can prepare us for heaven. It is this death of the old us and the resurrection of the new us that brings light and life. And the only way for our old selves to be brought to death is in the fullness of the presence of God. The effectiveness of the church and ministry especially in post-COVID days will be measured not in attendance or financial numbers but in the visible transformed lives of those who have been in the presence of God. Much of our influence will not be through programs but through the life that has been in God’s presence and like Moses has “shining faces” to present to the world.
May it be said of us what was said of the apostles:
“Now when the men of the Sanhedrin (Jewish High Court) saw the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, and grasped the fact that they were uneducated and untrained [ordinary] men, they were astounded, and began to recognize that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing there with them, they had nothing to say in reply.”
Dr. John Thompson