Wade E Taylor
“For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 Darby translation
The Lord seeks those who are sensitive and responsive to His presence, that they might be prepared and available to Him for whatever purpose that He might have. Therefore, He “works” within us to accomplish His higher purposes through us. These “good works” are the circumstances that He uses to accomplish this.
These “good works” may not appear as being “good,” but rather, may be seemingly terrible things that are being used to produce a good result. Therefore, our part is to recognize the Lords presence and cooperate with Him in whatever He may desire to do.
We may faithfully attend Church and feel spiritually satisfied; but the Lord desires something beyond this. Whenever He stirs us to bring about changes within us, we should respond by “focusing” our attention toward His presence, and that which He seeks to accomplish.
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13
This “perfect man” is one who is spiritually mature. We are called to attain to the quality of the life of Jesus. In “that day,” when we stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ, our life will be “measured” against His life. We will not be graded “quantitatively” by all that we have accomplished, but rather, “qualitatively” by what we have become.
The Lord said, “Well done (not much done) you good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). Being “faithful” in obedience of all that our Lord requires of us, will determine our placement in His Kingdom during the Millennial Age, and for all eternity.
“To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His Throne.” Revelation 3:21
The possibility of being seated with the Lord in His throne is limited to those who meet a certain qualification. By making the right choices, they have become an “overcomer.”
In the Garden of Eden, the Lord made a special arrangement by placing two trees in the immediate environment of Adam and Eve. By making the right decision in relation to these two trees, the “tree of life,” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” Adam and Eve would be brought into the Lord’s higher purpose.
This “point of testing” had to do with Adam choosing either the “tree of life,” or the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9, 16-17). Through being tempted by the devil, Adam and Eve failed this test.
If we are to come into all that our Lord has made available for us to possess, we also must face and pass this test. In guised form, this arrangement has also been set before each of us. The “tree of life” relates to our being submitted to and dependent upon the Lord. The “tree of knowledge” relates to the possibility of our becoming independent from the Lord.
We are continually being forced to make decisions concerning these two choices. The way we respond, or react to each of these, will greatly affect our spiritual growth and development.
Spiritual things are desirable only to those who have been born of the Spirit and are spiritually minded. Therefore, with a higher purpose in view, the Lord made the “tree of life” very ordinary, and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” very attractive.
The tree of life, which is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, appears to us as being “a root out of a dry ground, having no form nor comeliness and when we see Him, there is no outward beauty that we should desire or choose Him” (Isaiah 53:2).
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is quite different. It appears as being “good for food, pleasant to the eye, and one to be desired” (Genesis 3:6). It appeals to every aspect of our flesh life. Thus, on the surface, a temporal self-centered life appears to be very attractive. However, this is deceptive as it will pass away in a moment. It offers no true inner satisfaction or eternal reward.
Thus, we are not only judged for what we do, which is outward and visible (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil); but we are also judged for what we have “become” through what we do. This compares to the tree of life where the true beauty is inward.
Paul said in Philippians 3:11, “If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.” He sought an “out-resurrection” from among the living dead, to be lifted above the influence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which leads to death), into the tree of life, the life of our Lord Jesus Christ as a present reality.
Paul understood that there is a veiled spiritual life that is hidden from the natural man, into which he could press. He passionately desired this above any single thing in his natural life. He was gifted, and therefore could have acquired much in temporal things. But he willingly let these go, counting them as but refuse that he might attain to that which he saw in the “Tree of Life” – the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you.” Philippians 3:12-15
There is a prayer in the Psalms in which this same desire to experience the fullness of the Lord is expressed.
“Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine. And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself.” Psalm 80:14-15
The Lord is omnipresent, that is, He fills heaven and earth. Within this is His “manifest presence.” When we ask Him to “return,” we are seeking His manifest presence and His personal working in our lives.
“Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause Your face to shine; and we shall be saved.” Psalm 80:19
“Turn us again.” The Lord will respond when we are willing to turn away from those things which are “pleasant to the eye, good for food, and to be desired,” and express a desire to look afresh upon the Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of His presence, even though He may presently appear to us as being only a “root out of a dry ground.”
“Cause Your face to shine.” This prayer comes solely from deep within our innermost being. We were created to experience and enjoy His manifest presence. When we, in some measure, overcome the hindrances that we face and give expression to this desire, the Lord will respond and make known His presence to us.
Several years ago, I made an emergency trip to Florida, and was there for only one day. When I returned, I mentioned to someone that I had just come back from Florida. They responded, “Where is your tan?” Because I had been in the land of the sun, they expected to see evidence. There is a far better sun, spelled “Son.” When I have been in the presence of “The Son” and He shines upon me, there should also be evidence that can be seen.
In Ephesians 6:12, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
This darkness is over us and seriously impedes the light of the “Son” from shining upon us, unless we knowingly contend for an open heaven and push back this darkness. Thus, there is something better than just attending a good service. There is the possibility of our experiencing an open heaven, through which the manifest presence of our Lord is revealed in our midst. If this is taking place, there will be the evidence of our receiving a “spiritual tan.”
“Am I a God at hand, says the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? says the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:23-24
If the Lord fills heaven and earth, then He presently fills the area that we occupy. No matter where we are, He is there; but, we were created for more than this. We are to experience the manifestation of the Lord’s presence in which the “Son-shines” and the warmth of His glory so changes us, that in its reflection, Jesus is seen by others. The fact of His presence (our feeling His power) is not enough; the Lord desires us to experience the fullness of His presence (our coming to know Him as a person).
When the children of Israel came up out of Egypt, they were led into a wilderness. This was a divine arrangement whereby the Lord might experientially make the value of His presence known to them. Thus, in the pressures of the wilderness, the Lord gave the revelation of the “cloud by day” to protect them from the heat of the desert, and the “pillar of fire” by night, to give light and heat during its cold nights.
The Lord greatly desired Israel to depend upon Him alone. Therefore, He provided a visible witness of His presence with them, a pillar of fire by night, and a cloud by day. They were to stay, or move, only as these stayed or moved.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” I Corinthians 10:1-4
Notice that the “spiritual Rock” was following them. The Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ, was supposed to lead, and they were to follow Him. Instead, something had gone wrong and now the Lord is following them. They had gotten ahead of His presence; thus, His call to “turn again.”
“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” I Corinthians 10:6
Just as they were to abide in His presence, so also, we are to abide in the presence of the Lord. At times we say, “Lord, this is what we are doing, please come and bless it.” We do this, rather than to “turn again” and wait in His presence, saying, “Lord, we submit to your program. We desire to come into the place of your abiding presence where we might follow you.”
Today, as never before, we have taken for granted the fact of the Lord’s presence, without realizing that we are not receiving a “spiritual tan.” If we desire this “tan” (His manifest presence), then we must sit where the sun is brightly shining. We cannot sit in a room and say, “Lord, I desire a tan, so I will just believe.” Rather, we must contend for His presence, for an open heaven.
The first step is to recognize any hindrance to our receiving. Left to myself, I will make my own way and take the Lord for granted. Many Churches have a tendency to substitute liturgy or religious activity when the presence of the Lord is missing, rather than to seek the reason why they are not experiencing the presence of the Lord.
“Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23
His omnipresence is absolute, His manifest presence is conditional. The “if” sets before us a condition that we must meet in order to receive the promise.
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” Matthew 21:12
When the Lord comes within, He will do within His present day temple (us) just as He did in the temple of that day. He will deal with the things that are a hindrance to His manifest presence.
We should have such a presence of the Lord within us and in our place of fellowship, that those who come will say, “I feel the presence of the Lord – there is something different here.” If this is not being said, something is lacking.
It is time for us to “turn again” and seek for the Lord’s face to shine upon us, as never before.