Delighting in the presence of God keeps us from vainly living for the presents of God.1 Is not most counseling needed because of someone functionally looking to someone or something other than God for supreme delight and purpose in life? When we lose sight of God’s presence, we begin to worship His presents.
In Exodus 19, the people of Israel trembled at Mount Sinai when God manifested His presence upon the mountain in such a way that “the whole mountain trembled greatly” as the Lord descended upon it in fire and the mountain was wrapped in smoke. Moses then goes up to meet with God and receives the commandments of God. While Moses is meeting with God, what do the people do? Exodus 32:8, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The people took the very gold that God has lavished upon them in their departure from Egypt and turned it into an idol, worshipping their golden image rather than the God who had given them the gold! What might be our response to Israel’s blatant idolatry? How stupid! But wait a minute: Is it possible that even this week you have in essence done the same thing? What gifts has God given you in which greater delight is being sought than in God Himself? Is this not idolatry?
Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, writes the following: “An idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our heart on, that motivates us, that masters and rules us, or that we trust, fear, or serve (Matt. 6:24). In short, it is something we love and pursue more than God.” A parent can make an idol out of children, loving a child as a temporal present from God more than loving God whose presence is eternal. Rather than longing for Christ to be exalted as all in all in the presence of others, do we not seek the praise of others for ourselves through our conversations and achievements? Again, we must be careful not to delight in the presents from God apart from or above our delight in the presence of God.
In Psalm 139:7-9, David uses the extreme opposites of heaven and hell as well as the east from the west, before concluding in verses 10-12: “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” What an encouraging truth that God is everywhere we could possibly be and beyond, and for Him there is no darkness. As we consider the wonderful truth that God is omnipresent, let consider three truths and then four applications of God’s omnipresence for counseling.
First, God is everywhere present all the time. God is omnipresent, meaning that He is all present or everywhere present. In light of Psalm 139, Stephen Charnock gives this definition: “Omnipresence is that whereby he hath neither bounds nor limitation… He is from the height of the heavens to the bottom of the deeps, in every point of the world, and in the whole circle of it, yet not limited by it, but beyond it.”2 Mark Jones writes, “God is perfectly and powerfully present in every place; he fills all space as God. There is nowhere where God is not present.”3
As finite creatures, can we be present at more than one place at once?
Sometimes it seems like we are not present at all! In marriage, perhaps a wife has waited all day to share something she believes to be important with her husband. When he gets home, she begins to unload what she has wanted to share only to realize that he is physically present – but mentally he is in a galaxy far away and has not heard a thing that she has shared.
At other times, as finite creatures who can only exist in one place at a time, we wish we could be somewhere that we are not. This is not the way that God is. God never wishes He could be someplace that He is not, because is fully everywhere all the time. Edward Leigh wrote that God is “neither shut up in any place, nor shut out from any place.”4 God said through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23:24, “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.” On this verse Tozer writes, “God fills heaven and earth just as the ocean fills a bucket which has been submerged in it a mile down. The bucket is full of the ocean, but the ocean surrounds the bucket in all directions.”5 That is a great description of the fullness of God, except that even the vast ocean has boundaries whereas God does not.
The Puritan George Swinnock writes, “God is an infinite being. He is without bounds or limits, measures or degrees. God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere… God is everywhere in His whole essence at every moment: He ‘filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:23).”6
For the believer, God’s omnipresence ought to be a delightful truth knowing that our Good Shepherd will never leave us nor forsake his sheep.
A second great truth of God’s omnipresence is that not only is God everywhere present, but God is also infinitely present. Would it bring you much comfort to know that God is always present, but only in the same way that your internet or cell phone service is present? How many times have you needed to download a document or make a call, and it won’t go through?Your connection service says that you are connected, but there is not enough power in the signal to do anything. God is not like your internet or cell service! God always has infinite power and wisdom available to help. According to Phil. 4:19, He is able “to supply our every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Concerning God’s infinite presence, Mark Jones says, “The omnipresence of God refers not only to his presence everywhere but also to his infinite and powerful influence over all things in all places. All things in heaven and on earth are subject to him by his power, since he providentially sustains all things… To preserve all things according to all his perfections, he must be present everywhere.”7
Third, not only is God everywhere and infinitely present, but God is also intimately present. It is God, according to Ps. 139:13, who knit you together in the womb. It is God, according to John 1:14, that “became flesh and dwelt among us.”
God’s omnipresence is put on center stage in the person of Christ, Who is Immanuel: God with us! Mark Jones correctly exclaims, “In the person of Christ, the omnipresence of God toward his people comes to its intended goal.”8
In the preface to Puritan George Swinnock’s writings in The Blessed and Boundless God, Stephen Yuille wrote: “Amazingly, this boundless God draws near to us in the incarnation… He came so close that He bore our sin and shame and tasted death for us (Heb. 2:9). We placed ourselves where this boundless God deserves to be – on the throne. This boundless God placed Himself where we deserve to be – on the cross. His forgiveness supersedes our sinfulness, his merit eclipses our guilt, and His righteousness hides our vileness. His abundant mercy blots out our multitude of transgressions (Ps. 51:1).”9
Christ came and dwelt among man, and at his ascension in Mt. 28:20, promised His disciples that He would “always” be with them. How did Christ continue to be present with them and how is Christ present with us today? Is He not with us by the promised Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18)? Since Pentecost,
the Spirit indwells all believers (1 Cor. 6:19-20). What difference should the indwelling Holy Spirit make in the life of believers? Here are but four of many implications.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” We can be content if we have Christ, because in Christ we have everything we need for all circumstances of life. To that end, Thomas Moor wrote: “The Lord Jesus never leaves His people. Whether they realize His presence or not, it does not alter the fact, for He is ever with them as their loving and sympathizing friend and helper – true God, yet always true man… If a believer would walk in loving fellowship with the Lord Jesus when in the path of trial – there must be a quiet, contented, patient abiding in that path where the Lord has placed him; for there, and there alone, will the Lord Jesus meet with him. Disagreement with the path, is disagreement with Him who ordained it.”10 Are you CONTENT with the One who will never leave you nor forsake you? If not, why not? What must change? (Phil. 4:4-13)
In Philippians 1:6, Paul writes: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul goes on to write with confidence in Phil. 4:13 that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” God is with us, and in Christ we have all that we need for life and godliness. As Charnock writes, “It is not a piece of God is here and another parcel there, but God in his whole essence and perfections… in his wisdom to guide us, his power to protect and support us, his mercy to pity us, his fullness to refresh us, and his goodness to relieve us”11 How should God’s omnipresence bring about confidence in how you live?
Hebrews 4:13 says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” When Adam sinned and tried to hide from the presence of God in Genesis 3, was he successful? Psalm 90:8 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” From pornography to bitterness, nothing is hidden from our omnipresent and omniscient God!
Helping us think through our need for contrition, Mark Jones writes: “Christians commit certain sins in the presence of God that they would never dream of doing in the presence of others. In this age of Internet pornography, which enslaves so many in the church, the vast majority commit this sin in private, not in public. Imagine that: God’s presence has less influence on us than that of mere humans.”12 We do well and counsel well when we recall Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Are there any unconfessed sins in your life that you need to confess and forsake that you may obtain mercy?
With Christ as our advocate, propitiation, and mediator, we can take comfort that according to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Not only is there comfort in that are sins can be forgiven, but because God is omnipresent there is comfort in our afflictions.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In what ways do you need to know God’s comfort as well as comfort others?
God is Omnipresent; contentment, confidence, contrition, comfort, and so much more are
available to you and your counselees in Christ!
Therefore, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so
closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking
to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb. 12:1-2)
1 This blog post adapted from https://www.gccministries.org/sunday-school/episode/2020-02-02/the-omnipresence-of-god.
2 Stephen Charnock, Existence and Attributes of God, in Works, 1:423-24.
3 Mark Jones, God is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God (Crossway, 2017), 72.
4 Edward Leigh, A Treatise of Divinity: Consisting of Three Books (London, 1647), 2:36.
5 A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God, 119.
6 George Swinnock, The Blessed and Boundless God (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), 26-27.
7 Jones, 73.
8 Jones, 74.
9 George Swinnock, The Blessed and Boundless God (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), xiii.
10 Thomas Moor, Counsels and Thoughts for the Spiritual Life of Believers, 1882. https://www.gracegems.org/31/
11 Stephen Charnock, Existence and Attributes of God, in Works, 1:450.
12 Jones, 75-76.