Categories
Life Theology

Dwelling With God through the Gospel

I am not very old. But with each passing week (more accurately, with each passing failure) I am reminded more and more of how I need the gospel. The gospel is my only hope.  Without the gospel, I would be damned.

This morning I read Psalm 91, and I focused on verses 1-2. The Psalmist writes, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”

When I read words like “dwells” and “abide” my mind ponders what it means to be in the presence of God.  Jesus said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:6).  Jesus is my life-source. If I trust in him, I will grow. If not, I will die.  Jesus says, “To dwell or abide with God–to be in his presence–is to be connected to me in a saving way, a way that declares me as your refuge and fortress.”

But there is a problem. The problem does not exist outside of me–in my circumstances or trials or enemies or annoyances. That is what I want to believe.  But really, the problem exists inside of me–in my pride, rebellion, self-righteousness, and a thousand other things the Bible calls sin. My sin keeps me from dwelling with God. My sin keeps me from experiencing God’s presence in a harmonious, perfect, continuous way even as a Christian. And there is only one solution.

The gospel.

The gospel tells me that though I am wretched and vile and unworthy of a holy God’s actual and real presence in my life, it is provided for me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is also called Emmanuel, which means God with us. He is the presence of God in the flesh: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14a).  Jesus bore the wrath of God, taking our punishment and undergoing separation from God’s presence on the cross in order that we might have relationship with God. This only comes through faith in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin, so that we would no longer be enemies with God, for enemies are not welcome in God’s presence (Rom. 3:23; 5:8, 10).

This is not just for unbelievers.  This is for Christians.  If you want to experience God’s presence (albeit not perfectly on this side of eternity) you must continually preach the gospel to yourself. You must realize that your sin is your greatest hindrance to being near God. You must take that sin to the cross, lay it on Jesus, and despair of any merit to dwelling with God. This happens by grace, and when it happens, it is a sweet thing.

Categories
Life

Wayne Grudem on God’s Presence in Hell

At the end of January, I posted some of my thoughts on hell.  There I argued that hell is not the separation from the presence of God.  I wrote that hell is the “separation of people from the majestic, glorious presence of the Lord.”

To help flesh this out, I think Wayne Grudem’s thoughts from his book Sytematic Theology might help.

The idea of God’s omnipresence has sometimes troubled people who wonder how God can be present, for example, in hell. In fact, isn’t hell the opposite of God’s presence, or the absence of God? This difficulty can be resolved by realizing that God is present in different ways in different places or that God acts differently in different places in his creation. Sometimes God is present to punish. A terrifying passage in Amos vividly portrays this presence of God in judgment:

Not one of them shall flee away,
not one of them shall escape.
Though they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
though they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search out and take them;
and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
And though they go into captivity before their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall slay them;
and I will set my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.
(Amos 9:1–4)