Have you ever brought an angry exchange to a sudden halt because of the presence of another person? A friend or even a stranger walks into the room and suddenly it’s all smiles and ‘how are you’s?’
Our natural concern for what other people think about us acts as a powerful deterrent for sinful behavior.
And yet, every Christian knows that we live in the presence of the Living God. Even when nobody else is in the room with us, He is. Why does this not provide a similar source of discipline?
The fact is, every time we choose to do something that we know is wrong, we willingly suppress the reality of God’s holy presence and our accountability to him. We pretend He’s not there.
Unbelievers make this blindness a lifestyle (Rom. 1:28). And while a regenerate Christian will not be able to suppress the truth to this extent – the Holy Spirit won’t let them – we can certainly try to.
Imagine David’s first shameful moments with Bathsheba. He was pretending that God wasn’t in the room.
In fact, David is an interesting case study, because after Nathan’s convicting rebuke he begs God to not leave him. “Cast me not away from your presence,” he pleas, “and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11). In essence, David is asking that God override his flesh, which wanted nothing more than to be free of God’s presence, to have a room to himself.
Our flesh will push away the presence of God. It will push God away when an argument with our spouse is escalating and the Spirit prompts us to seek peace. It will say, “Leave me alone! He deserves everything I’m about to tell him!” It will push God away when the computer screen beckons. It will say, “There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun.” It will push God away when we want to accept that invite to lunch with the nice-looking co-worker. It will say, “Wisdom is boring.”
But here’s the thing: only the presence of God makes our lives worth living. “In your presence there is fullness of joy,” writes David (Ps. 16:11). Relationships are not worth having without joy, and momentary satisfaction is not worth having at the cost of daily joy. Acknowledging and embracing God’s presence will not only make us holier, it will allow us to fully experience the joy of life and of communion with one another.
So when we feel that tug-of-war inside, the flesh desiring and the Spirit disapproving, we need to remind ourselves that God will be in the room whether we want Him there or not. And in the end, we really do want Him there.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25).