Treasuring the Presence of God
I’m still a huge fan of systematics, and don’t think it is really possible to get to grips with Biblical theology without a grasp of systematics. I think systematics is the two-dimensional underground map that enables us to make sense of the three-dimensional world, and I would encourage everyone to read a serious systematic theology text book cover to cover. Biblical theology and systematic theology should work together, not in opposite directions. (Which perhaps means we should start talking about Biblimatic Theology!)
Anyway, what Biblical theology has taught us to see the sweep of the Biblical narrative – the story that begins in Eden, then exile from Eden, then entry into the new Eden of the Promised land, only to be exiled from there too, and culminating with the Eden that is the guarantee of resurrection life in the world made new, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus broke into this narrative like a warm spring after a harsh winter. He placed himself at its heart and pulled all the threads of the story together in himself. Whereas every other prophet, priest and preacher pointed elsewhere, Jesus proclaimed himself: “But I say to you…”
Jesus declared that the day was coming when his people would worship in spirit and truth. No longer would the place in which they worshipped be of significance, but the presence of God in and with them was what would count. In an encounter with a hard-pressed woman coming to get a drink from a well (John 4) Jesus swept aside all pre-existing understandings of what true worship is. Because of what Christ has done God’s people no longer need to go to a specific place to know the presence of God; we carry the presence of God inside us, and worship in spirit and truth anywhere!
I grew up in churches that were both charismatic in practice and ‘small r’ reformed in theology. In large measure, this wonderful combination was due to the teaching and example of Terry Virgo, founder of the Newfrontiers family of churches. Terry taught us to love doctrine and to love the presence of the Spirit! Recently Terry and Wendy spent three days with the church I pastor. During that time Terry spoke to a gathering of leaders on treasuring the presence of God. It was a wonderfully inspiring message and I am going to post a summary of it here. Of course, these are my words, not Terry’s, so any lack in them should be ascribed to me rather than him! But I hope they will be helpful.
Terry spoke about treasuring the presence of God in liberty, faith and devotion. As a charismatic, experiencing the presence of God is something I desire – but so is delving deep into truth about who God is and what he has done. So over three posts in the next three weeks I’ll take a look at each of these three words, and see how they help us to treasure the presence of God. Just as systematics and Biblical theology should not be in tension, neither should experience and knowledge: after all, it is in spirit and truth that we worship!