By Jonathan David Faulkner
There is a modern convention in Protestantism that says that “We must invite the Holy Spirit into these places, he doesn’t show up unless we invite him. God doesn’t come unless we invite him.” There is not a day that goes by when we do not see some Evangelist saying “God just showed up and it was awesome.” Or “The presence of God was heavy on this place, He came.” And it may have been, God certainly shows up when we are together and His power is evident and can be felt among us. But if we show up on Sunday Morning and get out Holy Spirit Hour and then go home I believe we are missing something, denying ourselves the fullness of a Spirit guided life. The Protestant ideal of: “Show up on Sunday and do your best the rest of the week” has created a generation of poorly fed and spiritually frustrated Christians who believe that God only shows up in Churches.
Sadly, this is taken to an extreme when we try to make that experience of the spirit normative for everyone. Legalistically insisting that people have “Conversion Confirming” experiences, similar to the Puritan “Signs of Conversion” that were required to join the church. The idea that we all have to have the same experience of the spirit is absurd, and abusive. But so is the idea that God is only present when we are in Church or in our private bible study, or when we gather together for Wednesday Evening Church Coffee or whatnot.
Perhaps the belief justifies us, if we think God only shows up in the Holy Places we can get away with our condemnation and lack of love towards outsiders. If God only appears during great worship music, maybe we can get away with lusting or stealing or slandering. Or may we think that during the rest of those times God just sits up in heaven and does not mind what we do. Absent from everyday life, conversing with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus about those silly little humans there. Maybe we think God is just waiting to pounce on us in condemnation, the Great Dictator, demanding His own glory and forcing strict obedience on His people. None of these views of God are correct, yes, God hates sin and one day we will answer for what we have done, but we will also be met with Love and Grace and the reality of our covering of the Blood of the Lamb. Yes, God is transcendent, existing outside of time and space, but that does not mean He is outside of human affairs, disinterested in your life, hearing your prayers and then maybe acting…or maybe not.
He is, the Triune God, the Father, Son and Spirit in one, He is the glorious God, the Magnificent God and the Glorious God. Nothing could be greater because nothing greater could be conceived. And He is not disinterested in human affairs, Only showing up when we invite Him, giving us esoteric highs and “Bringing us to new levels of freedom.” He is constantly at work in our lives, seeking to guide us, affirm us, correct us…Love us.
My dad once told me: “I am convinced that we have the word of God, and the Spirit of God so engrained in us, we can sometimes forget that it is there.” I think my father is right. When we become believers and receive the Holy Spirit it becomes a part of us, a great mystery, to use an imperfect phrase, a divine symbiosis where we benefit by being Sanctified and God is glorified by the way we learn to live righteous and upright lives and the mission of God is filled through His presence within us. You cannot separate yourself, even the Apostate may be hounded by the Spirit until they either grow numb to His voice or return to relationship with God. The Nonbeliever feels His calling, sees His grace and is thus compelled by the divine to believe. He is always with us, He has never left, He has never forsaken us, we are His and He is always with us.
We then, must learn to acknowledge that Holy reality, not just when it comes to Holy Sacraments or when the worship leader says to, but in every single mundane and daily activity. We must tune our spirits to hearing God’s voice, knowing He is there and feeling His presence. This is difficult, it requires us to step back, turn off the noise of cell-phones and computers and the distraction of Social Media and really discipline ourselves. Then we may gradually re-integrate these things into our lives and see how God uses them for His purposes.
I remember the story of Brother Lawrence, a Monk who had the desire to serve God but was rather clumsy. A cripple who dreaded those times he would have to go out to the marketplace. He did however have one great talent, washing dishes. Brother Lawrence was a fierce foe to grease and stains, no stuck on food was safe when he was in the kitchen. It was in these times though that Brother Lawrence felt the presence of God most strongly. In these hours when Brother Lawrence felt closest to His savior. Not that God was not present the rest of the time, He knew that He was, but it was in those times in the kitchen and not in the Sanctuary that He was most aware of the Spirit of God.
In my own life I find God in the mundane. Amid the endless papers of graduate work, the countless conversations on Theology and even Sports. In times when I am simply walking in the cool New England air and in those moments when I am alone, playing music or writing songs. I am ever aware that God is in the mundane, making the mundane Holy, a place of worship and of praise. That does not mean that I am unaware of God in the sanctuary, He is, and ever shall be, ever present and with me, I am aware of this, and it helps dictate my actions towards others.
We must learn once again to live in the constant presence of God, the same God who we worship in the Sanctuary is the same God we can worship anywhere. HE is present and we have the blessing of living in constant communion with Him if we allow ourselves the grace of slowing down and truly seeking to listen to God.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry