THE POWER OF PRESENCE
We are made to know God and to be with Him. Throughout Scripture — from Genesis to Revelation — God’s favor and blessing are made evident through His presence. God is with His creation in the garden and then with His chosen people in the tabernacle and later the temple.
After removing His glory and His presence from among His people in judgment, God returns to be with them in the manger, receiving the name “Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us’” (Matt. 1:23). Following Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God is now with His people through His Spirit (Ezek. 36:27; John 14:15–17; 2 Cor. 1:21–22).
Lastly, every believer looks forward to the day when we will be reunited with the Lord in the new heaven and new earth. “Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
Even this cursory look at the importance of God being “with us” illustrates a critical point about being in fellowship with the Lord: Presence is essential to community. To say that we belong to God — that we are His and He is ours, that we are united to Him — makes little sense if we are separated from Him.
In the same way, it makes no sense to say that you belong to a group you are never around. No one can say they are a meaningful part of a team if they skip practices and miss most of the games. And they surely cannot say they care about their team if they neglect such basic responsibilities. To be a part of something means, at the very least, to be present.
As the body of Christ on earth, it is likewise essential for us to be present with one another. This is how God has designed the church to work — as a community regularly gathered together. “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).
When we come together in worship and service, Scripture says that we provoke love and good works and that we encourage each other. But that cannot happen if you are rarely around the church. Such encouragement, edification, and accountability can only happen as we are gathered with other believers, who are using their unique gifts for the benefit of others within the church. To remain isolated from the gathered church means you are not being watched out for or encouraged as God intends.
At this time in the life of First Baptist Church, it is even more critical that we “not neglect to gather together.” So I want to challenge each of you to renew your commitment to being actively involved in the life of our church. For starters, that means joining with us every Sunday for worship and hopefully Bible study, too. But this also means reaching out to those we may be missing to draw them back into our fellowship. Sunday should be about more than just you. If this truly is the Lord’s Day, then let us seek to give Him the greatest honor we can on that day.
Jesus has promised to be present with us — His church (Matt. 28:20). As we seek to follow Him, may we also commit to be present with His church.
— Josh Hall