Please Don’t Stop!

If you had been Adam or Eve, how would you have felt seeing the flaming sword and mighty cherubim blocking your way back to the Garden of Eden? 

Knowing they had listened to Satan and wrongly chosen to do things their own way removed Adam, Eve, and all of us from the joy of living a perfect and carefree life in God’s presence. Theirs became a life of toiling for food rather than feasting at the free buffet offered by God’s hand. Bringing new life into the world became painful. I wonder how those things would have been accomplished had Adam and Eve resisted the serpent’s whispers and remained in the garden. Would Adam simply point his rocking chair toward the West and watch his corn pop up in rows? Would Eve merely go to sleep and wake up next to a perfectly pink, squirming baby? That would be Paradise, for sure!

Yes, we resent that choice made by those first two humans. But deep down, we know we would have done the same thing. We enjoy being the captains of our own ships, the generals in our own battles, and the chiefs of our tribes. Doing our own thing works well for us—until it doesn’t. However, we can run to God for help. We can fall on our knees and beg Him to help us set our feet back into Jesus’ footsteps. They always lead to the joy of His presence. 

Some of us don’t feel worthy of being in God’s presence. We create a void between us and Him that we try to fill with good deeds in hopes of earning an approving nod from God. We fail to bask in His presence because we are focused on what we do for God instead of what God can and will do through us. The more we enjoy spending time with God, the more we realize the depth of His love. Overwhelming love allows us to selflessly love others out of the overflow.

Life is all about God’s presence. It was lost in the garden, but Jesus made a way for us to return. Whether we want to admit it or not, we were all created with a longing for Him. A famous quote by Blaise Pascal has been watered down over the years to say, “There is a God-shaped hole in all of us that only Jesus can fill.” But I recently discovered his original quote. It paints the perfect picture of mankind’s struggle to return to the perfection of the Garden of Eden.  See what you think: 

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

I spent much of my life focused on doing good deeds in hopes of earning a chance to go to heaven. But then … God met me on my knees while I begged for whatever it was those who knew the joy of the Lord had. Sure, I shared their desire to obey God. I had repented of my sins and confessed my belief. I was a bible-toting, baptized believer, but something was missing. I didn’t have the same joy or love for people they had. They didn’t need a reason to love; they just did. And because they loved so freely, they strolled through life as though they were always listening to a happy tune. I wanted that; I wanted it in the here and now. I didn’t want to wait until I reached heaven to discover what I had missed. 

Arriving in heaven will be glorious. The Bible describes heaven with words we can relate to, yet its reality will be better than we imagine. Of all the sights we will behold and all the people we will meet and be reunited with, nothing will compare to being in the physical presence of God the Father and Jesus the Son. The image Genesis paints of God walking in the cool of the garden always makes me smile. 

On hard days, we can calm ourselves with thoughts of heaven and be assured of where we are going. But we’re not there yet. We still have people to influence here. Perhaps the best thing Christians can do is to let others see heaven living in us. We don’t have to wait to experience God’s presence.  Thanks to Jesus, His presence through the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us. That’s the thing I had missed. Joyful Christians have an intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit. We can share everything in our hearts, and He will listen. He will set up divine appointments on our behalf. We can feel His gentle nudges and hear His words of encouragement and conviction when we’re tuned in. He relieves our guilt and shame so that others notice a soul at rest – in the here and now. 

To all of you who spend time in God’s presence, it shows. Please don’t stop! We need to see how you overcome your fears with faith. We need to witness you at peace in the midst of a health crisis. We want to experience your joy in the Lord, your strength when you’re weak, and a forgiveness that covers all our mistakes. In short, we want what you have. We want the presence of God.

“Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” (Psalm 16:5-8NLT)

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