14-03-20 CAN WE FEEL GOD?
By John Aldworth
Acts 17:25-27: God…giveth to all life, breath and all things and hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation … that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him though He be not far from every one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.
Is it true you can feel God and know He is real? That is, can you receive a tangible manifestation of his presence? Surprisingly, both the Bible and the experience of millions of Christians say that the answer is ‘Yes’.
The issue is important because today countless millions reject all or any notion of God because, they say, they cannot see, hear or touch Him. Therefore, they say, He is not real.
And once I was just such a person. Though brought up in a religious Christian home by the age of 30 I was an unsaved, hard-working, hard-drinking newspaperman, and a determined atheist.
Then God got on my case sending kindly relatives to tell me, amid the traumatic break-up of my first marriage, that I needed a Saviour and that the only one available was the Lord Jesus Christ. So I went through the motions of repenting of sin and praying to receive Christ as the Saviour and Lord of my life. Then with a Bible under one arm I went to reconcile with my wife only to be rudely rebuffed for my pains. It was evident she didn’t want to know the God who saves if meant making it up with me.
I then went to gospel rallies and emotional church meetings which advertised themselves as experiencing the ‘real presence of God’. But to be honest I didn’t feel a thing. What’s more, depressed as I was, I felt totally out of place among those singing, clapping and waving their hands in the air with great enthusiasm. So after some weeks of this I went back to living in the world.
Fast forward three years and I still hadn’t felt God but felt an inexplicable urge to visit George and Eileen the couple who earlier had travelled from Whangarei to Gisborne to tell me about the Lord and how to really encounter Him. Evidently God was still on my case. So as part of a holiday with my children and a new lady in my life I drove from Wellington to Whangarei to see them.
It was there that all four of us committed ourselves to the Lord (in my case for the second time). I knew a big change was taking place inside me but I still hadn’t felt or touched God. Nevertheless it was noticeable my daughters were now happier than before.
It was on our way home and after stopping off to make peace with my parents (we had had an argument earlier) that I got a real ‘touch from the Lord’. Heaven opened up and the glory of the Lord poured down upon me. The experience was so profound I lost all sense of my surroundings. Who drove the car for the next 70 kilometres I do not know. I was not conscious of having a hand on the wheel and the others were asleep. Then after what must have been an hour I ‘came to’. The car was safely stopped on the verge, the engine ticking over.
As the old chorus says, ‘To get a touch from the Lord is so real’. And I got more than a touch. I got a baptism in the Lord’s glory straight from heaven. And that sense of his presence has been a guide and comfort ever since. I treasure the times when the Lord makes Himself real to me in a way I can feel. Fact is, any time I lift my hands to pray and worship Him they tingle at his presence. I really feel it. It is a palpable, concrete experience. What’s more his warmth comes into my heart as I open his book, the Bible, to study his word.
Does God want everyone to have this experience of glory? Undoubtedly, since He Himself says that the root problem with sin is that it causes ‘all’ to ‘come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).
Sadly, it seems many Christians fall short of this experience. In many church services, the experience of the Lord is more cerebral than sensual. Prayers are uttered and hymns are sung; there is a rational presentation of some Bible truths. But the sensation of the Lord being present is lacking. Indeed, some would discourage any such supernatural occurrence deeming it as excessive, over-enthusiastic, even dismissing it as carnal, a work of the flesh.
Yet, in Acts 17: 25-27, as quoted above, we are told that God has precisely placed the nations in their own lands with the express purpose that they might seek Him and feel after Him. Think of it. Each tribe and extended family of mankind has been given its own plot of earth on which to live and reach out to touch God. What’s more He has already predetermined the ‘times and bounds of their habitation’, meaning that they are on probation, given only so long to find God or to pass out of existence.
So, does God really want us to feel, to grope, after Him in order to really touch Him? Again, the answer is ‘Yes’. As the Apostle Paul said in effect in Acts 17: 27 we should so seek Him that we feel after Him and find Him.
But does the Lord Himself want to be felt in that way? If we take his own word on the matter then, yes, He does. Did He not invite doubting Thomas to:
…reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side and be not faithless but believing’ (John 20:27).
Remember, Thomas had said he would not believe the Lord had risen from the dead unless ‘...I put my finger in the print of the nails and thrust my hand into his side’ (John 20:25). And you and I need to believe not only that Christ died for our sins but also rose from the dead and now lives as a life-giving, quickening spirit that we can feel.
Psalm 34: 8 says ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’. Hebrews 6:4 and 5 speaks of tasting the heavenly gift and the good Word of God and tasting means to touch with the tongue.
Consider also the testimony of the Apostle John who offered as proof that the risen Jesus is real and alive the fact that he and the other apostles had ‘handled’ Him. Thus, 1 John 1:1 declares:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life.
After his resurrection our Lord urged his eleven apostles to ‘Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have’ (Luke 24:39). And in a way that is both spiritually and physically real He invites us today to come unto Him, to touch Him and be touched by Him.
It seems the Apostle Paul saw this touching and being touched by the Lord as the quickening. Thus in Ephesians 2: 4-5 he writes:
But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).
You see, God doesn’t just sit and wait for us to seek and feel after Him; He makes it possible for us to feel and find Him by making us alive unto Him in our spirit even when we are sin-dead and don’t want to know Him. We are like an unplugged radio but He switches us on and tunes us in to the sense of his presence and the reality of who He is. And that has tangible physical effects that can be really felt if in response we seek after Him and reach out to touch Him.
How real can that experience be? Well in Matthew 9:20 speaking of our Lord’s ministry on earth we are told of a woman who ‘touched the hem of his garment’ believing that by doing so she would be ‘made whole’ of a medically incurable haemorrhage. She touched and she was healed.
Today we also can touch Him, feel him, and be ‘made whole’ of our own incurable disease, that is our sin. And, as we touch his presence and believe, his blood (that is, his life now made spiritually and tangibly available to us) will wash us ‘whiter than the snow’ (Psalm 51:7, Isaiah 1:18). Why? Because He died on the cross taking our punishment for sin and now lives to give new life, his life, to all who will put their trust in Him (1 Corinthians 15:3, Romans 6:11).
Why don’t you and I reach out and touch Him for real today?