The God You Can't Escape: God's Omnipresence
We have all heard the song sung every Christmas entitled Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Most of us can sing the lyrics: "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." Isn't it amazing that as kids, we just accepted the fact that a man in a red suit can see all and know all? And how can this same man travel from the North Pole all over the world in just one night in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer?
Well for those of you who still believe in Santa Claus, I'm about to burst your bubble. Santa isn't real. Or at least the version that we sing about every Christmas isn't real. There was a real St. Nicholas but he was nothing like the song or the jolly fat man who delivers presents every Christmas Eve. There is no man that knows everything. And there certainly isn't anyone who can be everywhere at once. But what is impossible with man is just one of several attributes that make God who He is. The Sovereign of the Universe is Omnipresent. That simply means that He is present everywhere.
Many people have done things in secret, thinking that no one would ever find out. They've thought that they'd gotten away with something. Others are lonely and feel that no one is around who cares or wants to be near them. They think that they have no one to talk with and share their lives with. In both of these scenarios, a knowledge of the omnipresence of God might make them act, think and feel differently.
I. Definition of God's Omnipresence
When we say that God is omnipresent, we mean that He is present everywhere at the same time. Every place in the universe is inhabited by our God. That means that we are never really alone. God is anywhere and everywhere we can be or imagine. He's even in places that man cannot go or has not yet been.
It was theologian Thomas Oden who said this:
“No atomic particle is so small that God is not fully present to it, and no galaxy is so vast that God does not circumscribe it. No space is without the Divine Presence.”
We must not think, however, when we say God is everywhere, that we are implying that God merely monitors everything from afar, as a parent with a baby monitor can hear their infant child from another room. God doesn't just know what happens everywhere. He is actually right there in the middle of everything with us. We have an ever-present God.
At the same time, we cannot confuse this doctrine with pantheism. Pantheism is a belief system that equates God with the universe. They teach that God is not separate from the universe, but that it is a manifestation of God. In other words, we are part of God just as are the rocks and trees on the earth. But so is the table we may be eating from or the chair we're sitting in. We must realize, however, that the Bible doesn't teach this. Scripture tells us that God existed before all things. He created them and is separate from them (Colossians 1:14-17). When I am seeing a mountain, for instance, I am not seeing God. I am seeing something that God has created.
II. Scriptural Evidence of God's Omnipresence
It was King David who wrote in Psalm 139:
"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." (7-12).
And the prophet Jeremiah quoted the Lord God as saying:
"Am I a God who is near", declares the Lord, "And not far off?" "Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?" declares the Lord. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" (Jeremiah 23:23,24).
These passages are clear that our God is indeed omnipresent. He is a God who is near at hand. Another Scripture which indicates this is I Kings 8 when King Solomon was dedicating the temple that he had built for the Lord. Just as we heard from God's mouth in Jeremiah, Solomon, in this section, also talks about the enormity and vastness of God and in doing so tells us that no space could fully contain Him, indicating His presence in all spaces. He says:
"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built" (27).
This theme is repeated in the book of Isaiah where God is again talking about Himself. He says:
"Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?" (Isaiah 66:1).
God's Word also lets us know that whether we do evil or good, God sees and knows. Proverbs tells us:
"The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:3).
By directing his followers where to pray, Jesus says something similar. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ commands:
"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).
In these and other places in the Bible, we see that God is indeed present everywhere and can see all that happens. There is nowhere that we can go where we can escape His presence and watchful eye.
The Consequences of God's Omnipresence
So what does it mean to us when we say that God is omnipresent? How does this affect our lives? We could actually write a book about the subject and some theologians have. However, let us choose a few things that we can summarize.
1. God is Our Ever-present Helper and Comforter
When we are in a desperate situation any time in our lives, God is there. His power and strength are ours to help us through any and every problem. He doesn't promise to get us out of every bad event we are facing. Some problems and troubles are put there to make us stronger and to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. Some are placed there to tell us that we are not sufficient on our own and that we need the Lord for every area of our lives (II Corinthians 12:9). But what God does promise us is that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:10-13).
Just as he was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the midst of the fiery furnace so he will be with us in the middle of our fiery trials (Daniel 6). And, in the case of these men, God actually saved them out of the flames as well.
In chapter 4 of Philippians, we have the Lord's command to pray to Him and His promise of peace when life gets overwhelming. Paul tells us:
"Be anxious for nothing but in all things by pray and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6,7).
Thank God that we can say with the Psalmist:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3).
2. God is Our Ever-Present Judge
The idea of God as the omnipresent judge is both a positive thing if we are doing what is right and just and a negative thing for us if we are breaking His laws or commandments. There is nothing done in secret which won't one day be revealed. And we will all answer for the lives that we have lived. Those who have never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior will stand before God one day and will be judged according to their works (Revelation 20:11-17). And Scripture teaches us that works cannot save (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5). So, all of those who are at this judgment will be lost and thrown into the Lake of Fire. The only way to avoid this judgment is to bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and rely upon his substitutionary death to save us from sin (II Corinthians 5:19-21).
However, there is another judgment which only believers will face. This is not a judgment for salvation but for a reward for the things done for Christ in this life. Paul teaches that all of us must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10). At this time, the good things we have done for Christ are likened by Paul to gold, silver and precious stones which are only refined by the fires of judgment. For these, we will receive rewards. The things which we've done for our own glory are likened to wood, hay, and stubble which are burned up, leaving nothing. For those things, Paul tells us we will suffer loss and not be rewarded (I Corinthians 3:9-12).
To know that God is not only our Savior but our judge should cause us to want to please Him in all that we do. I would not want to stand before God and have my whole life's work burned up. It is better than not being saved at all but what a waste of time to squander all that God has given me on this earth! Of course, my love for Him and gratefulness for all that He's done should be another motivator. However, the fact that He is my judge should not be taken lightly.
3. God is Our Ever-Present Mission Leader
We have been given the task of preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God and Paul even calls us ambassadors of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:18-21). Ambassadors are the highest representatives of a supreme power. We are the highest representatives of The Supreme Power of the Universe. And we have a heavy responsibility. We are calling men and women everywhere to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
However, we aren't doing it alone. The Holy Spirit indwells us and we follow His leading (I Corinthians 6;19,20). We are placed within a Body of believers (I Corinthians 12:13) and together are given gifts of the Spirit in order to work together for the cause of Christ (I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:1-16).
In other words, God has given us a mission but it is He who is ever-present to make sure that the mission is carried out. He is in control and will see that His will is ultimately carried out on this earth.
4. God is Our Ever-Present Source of Worship
The truth is that we are all guilty of the wrong notion of asking God to be with us in our circumstances and in our worship. But God can never be more with us in our lives and in our worship than He is today. Wherever God is, He isn't 99% there. He is fully there. Whether it be individually, or corporately as a Body of Believers, the Lord is in our midst.
God is always with us all the time and what we need to ask is that we be filled with His Spirit by allowing Him to have complete control of our lives all the time. The Bible tells us not to be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). In other words, just as some would choose to allow an alcoholic beverage to change us and control how we think, a Christian's responsibility is to have the Holy Spirit take control over us.
So the bottom line is that we should always be aware that God is an ever-present source of our worship. And we should be seeking His will and His power for our lives and service to Him.
5. God is Our Ever-Present Lord Into Eternity
Not only is God with us for this life and all of its trials, He is also ever-present with His people into eternity. If we happen to die as believers in Jesus Christ we will be absent from the body and present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). At the end of this Age of Grace, in which we are now living, the Bible says that all of us will be caught up to be with the Lord. The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will rise second. And Paul tells us we will forever be with the Lord. And he admonishes us to comfort one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Only an all-powerful, ever-present God can promise and deliver these things. We have nothing to fear, whether in this life or in the one to come. Our God will never leave us or forsake us.
Years ago, a Presbyterian Scholar, Dr. Robert D. Wilson who dedicated his life to showing the Hebrew Bible's reliability, went to hear one of his students, Donald Barnhouse, preach. Donald Gray Barnhouse (March 28, 1895 – November 5, 1960), was an American Christian preacher, pastor, theologian, radio pioneer, and writer. He was pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1927 to his death in 1960.
Wilson, who was a teacher and mentor of Barnhouse, told him after his sermon that he would only come to hear him preach just that once. Barnhouse wondered if he had done something wrong. Wilson explained to him that no, as a matter of fact, his sermon was very good. He told him that he made it a habit of coming to hear his students one time to find out if they were a big-godder or a little-godder. He explained that a person who was a little-godder was in trouble because they have a low view of God. They have a God who can't do miracles, can't be trusted to transmit the Scriptures and can't help people in their troubles.
He continued talking to Barnhouse and said this:
"Others have the great, awesome, almighty, invincible God—the Lord of the Bible—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This God speaks and it is done; He commands and it stands firm; He shows Himself strong on behalf of those who love, fear, trust, and obey Him. Dr. Wilson said, “You, young man are a big-godder, and the Lord will bless your life and ministry. He will use you for His praise.”
Just like Barnhouse, we need to be big-godders. We need to have the view that Scripture has of an omnipresent God who is our helper, comforter, judge, mission leader and our ever-present source of worship. And we need a God who is capable of being there at the end of this life and into the one to come. We need the God of the Bible. Thank the Lord that we have such a God! We are indeed very blessed!!
© 2012 Jeff Shirley