Excerpt from Life with God Spiritual Formation Bible

In addi­tion to under­stand­ing the Bible’s over­ar­ch­ing theme in the with-God life and its trans­for­ma­tion of the Peo­ple of God, it is also help­ful to view the Bible panoram­i­cal­ly across the expanse of time. From the begin­ning and into the unlim­it­ed future of God with human­i­ty we can see the uni­ty of the Bible in the inter­play of two aspects of the with-God life: human char­ac­ter trans­for­ma­tion and divine medi­a­tion—that is, God’s ways of arrang­ing to be with us. Every inter­ac­tion in the bib­li­cal records shows this interplay.

Adam and Eve fell” because, though inno­cent, they lacked char­ac­ter. Inno­cence is not virtue. Inno­cence, for all its beau­ty, is a form of igno­rance and lack of char­ac­ter. God cer­tain­ly could have stood over Adam and Eve (“been in their faces,” as we some­times say) and pre­vent­ed them from suc­cumb­ing to Satan’s clever appeals. Instead, God arranged for them to be on their own,” and the result was then expressed in what they did. This allow­ing us to be on our own” in order to devel­op char­ac­ter with­in us is an arrange­ment God still abides by and respects. 

To devel­op Adam’s and Eve’s char­ac­ter — and ours too — God has to be absent” as well as present in human life. Just as our par­ents care for us around the clock in infan­cy and ear­ly child­hood and then grad­u­al­ly with­draw their pres­ence from us as we phys­i­cal­ly mature, so God is intent­ly present to us at our spir­i­tu­al infan­cy and then allows us to be increas­ing­ly on our own” as we spir­i­tu­al­ly mature. Through the ages God pur­pose­ly works to estab­lish a bal­ance between his man­i­fest pres­ence” and his seem­ing absence,” so that we will devel­op char­ac­ter: the char­ac­ter required of those who will not only exer­cise domin­ion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ,” but also will reign for­ev­er and ever” with him, hence real­iz­ing his ulti­mate pur­pose for human­i­ty (Rom 5:17; Rev 22:5).

As in the gar­den of Eden, God bal­ances his man­i­fest pres­ence and seem­ing absence through divine medi­a­tion by pro­vid­ing appoint­ed fig­ures, forms of wor­ship, social struc­tures, cat­a­clysmic events, Scrip­ture, and oth­er rev­e­la­tions. These forms of medi­a­tion change over time, always build­ing on what has gone before. At the out set of human his­to­ry — from Adam to Abra­ham — God works direct­ly with indi­vid­u­als: speak­ing with them, appear­ing to them in angel­ic form, instruct­ing them in dreams, and so forth. When God is absent” to them, his pres­ence is medi­at­ed only by the knowl­edge that he is about” and will be back.” 

Begin­ning with Abra­ham, by con­trast, God begins work­ing indi­rect­ly, medi­at­ing his pres­ence through the social struc­ture of the fam­i­ly unit: In you,” God says to Abra­ham — that is, through your fam­i­ly — all the fam­i­lies of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). This medi­a­tion devel­ops over a long and painful his­to­ry as Abra­ham’s descen­dants become tribes, a peo­ple, and then, under the monar­chy, a nation that ris­es to great pow­er, dom­i­nat­ing its neigh­bors. All the while, God’s pres­ence with the peo­ple of Israel is the cen­tral, uni­fy­ing real­i­ty in its history. 

From Abra­ham through the monar­chy, God’s pres­ence — and absence — is medi­at­ed through Scrip­ture, tra­di­tions, and rit­u­als of the reli­gion of Israel: the Torah, the judges, the levit­i­cal priests, the prophets, and more. These sur­vive the col­lapse of the monar­chy and the dis­per­sion and con­tin­ue to medi­ate God’s pres­ence not only to the exiled bio­log­i­cal chil­dren of Abra­ham, but also to the Gen­tiles and their kings and leaders. 

Dur­ing the intertes­ta­men­tal peri­od, the reli­gious insti­tu­tions of Israel con­tin­ue to pros­per in their own home­land, even under Greek and Roman rule, and through­out the Mediter­ranean world. Dur­ing this time new pos­si­bil­i­ties of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and rela­tion­ship to God devel­op with­in the frame­work of the eth­nic Israelite culture. 

Then, into this Gre­co-Roman, Mediter­ranean world Jesus, the Incar­nate Word, who per­son­al­ly medi­ates the pres­ence of God, is born. By the means of his life, death, and res­ur­rec­tion, Jesus breaks open the eth­nic ves­sel with­in which the trea­sure of God’s pres­ence had devel­oped. The entire his­to­ry of God-with-his-peo­ple now becomes, through Jesus Christ, the trea­sure of all peo­ples and ful­fills the ancient promise to Abra­ham: In you all the fam­i­lies of the earth shall be blessed.” Now there is also one medi­a­tor between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, him­self human” (1 Tim 2:5).

After Jesus’ ascen­sion into the heav­ens we see God’s all-inclu­sive peo­ple, the light of the world” and salt of the earth,” being indwelt by the Holy Spir­it, who also per­son­al­ly medi­ates God’s pres­ence for the for­ma­tion of Christ’s char­ac­ter in indi­vid­u­als and all nations.” This direct medi­at­ing of God’s pres­ence through the Holy Spir­it con­tin­ues to devel­op up to the present. Along­side this con­tin­ues the indi­rect medi­at­ing work of Scrip­ture (the word of God writ­ten), preach­ing and prophet­ic utter­ance (the word of God spo­ken), and sacra­ments (the word of God made visible). 

Ahead lies an eter­ni­ty beyond human his­to­ry, when we will know ful­ly, even as [we] have been ful­ly known” (1 Cor 13:12). There char­ac­ter for­ma­tion and trans­for­ma­tion will no longer require the medi­a­tion of God’s pres­ence and absence to us, for Christ will ful­ly dwell in us and we in him. Then the full­ness of Christ’s char­ac­ter with­in us will elim­i­nate any need for medi­a­tion, and we will be in direct and ever­last­ing com­mu­nion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spir­it. Omnipres­ence becomes man­i­fest pres­ence. No won­der Paul exclaims: Now to him who by the pow­er at work with­in us is able to accom­plish abun­dant­ly far more than all we can ask or imag­ine, to him be glo­ry in the church and in Christ Jesus to all gen­er­a­tions, for­ev­er and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20 – 21).

Excerpt­ed from the Life with God Bible.

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📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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