Experiencing the Presence of Jesus
Restoration, healing, love, confidence, identity, security and joy come through intimacy with the One who is intimately near to our teens. Yet without experiencing the God who likes them, it is difficult for young people to even want to draw near to Him. However, when they believe and feel that God enjoys them – even though they are immature and “in process” in their spiritual journeys – then they will grow in confidence to pursue Jesus and enjoy the richness of His presence.
What does it mean to pursue and experience the “presence of Jesus?" At our new birth, God places the full measure of His Holy Spirit inside of us. He fills up the small capacity of our human spirits with His Spirit. As we come into the presence of Jesus, our human spirits grow, so that we have more and more capacity for His Spirit inside of us. When this happens to our teens, then they grow in the confidence of their relationship with Jesus and their new identity in Him. However, young believers rarely believe and experience the truth about who they are in Christ. Though they have the Spirit of Jesus in them, they often fail to enjoy the reality that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5).
Enjoying the presence of God is about something so much more than being momentarily moved by God on an emotional level. It is the power of truth connecting deep within in our hearts in a way that completely transforms our emotions and desires. The Apostle Paul called this, “the spirit of revelation” in Ephesians 1:17. Young people want more than feeling that God loves them. They want to experience the truth of God’s affections in a manner that causes small but permanent changes in how they view God, themselves, others, their future, and more.
Consider this: once we have been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, we begin to encounter numerous amazing and even outrageous ideas about who God is and how He wants us to live. Over time, we become so overly familiar with these ideas that we forget how truly outrageous they are. So often it really doesn’t sink in that God became a human being and lived among us for a while; He died and rose again, and ascended to heaven to take His place upon His throne of glory; that, shortly afterwards, He opened up the heavens and sent His Spirit to invade the earth and dwell within His followers.
These are incredible thoughts! The last one – that He would dwell within His followers - seems beyond preposterous. Yet it’s true - the Holy Spirit of God dwells within us, in all of His fullness. The same God that created everything, upholds all things, and will restore and renew all things, dwells in me, and you, and the young Christ-followers in your ministry! The fire of a billion suns and beyond is exploding within my innermost being, incalculable power beyond measure alive inside of me. Yet, because of the condition of my heart, my mind, and my emotions, I often forget that He is there; I forget that I can enjoy union in the deepest part of my being with my Best Friend and Most Intimate Companion—Jesus.
In youth ministry we will do well to remember the consequences of forgetting, ignoring, or minimizing this reality. When this happens, we rob ourselves of the joy of walking in moment-by-moment intimacy with Jesus. And, when we move through life content to live without experiencing the presence of God ourselves, then the students to whom we minister may well lose out on experiencing His presence as well.
Pursuing the Presence of Jesus
Our relationship of living in the presence of the Lord begins, on a daily basis, with attentiveness. In other words, the quality of our lives in His presence is directly connected to our conscious efforts to remember that He is with us. The more we think about Jesus, read, think about, or sing Bible passages, and talk about Jesus, the more we allow His presence to be active in our lives. As born-again believers, there is continual supernatural activity around our lives that is “beyond the veil” activity that we cannot see or have a conscious awareness of. Yet, the Holy Spirit is actively engaged in supernatural activity for our good, working on our behalf all the time. For example, Paul tells us that we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit does know how to pray. So when we offer up our feeble prayers, the Holy Spirit who hears our prayers intercedes in the supernatural realm for us. (Romans 8:23-26)
As in any relationship, the more we talk to the Lord, the closer we will walk with the Him. Simply remembering that Jesus is alive within us is an act of faith that positions us to experience more of His presence and power in our lives. The more we connect with what the Lord says is true about us – truth that often we cannot feel or consciously perceive – the more we will ask Jesus about it, engage with Jesus through His Spirit regarding it, and as a result the more we will know ourselves like Jesus knows us – and, the more we will know Jesus as He really is. As Jesus told us often, “Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7). In this light, James reminds us, “We have not because we ask not” (James 4:2). This simple principle opens the door into the presence of Jesus: the more we engage in asking/inquiring of Him, the more we will receive of Him.
Attentiveness to Jesus opens the door of our hearts to experience His heart in a powerful way. Our attentiveness leads to humility, simplicity, and dependency – heart attitudes that we can summarize as "child-like” in a healthy biblical sense (see Matt. 18:2-4; Mark 10:15; Luke 9:48; 18:7). Without these heart attitudes we become distracted and too busy to connect with God in prayer and worship. We become so task-oriented and “me” focused that we forget Jesus died so that we might become “we” focused. His sacrificial death and victory over sin was the culmination of His fight for an intimate relationship with us. It is His joy to offer us infinite power to grow and mature in that relationship. We have the Eternal God standing in the gap on our behalf, and dwelling within us to help us overcome all obstacles to life and godliness in our relationship with Him!
If we are to love Jesus back with a tender, responsive heart of thanksgiving, we must do so on His terms. His terms are the ones that propel our lives. They simply work better than our terms. Therefore, we must continually fight for the three heart attitudes listed above. When all three work in tandem, they help subdue our prideful independence, prideful love of our own opinions and conclusions, and our own distorted sense of self-importance and self-righteousness. Then we can see Jesus – and ourselves – a bit clearer with a little more objectivity. And we can do so without shame, with confidence that we are loved. In the process, we receive real power to grow in love and authority in the Spirit.
David Sliker has ministered to youth and young adults for over twenty years, preaching nationally and internationally at youth events, camps, and conferences. Currently, David is a senior leader, teacher, and author at the International House of Prayer Mission Base in Kansas City, Missouri, where he lives with his wife, Tracey, and their four children. He also serves alongside Lou Engle and TheCall as the Executive Director of the Elijah Revolution, a national conference and equipping ministry for teenagers.