“Consider that you are always under the eye of Christ, the great captain of our salvation, who has enjoined us to watch thus, and pray that we enter not into temptation.”
—John Owen, Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It
There was nothing special about these words as I read them this morning. As long as I can remember, I’ve always known that God is everywhere present and watchful. Theologians refer to this truth about God as his omnipresence. God is not confined to one particular point in space; he surrounds us on all sides at all times. David wrote, “You hem me in, behind and before” (Psalm 139:5). We can in no way escape from the presence of God, who cannot be contained even by the heavens (1 Kings 8:27).
What struck me this morning is the gap between my confessional theology and my functional theology. Confessional theology is what we assent to on an intellectual level. It’s what we say we believe. If you were to ask me, “Do you believe that God is sovereign over his Creation?” I would respond, “Absolutely!” On the other hand, functional theology refers to our actions. The way we think and act during the course of the day or the week flows from our functional theology—the worldview which governs our lives. The gap between our confessional theology and our functional theology is often tremendous. In my confessional theology, I am a strong proponent of God’s sovereignty; in my functional theology, I doubt that God knows what he’s doing, and I worry about being late to a meeting or how an event will turn out or what my future will look like.
When it comes to God’s omnipresence, the same problem appears. I say that God is omnipresent…but the reality of his presence is not impressed on my heart throughout the day. I tend to pigeonhole God into a devotional time and forget him the rest of the day. Of course, there are some days where I commune with God continually, whispering short prayers as I go about my day, constantly acknowledging his goodness and my dependence on him. However, I usually pass my time in a sort of functional atheism, focused on the tasks at hand or breathing in the narcotic of television or the Internet. Of course, when I spend so much of my day indoors, in my office or my house, that just contributes to the problem. It’s a lot easier to be an atheist when you’re cooped up in an office all day, hiding away from the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). It’s easy to forget about him—even while working at a church! It’s easy to become lazy, forgetting that you’re working for the Lord, failing to fix your eyes on Jesus at all times.
If we as believers better understood God as omnipresent, this knowledge would protect us from temptation as those under his watchful eye. It would encourage us because we cannot flee from the One who loves us and blesses us. As for unbelievers, a knowledge of God’s omnipresence necessarily drives them to the cross, because a God of inescapable judgment and wrath is not one from whom you can flee.
Now, this battle is not unique to me. Like the man of Mark 9:24, you and I cry out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Our culture is deluged in silent screams against the omnipresence of God, in which his existence is denied—or more often, ignored or pushed harmlessly to the side. We go along with this so easily; we’re hardwired to think this way from the moment we are conceived. Satan is all to happy to ally himself with our own flesh in treachery against the Almighty.
So how do we gain ground against these enemies? I suppose we need to meditate on this doctrine. Here are three passages of scripture where we can start:
- Psalm 139
- Jeremiah 23:23-24
- 1 Kings 8:27
Another good way is to pray and meditate on scripture throughout the day, not just at one set time. We need to be reminded all day long that God is present, rather than tuck him into a corner of our workweek. We need to talk about him with other believers as often as possible, even in casual settings, getting over our ridiculous fear of marveling together over the One in whom our souls delight.