An Encounter With God

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Series: Other Speakers

Sun am 30 November 2014 – Richardt Hattingh

John 3:5-6; 2 Tim. 3:5; (Matt. 16:13-18); (Eph. 4:13); (Revelation 3); (Rom. 12:11); (Acts 1&2);
(Acts 4:31); (Acts 10:4); (Acts 13:2-3); (Acts 16:25-26); (Heb. 9:3-4); (Col. 1:27); (Heb. 10:19-22)

Only a personal encounter with the Lord can truly transform someone’s heart. An encounter with religion will simply not do it. God is Spirit, and the only way we can truly encounter Him is on a spirit level. This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus when He said we have to be born again to enter God’s kingdom. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6). Having a public conversion is not the only way to have a salvation encounter. We need to evaluate an encounter by internal transformation rather than external manifestation. Even a quiet surrender to Jesus in the privacy of a home is a true salvation encounter if it brings internal transformation by the Holy Spirit.

We can understand this better by looking at man as a three-part being: body, soul (will, intellect, emotions) and spirit. Religion operates on a body/soul level, following “taste not, touch not” rules that outwardly conform members to the expectations of that religious grouping. This produces people that Paul describes as having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim 3:5). The true power of godliness is that God recreates our spirit so that we become a new creation, a partaker of the divine nature, and are brought into a living relationship with the living God. This inner transformation will inevitably also lead to change on the body/soul level, however not as an attempt to conform to an external religious standard but as true change transforming us from the inside out.

Most of us have various encounters with God on our spiritual journey. We start our journey with a salvation encounter, and may also experience healing encounters, supernatural Holy Spirit manifestation encounters and Word revelation encounters. Peter’s spiritual insight into who Jesus truly was, was the result of a divine revelation encounter (Matt. 16:13-18). Jesus will build His Church on such revelation encounters and as a result the Church will be so empowered that even the highest ranking demonic forces (those at the gates of hell) will not be able to overcome it. Word revelation encounters are vital in this current season to see the Church mature to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

Sometimes we need an encounter with God to connect with our spiritual destiny, with God’s purpose. We may need this because we have backslidden or drifted away from the Lord. Or we may need such an encounter because we have lost our spiritual fervor and need the fire to be lit again. This was the case with the lukewarm Laodicean church (Revelation 3). We are encouraged to Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11). The word “fervor” in Greek literally means “heat that boils water”. Simply put, we need to be on fire for Jesus!

Sometimes we need an encounter that connects us with God’s purpose, not because we are backslidden or have lost our spiritual fervor, but because we need to be upgraded and repositioned for a new season. Biblical restoration is not moving back to a previous condition but forward to God’s original intention. To illustrate this, we are not simply taking an old, run-down VW Beetle and restoring it to the condition it was in when it left the factory floor, but are rather upgrading the Beetle to a Porsche 911. Who wants to drive a VW Beetle, even a beautifully restored one, if you can upgrade to a Porsche 911?! Let us not settle for anything less than God’s original intention for our lives.

When considering this vital, life transforming issue of encountering God, we need to ask an important question: Are such encounters the result of divine initiative or are they God’s response to a heart that’s hungry, seeking after Him? To answer this it will be helpful to look at the history of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. The believers were in constant prayer and all together in one place when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1&2). When Peter and John were forbidden by the religious leaders to speak about Jesus, they joined with the other believers and prayed for boldness. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31). In Acts 9 we read about Paul’s dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. This seems to be mostly divine initiative – but likely also a response to misdirected zeal for God based on an obsolete revelation, and of Christians praying for Paul. Cornelius’ encounter was the result of seeking God. Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God” (Acts 10:4). The Church at Antioch was worshiping the Lord, fasting and praying when the Holy Spirit commissioned Paul and Barnabas. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:2-3). Paul and Silas were praying and praising God in prison when power of God hit the place. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose (Acts 16:25-26). Note that everybody’s chains came loose, not just that of Paul and Silas. Through prayer and worship Paul and Silas facilitated a God encounter for everybody in prison, including the jailer and his family.

So looking at these encounters we can conclude that while divine initiative plays a role – God after all knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need and when we need it but a heart that is hungry and seeking after God also plays a key role in having a God encounter.

Please note we are NOT talking about religious activity designed to convince God that He must intervene in our situation, but rather about a spiritual positioning that will enable us to engage our problem from the spirit dimension. God is a loving Father, who so much desires to help us that He sent Jesus to the cross. But we need to operate in accordance with the spiritual laws that God set in place to govern the natural realm, or He will simply not be able to help us. Note how many of the Acts encounters came while God’s people were praying and worshiping. This is not surprising because the altar of incense (= prayer and worship) moved into the Most Holy Place (Heb. 9:3-4). Worship and prayer help to move soul clutter out of the way and focus our spirit man so that we can interact with and encounter God who is Spirit. Sometimes Christians will make a statement like “I feel as though my prayers bounce off the ceiling, I can’t reach God”. This is because a religious mindset creates distance between us and God, but the foundation of new covenant theology is that God lives inside of us!

Paul describes the mystery of the new covenant as Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). The heart of the problem is not that God is far away, but that body/soul level issues like tiredness, illness, own desires, anger, stress etc become stumbling blocks to connecting with God on a spirit level. Jesus gave us the right to enter the Most Holy Place by His blood, and we are strongly encouraged in to make use of this right. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, … let us draw near to God (Heb. 10:19-22). The way we enter is through worship and prayer. Every believer has access to the Most Holy Place – the Church needs to mature beyond a “prayer-line dependency” to having a personal encounter with God. When we enter the Most Holy Place we access the mind of Christ (individually and corporately) and only then can we operate with true governmental authority.

By definition governmental authority means operating with the authority of the government under which you function. This is only possible when you align with what that government has authorized. Only when we access the mind of Christ can we align with what He has authorized. Only then can we pray the prayer of decree (definition: a rule of law issued by a head of state). Then we become God’s access point for heaven to break into earth, for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.