“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Brittle tension gripped the room. Jesus’s actions had made everyone in the room uncomfortable. He had taken off His outer garment, had wrapped Himself with a towel, and had begun to wash their feet …..
Each of His apostles appreciated the kindness that He was showing them. But, Jesus was their Lord and teacher. They should be washing His feet instead of Jesus washing their feet. As usual, the impetuous Peter blurted out what many of them were thinking: “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” However, then Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:10)
Something inside us makes accepting Jesus’ grace hard for us: “Surely there’s something I must do to deserve this?” Like Peter, we feel like we have to deserve His gifts or we shouldn’t receive them. Or, we think we can get even more of Jesus’ grace by being better, being more committed, or working harder: “What can I do to get more of what you are offering Jesus?”
When Paul promised the Philippians (and us) that “the Lord is near”– we can feel like we have to earn that presence. In our eagerness, we are willing to work harder, but we need to know the formula to make it happen: What do I need to do, you ask?
What’s the secret to ensuring this presence is a part of my life, especially when I can’t seem to find evidence of His presence right now?
My answer to these questions? The power of the oak is in the acorn …. I can just see the perplexed looks now ….. “Huh? We can’t make an oak tree,” you’re probably thinking ….
Well, the power to make an oak tree is found in the acorn. I’ve been studying this in my devotion time so that I may learn to be more fully rooted and grounded in God’s Word. He promises us in Jeremiah and Isaiah that we can be trees of righteousness ….
Check it out, This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord . They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
We can provide a good environment for the acorn to grow, but a towering oak tree actually begins with an acorn. That acorn provides the DNA and all that goes into making that tree all that it can be. Oak trees are the strongest there is. Sure, that acorn needs good soil, the right amount of moisture at the appropriate times, and the proper amount of sunlight to build a well grounded tree ….
However, we can provide the right soil, the right moisture, and the proper amount of sunlight and still never get an oak tree. Essentially, if we don’t have the proper nutrients, we’re not going to be planted solidly, nor produce any fruit. Get it — we don’t get an oak tree …..
Our assurance that the Lord will be present with us isn’t tied to our ability to deserve God’s presence, to acquire His presence, or to achieve enough so that we are owed His presence. The power to experience the Lord’s promised presence resides in Jesus, and His promises, not in what we can do to make the promise happen. God promised that He would be present with us always: “even unto the very end of time” (Matthew 28:20).
God is faithful. God always keeps His promises …..
We can help make sure God’s acorn of grace falls into good soil, finds appropriate moisture, and receives the proper amount of light. Paul provides several spiritual practices to help God’s promised presence to thrive in us found in (Philippians 4:4-9):
Rejoice in the Lord and what He has done for us. Display gentleness to others. Pray regularly, always including thanksgiving with our requests. Think on good, wholesome, beautiful, and holy things. Put into practice what Paul teaches. And the result? He will be with us always …
These are all good, life-giving, spiritual practices. We do them because they are attributes of a true follower of Jesus. We do them because they are good to do. We don’t do them to force God to honor His promises or to manipulate the Lord for His promised presence. God is sovereign. What we do can’t manipulate God into anything. However, when we do these spiritual practices, our hearts are more open to recognizing God’s work in our lives. They help us become conduits of His grace; the very grace that He wants to share with us and share through us ….
God promised us His presence because He loves us and longs to be in relationship with us. This longing to be in relationship with us is a key theme throughout the story of the Bible. It begins in the Bible’s earliest chapters as God “walked with” His human children “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:6). He shares His presence with us out of His unfathomable love and infinite grace for us. It is a gift God longs to give us. It is rooted in His desire to know us and be known by us. The power of the promise is in “The Promiser”!
Jesus instucted us to do “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The words obviously point to the teaching of our Lord recorded in the Gospels; the new laws of life the He has given us, which are exceedingly broad and deep, found beginning with the Sermon on the Mount, the new commandment of love for each other (John 13:34), and continuing on through the teachings of Paul. But we may also believe and rest assured that His instructions went further than this, and that His words may cover much more area because He told them, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” (Matthew 10:27). This applies to us as well.
He said, “I am with you always.” This literally means all the days, in all the darkest nights, or at ALL times; His words are emphasising continuity. The “days” that were coming might seem long and dark and dreary, but He, their Lord, would be with them, in each of those days, even to the far-off end ….
Therefore, let’s trust in the Almighty’s love and grace knowing that the Lord’s presence is near! As a response to that love and grace, let’s also provide the right soil for His acorn of grace to grow. When we do, we will discover the blessing that our Lord is near and His presence will “never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5).
Let us pray ~
Heavenly Father, I come to You today knowing that the world seems to be a melting pot of stress and anxiety. The world seeks after peace and yet Lord, we know that there is no peace outside of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Look down in pity on those that do not know You and who have foolishly turned from the true and living God to the false promises of peace from fallen man and corrupt governments.
Thank You that You are a good God Whose yoke is easy and Whose burden is light and yet there are many who have been taught lies and untruths about Who You are. Lord there are many that have been brought up in an environment of hatred and violence who have not heard of Your name or have been fed a tissue of lies about the Lord Jesus and yet He is the only hope for true peace in this world. Lord, I pray that in Your grace You would convict many of their need of Jesus and that many would be saved from the jaws of death. Look down in mercy on those that are unsaved we pray in this warring world and turn their hearts towards their waiting Saviour and the only Prince of Peace, in Whose name I pray, Amen ….