The Emmanuel Factor
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us).
What we take for granted now will soon fade into the fogginess of a dim memory on its way to total neglect and total obscurity.”
One of the greatest examples of the truth conveyed in the above quote is seen in Americans’ insouciant, lackadaisical attitude toward and lack of participation in their own government. The unique form of polity conceived by our founding fathers created a highly decentralized government calling for individuals to be significantly self-governing. This is the meaning signified in the preamble to our Constitution in the phrase, “We the people…” However, looking back over more than 240 years of our national history, we can see how government has gradually and mostly surreptitiously shifted from the hands of the people to the once hallowed halls of Congress and the administration. Take for granted, watch the memory fade. Suffer the consequence of neglect.
I believe one of the most extraordinary, phenomenal and miraculous realities of all time is imperiled because of the truth expressed in the above quote—presumption on its way to total neglect via fading memories. I am speaking here of the miraculous reality of God indwelling believers by his Holy Spirit. Nowhere else in all of creation’s history can one discover a worshiped deity who became a living reality in the lives of the followers. Maybe this was the principal reason that outside of Christianity all other religions rely on iconic representations to keep the aspirants focused. All false gods are finite in nature and therefore can be reduced to an image and definable terms. Because they have no real life, they must be symbolically represented to hold the devotion of their adherents. But almighty God, maker of heaven and earth and all that is therein requires no such thing. His presence to those who know and love him is unquestionable and palpable.
From the very beginnings of Israel’s calling and formation as a unique people of God, it has always been God’s desire and purpose to have an imminent presence with his people:
And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.” Ex25:8 NRSV
And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.” Ex 29:46 RSV
The Lord succinctly states his purpose in rescuing Israel out of Egypt; his whole intention was to establish a unique people, a nation set apart unto himself, a faithful community through whom he might show to the other nations the only true God, his “…own possession among all the peoples…” with whom he could manifestly dwell.
Although the tabernacle and all its accompanying parts, activities and utensils were an outward expression of God’s relationship with man, it profoundly reflected and pointed to the coming inward reality of God’s presence by his Holy Spirit. Israel of old is a type both of the church and of the authentic new life in Christ. God was emphatic concerning their following the heavenly pattern in building, in furnishing and in carrying out the ministry of the tabernacle:
You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.” Ex 25:9 NLT
In the same manner our lives must be “fashioned” after the heavenly pattern; our lives must be shaped like Christ. God’s manifest presence in the tabernacle and subsequently the temple required a strict adherence to the prescribed heavenly pattern. Realizing God’s presence in our lives follows the same guidelines; we must pattern our lives after Jesus’ life. This is one reason that living the transformational life in Christ is so imperative. Being conformed to his image is not an optional add-on if we are so inclined. The more we experience the real presence of God, the more we will walk in wisdom, enjoy greater revelation and find ourselves more perfectly fulfilling God’s will and purpose for our lives. But even more importantly, we will be fostering what our heavenly Father has desired from eternity past—we will be allowing him to have his rightful place in our lives:
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Deut 14:2 NKJV
As the church, we are the new Israel, the new peculiar people of God. We are those with whom God has always wanted to dwell. The Lord has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light that in Christ he might have glorious and continual fellowship with us. He is separating us from all this world’s kingdoms, calling us unto himself and revealing Jesus in us that our very lives might become a proclamation of the Good News to a dying and lost world (Gal 1:16).
Seeing God’s heart and intentions regarding his eternal desire to dwell with us, what is our response? What would constitute a faithful, loyal and obedient answer to him who created all things in heaven and on earth to be in time brought together under his beloved Son and who now offers to make us co-heirs with the Son? Anything less than absolute surrender to his immeasurable love and faultless will would be tantamount to rejection of the Emanual factor. It would be in essence the most idolatress thing we could imagine or do by denying God his rightful place in our lives and substituting ourselves in his place. In reality, only one of two personages can assume the throne in one’s life; it will be either God or yourself.
This is why discipleship is not a unique fraternity of upper-class Christians but rather is the calling and destiny of all true believers in Jesus Christ. Becoming a disciple of Christ is the absolute surrender qualifying as the only faithful response to God’s incarnational offer in Christ. We see this kind of reaction to Jesus in his invitation to Levi, a most despised publican among the Jews, saying unto him, “follow me.”
So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.” Luke 5:28 NLT
Following, being a disciple, is all about becoming like the master. Jesus said, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord…”
Being mindful of the Lord’s residency by his Holy Spirit in our lives assumes some definite characteristics and behaviors. It means we will joyfully, intentionally and consistently foster ever-growing intimacy in our relationship with the Lord. That presumes a disciplined life of prayer, study of the Word and willful obedience to his ways and desiring to please him in all matters of life. It means that in every area of life our allegiance is to King Jesus and his kingdom, not the kingdoms of this present world. Giving heed to our indwelling Lord means contextualizing all of life in the eternal rather than the temporal. The Emmanuel Factor will govern all relationships freeing one from selfish manipulation to seeking to call others into their fullness of life in Christ.
One final thought regarding the Emmanuel Factor. We are all on one of two tracks spiritually with respect to the Lord’s indwelling presence. Either we have enthroned him in our hearts and our lives bowing to his will in faithful obedience in all matters of life and living, or we are in some stage of presumption wherein we are progressing from taking the God of all creation for granted passing through fading memory on our way to total neglect and obscurity. In the beginning, the call to follow is loud and clarion. With neglect, the invitation wanes and blurs until it becomes indistinguishable from and blended with the call of this world.
May we all come to rise each new day with the spirit of this Hillsong chorus as the prayer in our minds, our hearts and on our lips…
Lord I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I’m awake
Lord have Your way in me