People often say, “I believe in Jesus and God and I have asked for forgiveness. I know I am saved, but I just can’t feel God- I see others can feel him- but I can’t! What is wrong? Am I forgiven? Am I really going to heaven? If so, why can’t I feel God inside?” I feel moved by the Holy Spirit to address with to everyone today.
If you have given your life fully to Jesus and if you believe he is the Son of God, fully authorized by God to lift you up on the day of resurrection – then you are saved. If you ask for forgiveness of your sins, Jesus forgives you. That is simple.
What is not simple is truly believing what you just said- and what is not easy is giving your entire life to God’s service. This is the crux of your problem (and every human being’s problem.)
When people are asked, “Do you believe that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood was shed as a final sacrifice to make you right with God?” , they often answer too flippantly- “Yes, I do!”
But the question is, “Do you really believe that?” Do you really believe that Jesus came to this earth- the Son of God- fully man and yet, fully divine, to die for you? And that he came for only one purpose- to save mankind from death? Do you even understand what that means? Most people don’t. Ancient Jews understood this but modern Americans don’t. We lack the cultural heritage of the Jews at the time, who were accustomed to sacrifices to atone for their sins to God. We don’t understand the significance of ‘sacrifices’ made to redeem ourselves with God- and how Jesus’ sacrifice is the final sacrifice. We don’t understand why this covers our sin & leads to everlasting life with God. Let’s look at that.
Death is the consequence of sin, according to God. God’s very nature is pure righteousness. Our sin separates us from him- not because he walks away, but because we walk away. We can’t exist with him in our current sinful state. Something about our sinful state actually prevents us from being with God. His love for us, however, is so profound, that he wanted to give us a way to ‘get past’ our inherent sinful nature. So that we can be with God- so that we can exist in his presence. Which is what he wants- it is why he created us- so that he can have children ‘in his own image’.
(Genesis 1: 26-27) 26Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
In the old days, people would prove their love, devotion and repentance for theirs sin to God by taking the best of what they owned and giving it up so that God would believe they were sorry. That is why they sacrificed their best animals, etc. God wanted them to prove they were sorry and that they honored him enough to give these things up. This is how they made themselves right with God after they had sinned.
But, in Hebrews 9-10, Apostle Paul explained that God had a second purpose for this: to prove, once and for all, that no human being could EVER sacrifice enough of their possessions to cover their continual sin. That we would have to sacrifice day in and day out to cover our unending sinfulness! Which would be impossible!
The Jews lived in constant guilt and fear- because they knew they couldn’t ever produce enough pure animals or grain to cover their continual sin! They were frustrated and never felt ‘good enough’- this caused many to just give up entirely! Paul tells us God did this on purpose.
He wanted to prepare humanity for his final act of love- his final gift- his final solution- the only way- that would allow us to fully atone for our sins: JESUS.
Jesus explained to us WHY God loves him so much: because he obeys God in everything.
29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29)
It is clear that Jesus wished to avoid his death by such horrific means. But he obeyed God’s will that he should go through it. This points to Jesus’ love for God and also his love for us. Jesus wished to please God through his obedience. And he knew that God wanted to redeem his children. How much would you love a child who was willing to die so that you could have your dream? God adores and honors Jesus for his sacrifice too. So much so, that he will believe anything Jesus tells him about us. Regardless of our own actions, God will believe JESUS in his testimony about us.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” John 5:19-23
37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”- John 6: 37-40
50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”- John 8:50-51
Jesus is God’s gift to humanity. The only sacrifice that is worthy enough to cover our continual state of sin is Jesus himself. Because Jesus chose to provide the final sacrifice, God has given him the full authority to forgive our sins and make us white as snow- even though we weren’t and aren’t white as snow. Just the testimony of Jesus will convince God of our love, repentance and desire to be right with him. Our love for Jesus is enough for God.
(John 3: 16-21) 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Because God loves and honors his son so much and saw how much Jesus loved us when he went through torture and death for us, God will believe everything that Jesus says about us. Satan will stand and accuse us before God. He will literally list all our sins (which we really did do!) as testimony to God. But Jesus will testify that we are righteous before God. And God will take Jesus’ word and will accept us into his kingdom. Those who have chosen to not accept Jesus will not receive this testimony before God. Not only Satan will testify against us, but God will be angered even more at our willful tossing away of his precious son’s gift. (How angry would you be if your child gave their life just so that you could give a gift to another child- and that worthless kid smacked it away like a spoiled brat? How much would that hurt your heart that your child died to provide that gift- and it was spit on by another brat??)
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down- Rev. 12:10.
God knows that this step is extremely hard for human beings- it sounds easy- but it is not. Because Jesus doesn’t testify for us for free. No, he doesn’t. He has a price. And his price is nothing less than your entire life on this earth. Yes, you heard me- your entire life. Loving Jesus is obeying Jesus. Loving Jesus is to lay down our lives for our friends. Loving Jesus is to serve him with all our mind, body and soul. Jesus spoke of his testimony and the price for his testimony here in Matthew 10:32 –
2 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c] 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
We see that in this story in Matthew 19: 6-23
6 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]” 20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
We also see this in Luke 9:59-62
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus knew that the price for his testimony would not only cost us our entire life- but that we would also be tormented on this earth as a further price. And yes, he expects you to endure this in order to go out and ‘love one another’. Yes. We are to lay down our lives to help others come to Christ. That is his command for all who want his testimony on that judgment day:
(John 15: 9-26) 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
That is the test- the sacrifice- by which we can make ourselves right with God. No goats or sheep or birds or wheat can do the trick. They are too easy and are not convincing to God. No. He wants everything from us. And when we say we believe in Jesus, God fully understands what that will cost us. It will cost us our entire earthly lives. And that is the only way God will know, for sure, that you are sorry, that you choose him and that you love him. You are to say with your mouth, “Jesus is my Lord.” That means you OBEY him and swear your lifelong OBEDIENCE and SERVITUDE to him, doesn’t it? People take this too lightly and then wonder why they don’t feel him in their lives. No, FIRST establish your pledge, then reap your reward. The servant serves first and then the king rewards. That is the established order. SERVE first. Reap second.
So, if you don’t feel God there can only be one reason: You have not laid down your entire life to serve Jesus and God. You retain your life above your commitment to God- your children, your husband or wife, your family, your job, your home. If you retain your life, you are not worthy of Jesus. And you won’t ‘feel’ him. We need to love Christ more than our child! Imagine that! More than our husband. More than our parents. And ultimately, more than our lives. Luckily, God rarely asks us to give these precious people up in our service to him- but that is not the point. The point is your intent and your loyalty and your willingness to serve God.
The process didn’t end when you said you believed in him. You need to grow and mature in God. You do this by laying down your life to his service. Yes, it’s a tall order. But that is what God wants. Just everything.
Only in this way can we truly build a relationship with Jesus and with God. One must get to know someone deeply in order to feel them in our hearts. We must build a relationship with God- that happens over time- and your entire mind & heart must be with him. How do you get to know God? Through constant prayer. Never stop talking to God. Never. Forget starting with ‘Dear God’ and ending with ‘Amen.’ Forget closing your eyes and don’t wait until you go to bed. Pray ceaselessly. Give yourself to God and let him know YOU- then, he will give himself to you.
How do you learn to hear God’s voice? By reading his WORD. By reading and studying the Living Word, the Bible, you will learn exactly what God’s ‘voice’ sounds like. Eventually, you will discover how to hear the voice of God above and beyond all the din of the world. You will no longer distrust the inner voice that is God when he speaks to you through His Holy Spirit. You will simply KNOW. As I know.
Then, believe me, you will indeed feel God. So much so that tears of overpowering happiness will stream down your face. You will come to understand the ‘joy that passes all understanding.’ Fear & respect first, obedience & love second and then comes the joy. That is the promise for which we all live. And God never fails to deliver.
**** A special note from Susan (ie, Short Little Rebel) dated Nov. 28, 2014): I’m writing this note because this article continues to prove exceptionally popular. I don’t want anyone to confuse my meaning in this article. This article is not about salvation. It is about feeling God’s presence in your life. Salvation is simple. You speak your belief with your mouth. That is salvation. But developing a close relationship with Christ is another thing. If you examine the life of the apostles and the early Christians, you will note something very important. They experienced two stages of their Christianity- they were saved first. Then, they received the fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that salvation doesn’t happen without the Holy Spirit. The bible isn’t incredibly clear if the Holy Spirit is intensely involved at that point. Christ tells us that we speak our salvation into being with our tongues. We speak our faith in him and his ability to redeem us from our sins. Our faith in him saves us. Is the Holy Spirit a part of that? Most modern theologians believe that. But the bible doesn’t speak directly to the point, in my opinion. We will ask God when we get there. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are saved at that moment, just as the sinful thief was as he merely implied the words in his simple statement, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” I have no doubt that God intended his example to remain in the bible for perpetuity for a very specific reason- to prove to the world forever how simple and plain salvation really is. This is why cults like the Mormons take this verse out of their version of the bible. Thus, you can very much be saved and not ‘feel’ the presence of God.
This article is addressing why saved Christians can’t feel the presence of God and is trying to help them become closer in relationship to him in the only way possible: by dying to this world.
The Apostles and early Christians all were saved because they believed in Christ when he lived. However, they did not receive the gift of the Holy Spirit until after his death and resurrection at Pentecost. Many theologians believe that the centurion and his household whom Peter visited were already Christians beforehand. They received the fiery gift of the Holy Spirit many months after they were saved. In fact, they received the Holy Spirit before they were even baptized with water. Thus, the order of events can be mixed up. I have heard some Christians say things like, “People aren’t saved until they are water baptized” or, ‘until they receive the Holy Spirit” or “until they receive the gift of tongues’, etc, etc. But they are all incorrect. The example of the thief proves them all dead wrong. He had none of these. His simple, imperfect profession of faith was enough. Christ honored his implied assumption. So, salvation is one thing. The gift of the fiery Holy Spirit is another. It is the fiery gift of the Holy Spirit, I believe, that makes us ‘feel’ the presence of God.
This fiery gift of the Holy Spirit does not come to anyone who does not lay their entire life down to God. That much I know. I have received this gift. I was a Christian for at least 15 years before I receive this incredible gift. You can read about it in One Christian’s Journey.
It’s been a long time since I wrote this article and I have only just re-read some of my replies below. I regret my curtness now. I have changed and am a more chastised version of my old self. I hope this note clarifies the intent of this article. Salvation is one thing. Developing a close relationship to Christ and God is another. One is simple- the other requires everything you are.