Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sensing the Presence of God: Is It Biblical?

Can you sense the presence of God?  If so, how do you sense the presence of God?  Furthermore, is it even necessary to sense the presence of God?  Why does it matter? I've been in meetings where the leaders of the meeting say they sense the presence of God.  I have heard reports of meetings from men saying they sensed the presence of God.  I've read missionary letters in which the missionary reported as being in a meeting where he sensed the presence of God.  In almost every occasion, it is someone who felt the presence of God, so it's predominately, as I have heard and read, a feeling.

When I was younger, because I heard the above types of statements, I wanted to feel the presence of God or understand how someone could feel His presence.  On a regular basis, other people with great confidence said that they could feel God's presence in their life.  I thought I must be missing out on that, because I didn't feel it. Sometimes I prayed to God that I would feel his presence or know that His presence was in my life.  After I prayed that, I looked for some kind of sign that it was true, a feeling of some kind.  I started to interpret sensations as His presence, not knowing whether they were His presence or not.  All of this was because others had said it was something I should expect.

Perhaps you've considered the Christian song, written in 1847 by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte, "Abide With Me," that in addition to being a prayer by Christians for God to abide with them, contains this verse:
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
This is a favorite of revivalist southern gospel quartets.  It exacerbates this yearning for a feeling of God's presence or a sense of His presence that is subjective and mystical.  When I read through all of the verses, I don't think the contents are taught in scripture.  The message of the song clashes with the teaching of scripture.  God promises to abide with us, if we are saved.  No man can pluck us out of His hand.  We couldn't be closer to Him and we don't need to pray for His abiding or think that we could miss it.

The biography of Lyte, the author of "Abide with Me," reveals a revivalistic influence on his life that would yield such lyrics.  The song has been not just a favorite of the saved, but also the unsaved, including both King George V and VI of England.  It has been sung at the English Cup soccer final since 1927 by the entire crowd (story).  Concerning his song, modern hymnologist Erik Routley writes in his A Panorama of Christian Hymnody (p. 45),
Perhaps the centrally 'romantic' hymn of all hymns is the intensely personal yet, as it has proved, wholly universal hymn, 'Abide with me.'"
He calls it a "romantic hymn," which is a product of a period, not scripture.

In addition to the language of "sensing God's presence," I've furthermore heard men announce that they had prayed for "God to come down" or "asked God to be with us in a special way."  In 1 Kings 18, fire comes from heaven in answer to Elijah's prayer that burned up the "sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench."  Sometimes I've heard the prayer for God's presence is worded like "fire coming down."  The Shekinah glory of the Lord came down in the newly dedicated temple of Solomon.

These occasions in the Old Testament are not normative for today.  David could lose the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit was upon him in a unique "upon ministry" (not "in") of the Holy Spirit for his service as King of Israel.  It was symbolized by the anointing with oil.  In Ezekiel we read of the presence of God leaving Jerusalem because of an apostate nation.  We don't read anything like that in the New Testament.  The filling of the Spirit comes by yielding to the Holy Spirit, rather than quenching the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is already in a believer and will not leave a believer, but will not fill the believer, that is, control him, when he is not submitted to the Holy Spirit.

I don't know of one passage of scripture that says anything about sensing or feeling the presence of God.  Maybe I could end this essay right there.  What we do know is that God's presence is everywhere.  That's called His omnipresence.  He is present everywhere, but there is more to the presence of God than His omnipresence.

God is everywhere, but He is with believers in a unique way (Is 41:10).  God is everywhere, but He is in a unique way not in Hell, because only sinners are there (2 Thess 1:7-9).  Before the Holy Spirit came, Jesus wanted believers to pray for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). Once the Holy Spirit came, they didn't keep praying for Him to come, to be baptized by Him, even to be filled with Him. He's already there.  You don't ask for what you already have.  You just believe that you have it.  That is living by faith.

Jesus is said to walk in His churches or to be with the group (Revelation 1:19-2:1, Matthew 18:18-20, 28:19-20).  He is not with the Laodicean church, but not because they weren't praying for Him to stay.  He wasn't there because He wasn't welcome in the church, which is to say that the entire church had turned away from Him.  This is an apostate church full of apostate believers, a church full of Judases.

Further than the reality of God's presence is the sensing of God's presence or feeling of it.  If God is there, how do you know He is there?  It isn't through "sensing" it or "feeling" it.  When people tell you they sense God's presence, it is akin to a Charismatic experience, where Charismatics attribute to the Holy Spirit certain events or activities that are unscriptural or non-scriptural.  Most of those they are just making up, telling a tale.  They're not true.  I'm saying they're lies.  It's the same with the sensing of God's Spirit.

Men will say they sense the Holy Spirit with a voice of authority or with a complete sense of conviction.  They believe they have sensed the presence of God.  The statement is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Someone wanted it, so he felt it, and then he reported it.  Now it's true.  It isn't true, except that he said it.

What gives credence or authority to the one saying he sensed God is others saying nothing to refute it.  They don't want to, because it's offensive to the one saying it.  He'll argue.  He'll become angry.  It's normal for Charismatics to whom I talk. They want none of it. Usually they say you're unloving, because you questioned their experience.  Christians will just give up on talking to this person and that adds to the experience.  He thinks he's getting advocacy now.  When no one speaks up, others think it's true.  It must be.  This person with great credibility said it happened.

When someone says he sensed God's presence, it authenticates what he's done.  What he's doing might not even be the right thing, but it is the right thing because he sensed God's presence while it was happening.  That authorizes the event.  Now it must be right and it can't be questioned. The authority comes from the experience.

The sensing of God's presence is also considered to be evidence of an answer to prayer.  Someone prayed for the presence of God, which wasn't necessary and was faithless, but he could say that he got an answer.  "God is answering his prayers."  Because God is "answering his prayers," then what he is doing must be right.  It becomes a means of validation.

What occurs then is that other people start looking for the experience of sensing God's presence.  If they don't sense it, they think of themselves or feel like they are second class Christians.  They are missing an experience that Christians are supposed to have.  It's not true.  They don't have to "sense the Holy Spirit or God."  They don't have to feel anything like that.

What should Christians expect that would indicate they are saved people and, therefore, have the presence of God in their lives, His special presence?  It is objective evidence presented by scripture.  As a brief summary, the presence of God shows itself:  fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), usefulness in the church (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12), boldness in preaching (Acts 4:31), obedience to scripture (Colossians 3:16), and the right relationships (Ephesians 5:18-6:6).  Furthermore, a person remains faithful to God, endures in his faith in Jesus Christ, doesn't give up on the Christian life, and depart from the church.  All of these manifest his abiding in Christ and Christ's abiding in him. These are objective and measurable.  Every Christian can do them.  There are no spiritual have-nots.

If these of the previous paragraph are the objective witness of the presence of God in a believer's life, what is it that these other men feel or sense of the presence of God?  It's very ambiguous with a lot of deniability.  It's like a spiritual rorshach test. They can see whatever they want in whatever impulse or feeling.  If you criticize it, they can just deny it.  Was it a feeling?  "Oh no!"  Unless it was.  At the moment of your question, no, it wasn't.  They still had the sense though.

What happens in five or ten or twenty years and the whole movement falls by the wayside?  What's the explanation for the sudden disappearance of the presence of God?  In most of these cases, God was never there in the first place.  Someone depended on these highly subjective experiences, which weren't even true.

What I've noticed is that the experiences are produced by people.  They use music.  They use a particular speaking voice.  They create an environment that people can feel.  They stay positive, their audience then feels positive, so they are happy.  Their upbeat, happy disposition says, Holy Spirit's presence.  These effects can be caused.  Sometimes people feel guilt and they want to rid themselves of the feeling of guilt.  When they don't feel guilty any more, absolved by the effects of a special service, they'll leave feeling better.  It may be that nothing really happened, except for the impression that everything was now fine.  It wasn't fine and it isn't, but they felt like it, so they assumed it was.

Men should stop talking about sensing or feeling the presence of God.  It isn't something anyone should expect.  No one should look for it.  Whatever feeling someone may have could only cause deceit or confusion.  Being faithful to God, actually faithful to Him, requires trusting in the presence of God, whether the feeling is there or not.


Bill Hardecker said...

But what about communion with God? Faith is what makes God/Christ/the Holy Spirit real to us. Does faith not produce a sense of love to God and by God? I want to avoid the pitfalls: authority comes from the experience, the experience becomes the means of validation. I get that. I reject that because that puts feelings ahead of truth and faith. But what about being convicted by the Holy Spirit upon hearing the preached word of God? A conscience awakened, or even challenged, a heart that is pierced - - brought about by a new or fresh or even renewed understanding of God's Word? When I read, "did not our hearts burn within us" due to the exposition of the Scriptures, I think, yep, I get that way, too. Is that not a feeling?
Nevertheless, I will be swift to hear, and slow to speak...since we really do live in a day and age where Keswick/Charismatic/Pentecostal theology has shaped our thinking more so than we care to admit. At least, more so than I care to admit.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Is your heart burning a sense of the presence of God? If this feeling is evidence of the presence of God, how would that be different than a "burning in the bosom" as a sign that he had the presence of God?

I believe there are consequential feelings. Guilt. Regret. Sadness. Happiness. They are deceptive as far as what information they give.

I was thinking about this related to the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit. How does He do that? The fruit of the Spirit. That is objective. There are at least four different ways the Holy Spirit manifests Himself.

It's not a matter of doubting communion with God rather what is communion with God. God -- Father, Son, Holy Spirit -- speaks through His Word and us through prayer.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Kent, I agree with the main point of your article, and I can't say that I disagree with any of it either. I have a comment and a question.

Comment: I "sense" a distinct lack of "God's presence" and feel quite grieved physically when I hear preaching that dishonors Scripture. I suppose God is there because His people are there, and they do not have a Laodicean spirit among them. Yet, I often leave these types of services feeling quite empty.

On the other hand, my spirit rejoices to hear the Word of God magnified in preaching. And it does have a physical and emotional effect on me besides challenging me in spirit.

Question: As you can probably recall, I like to understand better about prayer. Here and at other times you indicate that it is "worthless" and even unscriptural (or non-scriptural) to pray for things that we already have. Then (I believe), you've also said that we should only pray for things that are in His will. I've taken that to mean that we pray for the things that we already know He wants to do or has promised to do. Because we know those are His will.

I know I'm missing something here, but if He has promised to be with us, why shouldn't we pray for His presence? Isn't it His will to be with us? Isn't asking for His presence, praying "in His will"?

I could mention many other examples, but I think the one demonstrates my confusion.

Thank you,

Kent Brandenburg said...


I believe you have best interests.

On the feelings you have about preaching, you are right to feel a certain way about things. Jesus felt bad when they were defiling the house of God, and He reacted to it. That's the right way to feel. Is that the Holy Spirit though? We don't know. It's one of many possibilities, none of which you know. We don't know because scripture doesn't say.

It's not the same thing, and I think we could go through the entire model prayer together and see that. His kingdom hasn't come yet. When we're in it, we won't be praying for it. We pray for things He promised us, but that doesn't mean that (1) we have it or (2) will continue to have it. David may have lost it, so he prayed for it. We can't lose it, which is why we don't pray for it. It's also why we don't have that prayer request.

Your judgment of what isn't God's presence is based on objective knowledge about God. God said it. Scripture is sufficient.

I don't see there being a historical doctrine of "sense the presence of God." I'm not saying that you won't find anything like it in a very, very few instances, but it isn't a teaching. I think it is an error that perpetuates itself. IF it's the truth, you can find it. It's picked up as an idea because of false teaching.

Thanks for commenting. I hope others are considering it as you are.

James Bronsveld said...

If the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the not the presence of God, I don't know what would be. The fact that I might have assurance that something is either pleasing or displeasing to God (preaching, behaviour) comes from the confidence of knowing what the Scripture says and God's pleasure in obedience to it, not from a feeling given by the Spirit to tell me so. In other words, the truth of God is the focus (objective), not the sensory experience of God (subjective). Not placing the focus rightly results in a shift towards looking for that feeling as a means to determine truth, which has the effect of diminishing the Scripture as authority and elevating human experience and emotion. After all, if I know objectively from Scripture something is pleasing or displeasing to God, what does it matter what feeling I get as a result?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree completely. People depend on feelings instead of scripture. This is something I did not say in my essay, but it certainly could be added. People seek these experiences or are influenced by others who seek them and say they had them. Then they expect to have them or wonder why they have not, when scripture doesn't teach to expect them.

Anonymous said...

We are commanded in 1 Chron. 16:11 to “Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually”. The word for face in that verse is “presence”. I believe God”s presence is the very thing lacking in a lot of Independent Baptist Churches. Pastors are content just knowing that God is omnipresent. The last few chapters in Exodus you see the nation of Israel preparing to build the tabernacle. They did everything God had told them to do and the tabernacle was completely in order as God had said. The tabernacle though by itself didn’t have much significance until the presence of God was there. Moses had everything right but not until God showed up did it mean anything. God’s presence with Israel made them different from all other nations. This example is a principle. God’s presence is what matters. In order to know and see his presence everything that he has commanded must be in place. In order to know God’s presence God’s people must humble themselves, confess all known sin, and be filled with the Spirit. God doesn’t show up unless things have been prepared for him and his people have obeyed. “Draw night to God and he will draw nigh to you.” God dwells in a special way with those who have a humble and contrite heart. I contend that God’s presence is the life to Biblical orthodoxy. You can believe everything right and but if you don’t have God’s presence it won’t do you any good. Pastors ought to be seeking God’s presence so that the unconverted can come into our churches and say that “God is in you of a truth.” Seeking the Lord’s presence is simply saying, God if we don’t meet with you then it’s worthless. The lack of God’s presence is the reason why so many young people are heading into the world. They see just a form of Godliness without the power. When people come into God’s presence they change. Think of Moses and Isaiah. We must come into the very presence of God and see who he really is.

I know this will get blasted but I don’t see why it’s a bad thing to pray for God’s presence. We need it just as much as we need the right doctrine. May at least some who read this be encouraged to continue praying for God’s presence so that “Icabod” isn’t written over our churches.


James Bronsveld said...


Your post confuses, at an elementary level, the distinction between the Old and New Testament economies and the doctrine of regeneration. It also hints at a basic misunderstanding of Biblical faith ("You can believe everything right and but if you don’t have God’s presence it won’t do you any good"). How does one believe everything right regarding the Scriptures and fail to have the presence of God?

I don't think the original post with its treatment of the Scriptures was difficult to understand, but you either misunderstood it or ignored it almost entirely. In so doing, your comment illustrates my point about exalting a sensory experience of God over the truth of God, to the diminishing of the Scriptures.

A short read of the comment suggests to me that "having all the right doctrine without God's presence" is hardly the issue, but that having the right doctrine at all just might be.

Nathan Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
With all due respect I would like to say a few things. If I would have to describe the way you view God, I would have to describe it as “mechanical”. I fully agree that everything has to be based on Scripture. You and others have pointed out that the Bible never speaks of sensing or feeling God’s presence. Then you make such a vast dichotomy between the Old and New Testament, so that we can’t bring any timeless principles into the NT. With that in mind, think of the words and imagery used in the Bible that describe our relationship with God. He is our Father. He cares for us a mother nursing a child. He is our friend. In Ephesians 5, he uses the analogy of marriage and the close relationship of a husband and wife as a picture of his love with his people. Then think of the “emotion” words that are used: love, compassion, cherisheth, jealous etc. God is a Person and we can relate with and to him. A lot of dynamics from human relationships work the same with God because of that fact. In marriage, is love a feeling and something that can be sensed? Are there times a husband feels more loved because he bought flowers or did something special for his wife? Perhaps there are times he does something that makes his wife unhappy and he doesn’t feel the love. Or is a husband’s relationship with his wife simply based on the facts? He told her at the wedding day he loved her so he never has to say it again because it’s a fact he loves her and that’s that? Are we to assume that that is how it works with God? Any married man would say he can feel close to his wife at times or feels distant at times. The same dynamics are true with God. I have a relationship with him. There are times he feels closer because I am drawing nigh to him through choices of seeking him and desiring to please him. There are times God feels a million miles away because he resists the proud and the fellowship is broken because of sin.

I believe you have made your religion so mechanical that you have failed to see the obvious. Every time a sinner comes under conviction he is sensing the presence of a Holy God. If you couldn’t sense God’s presence then how could we sense his love or his anger or his compassion?

Since we can learn so much from the Old Testament, can I draw your attention to Moses prior to going down to Egypt? He was afraid and said “God if your PRESENCE does not go with me I won’t go”. Are we to assume that because of the omnipresence of God we don’t ever have to ask for God’s presence? Moses I think knew God was omnipresent but he knew he needed God to manifest his presence so the Egyptians would see it and know God was on his side. In the same way, when churches pray for God’s presence they are praying for it to be manifested or sensed so that it results in the lost saying God is real and he is on our side. Or it may be for the purpose of the lost sensing conviction which is a feeling and comes from the Holy Spirit.

May more and more churches begin to sense their need for the manifest presence of God.


JMark said...

Hebrews 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

At first glance I consider the senses in this verse a mark of Christian maturity. Discerning good and evil. However, there is no mention of praying the filling of the Holy Spirit. I hear it all the time and I am guilty of praying this way.

Anonymous said...

May the lost that sit in our pews this Sunday, so know, sense and feel the presence of God, that “so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”

Thankful to be at a prayer meeting last night where we could ask the Lord to meet with us this Sunday. Also, thankful for a pastor that realizes “all is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.”

Philip Rains
Mukwonago, WI

Nathan Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kent Brandenburg said...


There are so many issues with these comments that it would take too long to answer in the comment section. Sometime in the near future, Lord-willing, I'll write a whole post.

Edwards Fan said...

Dear Bro Brandenburg,

I agree with a lot of your post, and disagree with a lot of what critical commentators say.

I am wondering if you would be willing to use language such as the following,from Jonathan Edwards, David Brainard, etc.:

“Tuesday, June 4. Towards evening was in distress for God’s presence, and a sense of divine things: withdrew myself to the woods, and spent near an hour in prayer and meditation; and I think the Lord had compassion on me, and gave me some sense of divine things; which was indeed refreshing and quickening to me. My soul enjoyed intenseness and freedom in prayer, so that it grieved me to leave the place. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 358.

In the evening, enjoyed something of the divine presence; had a humbling sense of my vileness, barrenness, and sinfulness. Oh, it wounded me, to think of the misimprovement of time! God be merciful to me a sinner. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 331.

This holy man trembled even at the distant view of sin; he could not willingly come near and survey its enticements. Accustomed to breathe in a holy atmosphere, the least taint of corruption immediately affected his spiritual frame. He knew no happiness except that connected with a conscience void of offence. All these rules were the suggestions of a conscience of a highly enlightened character.——They also indicate a constant sense of the presence and exact observations of the Searcher of all hearts. The writer lived as seeing him who is invisible; he set the Lord always before him; encouraging upon all occasions an earnest concern for the glory of God, the grand object for which he desired to live both upon earth and in heaven, an object compared with which all other things seemed in his view but trifles. If this were attained, all his desires were satisfied; but if this were lost or imperfectly gained, his soul was filled with anguish. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), lxiv–lxv.

Melted and overcome by the sweetness of this assurance, I fell into a great flow of tears, and could not forbear weeping aloud. It appeared certain to me that God was my Father, and Christ my Lord and Saviour, that he was mine and I his. Under a delightful sense of the immediate presence and love of God, these words seemed to come over and over in my mind, ‘My God, my all; my God, my all.’ The presence of God was so near, and so real, that I seemed scarcely conscious of any thing else. God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, seemed as distinct persons, both manifesting their inconceivable loveliness, and mildness, and gentleness, and their great and immutable love to me. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), cv.

Though perhaps we do not so very often see instances of extreme suffering by this means, as by some others, yet we often see evidences of men’s dreading the contempt of others more than death; and by such instances may conceive something what men would suffer, if universally hated and despised; and may reasonably infer something of the greatness of the misery, that would arise under a sense of universal abhorrence, in a great view of intelligent being in general, or in a clear view of the Deity, as incomprehensibly and immensely great, so that all other beings are as nothing and vanity—together with a sense of his immediate continual presence, and an infinite concern with him and dependence upon him—and living constantly in the midst of most clear and strong evidences and manifestations of his hatred and contempt. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 130.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Edwards Fan,

Thanks for the quotes. I would compare two different experiences, those said to be direct with God and then those inaugurated by scripture. I see the former as mystical and doubtful. When people tell me of these experiences, which I hear very often, because I talk to a lot of different people, I don't doubt their experience, but I doubt whether they had a direct experience with God, because there is no validation. The only validation to be trusted is scripture, which is what scripture itself says. I don't like these experiences being relied upon or people thinking they should have them, so I speak against them.

I'm going to write more about this, but you gave me something to think about.

Anonymous said...

*I tried to not make these comments very lengthy, and I hope that I did not veer off the main point of the post. I had to break this up into three separate comments, as the blog was not allowing me to send it as one, or even two comments.

Pastor Bradenburg,

{Part 1}

I think that this post is very important, and I am glad that you wrote it. As an Independent Baptist missionary laboring in a Spanish speaking country, this issue is very important to me, and I fear that IFB’s are going to one extreme or the other relating to this, instead of maintaining the scriptural balance.

1)You have IFB’s who hold the view that you do that it is unbiblical to seek God’s presence, or to pray for God’s power, because they say that we have both all of the time. I disagree with this in that although every believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling them (I Corinthians 3:16), and therefore have God’s presence, and the unction of God (I John 2:20), not all believers are filled with the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30; I Thessalonians 5:19), or have what I would call the fullness of God’s unction. For those reasons, those believers don’t experience the same degree of God’s presence as the former, who are consistently walking in the Spirit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

I fear that part of the reason why so many IFB’s go to this extreme of never praying for God’s power, or seeking his presence, is because they, as you do, see how distorted all of this is in the Charismatic movement, and they are trying to distance themselves as far away from the Charismatic movement as they can. Unfortunately, I believe that this results in formalism, or a very mechanical way of serving and living for God where we really don’t expect God to do anything in our church services. It all becomes status quo. The people show up, we go through the motions, we sing, we preach, but very rarely do people leave the house of God with the sense that God really met with them. So it’s back to the world they go until the next service.

There were many good comments to this post, and I agree with Chris who said “The lack of God’s presence is the reason why so many young people are heading into the world. They see just a form of Godliness without the power.” That is so true. I know that this will be misconstrued, but in regards to our young people, I feel that many times we are putting them to sleep even with all of our sound doctrine, because all they see is formalism, and a distinct lack of the presence of God.


Anonymous said...

{Part 2}

Jeff Voegtlin said that he senses a distinct lack of God’s presence when he hears preaching that dishonors scripture. I think that we would all agree with that. However, I will go a step further and say that I have often heard much preaching in IFB circles where the scripture was not dishonored, but yet in my estimation the preaching still lacked a real sense of the presence of God. I mean the context was right, the points were good, the exposition of the text was spot on, but something was missing, and it was the presence of God in my view. Look around the auditorium in your average IFB church service, and take notice of all the people sleeping (teenagers and adults), texting, talking to one another, or just looking completely disinterested. Why is that if the message is supposedly spot on doctrinally? Because those people don’t sense the presence of God. It is partly their fault, and also our fault as preachers I believe. Point being, when God shows up in a real sense because the preachers and those in the pew have prepared their hearts before coming to the house of God, then the Spirit of God will move upon hearts, and it will be evident.

Is not genuine revival an example of this? Before the Great Awakening commenced in Jonathan Edwards Church in Massachusetts, there was a deadness, almost a lifeless formalism that Edwards noticed in his congregation. So Edwards spent three days before he preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in secret prayer and fasting. What was he doing? He was seeking God’s presence and God’s power to come upon his congregation. As far as I know Edwards did not change his doctrine in any way in order for God’s presence to automatically come. He obviously knew that even with what he believed was correct doctrine, something was still missing. We all know the story. He preached that sermon, and practically everyone present fell to the ground gripping the pillars of the church building in fear of going to hell. If that was not God’s presence and power coming upon that congregation, then could someone please explain to me what it was? And Edwards could hardly be called a Charismatic, and yet he sought and prayed for God’s presence and power.

Is genuine revival what should be the norm in our IFB churches? Because if it is, then we are all in sin, because I doubt that many of us have ever experienced true revival, like Edwards did. But if genuine revival is a special manifestation of God’s presence, are we wrong to get our lives in order, and prayerfully seek God’s presence to come into our midst in that special way. If we don’t need this, then let’s stop being hypocrites, and quit with all of these so-called revival meetings in our churches that are accomplishing very little in the way of us experiencing genuine revival.


Anonymous said...

{Part 3}

2)The other extreme that we see in IFB churches relating to this matter of seeking the presence of God, is the many IFB churches that are so tired of the lifeless formalism, that they make it more about the emotion and feeling than the truth of God’s word. These IFB churches want the quick fix to supposedly get “God’s presence”, so they bring CCM into their churches, and the preaching drops from forty-five or fifty minutes to about twenty-five or thirty minutes, in order to not quench what they perceive as the presence of God. Consequently, their “preaching” is of the New Evangelical style, which lends itself to building up this false atmosphere of “God’s presence.”

I am from the Northeast, and I recently watched some of the video services of a big IFB conference that they have every year in the Northeast. The music of the conference was half conservative hymns, and the other half CCM. Not surprisingly, the preaching was of the revivalist type, majoring more on humor and stories rather than the faithful exposition of God’s word. What really caught my attention and grieved me, was watching a special being sung, (cannot remember if it was the choir or special music) and the audience was so audibly animated and whipped up into a frenzy, that a young teenage boy decided to start running through the aisles in the church building. No one seemed to have a problem with it, and I am quite sure that if you questioned anyone who was there about that sort of activity they would all say it was because God’s presence was in that place. I for one don’t believe that had anything to do with the presence of God, and it is so sad that that sort of thing is becoming more and more common in IFB churches that are supposedly seeking God’s presence in their services.

In my opinion, I would say that IFB churches going to one of these two extremes in regards to seeking God’s presence really boils down to the same problem. We are far to conformed to the world (Romans 12:2) and entangled with the cares and affairs of this life (Luke 21:34; II Timothy 2:4) to faithfully seek God as to why we don’t more consistently experience his presence in our families and assemblies. We are not willing to wait upon God in obedient prayer; everything has to be quick, and we could not possibly bear the thought that we are wrong on this. So, we just tell ourselves that as long as our doctrine is correct, then we have the fullness of God’s presence, and need nothing more. Or, if the people are happy and animated, or emotionally moved, then we obviously have God’s presence.

Both of those views are wrong.


Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm going to write more about this now that I've had so many different types of comments. I will write a whole post in the near future. However, two comments now.

1) You don't lose the Holy Spirit when you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. His presence is still there and that does not change at all. There is nowhere in scripture that says that. I said that we can see the presence of God through fruit of the Spirit. We don't see fruit of the Spirit when we are not filled with the Spirit. I implied this, but it wasn't something I said in an explicit way.

2) There are aspects that I disagree with you about being saved and completely scriptural and yet lifeless. I don't see anywhere in scripture that says that. A form of godliness is not godliness, just a form of it. If you are saved and you are obedient, then you are not just a form of godliness. The form of godliness would be unsaved people who go through the motions, like Judas did.

I'm going to talk more about this, because there is a lot of misunderstanding on this, enough that when we're done with our conference on the gospel in our Word of Truth Conference, we may do this.

Thanks for coming by.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Bradenburg,
I have read the two comments that you addressed to me, and I was not sure if they were a rebuttal to what I wrote, or just statements you were making to clarify your own position, or maybe both.

Anyway, in regards to your first comment to me, I do not believe that a Christian who is not filled with the Holy Spirit somehow loses the Holy Spirit. I actually am in complete agreement with your first comment, and would be interested to see what it is that I wrote that might have led you to think that I believe something different than what you wrote in your first comment.

In regards to your second comment to me, I think that we are in agreement as well. The word “lifeless” that I used was a poor choice of a word. The thought that I was trying to emphasize is that I believe that formalism is a big problem in our IFB churches. I do believe that churches that are “completely scriptural” (in their own estimation, but not always necessarily in God’s estimation) with truly saved members can struggle with formalism. I don’t always know exactly why that is, maybe a sense that they have arrived spiritually speaking, or maybe a church is ignorant of the fact that they have collectively left their first love like the Ephesian church did (Ephesians 2:4-5).

I also agree with you that a form of godliness is not godliness, just a form of it. However, I do believe that in the main our IFB churches are very ignorant of the fact that a form of godliness can take one very close to the real thing, to the point that many other believers take that individual for a true convert who is not. You cited Judas as an example of one who had that form of godliness, and that is exactly my point. Where in the scripture do we see the other disciples questioning the salvation of Judas? We don’t see that. When Christ told them in (Matthew 26:21) that one of them was going to betray him, none of them said in (Matthew 26:22) that it had to be Judas. On the contrary, each one of them said “Lord, is it I?” Judas’ form of godliness came so close to the real thing, that he even had the other disciples deceived.

I really believe that we don’t give enough attention to this in our IFB churches: the reality of unconverted church members. Preachers of the past, most notably the Puritans, really dealt with this. Yet today, we hear nothing about it. Maybe the reason why we have to accommodate everything in our churches to the world, by way of our music, our outreach, and even our teaching and preaching, is because our churches our filled with unconverted people who have no sincere appetite for the things of God as they are presented to us in scripture. I am also of the opinion that this has a lot to do with why our churches are missing the presence of God.


Unknown said...


"Inaugurated by scripture." Good phrase in your earlier reply. I look forward to reading more from you on this.

Nathan Roberts said...

Deleted my previous comments, because I'd like to restate what I said.

I can't see how we can possibly think that it's wrong or untruthful to sense the presence of God when God is real, and indwells us in a real way. Since He's real, we should be able to sense His presence if we have spiritual discernment. People should, as in Edwards case, sense the very real presence of God.

What is needed today is not Charismatic counterfeits or truth-only preaching. We need Truth and Spirit. Paul clearly shows in 1 Corinthians 2 that it is possible to preach the Word of God without a demonstration of the Spirit. That demonstration of the Spirit and His power is what is missing in most preaching today. Revival and spiritual awakening are what happened with Edwards, Spurgeon, and Whitfield. We need God's mighty out-pouring of power today as well.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God."
(1 Corinthians 2:1)

1 Corinthians 2:4-5
(4)  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
(5)  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Bill Hardecker said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
Is it valid to take comfort in knowing that according to Rom. 8:26 that even when a genuine brother or fellow believer prays "ignorantly" or "nonsensically," that the Holy Spirit takes our prayers and as an advocate presents them perfectly acceptable to the Father? I am not for nonsense prayers, brash ones, or impious ones, etc. Pastor Voegtlin's comment/question stirs my mind, also. Is this a right way of viewing the Spirit's ministry of helping our infirmities? At some point though, church leaders should be teaching/instructing auditors about Biblical prayers - - the Lord Jesus took time to explain and teach his disciples to pray.

Bill Hardecker said...

Also, I appreciate your helpful response and also Pastor Bronsveld's replies. Thank you.