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Face to Face with God: Get Ready for a Life-Changing Encounter with God
by Bill Johnson
Learn More | Meet Bill Johnson
The Journey Begins
The air is pregnant with possibility—can you feel it? Heaven itself is longing to invade the natural realm. Darkness may cover the earth, but God 's glory upon His people is becoming more and more realized, bringing hope to the most hopeless situations.
God is opening up His treasure house of truth and releasing it all over mankind in remarkable ways. The apostle Paul 's prayer is being answered before our eyes: I give "thanks for you, mentioning you in my prayers, so that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Ephesians 1:16-17, MEV). Like birth pangs signaling the time of delivery, things are being released in revelation knowledge that have been preserved through the ages for this particular hour. In other words, this exponential increase in wisdom and revelation is being precipitated by the day that God is releasing in our time in history. I 'm not talking about new books of the Bible or other holy writings. I 'm talking about the Holy Spirit unlocking the very Scriptures we hold in our hands.
And what is this day that God is unveiling? It is a day of divine encounters, at least for those who will pursue what this revelation is making available. The spirit of wisdom and revelation is not given to make us smarter but to make us more aware of unseen realities. The purpose of this spirit or anointing is to give us wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. It works not merely to increase our understanding of kingdom principles but also to reveal the King Himself. Presence always wins out over principles. When we encounter His divine presence, transformation occurs that goes beyond the reach of merely good ideas—this is transformation that first takes place within us that we might cause transformation around us.
The Desire Is A Gift From God
The heart to seek God is birthed in us by God Himself. Like all desires, it is not something that can be legislated or forced, but rather it grows within us as we become exposed to God 's nature. He creates an appetite in us for Himself by lavishing us with the reality of his goodness—His irresistible glory. God 's love for people is beyond comprehension and imagination. He is for us, not against us. God is good 100 percent of the time. These realities burn deeply into the hearts of all who simply take the time to behold Him.
Paul describes this place of beholding as the absolute center of the new covenant we have been brought into, the place where "we all, seeing the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18, MEV). The impulse that drives the life of the believer isn 't the need to perform for God but to commune with Him. Only when we perceive the face of the One in whose image we were made do we come to know who were are and the One for whom we were made. And because of who He is, to behold Him and remain unchanged is impossible. As He infects us with His presence, we are drawn into an ongoing mission to become more and more fit to see Him in His fullness.
And the truth is that the degree to which we perceive the face of God corresponds directly to the degree of our yieldedness to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ. The question for every believer is whether we will be satisfied with only a partial transformation or whether we will be so captivated by who He is that we will allow Him to kill everything in us that would inhibit us from becoming a mature manifestation of Christ.
this quest for His face is the ultimate quest. But to embrace the quest for the face of God, one must be ready to die. Thus, this quest is not a journey for the faint of heart. It is far too costly to pursue from mere curiosity.
Still, I hesitate to warn of the cost of fully seeking His face—not because a price doesn 't exist; it costs everything. I hesitate because the reality is that what a person gets in return makes the price we pay embarrassingly small by comparison.
The bottom line is that we give all of ourselves to obtain all of Him. There 's never been a better deal. When we go through with the exchange, we find that what used to matter doesn 't anymore. Life without passion gives way to a life of reckless abandon. Not only does everything in our lives that is inconsistent with the kingdom of God start to dies the moment we encounter Him, but the superior, supernatural reality of His kingdom starts to come alive in us. It is not possible to encounter One so overwhelming and maintain the status quo.
The journey is so sacred, so all-consuming, that very few respond to its call. While the seeds of this quest are found in the heart of every man, woman, and child, most seem numb to its existence. Many things work to stifle the desire in us to seek the face of the One in whose image we were created. Whether we are overwhelmed by the prevailing winds of secular reasoning or the pain of religious disappointment, such forces cause us to abandon the ultimate quest and give in to the other impulse that has infected man since the Fall—the impulse to hide from God.
Still, the ultimate quest is quite doable and within reach. It is so all-inclusive that the smallest child may come. Every other journey and every other ambition pale in comparison. One might say this challenge adds meaning and definition to all of life 's other pursuits. Those who respond to the invitation find little else to live for. Those who say no spend their lives looking for an adequate replacement. And there is none to be found, anywhere.
Christian leaders in particular have their attention directed toward perceiving what God is revealing for the moment, and they work hard to articulate what God is revealing for the moment, and they work hard to articulate that revelation in the best way. Whether its in preaching, in the lyrics of a song, or in a book, we are all attempting to capture that which is divine and release it upon the earth. That 's my purpose in this book.
Much of the content of this book was first introduced to our church family around 2002. Preaching it scared me, in all the right ways. This was the only time in my life where I trembled for days following the preaching of a message. However, at the time I was not burdened to release this message in writing, which has been the case with every other book I 've written. At the same time, it became my whole life, the life that I have purposed to live, a life devoted to discovering and hosting the presence of God. Pursuing this goal has been costly, but that did not prevent it from becoming more and more fixed in me as my sole reason to be alive. In recent months God has made it clear that the message I have been trying to live is now a message I need to write about.
The quest for deep encounters with God started the moment I said yes to His call on my life. I wasn 't called to ministry or to accomplish some great feat in His name. I was called God Himself. My moment happened one Sunday in 1971 when my dad, who was also my pastor, taught a message from Ezekiel 44 about the greatest honor given to mankind—our ministry to the Lord Himself in thanksgiving, praise, and worship. He taught us that there was a difference between our ministry to God and our ministry to people. There was no doubt that our ministry to God was the most important responsibility of all, and it was available to every believer.As I heard him teach the Word, I was stirred beyond anything I have ever dealt before. While it was not the type of message that one would usually think needed an altar call, I had to respond. From the pew where I sat, I bowed my head and said, "Heavenly Father, I give You the rest of my life to teach me this one thing." To say I was moved was a great understatement. I had already given my life to Christ, in a way where I held nothing back. But I was now saying that in my surrender to Christ I had one specific agenda that outweighed every other—my ministry to the Lord Himself.
It quickly became apparent that this call to worship was not about music, instruments, choirs, or worship teams. Neither was it about using singing to warm up people for the sermon. In this ministry to God, as far as the role of music was concerned, not even the great songs written about Him were appropriate. To suit this ministry, I needed songs I could sing to Him. It was all about ministering directly to the Lord in His actual presence.
The Lord responded quickly to my lifestyle of abandonment to His presence by confirming, through unfolding revelation, that this was indeed the purpose for which He had made and redeemed me. Scripture is saturated with the theme that we were made for a relationship that allows us to know by experience the supernatural God who created us, and it soon became evident to me that the encounters that God had with people in the Bible were not reserved only for those of that era. Encounters of that magnitude actually started to look possible, even probable again. While I never thought I qualified for anything extraordinary, I knew that He loved me, and I in turn was increasingly hungry for Him.
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