I’m convinced that very few people know the present-tense God. Instead, we worship the God of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Azusa Street, or some other movement. Or perhaps we worship the God of Moses or the God of Peter and the original apostles.
It’s not all bad to worship these versions of God, because He wants us to appreciate our spiritual heritage and the amazing work He has done in people’s lives throughout the centuries.
For example, when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He first introduced Himself as “the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). It must have been comforting for Moses to know that this was the same God as his spiritual forefathers had served.
But worshiping a historical God will only take you so far. It’s like visiting the neighborhood a Person lives in, without actually meeting the Person. At best, it’s a secondhand faith, based on hearsay rather than personal experience.
When Moses pressed further to ask God’s name, the Lord replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). This is a powerful addition to the revelation Moses received about the God of history, worshiped by his forefathers in the faith. This was Jehovah / Yahweh, the God who comes in the present-tense.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly uses this same “I AM” nickname to describe His divine attributes. He declares “I AM” the living water…the bread of life…the light of the world…the door…the good shepherd…the resurrection and the life…the way, the truth, and the life…and the true vine.
And if you encounter the true and living God today, He will reveal Himself as the One “who IS and who WAS and who IS TO COME, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
Do you see how exciting this is? He says He’s the One who resides in the PRESENT, PAST, and the FUTURE—all at the same time. He’s the present-tense God, Immanuel, who is always with you (Matthew 1:23). But He’s also the God who can deal with the issues of your past and your hopes for the future.
These insights have profound implications for the nature of the church. Some denominations are almost completely locked in their past-tense heritage, with very little experience of the present-tense God. Other groups are so obsessed by end-times predictions about the future that they fail to grasp the powerful work the Lord wants to do in His people TODAY.
Today’s most exciting churches are basking in the joy of their relationship with the present-tense God. Yet even here there’s a potential danger. The Lord wants us not only to know Him as the “I AM,” but also as the God of our spiritual forerunners and the One who is preparing a triumphant future kingdom.
I pray you aren’t just living on memories of what God has done in the past, nor on hopes of what He has planned for you “in the sweet by and by.” He may not provide a burning bush to get your attention, but He wants you to know Him intimately and personally as the present-tense God.