The face of God is His Presence and His favor. Favor is charis, or grace, and is not just having our sins forgiven, but accessing God like Jesus did. Not everyone has the same amount of favor, but regardless of how much favor you have now, you can increase in favor. The amount of God’s face that we see, His Presence we experience, His favor that we enjoy is directly related to how yielded we are to the Holy Spirit. The question is, will we settle for just partial transformation?

Num 6:22-27 gives the blessing for Israel: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord let His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The favor of the Lord’s face is what Israel was to demonstrate. Favor needs two things: faith to land on and a specific purpose. Faith is pretty well understood, but to illustrate the latter, Joseph had favor bring Israel to Egypt and Moses had favor to bring Israel out of Egypt. The problem with favor is that favor looks like it is missing when we are in the darkness, but it is favor that enables them to rise out of the darkness to accomplish the purpose. Thus, favor may not be obvious, but it is still important for us to recognize favor in ourselves and others. Johnson will bring people to speak at his church who have anointing, but who are rough in character, or who may disagree with some non-essential elements of Bethel’s theology, just so that people will learn to recognize anointing.

When we experience the outpouring of the Spirit we are experiencing the face of God. The Old Testament prophets really only had one solution for the problems of Israel: more of the Holy Spirit. Moses had the opportunity to be successful without God, but refused anything less than God’s Presence; by contrast, Israel could have met God any time at the sanctuary, but did not. God showed Moses his form (Num 12:8) because He could trust Moses’ heart, but he showed no form to the Israelites because they would make an idol. We can position ourselves for encounter with the Spirit by recognizing when God is encountering others even if we do not sense it yet, and by realizing that when we perceive something, God is inviting us to an encounter. Finally, we need to get rid of the idea that God only encounters “others who have a special gifting,” as this is faith-destroying.

Ps 37:9 says that “those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land.” Wait here is more like “to lie in wait,” like hunting or ambushing. So if God isn’t showing up where you are, go somewhere else, do something different. Visit a different church, read a different translation. If you aren’t finding deer downtown, try visiting the woods. Another way Johnson lies in wait for God is to take a few minutes throughout the day to simply be an object of God’s love. Finally, be self-controlled, a fruit of the Spirit: say yes to what God values and no to what He doesn’t.

The experience of God’s face transforms you. Heidi Baker and her husband had started four unremarkable churches in Mozambique in 14 years; she encountered God and was unable to move for seven days and in the ten years after that they have seen thousands of churches, countless miracles, dozens of resurrections, and whole villages coming to God. T. L. Osborne had a frustrating and unfruitful ministry as a missionary to India, but after he encountered Jesus in his room, he went back and saw countless miracles and thousands saved nightly in his crusades. The apostle Paul was killing Christians but after he encountered Jesus, he went on to have the greatest effect on the world after Jesus, as even non-Christian historians attest.

The current outpouring of Spirit (the experience of God’s face) tends to manifest in joy. In Luke 10:21, Jesus rejoiced after the disciples returned from their mission trip, and the word used for “rejoice” connotes leaping and jumping for joy, so we should not be surprised if the manifestations of this joy that the Spirit is pouring out look rather excessive. Joy is a result of seeing the face of the Father. All of us, but most visibly in children, want to be enjoyed by someone, and joy is the result. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)

We are called to shine. When Moses saw God’s face, his face shone, and he put a veil over it. But when Jesus was transfigured, the glory caused his clothes to shine. In the Old Testament, the veil covered the glory of God in Moses’ face, and the leper’s uncleanliness polluted the clean. In the New Testament, God’s glory will radiate and affect our clothes, and God’s purity makes the leper clean. We shine by extending the favor God gives us, by giving away what He has given us, and by releasing the Kingdom. Unbelievers will come to Christ because we are shining. Hell is plan B; plan A is that it is “God’s kindness that leads to repentance.”

Face to Face with God is a book full of meditations on what it means to experience the blessing that God gives to Israel of seeing His face. Johnson shares some compelling stories about how experiencing the Holy Spirit (seeing God’s face) radically transforms us, and gives some practical tips on how to position ourselves for such an encounter. However, the organization is a little, ... loose, and if you like the above, I recommend looking at the notes for some additional meditations.

Review: 3 (writing), 10 (ideas)
The book seems to be composed of independent ideas on the topic of experiencing God that have been grouped into loosely related chunks (chapters). As a result, the book is fairly incoherent because the ideas are not really related to each other. This format seems to work well in the sermons that Johnson gives, but it does not work well as a book. It is pretty much impossible to make an outline of the book, and I had to drop a fair amount of good ideas in order to create a summary that was remotely coherent. I feel like the book would actually be a lot stronger as a series of short meditations on these topics, maybe something where you read one topic a day so it has a chance to sink it. This way there would be no expectation that the meditations relate strongly to each other, or that later ones illustrate or expand on previous ones; you would simply get a great idea by itself.