Worship and the Presence of God: Closing Thoughts
- Tuesday, June 24, 2003
We have taken the past six columns to examine various issues relating to the presence of God. So what does it really mean for a worshiper of the Living God to be in His presence?
I thought it might be helpful to review what we've covered in this series on the presence of God, then spell out some practical implications.
We began by studying the presence of God in Scripture and saw that although God is everywhere, He also chooses to reveal His presence at certain times in a more pronounced way. One of those times is corporate worship, which is why we often associate the presence of God with singing His praises.
We then saw that while God's presence can at times be felt, it is wrong to equate our feelings with God's actual presence. He is here whether we feel Him or not.
Recalling that faith is the tool God has given us to draw near to Him and experience His nearness, we then looked at three ways to "seek God's presence continually."
Last week, we enumerated the benefits of frequent meditation on our future state in heaven, where our experience of God's presence will be undistracted, unhindered, and unending.
So what does it all mean?
First, it means that the common practice of referring to corporate worship as "entering God's presence" or "entering in" isn't all that accurate or helpful. It might be more precise to say that we are gathering in God's presence or meeting to acknowledge His presence in our midst. While we often enjoy a greater awareness of God's nearness when we praise Him in song, and ought to anticipate an experiential encounter with the living God each time we gather to worship Him, we aren't actually "entering His presence." Jesus has done that for us (Heb 10:19-22).
Congregations are well-served when those who lead in public worship emphasize that "drawing near to God" means exercising faith in the finished, all-sufficient work of our Savior that has satisfied the wrath of God and brought us to the throne of grace. We need regular reminders that God is just as present when we start to sing as He is when we've
Second, it means that no worship leader or musician can bring God's presence down, lift God's people up, or in any sense "usher us into the presence of God." Although I have been leading people in the worship of God for more than 25 years, not once have I brought someone nearer to God. There is only one mediator between God and man (1Tim. 2:5), and it's not me. As one pastor commented to his young worship leader after a particularly strenuous service, "The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost 2,000 years ago. And I live in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Stop trying to get me to heaven!" (Doug Murren, Worship Leader, May/June 1994)
How freeing to realize that my responsibility as a worship leader is simply to direct people's attention to what God has already done, rather than trying to lead them into some self-generated or musically based experience. Harold Best comments, "Christian musicians must be particularly cautious. They can create the impression that God is more
present when music is being made than when it is not; that worship is more possible with music than without it; and that God might possibly depend on its presence before appearing (Music Through the Eyes of Faith, p. 153).
Finally, our brief study has shown us that we are truly to live coram deo, that is "before the face of God." Our Savior's atoning sacrifice ensures we are in God's presence not only when we sing, but as we eat breakfast, engage in casual conversation with a friend, or face an unexpected trial. May our mindset always be that of the Puritan who prayed, "Help me never to mistake the excitement of my passions for the renewing of the Holy Spirit, never to judge my religion by occasional impressions and impulses, but by my constant and prevailing disposition" (Valley of Vision, p. 65).
If Christ is your Redeemer, God is near you at this very moment.
Don't you want to worship Him?
Recommended Resources from Bob:
Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymns Project. In an age of individualism and an emphasis on personal experiences with God, hymns remind us that we don't ever worship God in isolation. By their very nature, hymns connect us to that "communion of saints" from every nation, culture, and time who will one day unite to glorify God around His throne. We are honored on this project to join our voices and hearts with hymn writers from previous centuries who looked upward and were moved to worship our great God and glorious Savior. Free downloadable song, sheet music, song samples, and video interview with Bob by clicking HERE.
Bob Kauflin is Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries.
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