Monday, March 22, 2004

On the Presence of God...

Rev. Mike linked to my post On Worship in which I covered R. C. Sproul’s sermon on how we have lost a sense of the presence of God in our attitude of worship. Unfortunately he made it appear that the key to sincere worship was our appearance (i.e., how we are dressed). He's corrected that but, to be sure, our appearance can certainly reflect how we show respect. However, the issue goes much, much deeper than that of mere clothing. My post had to do with how we seem to not reflect an attitude of respect, reverence, and awe for God. I think that this has a lot to do with a misunderstanding of just who God is. Consider the book of Hebrews, especially chapters 8 – 12, in which we have Jesus shown as our High Priest, replacing the old covenant with the new covenant.
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. – Hebrews 8:1-2 (NET)
Note how the writer of Hebrews explains the holiness of the first sanctuary, the one that Christ has replaced, and then describes the true sanctuary.
Now the first covenant, in fact, had regulations for worship and its earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, which contained the lampstand, the table, and the presentation of the loaves; this is called the holy place. And after the second curtain there was a tent called the holy of holies. It contained the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered entirely with gold. In this ark were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail. So with these things prepared like this, the priests enter continually into the outer tent as they perform their duties. But only the high priest enters once a year into the inner tent, and not without blood that he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is making clear that the way into the holy place had not yet appeared as long as the old tabernacle was standing. This was a symbol for the time then present, when gifts and sacrifices were offered that could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. They served only for matters of food and drink and various washings; they are external regulations imposed until the new order came. – Hebrews 9:1-10 (NET) For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands—the representation of the true sanctuary—but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. – Hebrews 9:24 (NET)
We have been given confidence to enter into the new covenant through Christ’s atonement…
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22 (NET)
Yet God is no less holy today than in Moses time. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the reason to offer worship in devotion and awe.
So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe. For our God is indeed a devouring fire. – Hebrews 12:28-29 (NET)
The act of worship, as portrayed in the Bible, is an intensely Holy act. To view Jesus as ‘meek and mild’ is not only woefully incomplete, it is dangerously incorrect. Yes, He welcomed the little children into His arms, but simply read Revelation for another picture of Jesus’ identity:
Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16 (NET)
To approach God’s presence in worship with a casual, almost flippant, attitude is the epitome of self-centeredness. I make these accusations not because I think that I have reached a proper state of worship myself, but because I’m beginning to realize how horribly far I am from properly showing God the reverence and awe He deserves. It is truly not about us.

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