|AN ATTITUDE IN GOD'S PRESENCE
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Aug 28 2009 08:00 AM
Worship is one of the main themes of the Bible and something of tremendous importance in the life of the believer. Yet,
most Christians do not have a clear grasp of the nature of worship. When most churchgoers talk about worship, they
are referring to their Sunday morning worship service. They speak of hymns and choruses, and of the congregation
standing and singing the planned music for the day. Unfortunately, I fear that in many of these churches very little
worship is taking place. If this is the only frame of reference on the subject for the average believer, then they haven't
even begun to worship.
We will examine worship by looking beyond actions and behavior to where worship really takes place: within the heart.
We will define concepts like praise, thanksgiving, and worship. We will identify the things that can hinder our worship.
And we will describe the progression that will lead us, step by step, into the very presence of God where we may hear
His voice and find rest in His arms.
Whenever we come into God's presence, He requires that we bring Him various gifts or sacrifices. These include, but
are limited to, money and material possessions. But, on a higher level, Scripture speaks of various spiritual gifts or
sacrifices that God requires His followers to bring Him. These spiritual gifts are thanksgiving, praise, and worship.
We often use these terms interchangeably. I compare them to the colors of the rainbow which are distinct, yet also
blend into one another with no absolute lines of demarcation. Likewise, thanksgiving, praise, and worship are distinct,
but they naturally blend into one another. Here is how I distinguish them:
Holiness is in a class by itself. It is the attribute of God that is most difficult for the human mind to comprehend because
it has no parallel on earth. We can talk about the wisdom of God because we know wise people. We can talk about the
greatness of God because we know great people. We can talk about the power of God because we have seen
demonstrations of great power. But, apart from God, there is no earthly example of holiness - it is something unique to
God and to those who have received it from Him. I believe that worship relates directly to God's holiness. But because
it is hard to understand His holiness, it can be hard to fully understand and enter into worship.
Therefore, worship is the most difficult of these three gifts or sacrifices for the believer to offer in a way that is
acceptable to God. Thanksgiving and praise are primarily utterances of the mouth, but worship is primarily an attitude.
Thus, it is important to have an understanding of these three terms if we are to be able to make them part of our
offering to God.
Praise runs like a golden thread throughout the entire Bible, from beginning to end. Praise is eternal; its origin is in
heaven. It is the ceaseless occupation of all the glorious and eternal beings that inhabit heaven, where they enjoy
close and uninterrupted access to God Himself. Uninterrupted access calls for uninterrupted praise.
Praise is also associated with the earth since its beginning. In Job 38, God challenged Job with this question:
morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4,7)
What a beautiful picture of the beginning of the earth! It was praise that sent our planet first spinning on its celestial
course, and it is the responsibility of God's people on this planet to see that praise continues to mark its course until
heaven and earth are no more.
Praise is the appropriate way that we relate to God as King on His throne.
When combined with thanksgiving, praise gives us access to God. We see this in Psalm 100 where the psalmist said:
Here are two degrees of access. First, through God's gates, and then, through His courts. The psalmist indicates that
it is thanksgiving that brings us through the gates, but praise brings us into the courts. This is also beautifully illustrated
in Isaiah where the prophet said to God's people:
walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise." (Isaiah 60:18)
God dwells in a place of perfect peace and tranquility. Not only is there no violence or destruction, but there are not
even the sounds of violence or destruction. But notice the way of access: all the gates are praise. In other words, the
only way into the place of God's presence and dwelling is through praise. Without praise, we do not have access into
the outer courts.
acceptably with reverence and godly fear..." (Hebrews 12:28)
In Greek, "to have grace" - the key word is charis - is the same as saying "thank you." There is a direct connection
between grace and thankfulness. An unthankful person is a person who is outside the grace of God. You cannot be
unthankful and be found within the grace of God.
Three of the world's Romance languages, those based on Latin, all retain a direct connection between grace and
thankfulness. In French, grâce à Dieu, "thanks to God." In Italian, the word for "thank you" is grazie. In Spanish, it is
gracias. You cannot separate thankfulness from the grace of God. When we say "grace" before a meal, we are really
saying "let us be thankful."
There is a beautiful passage in Psalm 95 that depicts the progress into worship. It begins with loud, jubilant praise - a
lot louder than some churches would permit.
This does not mean loud singing - shouting means shouting. I like that. I think that if there is one thing that is hard for
God to accept, it is half-hearted praise. Scripture says, "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised" Psalm 145:3. In
fact, if you are not prepared to praise Him greatly, don't do it at all.
"Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms." (Psalm 95:2)
Notice again the two stages of access: thanksgiving and praise. There is no other way into the presence of God. The
next three verses give us the reason why we should praise and thank God. The Bible is very logical. It does not just
ask us to thank and praise God; it tells us why.
Remember I said that it is by praise that we acknowledge God's greatness. So here the word great is used twice. The
Lord is "the great God, the great King above all gods."
We acknowledge His greatness by loud, jubilant, and excited praise. Then we see Him as the mighty Creator.
and his hands formed the dry land." (Psalm 95:4-5)
So, we come to Him thanking Him, praising Him for the marvels of His creation. But that is only our way of access. In
verse six we come to worship. Praise and thanksgiving are really our way of approach into worship. Then notice, as
soon as we come to worship, it is an attitude.
Here we have passed from utterance into attitude. We began with praise and thanksgiving, but that wasn't the end or
goal. When Christians stop with praise and thanksgiving, they have really missed the goal: true worship - which is not
an utterance but an attitude.
When you come into contact with, become aware of, or have a revelation of the holiness of God, there is only one
appropriate response: worship. Without such a revelation, we cannot really have worship. We can have a song
service, but we do not enter into worship until we have a revelation, however inadequate it may be, of the holiness of
God. And the holiness of God is not to be explained. It cannot be defined. It can only be revealed.
This is very important because I think many Christians have the idea that holiness is a set of rules about where you may
go, what you may do, and how you may talk and dress. That has nothing to do with holiness. Paul was very emphatic
about that in Colossians:
subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the
commandments and doctrines of men? Which thing have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility,
and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." (Colossians 2:20-23)
This is so profoundly true. The more you focus on the things you must not do, the more power they have over you.
You think to yourself, Don't lose your temper; whatever you do, don't lose your temper. What is the next thing you do?
You lose your temper, because you are focusing in on the wrong thing. No wonder many people have decided that they
want nothing to do with holiness.
Hebrews 12 speaks about the discipline that God as a Father has for His children:
that we might be partakers of his holiness." (Hebrews 12:10)
Holiness is not a set of do's and don'ts. God is not holy because He has a set of rules in front of Him in order to check
His own conduct. Rules have nothing to do with biblical or divine holiness.
Attributes of God
Holiness is the essence of what God is. Everything about God is holy. Thus, in order to have an understanding of
holiness, we need to have an understanding of who God is and what He is like. Allow me, therefore, to outline some of
the attributes of God - what the Bible says God is.
God is Light
darkness at all." (I John 1:5)
God is Love
us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (I John 4:8, 16)
God is both light and love. There is a tension between light and love. Light can scare you; love draws you. I think
there is a similar tension in our relationship with God. We want to draw close to Him, but we feel uncomfortable entering
into that all-encompassing light.
God is Justice and Judgment
This is absolutely a part of His nature. In Deuteronomy, Moses emphasized this:
perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." (Deuteronomy 32:
Many people accuse God of injustice in their particular situation or circumstances. But the Bible says there is no
injustice in God. He is totally just, a God of truth. Consider the words of Abraham in Genesis when he was pleading
with the Lord about Sodom:
be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25)
That is who God is. He is the Judge of all the earth, and He always does right. There is no injustice, no iniquity within
Him. We are often tempted to believe that God is unjust, but Scripture declares emphatically that this couldn't be further
from the truth.
God is Anger and Wrath
This is something that contemporary Christianity hardly makes room for but is very important. Our God is a God of
anger and wrath. Nahum gives a remarkable picture of this:
his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies." (Nahum 1:2)
The Lord is angry. He is furious and He avenges Himself. This is part of God's divine, eternal nature. If we leave this
part out, we are not presenting a true picture of God. The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of God's judgment that
will befall the antichrist:
receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is
poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the
presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for
ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever
receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11)
"Tormented ...in the presence of the Lamb." Not exactly the contemporary picture of the gentle Jesus, meek and mild.
But it is a part of His divine, eternal character. God is a judge. Some believe that God is far too merciful to impose
eternal punishment on anybody. That is not scriptural. And furthermore, it is very dangerous.
things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the
words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city,
and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19)
If anything is clearly written in the book of Revelation, it is that there is eternal judgment. We are reaching a stage in
society where we are much kinder to the criminal than to the victim. Why? Because we do not want to be judgmental.
Why don't we want to be judgmental? I believe it is because, in our hearts, we know that if there is judgment for
someone else, then there is judgment for us.
God is Mercy and Lovingkindness
The word in Scripture that is translated as "lovingkindness" means "steadfast love." In studying this, I have come to the
conclusion that what it really means is the "covenant-keeping faithfulness of God." It is God's faithfulness to His
covenant - one of His greatest attributes.
In Psalm 51, David was praying during a time of deep distress, when his soul was hanging in the balance. It was his
prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah had been uncovered.
mercies blot out my trangressions." (Psalm 51:1)
"According to Your lovingkindness" is a reference to God's covenant-keeping faithfulness. David was basically saying,
"You have committed Yourself to forgive if I meet the conditions. I am appealing to You on that basis." How important it
is to be able to approach God on that basis!" This idea occurs in various other psalms as well.
"Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 106:
God is Grace
of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
There are two things in this passage that you cannot earn: mercy and grace. We first need mercy, but then we need
grace. Grace cannot be earned. Religious people have a real problem because they think they have to earn
everything. Consequently, they tend to turn down the grace of God. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of
grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." We need mercy for the past and grace for
the future. It is only by God's grace that we can become the kind of people, and live the kind of lives, that He requires
God is Power
The whole Bible is full of testimonies to God's power. Let's look at just one example in the Psalms:
himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old; thou art from
everlasting. The flood have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the flood lift up their waves.
The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." (Psalm 93:
Holiness Is the Total Being of God
Let me just recapitulate the seven attributes of God:
3) Justice and Judgment;
4) Anger and Wrath;
5) Mercy and Lovingkindness;
I believe God's holiness is all of that. It is the total being of God. Holy is the only word that is used three times of God in
the same sentence, in both the Old and New Testaments. In Isaiah the seraphim cry,
glory." (Isaiah 6:4)
And in Revelation, the living creatures and the elders fall down and cry,
day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." (Revelation 4:8)
I believe there is significance in the threefold repetition. I think holy is the Father; holy is the Son; holy is the Spirit.
And no one else is holy. God is unique in His holiness. And we can only understand or become partakers of holiness
insofar as we relate to God.
Worship is our response to the holiness of God. Again, when there is no revelation of holiness, there can be no
worship. You can have a nice song service. You can have praise and thanksgiving. But you cannot have worship. For
when we know the holiness of God in any measure whatsoever, the appropriate response is always worship.
We thank God because we are grateful for what He has done. When we praise Him, we are acknowledging His
greatness, but that is not the end. Many of us stop there. We have entered into the courts, but what are we there for?
We are there to worship. If we stop after a praise song, we may have had a good time, but we haven't really found the
heart and the purpose of God. There is something crying out for more. We desire the presence of the Lord. We yearn
to be in direct contact with the living God and to offer Him the only thing we have to offer, our worship. So let's continue
our journey and ask the Lord if, by His grace, He will enable us to enter into His presence. For when we are in His
presence, we will begin to truly worship.
ENTERING THE PRESENCE OF GOD, by Derek Prince, Copyright 2007, Whitaker House.
|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES