“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36
All things are through Him. This truth encompasses so many aspects of life that it would be impossible to address them here. However, this would seem to mean that worship would also only be possible or enabled through God. This may seem odd to us, since most of us have always viewed worship as something we offer to God – it is from us to God. We give our praises and offerings to the Lord. We do this in response to Who God is and what God has done for us. Scripture commands us to worship God. Therefore, as a follower of Christ, worship is to be a part of our obedience and our relationship with God.
So, how is it that our worship is through God? As I have discussed in previous posts, anything we have or give to God already belongs to God. Our very lives are created and sustained by the power of His Word and through His love and care. There is nothing that we are and there is nothing we possess that is not from God. It all belongs to Him. He can give it or take it away at any time. In this sense, everything exists and is only possible through Him. That would include our worship.
However, I would like to focus on something that is essential to worship, but which we either forget or do not fully comprehend. How often have we heard or used phrases like the following?
- ‘We really entered into God’s presence today.”
- “That song really brought me into God’s presence.”
- “The Spirit was really present this morning.”
- “I did not sense the presence of the Lord today.”
- “We invite the Spirit (or Christ) to join us today.”
I understand, for the most part, the meaning behind these statements. Yet, if you look at these statements, and others like them, you will notice a common theme – us. All of them flow from a foundation that there is something that we do, something that someone else does, an event, the atmosphere, a performance, or some other activity which brings us into the presence of God or brings God into our midst.
The teaching of the Word is essential. Music and singing are wonderful. Prayers are meaningful. Testimonies reveal the work of God in our lives. Communion is a great time of reflection and remembrance. I could go on, listing many other things we do in worship, but none of these things bring us into the presence of God. There is only one thing, or I should say, one person, who brings us into God’s presence.
The Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, was the place in the Temple which was only entered once a year and, then, only by the high priest in Israel. When he entered, he came with blood for the purpose of atonement for his sin and the sin of the nation. The Holy of Holies was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. It was the place of the special manifestation of God’s presence in Israel. No one was to come into this place except the high priest. The penalty for violation was death. The Old Testament is full of God’s commands regarding this aspect of Israel’s worship. Anything I could provide here would be an oversimplification. Needless to say, entrance into God’s presence was rare and restricted. God is holy. We are not. The unholy cannot appear before the holy God.
In the book of Hebrews, God’s unbelievable gift is detailed for us by what was accomplished through the work of Christ. Chapters 9 and 10 describe the work of Christ in paying the penalty for our sin and what resulted from His actions. Reading this should blow our minds, if we truly understand the gravity of what was done on our behalf. When Jesus died, it says he entered the holy places. Not in the earthly temple, which is only a copy, but in the heavenly temple. He came with blood, but not the blood of animals. He came with His own blood. He did not come to continue the old covenant, but to fulfill it and become the mediator of a new covenant. He entered the heavenly temple, in the presence of God Himself, to appear on our behalf. He presented the sacrifice of Himself, once and for all, never to be repeated, to put away sin, forever. Hebrews 9:11-28
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened 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 true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23
Jesus, alone, brings us into the presence of God. No other human being, place, performance, or event brings us into the presence of God. Only Jesus brings us there, through His own blood, sacrificed for our sin. If we have received Christ, we have direct access to the throne room, the heavenly temple. We don’t invite God into our presence. How can the God Who is present everywhere be invited anywhere? We have been granted access through Christ, alone.
In reality, this takes the pressure off of us. Cleansed by the blood of Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness. In worship, we just need to draw near to God. And we can do so with confidence and assurance because we are not paving the way with our righteousness or performance. The debt is paid and the way has been paved through Christ. So, the singing was bad this week – draw near! I did not like the sermon – draw near! The sound system is feeding back, again – draw near! I don’t like this song – draw near! I yelled at my wife or kids before the service – draw near! I am so fearful in my circumstances – draw near! I am struggling to believe God – draw near! I fell into sin, again – draw near! Draw near!
God is inviting us to draw near and He says we can do this with confidence. Coming into the presence of God has nothing to do with us, our righteousness, our performance, our surroundings, or our circumstance. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. As believers, we are in God’s presence, seated in heavenly places, through the work of Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7). The next time you pray, come to a worship service, or just live your everyday life, just remember that you don’t have to invite, obtain, or find the presence of God. If you are a follower of Christ, you are in His presence. Jesus has provided our access into the very throne room of God. The Father is calling. Let us draw near and worship Him.
Together for His glory…