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Our Attitude in the Presence of God
All the passages below are taken from Derek Prince’s book, “Entering The Presence Of God”. It was published in 2007.
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.
In this book, 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 not 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.
When we come into God's presence, He requires that we bring gifts.
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:
Thanksgiving relates to God's goodness.
Praise relates to God's greatness.
Worship relates to God's holiness.
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.
Thanksgiving and praise are utterances, but worship is an attitude.
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:
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?...When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4,7 NKJV)
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.
Yet Thou art holy, 0 Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel. (Psalm 22:3 NASB)
When combined with thanksgiving, praise gives us access to God. We see this in Psalm 100 where the psalmist said:
Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. (Psalm 100:4 NASB)
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:
Violence will not be heard again in your land, nor devastation or destruction within your borders; but you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise. (Isaiah 60:18 NASB)
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.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:28, emphasis added)
Here in the New King James Version it says, "let us have grace." But the New International Version translates the same verse differently:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (NIV, emphasis added)
Actually, each one is a correct translation. 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, grace a Dieu means, "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.
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1 NKJV)
Thanksgiving and praise. There is no other way into the presence of God.
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 halfhearted praise. Scripture says, "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised" (Psalm 145:3 NKJV). 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; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. (Psalm 95:2 NKJV)
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.
For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3 NKJV)
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, and the great King above all gods." We acknowledge His greatness by loud, jubilant, and excited praise. Then we see Him as the mighty Creator.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:4-5 NKJV)
The only response to a revelation of the holiness of God is worship.
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.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. (Psalm 95:6 NKJV)
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:
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23 NKJV)
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 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:
For they [our human fathers] indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. (Hebrews 12:10 NKJV)
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.
1. God Is Light
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 NKJV)
God is light. He not only creates light or sends light forth, but He Himself is light.
2. God Is Love
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love....And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:8, 16 NKJV)
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.
3. God is Justice and Judgment
This is absolutely a part of His nature. In Deuteronomy, Moses emphasized this:
For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NKJV)
God is the Judge of all the earth, and He always does right.
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:
Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25 NKJV)
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.
4. 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:
God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; the LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies. (Nahum 1:2 NKJV)
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:
Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. 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 ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11 NKJV)
"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.
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV)
One of God's greatest attributes is His covenant-keeping faithfulness.
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.
5. 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.
Have mercy upon me, 0 God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1 NKJV)
`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 the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy [His lovingkindness, His faithfulness to His covenant] endures forever. (Psalm 106:1 NKJV)
6. God Is Grace
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)
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 of us.
The whole Bible is full of testimonies to God's power. Let's look at just one example in the Psalms:
The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, 0 LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea. (Psalm 98:1-4 NKJV)
Holiness Is the Total Being of God
Only by God's grace can we become the kind of people He requires.
Let me just recapitulate the seven attributes of God: (1) light; (2) love; (3) justice and judgment; (4) anger and wrath; (5) mercy and lovingkindness; (6) grace; and (7) power. 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, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! (Isaiah 6:4 NKJV)
And in Revelation, the living creatures and the elders fall down and cry,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! (Revelation 4:8 NKJV)
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.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. (Psalm 100:4 NKJV)
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.
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