There are only six mentions of the presence of the Lord in the new testament, and none of them have anything to do with praise and worship. When I discovered this, I was shocked, as I had been trained to believe the two were intimately connected. How the change from the old to the new covenant affects our understanding and experience of the presence of the Lord, is not well understood. What follows is a condensed and simplified compilation of the distinctions between the two covenants as it relates to the Lord’s manifest presence. The full book Praise, Worship, and the Presence of the Lord: A Better Way to Worship is available in all formats at: www.stevecrosby.com
The Presence of the Lord: Old and New Testament Distinctions
- In the OC, God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).
- In the NC, God inhabits His people! (John 14:17).
- In the OC, they entered in and out of the Holy of Holies/holy place (multiple OC references).
- In the NC, the Church is the Holy of Holies (1Cor. 6:19 – the năōs of God).
- In the OC, they came in and out of, or up and down to Zion, Zion is His dwelling place, etc. (Psalms of Ascents, multiple Psalm references)
- In the NC we have already come to Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:22). The Spirit-indwelt Church is the Zion of God. We are already “at” the place we profess to sing about. In “Him” is the Zion of God.
- In the OC they brought sacrifices of praise.
- In the NC, we are the sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15, Rom. 12:1). The fruit of our lips manifesting what we are.
- In the OC they came “in and out of His presence” (multiple references).
- In the NC He abides with us, and in us forever (John 14:16, Pentecost).
- In the OC we enter His gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4).
- In the NC we are already in Christ, and seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph.2:6). There are no gates to enter. We are already there. He has entered our courts (our being/hearts) by the indwelling.
- In the OC they “called down” God who is in heaven (Psalm 144:5).
- In the NC He came down in the Incarnation and came in on the Day of Pentecost and has never gone back!
- In the OC, they begged for mercy and salvation (Psalm 85:7).
- In the NC, both have occurred in Christ (Rom. Chpt. 9, 11 and many others).
- In the OC, they hoped for forgiveness and assurance (Psalm 51).
- In the NC, both have been realized (multiple references).
- In the OC acts of worship were directed to the Lord invisible. (Davidic praise, Zadok priesthood.)
- In the NC acts of worship are directed at the Lord visible. (When you have done it to the least, you have done it to Me.)
It’s folly to think that judgmental, legal, bound, bitter, angry, relationally broken, and dysfunctional people can gather together on a Sunday and sing their way into God’s presence, while ignoring the clear and explicit instructions in God’s word at the practical levels of their lives. We sing and pray about those things that God has told us explicitly to do. Worship and prayer can become a narcotic for disobedience.
Singing doesn’t create an atmosphere of God’s presence. The hard work of relationship building does, as Christ is released between us—one to another. We often sing and pray about those things that God has told us to just get on with in practical obedience. Psychologists call it “compensatory conscience.”
The details of our specific worship expressions do not need to change (sit/stand, clap/don’t, dance/no thank you, etc.). This not about being “anti-worship.” I am a musician and have lead worship for 35 years in “charismatic” environments. I “get it.” However, the underlying values and theology of what we believe and do need a thorough new covenant update.
Here’s a word of wisdom on manifestational issues from four hundred years ago:
I cannot pretend to form any opinion as to your sincerity or to judge of the things you profess to experience. Generally speaking, I should fear that reading about extraordinary spiritual matters tends to affect weak imaginations to excess. Moreover, self-love easily flatters itself that it has attained the altitudes which it has admired in books. It seems to me that the only course in such a case is to take no notice of such things. I advise you never to dwell voluntarily on such extraordinary experiences. This is the real way of discovering how much self-conceit has to do with these supposed gifts. Nothing tends so much to pique self-conceit and bring illusions to light, as a simple direction to set aside the marvelous, and to require a person who aspires to the marvelous to act as though nothing of the sort existed. Without such a test, I do not think a person can be proved thoroughly, and without it I do not think due caution has been taken against illusion.
The blessed John of the Cross advises souls to look beyond such light, and to abide in the twilight of simple faith. If the gifts be real, such detachment will not hinder them from leaving their marks upon the soul, if not, such uncompromising faith will be a sure guarantee against illusion. Moreover, such a line will not keep a soul back from God’s true leadings, for there is no opposition. It can only vex self-conceit, which finds a hidden complacency in such unusual gifts; and that self-conceit is the very thing which needs pruning. Or even if such gifts are unquestionably real and good, it is most important to learn detachment from them, and to live in simple faith. However excellent the gifts may be, detachment from them is better still. “And yet I show you a more excellent way . . . “ the way of faith and love; not clinging either to sight, feeling or taste, only to obedience to the Beloved One. Such a way is simple, real, straightforward, free from the snares of pride.
– Archbishop Francois Fenelon, 1651-1715.
This blog is an excerpt from our title: Praise, Worship, and the Presence of the Lord: A Better Way to Worship. It is available in all formats at: www.stevecrosby.com.Copyright 2014, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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