Embracing the Mystery of His Presence
A mystery lies at the heart of Christian worship—The Presence of the Lord.
This is a three-fold mystery:
- We believe that God is omnipresent—He is absolutely everywhere all at once. (Acts 17:8)
- Yet, He has also promised to “abide in us.” (John 15:4)
- At the same time, we are invited to “come before His presence.” (Psalm 100:1-2)
How can all three of these locations co-exist?
When we set about to renew our worship, we must realize that Christian worship is an exercise in Christian spirituality. Let’s define that as an intentional openness to the Holy Spirit. While physical gestures and mental projections are involved, true worship must involve spiritual realities—mysteries beyond the reach of our minds and gestures deeper than flesh and blood.
The Psalmist invites us into the mystery:
Psalm 16:11 NKJV
“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Somehow, we can find a life in the presence of God, a “path of life” full of present joy and eternal delight. This path of life is a spiritual mystery, but it is holistic, engaging mind, soul, and body as well.
In this psalm, King David revealed the place that God held in his life—the absolute center. In a primitive, pagan world, the shepherd/king found the one true God. Jehovah was not far away—He was close at hand. He was walking with David, speaking to him, revealing to him a step-by-step, joyful pilgrimage unhindered by circumstances of life or even by death itself.
New Covenant—New Life
David lived in the promise of God’s presence and it was enough to sustain him through a life of joy and victory mixed with pain and betrayal. His poems tell us much about the presence of the Lord. Though written hundreds of years ago with his co-authors from other epochs of Old Covenant life, The Psalter is really all about this path of life. Sometimes the poets rage against injustice or pour out bitter complaints against Jehovah, Himself. At other times they sing and dance with joyful abandoned at the sweetness of life. It is all done in the context of the nearness of Jehovah. When he sinned, David’s greatest fear was the loss of this gift. “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11NIV)
That was Then. This is Now.
We can also find the path of life. David worshiped under an older covenant with God; we enjoy a new one. The Old Covenant was one of promise, based on the ministry of the Son of David still to come. The New Covenant—rightly called the Jesus Covenant—is a covenant of presence, of “God with us.” This covenant flows from a profound spiritual reality of what Jesus has done, enabling us to walk and talk with God. Jesus revealed God to us in human terms. He bore the guilt and punishment our sins demanded. He conquered death, hell and the grave. He said this New Covenant was written in His blood.
With the New Covenant, the mystery deepens.
Paul gives us important details. He explains that under the Old Covenant, each believer experienced the presence of the Lord dimly—he said they had a veil over their eyes. Under the New Covenant, the veil has been removed. He used Moses as an example. Hidden in the cleft of the rock, the Lawgiver asked for and received a powerful revelation of God. So bright was the presence of the Lord, Moses put on a veil to hide his shining face. But the glory faded and disappeared. This was the story of worshipers under the Old Covenant—wonderful visitations with God that soon faded into memory.
Under the Jesus Covenant the veil is gone! We now enjoy seeing more than a passing presence, as Moses did. We see Jesus in an abiding, face to face relationship. We “behold His glory” and are changed by the process.
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Because Jesus broke the sin barrier, making it possible to live in constant contact with the Lord through the abiding of the Holy Spirit, we can find a path of life sweeter than the one David celebrated. We can find a reflected glory greater than the fading one Moses tried to hide.
We can live in a Christian Spirituality that is as real as the physical world around us and the mental world inside of us. We can see the works of the Creator all around us. We can hear His voice in the wind, in the voices of those we encounter, and in His Word. We can see His face in prayer and in the faces of the people we meet. We can hear the song of the Spirit and we can sing along.
Your Road to Worship Renewal must begin with your personal renewal of the Path of Life.
© 2019 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved