July 12, 2008
“Creating an atmosphere of worship”, “entering in”, “breakthrough”, “experiencing the glory cloud”, “feel His presence”, “feel His love pouring over you”???
For about two years now these terms have been bothering me. I know where the concept comes from – mostly the Old Testament, but now that Christ is in me and daily I am in His presence (fellowship and keeping myself in the love of God) why do I need to seek an “experience” outside of what the Word teaches?
For years I have been frustrated with my walk in God because I was seeking a sign from Him. God revealed my error this morning as I woke up praying. My seeking God which led me to acts of crying, falling out on the floor, screaming and “manifesting” were all signs of my faith being in crisis. This morning as I was praying this scripture came to mind:
” a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed” Matt. 16:4
I believe in miracles. God is a God of miraculous acts, which He has performed at sundry times according to His plan and purpose. I thank God for this and I have no sympathy for religious teaching that denies the miraculous. I believe in signs. God has given us many of them at His appointed times and according to His purpose and he has revealed in His Word the meaning and purpose of them. To believe in signs is a simple matter of faith in the Word of God, and to doubt them is to question the integrity of God and the validity of the Bible.
On the other hand, sign hunting does not come from a spirit of a faith – which is deeply satisfied with the mighty acts of God already performed, but from a spirit of unbelief which demands a perpetual continuation of those signs, wonders and miracles. This is the attitude of the skeptic who says, “Except I see, I will not believe.” In Matt. 16:4, the Pharisees and Sadducees were not convinced by the signs “on earth” Jesus had done – they were blind to the signs regarding Jesus’ Messianic credentials right before their eyes.
This morning God showed me that all those years of “manifesting” which may include, but is not limited to:
- speaking in tongues unbiblically
- dancing uncontrollably
- disruptive outbursts both words and various noises
- uncontrollable physical gyrations
in an effort to “touch Him” in some way, to “feel His presence” or to “enter in the glory cloud” was how I was seeking a sign. I am not giving these examples to say that God does not touch us allowing us to feel His presence because He does. What I am saying is that my motive was wrong. I was doing all of the above to prove to people and myself that I was saved and whole.
Signs alone convert no one. In the body of Christ today we place far too much confidence in signs as events to bring people to faith in Jesus. As it relates to worship, the sign that I was seeking as I worshiped in the worship service and in my home was “God’s presence” or a feeling to come over me to give me some type of assurance that He is in me or with me. Often times I had to conjure up emotions and tears just so that I can feel like I was “pressing in” or going “deeper,” but all the while I was having a mystical experience.
What I was doing is what some call today “false fire” which is the counterfeit of the ministry of the Holy Ghost. It signifies the need within man to experience the presence of God in a sensual, emotional way and thereby exercise both his senses and emotions to “manufacture” sensationalism. I have been doing this for years (I can count on my fingers how many times it was actually real). Thinking back on my experiences… it’s funny because during the time that I “manifested” the most – it was when I was always on a rollercoaster in my walk with the Lord. I was up one day and down the next. I fornicated on Friday and shouted on Sunday in efforts to be free from my addiction to tall light skinned brothers and to hide the fact that I was “creepin” while in ministry. Instead of being taught by the church how to KNOW the Lord, I was seduced and the tools of the seduction included uplifting, often energetic, even tribal, rhythmic type music with lots of percussion instruments, dynamic personalities who prance, shout and strut themselves across the platform—in other words, a charged up atmosphere “by any means necessary”.
The problem with this sort of worship is that it tends to provoke an emotional, demonstrative response and outburst (so to speak) that is based on factors other than the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, raised, living in us and coming back.
What I am trying to get at and warn the body of is this: dynamic preachers of all denominations and persuasions can be extremely skilled at manipulating a crowd by stirring up the emotions of people. That is a given. But the danger with the “stir up” and no biblical teaching to accompany it to put it into proper perspective is when the emotions of a congregation are stirred, the shouts, screams and similar outcries can light a false fire throughout the congregation. The results of this are erroneously attributed to an outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It may very well be an outpouring, but not of the Holy Ghost. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, the greatest imitator of all times is there too. “Holy” laughter, “holy” dancing, shouting, falling out slain, rolling on the floor, running up and down the aisles, throwing money at the feet of prominent evangelists and other forms of emotional frenzy keep the false flame alive (again not all is fake). At these euphoric times, not only are the offering pans fleeced (we are so happy we just want to give everything we have in our pockets for the cause), but people “get high” and think to themselves “now is the time I can give myself to Jesus.” They then start marching down the aisles in small churches and in big convention halls and stadiums to accept the salvation invitation. The deception is that they expect their new found life in God to be that kind of a “party” when in reality it is not, and it won’t. We have now been trained to become spiritual crack feens going to church only to experience another high.
Not to be misunderstood, I certainly do not suggest that reverent music and praise has no place in church or worship. It does. However emotional tactics do not need to be employed to psychologically condition sinners to come forward to the altar and “confess Christ.” If the elect are assembled within the assembly, the Holy Ghost knows how to reach them once they have heard the simplicity of the gospel. We don’t even have to employ these methods to get the saints to prove that they love the Lord. We even go as far as making people feel bad by telling them: “if you love God then you would praise Him.” And then try to make the saints shout until someone has to come with an oxygen mask because they danced until they were on the verge of falling out. The problem is that the messages or sermons that accompany the antics are often not grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The popular messages are now geared to what I call the gospel of the flesh. It is the preaching of the hand of God and not His heart. It is now all about “your blessing” – which is a house, a car, a job, a husband or wife, success in this world and living a lavish lifestyle because the mentality of this teaching is anchored in the claim that “we deserve it since we are children of the king.”
God showed me that my worship was all wrong! For two years now (2006 and 2007) God has been showing me this about myself and cleansing me with His word from this false sense of worship and need for an “experience” with Him. The truth of the matter is that as I continue in fellowship with Him and obey His commandments I am “experiencing” Him daily in the transformation of my soul into His image. God has been teaching me that my faith in Him is in a knowing and not a feeling. Although I have heard this many times spoken by my leaders, I never grasped it. Perhaps it was mainly because they ignorantly continued to have the congregation seek God emotionally in the worship service by using words such as “press in”, go “deeper”, “push”, and praise until it hurts or until something happens. I say this because during the worship service I noticed that the worship leader would not stop pleading and charging us to “praise Him” and clap until our hands fall off unless someone broke out into a country shout or good old foot fashion foot stomp. Not only that, but it had to be more than one person or else the charge to “praise Him” would continue. This could go on in the storefront church for another hour. Sometimes I would join in just so that the worship leader could stop begging and move on with the service so I can go home.
As believers, most of us have gotten the Biblical idea of personal and corporate praise and worship twisted. When we praise God we praise Him for:
- His mighty acts and according to his excellent greatness (Ps. 150)
- Because He made or created us and to be joyful of our king (Ps. 149)
- Because He is our refuge, burden-bearer, deliverer, shield and I can go on and on.
When we worship God we worship Him because we know who He is. Jesus made it clear in John chapter 4 that one cannot worship who they don’t know. He also said that they that worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
What does that mean?
Well, because God is a spirit we must conclude that our worship must be spiritual. We are a three part being – body, soul and spirit. It is our spirit that communicates with His Spirit and is illuminated by it (Rom. 8:12-17; 1 Cor. 2:10). Our mind, will and emotions are also used to worship Him (our soul) as His Spirit puts all that we know of Him and about how we are to please Him in proper perspective. This is the litmus test of whether we are in the flesh or not. Are we praising God to be seen as righteous by others, to lie to ourselves, or because we are simply being joyful of our King?
As believers we can worship Him with our whole being, but it is our spirit that worships being led by His Holy Spirit.
I understand now that my worship experience and the worship service that I was a part of has been (and is being) manipulated towards mysticism (Gnosticism) and sensuality or a feeling of the soul or flesh (not sexual in nature) by a concept that has been introduced into the churches subtly over many years. In fact these concepts have become a catch phrase in our church language. We have been led to believe that we must “create an atmosphere” that is conducive to God the Father coming down to meet us, to enable us to experience His manifested presence, otherwise He will not abide with us and the anointing will not be there for healing and deliverance.
As I study His Word, the more I see that there is something truly wrong with this concept. As a praise dancer (a person who praises God in the dance) I must be very careful now that my eyes have been opened to the truth of God’s word not to partake or compromise my walk with the lord by co-signing on this type of false worship (even if my church is plagued by it). As I minister I have to be very careful not to lead others to the same thing God is delivering me from – entering into that false mystical experience of what is interpreted as “God’s manifest presence”. If I do so or compromise myself to this false type of worship, I will be disobeying what I know to be true according to His Word.
Now…I believe in the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit working in and through a believer’s life to bring glory to the Father in Jesus Christ. I also believe that I must walk in His presence daily by faith and not by feelings. The practice of “setting the atmosphere” or creating one to provide just the right ambiance for God to be present amongst His people is a slap in the face to God according to what the Word teaches us. By doing so I believe that we are in unbelief or at least I was. I say this because if it is an experience that we desire, aren’t we opening ourselves up to another spirit or seducing spirits that will feed our sensuality? If so, why is it so hard to believe the words of Jesus when He said he will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5)? Jesus said simply, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20) He is there, whether we feel anything at all. We do not have to have a spiritually charged atmosphere to know that He is present. If we don’t already know that His presence in within us and not in a physical structure then we are in trouble. I know understand that I bring Christ to church with me, because He lives in me. I also bring Him to Walmart because He lives in me and He never departs from me. I don’t meet Him at church. I bring Him with me. Now that I understand this I can freely worship and praise God without trying to conjure Him up inside me like a witch. Yes I did say that!
I can now freely praise and worship God without succumbing to the pressures of the praise and worship leader because I know who God is to me and I know that my life is worship and a praise to Him. I worship and praise Him in all that I do. I don’t have to clap until my hands turn red or shout until I become so dizzy that I have to hold on to the bench in the sanctuary so that I won’t fall and twist my ankle or bust my head wide open. If that does happen, then have to try to figure out a way where I can fake it and act like I’m not hurt because the Spirit of God cushioned me somehow which enables me to continue to shout when I know I need to be on my way to the emergency room to get my injuries taken care of. Y’all know I’m telling the truth!
In some of our churches we like to reference the Old Testament for ideas or prescriptions about worship and how to do it. By doing so it is easy to be caught up in false spirituality, believing that we can go on to “higher levels in God” in praise and worship. It is impossible to go on to higher levels in God in praise and worship if we don’t have the Word. Scripture does not teach us that we are to seek to go higher in the “presence of God”, but to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) AKA the Word. The power of this pattern of worship is almost too hard to resist in this day of famine for the Word. Yes famine! God showed me that I was seeking Him and partaking in false worship because I did not know His Word. That is why; when I came off that “mountain top experience” I went back to sin because I did not know His Word. If I don’t know His Word I can’t keep it. Scripture teaches we do does not keep His Word and if we say that we know God we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4).
In many cases what is interpreted as the “presence of God” is nothing more than fleshliness or even to the more extreme sense – it is other spirits in guise of the Holy Spirit. Sadly we have been taught that God is in some other spiritual realm and that we have to coax Him to come down to us. This is totally not true. The veil was torn from the top to the bottom to show us that God has made himself accessible by the blood of the Lamb and we can now come boldly to the throne of grace to receive help in the time of need.
God is not in some other realm where we have to “press”, “push” and “enter in” in order to be in His presence. The presence of the Lord is not beyond us in another state of mind. In the worship service we don’t have to dance and give all we have physically to the act of worship. We don’t have to express with our emotions and bodies such over-wrought desire of hoping to enter into the presence of the Lord. We must not be like the prophets of Baal who tried to call down the presence of their gods, beating, whipping and cutting themselves hoping that this would bring about their desired effects.
Scripture teaches us that we must move in faith with the belief that God is who He said He is. He is faithful to His Word and no matter what. Even when we try to flee from Him, He is always there. (Psalm 139:7) How many of you did something that you know did not please the Lord and you were minding your own business while trying to ignore God and you felt His hand mighty upon you and you had to be still for a moment and soak it all in and just reflect upon who He is. After reflecting, raise your hand (the one you are not scrolling down with) if you repented that very moment and made up in your mind that God is just too good for you to disrespect Him like that.
How many times have you done contrary to the Word, and you wanted so bad not to be bothered by the things of God because you felt unworthy? However, you had an overwhelming desire to say thank you Jesus, or to pick up the bible and start reading it anyhow. What is all of that? Where does that come from? It is God! It is His Word being manifest because it cannot return to Him without it doing what He told it to do. He said “I will never leave you.” That is God proving to you that He is always there.
As believers we are to trust our God who has made the way for us to forever and always be in His presence through what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross. By His death the veil was torn and we have access to the Father in one Spirit through Him. (Matthew 27:51) (Ephesians 2:18) According to the scriptures in Psalm 95:1-7, we are bid to come according to His terms, to give glory to our God, to worship Him, to kneel before our Maker, for He is our God and we are the sheep of His pasture.
His terms are the only ones acceptable. John 4:24 teaches us that God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Again what does that mean? It means that to worship God it involves us using our rational mind to know the truth of His Word and because God is spirit, we must worship Him not by our senses or emotions, but we must be filled with the Spirit of God to worship Him in spirit, by believing in faith that His presence is always with us and in us. We don’t need to “seek” any further.
Sonia Kong, PDCM