“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Monday, September 25, 2006

What Is Worship?

In a nutshell, worship is drawing close to God. But, in the Bible, Psalm 18:11-13 tells us that His throne--that is, His Presence--is surrounded by storms and darkness. And, I've been wondering about that for several years. What is it about God and His throne that He is surrounded by dark clouds, rain, lightning and thunder? One day, as I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that the storms and darkness are merely our recognition of the sin and iniquity in our own hearts.

It's actually something of a Catch-22 situation. The only way to deal with our sin is to come to His presence and receive His grace. Now, the closer we get to God, the more we become aware of His perfection. But, the closer we get, the more aware we become of our sin, or just simply our imperfections. The more we see ourselves as imperfect and sinful, the less we want to be near God because it reveals how ugly and dark our hearts are. And, the more we focus on our sin and imperfection, the more we believe we are not acceptable to Him. Many times we internalize that to mean He despises us, or that we are not good enough to be near Him, yet. Many other times, we externalize that perception and set-up rules and expectations of what makes someone acceptable to God.

The bottom line is that, really, the only thing that really keeps anyone--sinner and saint alike--away from God is our perception of our sinfulness. And, of course, the devil does everything in His power to magnify that perception, by keeping us focused on those imperfections, habits and sins.

But, God's perception of our sin is totally different. I like what Psalm 18 says just before it describes the storm around the Throne of God, though. It says God parted the heavens and came down. It also says that the darkness is under His feet. It is good to remember that. Jesus has conquered the darkness through death, burial and resurrection. Through His obedience to the Father, Jesus paid the price to remove ALL anger God feels towards us. And, in Him we are above it as well. The only way to get through the darkness is to remember that we are totally dependent on Him.

So often, our refusal to enter His presence is because we are convinced we must deal with something in order to be worthy, or able, or ready--or whatever word we would use--to enter His presence. The fact is, when we do that, all we are doing is trying to earn our way into His presence. And, when we pass this off on others, through religious rules and expectations, we are putting ourselves in God's place by defining what makes someone acceptable to God.

Jesus died so that by simply surrendering to Him, we have full and unrestricted access to the God the Father. Acknowledging our need of His forgiveness, by surrendering to His authority, is the only way into His presence. It truly is the only way for the storm to be calmed. Anything else is a religious exercise, attempting to earn what has already freely given to us through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.