"In view of all that has been accomplished for us by Christ, let us
confidently approach God in worship, let us maintain our Christian
confession and hope, let us help one another by meeting together regularly
for mutual encouragement, because the day which we await will soon be
-Bruce, on Hebrews 10:19-25
I was leading worship for an event a while back, and the speaker did something I’ve never seen or heard before. He basically relieved me from any pressure of leading people to “God’s throne” or “into His presence.” He stood up before I began to sing, and said I have nothing to do with whether or not we can enter into God’s presence in worship, and it’s foolish for them to depend on me to make that happen for them. This ended up being freeing for me, as well as the audience.
Not too long ago, I tweeted a question along the lines of what it meant to lead worship. About 99% of the feedback I got dealt with the worship leader leading people “into the presence of God,” or something similar. I want to put some friction to this phrase, and here’s why…
First, it is simply impossible for a worship leader, preacher, the pope, whoever, to lead you into the presence of a holy God. Before Christ, only the priests were allowed into the presence of God, but very carefully (Exodus 28:31-35; Leviticus 16:2-4). And animal sacrifices were made for the forgiveness of sins. But that’s just it. Christ came! He was the sacrifice once and for all! This is a huge deal for innumerable reasons, one being the veil in the temple, the holy of holies, was torn and we as believers can not only enter into the presence of God freely, but enter boldly (Hebrews 10:19). We (believers) are the priesthood now. Through Christ’s sacrifice, we received forgiveness of our sins, and we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (2 Peter 2:19). We are free to enter in and worship boldly, and a worship leader has NOTHING to do with that, Jesus is the one who made a way for us to enter into His presence, he has already led the way.
The main Biblical basis for this is found in Hebrews 10:19-25. I’m not going to post it, because I think if you are reading this as a believer you are perfectly capable of opening your Bible and reading along with me. Ready, go…
This idea of entering into His presence might change our perspective a little, both for the believer, and for the worship leader or pastor.
First, for the believer who finds themselves in congregational worship, we need to understand that it is not the worship leader’s job to make us “feel” something, or to “take us in.” That was already done 2,000 years ago. God’s presence is already here/there...He’s everywhere. It is unrealistic to depend on the worship leader to make us worship, to lead us to a place we call God’s presence. He/she simply points to Jesus, the one who is worthy of it, and the one who made it possible. Too often, the only thing keeping us from worshiping is ourselves, because we are waiting for the worship leader to do it for us, but he can’t. He has no power to lead you into the presence of God, besides, it’s already here. We also see in Hebrews 10 that we can go into His presence with a clear conscious, knowing that our sins are not held against us (v. 22-23). Nothing can separate us from His presence, or His love (Romans 8:1-2; 38-39). We are FREE to enter in BOLDY, we are free to worship boldly, and we no longer need anyone but Jesus in order for us to do it. Don’t let your guilt, the enemy, or anything hold you back from the pursuit of Him and His presence. It’s already been taken care of.
Second, to the worship leader or pastor. Let this truth be freeing for you, and let it bring your vision and leadership to pursue more precise goals. Our job is not to lead people into His presence, but to make His presence known, which sets the stage for people to respond to it, and to see who God is, and what He has done. We are pointers to something immeasurably more worthy than ourselves. Lead people to Him, not into Him. There is nothing we can do to make God do anything, including giving the congregation the “warm fuzzies” of His presence (not that His presence is always warm and fuzzy). We are utterly dependent upon Him to work, and we are utterly dependent on His Spirit for us to do anything at all (John 5:15).
So in light of Hebrews 10:19-25, let us always go boldly into His presence, without dependence on anything or anyone other than Christ, and what He has done.