Have you ever noticed that in worship there will be people praising, jumping, shouting, running, and crying? Yet in the same service, others just stand there, watching the clock tick? It is only natural to wonder why some aren’t moved. I have heard it said, “Well, some people can’t get into the music they are playing.” Others say, “You know, some people don’t like to act that way in public.” Then others will say, “I guess we all worship in our own way.” While I am not trying to come up with a general solution as to why this happens for everyone, I can, at least, shed some light on this.
All worship requires an image. In the Old Testament, the Canaanites worshiped Baal (male) and Ashtaroth (female) (Jude 2:10-23). The Philistines worshiped Dagon, a half-man, half-fish god (1 Samuel 5). Molech, the national god of the Ammorites (2 Kings 23), had the head of a calf and the arms of a man. Although many other gods and pagan deities were served in Old Testament history, the common thread was that there had to be an object to worship. Even astrologers found an object to worship in the sun, moon, and stars (Deuteronomy 4:19).
What sanctified the children of Israel and gave them a clear distinction from all of the godless tribes was that their God did not have an idol made like Him. God expected them to refrain from this practice. Jehovah was the only true God, and would not settle to be cast as a dumb statue that could not speak. Instead, He visited His people in the tabernacle of Moses in the Holy of Holies. As God’s people, Israel was privileged.
Unlike a lifeless figure made of brass or iron, God would one day cast Himself in living human flesh, and visit Israel personally. Israel finally bowed to Jesus when He came into Jerusalem during the triumphal entry, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). It is that image that we still magnify, lift up, and worship in this dispensation of Grace.
“Brother Palmer, I like what you are saying, but I have never seen Him.”
Christ is seated with God at His right hand, so our ability to see Him (unless He sovereignly visits us for a very special reason) now depends on the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). When the Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and speak of Him, it includes His assignment of building within our spirit a perfect picture of Who Jesus is, and who we now are in Him, as joint-heirs (Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:27).
Yielding ourselves to the Spirit of God while we meditate gives the Holy Spirit what He needs to bring forth this picture. This permanent fresco of Christ that He paints on the canvas of our hearts will be with us every time we decide to enter into worship. In any moment of worship, the eyes of our spirit search for an image to surrender to. If we have been meditating with the help of the Spirit, this image will stand at the forefront, and it will not be hard to find. As we worship the image of Christ in us, the hope of glory, we will soon find ourselves in the presence of God, as our souls begin to participate with expressions of joy, happiness, humility, thankfulness, and devotion.
Maybe you have seen people encounter Jesus in such a deep way through their worship that you desire to experience what they have. If this is the case, don’t pray, “Oh God, let me have that.” God isn’t keeping it from you. He gave you the Holy Ghost. Instead, surrender to the Spirit and let Him help you develop the image of Christ as you pray in the Spirit and meditate His Word. Get this in place and you will have an image in you that the world can never take away. It wouldn’t matter if you were thrown into prison and locked away from the rest of society. That image will always be there to bear down on whenever you want. You will be able to initiate worship at any moment, any time, in any place. What a threat you will become to the enemy when he knows that you can release the presence of God anywhere you go because you have built an image of Christ in you, with the help of the Holy Spirit. With this in place, you will be able to initiate the presence of God, on purpose, at any point of your journey. Just worship.
An excerpt from The Believer's Journey: God's Path of Transformation (Westbow Press: Bloomington, IN). Copyright © 2013 Chris Palmer ISBN: 978-1-4908-0476-7