Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Presence of God and Worship under the New Covenant

There's alot of great worship music out there today. . . I get many requests to do songs. . some of them good, and some of them not so much.

Some of them have lyrical issues, and I'm kind of a stickler for lyrics and for us to know what we're singing about. Recently there's been a trend in alot of corporate worship music to ask, plead, welcome, and be desperate for the presence of God. Sometimes you can tell what the author is trying to say, but other times, it's not so clear.

The problem, as I see it, with these lyrics is that they are not recognizing the glorious reality of the new covenant we have in Christ. Here are some passages of scripture that speak of the new covenant:

Jeremiah 31:31-35
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Ezekiel 11:19-20
19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Colossians 1:26-28

26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Acts 17:24-25
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.


Suffice it to say. . in these and other examples, I believe scripture teaches that Christ is now here, among us, in our hearts, speaking through his Word, and active by the Holy Spirit.

Old Covenant worship was built around the Tabernacle/Temple system, and the Children of Israel could actually locate the presence of God on earth (over there in the temple). To be sure, there was an awareness of God's omnipresence:

Psalm 139:7-8

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

But, there was a definite sense of the place they had to go to worship God, where He would "show up", and seeking his immediate presence.

In the New Covenant, as Christians, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, and Jesus, who is the Emmanuel "God with us" is our advocate before God.

So, when I see songs that say, "waiting here for You. . . . desperate for You. . . come and fill this place. . . .rend the heavens and come down. . . . we welcome You with praise, etc. . . " It's hard for me to use alot of them when we sing together as the church. Because, among other things. . God is here. He is among us. We are not desperate for His presence. (if we define desperate properly. . as being in need of something). We might be desperate to recognize His Presence. . but we should say it that way, then :).

Some of these songs are quoting Old Testament Scriptures. And, that's great. . but we have to remember which covenant we're living in, and if that reality is being reflected in the lyrics.

Now, I know in most of these cases the author of the song is trying to get across the idea of asking God to "show up" in a special way, . .speak in a fresh way. . . "arrive" so that we all recognize His work, etc. . .

And, that's fine. . but we should say it that way. We should recognize that the problem is not with God being there or not being there (because He is there), but that we are not recognizing His presence and/or we are not concentrating on prayer, or on His Word, by which He speaks to us.

So, how about "Help us to hear your word today" or "We know that You're here" "thank You for your presence among us".

I know the heart behind longing for God's presence. And, to be sure, we "wait on Him" for many things and for many reasons. We do not ever "wait" for Him to arrive, though(unless we're singing about His second coming at the end of the age). And, I think, unless you take some time to explain those lyrics in the service. . it would be hard to understand them any other way. There's a sense where those songs connote "You're not here, . . please come. . . You're here now, You weren't here before". Many people have told me "I never think those things when we're singing". So, I don't want to be a stick in the mud. But, perhaps our thoughts can be as simple as "I need to hear something new from God that I can't hear until we're singing this song". That's not good either.

So, let's declare His Presence, celebrate, and wait on the Lord. . . in the context of the New Covenant; whereby He has given us His Spirit, and in Him we "live and move and have our being".

ps. a straw poll of the 5 readers of this blog. . . .would you rather me get back to blogging about silly things, or sports things. . or shall I continue to dive into technical theological matters which perhaps no one but myself is even thinking about. :)


Nancye said...

For my part, I like the mix of topics you've been posting about. The insights are supposed to be "random" after all.

The subject of this particular post is thought provoking. I find many of the songs you reference to be very emotional, but hadn't much considered their theological content. I wonder if it's possible to infuse the theologically correct sentiment with the same poetic sensibility.

Jeff said...

Straw poll vote #2... I like it all (random, sports, theology, etc). But, I especially like the theology posts. It really does help me understand your heart as a worship leader and where you are coming from. I honestly probably wouldn't think that deeply about some of this stuff if you didn't throw it out there. Your latest post makes total sense and has a sound biblical basis. And I do think we get lazy lyrically sometimes. So how about writing a new song about 'His presence' that reflects a correct theological view point? Let's hear how it's 'sposed to be done :-)

Michelle E said...

Oh, I get to be number 3! I enjoy reading all the random insights you have, but certainly like the theology/worship insights you share. Good stuff to think on. As for sports, I really think you need to diversify... I'm still waiting on a post about figure skating ;)

Joel F said...

I like your theological posts. I skip over the sports posts (but if you started to blog about hockey...)

Dena said...

Reader #5 here: I like the theological posts. They help me really think about what I believe and why. Some of it is just plain over my head, but I'm still learning. :)

Jody Britton said...

oh please....more sports!!!!

Jody Britton said...

oohhh...and look. you have 6 readers now! wonder who the new one is....

Jeff said...

Darn you Aaron Britton - you've totally ruined Christy Noeckels' "Waiting Here for You".

aaron said...

Jeff, . no, no!

I love that song. Don't think Jody and I haven't talked alot about that one. :)

I love the song, . . Jody and I sing it as waiting for God to move in a specific way in our life, i.e. Isaiah 40 "those that wait on the Lord", etc. .

I'm just not sure that's what the lyrics are actually about :)

There's a different standard for songs we're all going to sing together in corporate worship. The vague-ness in that song makes me hesitant to use it at church unless it's in the context I mentioned above. In private devotions one can sing/pray many things that are very meaningful to us personally. When we're together we have to make sure there's a precision to what we're doing.

There's alot of old Amy Grant songs that mean alot to me, but I wouldn't sing them at church either.

big guy on a mission said...

Ok - so it seems that I'm 3 years LATE in reading your blog!!! But out of simple frustration today I googled "Are there any New Covenant Worship songs out here??!!" And you were the first hit! So KEEP them coming brother. I'm the dean of a music department at a Christian University in Toronto and People simply have NO IDEA that they are in the New Covenant. This vein of teaching has been the most integral part of our degree programs - helping the students see what worship today really means; REAL deal New Covenant worship. Its rare actually to find others that have similar insight, so I think it's important to keep this conversation rolling...

Maybe it is and i'm just three years behind LOL, but in either case - thanks for posting!