“Thanks for leading us into God’s presence”, is a comment I’ve received throughout the years as a worship leader. It sounds good at first, and resonates with certain experiences we have during corporate worship. Upon closer reflection however, the description of corporate worship as “entering into God’s presence”, or “his throne room” makes too much of our work. Consider Hebrews 9:24-26 (CSB),
“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Jesus entered once and for all so that we wouldn’t have to keep doing it. It’s impossible for us to do it on our own, much less again and again. Because of our union with Christ, we have been ushered into God’s presence and presented as righteous because of his faithfulness. Our true life “is hid with Christ in God” says Paul in Colossians 3. We need to remember that every second we stand before God as individuals because of our High Priest. When we come together, it is to encourage each other to worship God alone, to proclaim God’s grace as a body, and to respond accordingly with unity and adoration.
So what happens when we have an experience during corporate worship that some might call “entering into God’s throne room/presence?” Our awareness of God’s gracious presence with us is increased, but our proximity to him doesn’t change. Those are the times when the truth of the gospel has made us keenly aware of our sin and God’s grace in such a way that deeply moves us emotionally from sorrow to joy. This is why it is so important to have gospel saturated songs that reflect on our condition outside Christ, God’s gracious gift of salvation, and our proper response of worship.
It is dangerous to think that a man other than the God-Man can ever usher us into God’s presence. Imagine the pressure the worship team and leaders would face if it were up to us to nail every song perfectly in order to bring everyone before God! Fortunately we have a better High Priest that doesn’t need to manipulate our emotions to bring us there. Instead we’re called to faithful proclamation of truth by exalting Christ as his people. Let Christ do the rest because it’s already been done! Then may the Spirit move our hearts to be receptive to the truth and become more aware of the grace of God poured out on us as a body.