Lesson 5 Never-Ending Worship

MAIN IDEA: Our worship invites God’s presence, His presence brings increased revelation, and we respond with never-ending worship.

Worship is critical to our lives here on planet Earth, and worship is our destiny throughout all eternity. Throughout our study together, we have seen example after example of God’s people responding to Him with worship. And their worship invited the presence of God — their lives were changed forever.

We also have been given a clear picture of our never-ending worship around the throne of God in heaven. The cycle of worship begins with our response, and it is indeed never-ending. As we’ve learned, worship is continual in heaven as the angels and elders cry out day and night.

There is no shortage of God’s presence in heaven, and the worship never stops. Imagining Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem gave us just a small glimpse of what our eternity will hold. Our response will be worship — the kind of unrestrained worship offered by the crowd gathered on the dusty road outside the city of Jerusalem.

As we saw in the last class, Jesus went to Jerusalem to fulfill His destiny right in the midst of his followers, including the Seventy, and they could not keep silent. They had devoted their lives to Jesus, they had seen Him do mighty deeds through their own obedience, and they had the personal assurance of spending eternity with God. They had every reason to worship the King — and so do we! Never-ending worship was their destiny, and it is ours as well.

We have a lot in common with the Seventy. They were ordinary people who had taken the opportunity to spend time with the Savior, to believe and receive His words of life, and to reach out to those around them who needed to know that the Savior was near. Although Jesus is no longer physically with us, He has provided the Holy Spirit who resides in us and teaches us all things:

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him. 1 John 2:27

Like the Seventy, we have been given a mission. Jesus has called us to go forth into our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and workplaces to declare that the Kingdom is near and available. His Holy Spirit empowers us to speak words of love and healing and deliverance to those in need:

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him — how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth. 1 John 3:16-18

Just like the Seventy, we can fulfill our mission by choosing to spend time in God’s presence, respond to His revelation, and make a place of meeting as we worship Him. God’s amazing love for us makes it all possible. The cycle of worship is never-ending: He loves us; we respond; He inhabits our response; and we worship even more! God is waiting right now for us, even as we complete this study.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming. Revelation 4:8

Blowing to the Box
When I think of “instruments of praise,” I’m reminded of an analogy I heard many, many years ago — one that tells about being a band parent, which brings to mind the many band competitions Teresa and I have endured.

We have been band parents ever since my son, Lee, was able to pick up a horn and play. That means that I’ve been to countless band contests — those all-day events where you are guaranteed to sit in the bleachers somewhere and watch as many as 50 or 60 bands perform their halftime shows for the judges in the press box.

Frankly, it’s a fairly boring way to spend a Saturday — that is, until your band takes the field! At that point, it doesn’t matter that you have heard the song a thousand times; the “band parent within” takes over! You may know every note and every step that is coming, but your response cannot be restrained.

As the song comes to its conclusion, the band turns toward you; and in one final moment, they start what is known as “blowing to the box.” Every band director teaches the same message: this is the moment where you blow your instrument with all your heart, soul, and strength. No matter what instrument you play, as you face the press box, it’s time to put your very best performance on the line. Lift your head, blow a little harder, and play a little louder! It’s time to let them hear all you have to give!

And though we band parents have experienced this moment countless times, there we are again: standing on the bleachers, waving our arms in the air, and screaming at the top of our lungs as our children “blow to the box”!

The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests sang to the LORD every day, accompanied by the LORD’s instruments of praise. 2 Chronicles 30:21, NIV

As a worshiper, the message is clear: when we turn our attention to the One we worship, our worship expression and experience is totally dependent on where we see our Father seated. If He is in the press box, carefully judging our performance (and our lives) because it is His job to see if we meet some performance standard, then we will approach our Father with caution and fear.

But if we see Him as the Father who has climbed to the top of the bleachers to get a better view of His dear child — as a Father who waves His arms and screams His support with all His strength to let us know that He loves us and is there for us — then nothing and no one can keep us from experiencing God at that very moment.

Worshiping God in response to who He is and what He has done is a privilege that we simply cannot ignore. We were made for worship, and even now God is waiting for us to respond.

Our God is truly the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. His name is Jesus, and He’s waiting for our response to His revelation! Worship while you wait. Worship while you are under the weight of circumstances. Worship when He seems near and when He seems so far away. Your name is written in the book of heaven; and when this life is over, you will be worshiping Him day and night for eternity. Now that’s something to celebrate!

You see, worship really is the key to experiencing God. He’s ready when you are.

Do you feel you are more prepared to worship God completely since you’ve participated in this course? What are some ways you will worship now that you didn’t before?

Points to Ponder
• When we experience God in worship, we are empowered to serve Him — and worship Him more.
• Experiencing God in worship requires time and sacrifice.
• Experiencing God in worship requires us to trust and obey and keep our focus on Jesus.
• God shows up when His people immerse themselves in worship!
• Our worship invites God’s presence; His presence brings increased revelation; and we respond with never-ending worship.

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Seven Words of Worship is based on the book Seven Words of Worship published by LifeWay Press ©2008 · Mike Harland and Stan Moser

No part of this course may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, except as may be expressly permitted in writing by the publisher. Requests for permission should be addressed in writing to LifeWay Press®; One LifeWay Plaza; Nashville, TN 37234-0175.

ISBN: 978-1-4158-6609-2 Item number 005170866

Dewey Decimal Classification Number: 264 Subject Heading: WORSHIP \ SPIRITUAL LIFE

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

Scriptures marked NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

Scriptures marked NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

Scriptures marked AMP are from The Amplified® Bible, copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)

Scriptures marked MSG are from The Message by Eugene Peterson, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scriptures marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.

Leadership and Adult Publishing LifeWay Church Resources One LifeWay Plaza Nashville, TN 37234-0175

Lesson 4 Worshiping Without Restraint

MAIN IDEA: God shows up when His people immerse themselves in worship!

In this class we have been studying the story of the Seventy found in Luke 10, but I’d like to suggest that the story doesn’t end there. We will now hear “the rest of the story,” which teaches us something about completely unrestrained worship; and we will consider how the full story illustrates two foundational truths about worship — truths we have affirmed throughout our study:
• Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done.
• Our worship provides a place of meeting with God — He has promised to inhabit our praises.

“Don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

Unrestrained Worship
In Luke 10:20, Jesus told the Seventy that their names were written in heaven. This alone could have been enough for them — but there was more. They had responded to God’s revelation by joining Him in His work as they fulfilled their mission, and now they were about to experience God in all His glory as they worshiped while the King of kings entered Jerusalem:

Now He came near the path down the Mount of Olives, and the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!
Luke 19:37-38

Though the Scriptures do not say specifically that the Seventy were part of “the whole multitude of the disciples,” it is logical to assume that these devoted followers responded to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to worship Jesus as He entered the city to fulfill His destiny.

As Jesus came into the city, the Seventy — and the entire multitude — weren’t sitting quietly and waiting for someone to ask them to rise and sing verses one, two, and four! They were shouting, singing, waving palm branches, and running alongside the Savior of the world. Their worship was unrestrained. They were proclaiming to all who would listen that the King had arrived, that sins could be forgiven, and that we can live at peace with God as a result. Now that is experiencing God in worship!

Revelation, Worship, and God’s Presence
The Seventy had spent time with Jesus, and they knew He was the Son of God. They knew He had come to set the captives free. Jesus was and is the Lamb who was slain to forever provide a way to the Father.

These disciples had a revelation of God and had seen what He had done in their midst; their response on this day was unrestrained worship. God Himself fulfilled His promise to be present with them as they worshiped! God always inhabits the praises of His people.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem that day, He came in the midst of His disciples’ intense, loud, and unceasing worship. Imagine the scene with me.

Perhaps you are one in the crowd who doesn’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something amazing is unfolding before your eyes. You can hear the noise of all the people begin to swell. Someone special is coming. You can hear the shouts of praise and acclamation.

Surely it is the king or a member of the royal family. Why else would the people be so unrestrained in their praise and adulation? As you strain to catch a glimpse of this royal moment, you are confronted with true royalty — the High King of all time. And He is riding a donkey, just as you have read about in the Holy Scriptures.

Now, it’s decision time for you. If Jesus really is who they say He is — if He really is the Son of God come to set us free from sin — then you must respond! The worship of His disciples is overwhelming …

“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Luke 19:38, NKJV

Surely it is Him! There is no way to stop the worship. The religious leaders have lost control. If the people stop praising Him, the stones will start to cry out. And at that moment you make the decision in your heart: Jesus is Lord! There is none other like Him in all of heaven and earth!

Your heart has been captured in your moment of revelation, and you lift your voice — your own expression of unhindered worship — in unison with the others, shouting, “Blessed is the King … blessed is the King … glory in the highest!” God Himself is present, and you will never, ever be the same!

The presence of God in Christ Jesus at that moment provides an indelible living image of God’s promise to be present when His people worship Him. God always inhabits the praises of His people! And when God is present — when the revelation of God increases — complete and unrestrained worship is our only reasonable response.

Are you picturing yourself in this joyous situation? What would you be doing? How would you be feeling? What do you think it would have been like to be one of the Seventy?

Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” Matthew 21:5

[Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!” Luke 19:40

As we approach the end of our study together, I pray that the message of this lesson has given you a simple yet profound vision of real worship — unhindered worship in response to who God is and what He has done in your life.

I often wonder just how different our corporate worship times would be if each service began with a clear proclamation of God’s goodness and mercy toward us — before the first word of the first hymn or worship chorus was sung.

I encourage you to do that as you begin the next worship service at your church. If not from the platform, at least in your heart begin to focus on the revelation of God in your life — even as you sing. Then join in with the Seventy and all the precious saints around the throne of God and raise your own expression of worship. You are His beloved child, and He wants to hear your voice of praise and adoration more than you could ever imagine.

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 3 More Keys for Worship

MAIN IDEA: Experiencing God in worship requires us to trust and obey and keep our focus on Jesus.

As we continue examining the four keys to worship, it is important to remember that the Seventy were ordinary people, just like you and me. When talking about the Seventy, the Bible never mentions they had great oratory skills or natural charisma. However, it is clear that they spent time in God’s presence, and their obedience makes it clear that they were prepared to pay the cost of following His instructions.

Key #3: Trust and Obey
As we rejoin the Seventy in Luke 10, they are about to be sent on the journey of a lifetime. They are about to be thrust into a God-sized assignment. They are about to experience God in ways they could not have possibly imagined!

Jesus gave the Seventy specific instructions about where to go and how to respond as they stepped out in faith. The Seventy chose to respond, and they fulfilled their destiny. They really were just like us — simple, ordinary people — yet they were destined to walk in the full revelation of God’s grace and power on the earth; destined to be transformed into the image of Jesus; destined to spend eternity with the One who loves them with an everlasting love.

In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure.” Luke 10:21

Why do you think Jesus would be happy God had revealed information to the “infants” instead of the “wise and learned”? God uses ordinary people who are willing to do God’s work in God’s way in the places He sends them. We cannot fear people or the consequences of our obedience. Joining God as He works through us requires faith and obedience.

The words of this study are living proof that God uses ordinary people who are willing to trust and obey. My friend and coauthor, Stan Moser, heard the Lord clearly invite him to develop this study in the midst of a business meeting at LifeWay several years ago.

Stan is a businessman with a lifetime of success as an executive in the Christian music industry. Until God invited Stan to join Him as He developed this study, Stan had no clue that he was also a writer and a teacher. It took great faith, trust, and obedience for him to step out and say, “Yes, I’ll write this study by Your grace,” and you are holding the result of literally years of trust and obedience on his part.

You can do the same in your own life. God doesn’t just use preachers, worship leaders, and celebrities to accomplish His work on this earth. He is constantly working around you, too. As you respond to His invitation to join in, He will use you in ways that you can’t even imagine right now!

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think — according to the power that works in you — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Key #4: Remember That It’s All About Jesus
As we’ve noted previously, the Seventy experienced God in the midst of their service and worship in amazing ways. They responded to their time in Jesus’ presence with great obedience, and they saw sickness and oppression flee in their wake. Can you imagine what that must have been like?

When they returned to the Master, they were obviously excited and filled with awe, wonder, and great joy. As they overcame their own crisis of belief — which we can assume they surely must have experienced — and stepped out in faith, they did indeed experience God. Many lives were changed as a result, including their own, for this life and for all of eternity:

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

Of course, they could accomplish nothing apart from Jesus! Likewise, we can accomplish nothing apart from Him. That’s why His promise to meet us as we worship is so crucial. In His presence, all our enemies, all our distractions, all our doubts and fears and difficult circumstances must bow. He is the true King of kings. And when the King is present, all things are possible!

Authentic service and worship must always be about Jesus! Yet, just like the Seventy, we can be quickly tempted to move from total dependence on Jesus as we’re worshiping and serving to dependence on our own abilities. This is a particular danger for those who serve in church leadership and possess great personal charisma. As God moves in our midst, it is so easy for us to trust in our own talents and abilities rather than maintain total dependence on God. It is crucial that Jesus remains the object, source, and fulfillment of our worship. He truly deserves the glory!

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:5

Instructions for Our Mission
Jesus gave the Seventy very specific instructions, and they had to follow those instructions in order to be successful in their mission. We, too, have encountered many instructions during our study together. Each of these instructions requires us to be obedient and to keep our focus on Jesus as we live a lifestyle of worship. Our aim should always be to satisfy and please Him!

The following Scriptures have been part of our study together. Read each passage and reflect on the instruction(s) given.

[Jesus] answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Luke 10:27, NIV

“No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:13-14

No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:4, AMP

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17, NIV

Brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our heat sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22, NIV

Without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil excess, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:21-22

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 2 Keys for Worship

MAIN IDEA: Experiencing God in worship requires time and sacrifice.

When Jesus offered a God-sized assignment, the Seventy were ready to step out in faith and serve God. They responded to their revelation of God by offering their lives as living sacrifices. They had adopted a worship lifestyle, and Jesus was well-pleased. We can do the same thing today as we respond to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done in our own lives.

There are four simple yet profound keys to experiencing God in worship, and the story of the Seventy gives us a clear pattern to follow. We will consider the first two keys in this lesson and look at the other two in the next lesson.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there. Mark 1:35

Key #1: Time in God’s Presence
Experiencing God in worship starts with our willingness to give God first place in our lives. This means spending time with Him every day — through prayer and devotion to His written and Living Word. God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Apart from Him, we truly can do nothing — and that includes worship. We cannot worship God unless we spend time with Him.

Jesus set the example for us. He often got away from the crowds and distractions and spent time with the Father. While the crowds pressed in for His attention, Jesus knew the source of His strength — time with the Father:

The news about [Jesus] spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

Time with the Father is always time well-spent! We too must develop a hunger for God that supersedes our desire for the things of the world. We can’t receive a fresh revelation of God and the continual infilling of the Holy Spirit without changing our priorities in life. The apostle Paul gives us these instructions:

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:15-18

The only way we can know the will of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit is to spend time in God’s presence. This is the first key to experiencing God in worship.

Following the example of the Seventy, we must spend time in the presence of God if we are to receive revelation. That is what the Seventy did first and foremost: they spent time with Jesus. As we do this, worship becomes our natural response — and the priority of our lives.

When do you spend time with Jesus? In what parts of your day could you carve out some more time to commune with Him?

Key #2: Count the Cost
The story of the Seventy actually begins in Luke 9. That’s when Jesus’ ministry took a major turn:

When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Until this time, Jesus had been setting the stage for His triumphant moment on the cross. He was the Lamb who would be slain to take away the sins of the world. There had always been a cross in His future, and the time had come for that climactic victory.

Jesus knew the road He was about to travel was the most difficult one anyone had ever known. He knew the cross would cost Him great suffering and death, but the time had come — the sacrifice had to be made. The world needed a risen Savior.

As Jesus made clear His plans to go to the cross, many of His followers declared their desire to go with Him, no matter what. Jesus responded by teaching them about the cost of discipleship:

As they were traveling on the road someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go!” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” “Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57,59,61-62

Jesus wanted those disciples to fully understand that the cost of following Him toward His destiny was real and measurable. The cost included persecution, rejection by friends and family members, inconvenience, and material loss. In the language of that day, the concept of burying one’s father implied waiting until the father died so that the son could claim his inheritance. Jesus knew, however, that a far greater inheritance awaited them as they stepped out in faith and followed Him — the same inheritance that awaits us today.

They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41, NKJV

The Seventy followed and served Jesus — worshiped Him — at great cost to themselves. They gave up their time, their families, their earthly goods, and their own agendas to go and declare that the Kingdom was near. The New Testament is filled with examples of the loss and rejection believers experienced, yet they willingly suffered loss that others might know Christ. And they were greatly rewarded. The writer of the Book of Hebrew provides a clear picture of the cost these faithful believers endured as they followed Jesus:

Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way. For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession. So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:32-36

Following Jesus required sacrifice then, and it requires sacrifice today. There are countless stories of ordinary people who have counted the cost and said “Yes!” to God’s invitation that I could share with you. However, I want you to focus on your own story.

Perhaps you already know what it’s like to spend time in God’s presence, hear God’s invitation to join Him as He works, and respond — and possibly you don’t always realize that is what is happening.

For every Bible teacher, for every choir member, for every home-group leader, for every person who invests even one hour in doing missions work or encouraging a friend, there remains a great reward. Recognizing and responding to God’s call takes so many forms. And every response requires faith and obedience. Every response is indeed an expression of worship (lateuro).

Perhaps God is using today’s study to stir your heart to action or greater action on His behalf. If so, then may I remind you that this stirring is God inviting you to join Him as He works right where you are! Your response to His invitation will allow you to continue to experience God in your life. Worship Him as you step out in faith, my dear friend. He is worthy. And He is waiting.

Let’s reflect further on the cost of discipleship: Jesus asked the Seventy to step out in faith and proclaim the coming of the Savior of the world. That sounds like an enviable role to us today, but the cost to them was severe.

What do you think the disciples’ mission might have cost them? Does your response include any of these possible answers: rejection by friends and family, loss of property and inheritance, verbal abuse, physical rejection? Perhaps you thought of other kinds of losses, both tangible and intangible.

Everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. Philippians 3:7

God wants to invite you to join Him as He works, as well. And His invitation will require faith and action on your part. If you sense that God is calling you to do something extraordinary in your life — something requiring faith and action — what might that look like? What cost might be involved?


• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 1 Experiencing God in Worship

MAIN IDEA: When we experience God in worship, we are empowered to serve Him — and worship Him more.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Romans 12:1, AMP

Experiencing God in worship requires faith and action. Our revelation of God should always elicit a response; and as we have learned, complete surrender through a life of worship and service is indeed our only reasonable and adequate response to who God is and what He has done.

The Story of the Seventy
I have always loved the story of the Seventy — the group of disciples who were chosen by Jesus — as recorded in Luke 10. In many ways they represent a perfect picture of faith-filled worship in response to God’s revelation. These disciples definitely lived a life of worship. They spent time observing and following Jesus’ instructions and example. They sat at the Master’s feet, and when He invited them to make a difference in their world, they responded!

After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. Luke 10:1

The Seventy were not the culturally elite of that day; nor were they likely theologians and scholars. They were just ordinary people like you and me. In fact, not one of their names is even mentioned in the Bible. Most likely, their only real qualification for service was their eager desire to spend time with Jesus.

I can just imagine the crowds of people who came and went as Jesus walked through the towns and villages in those days. Multitudes often followed Jesus as He fulfilled the Father’s desire for His life. But the Seventy were special to Him — they were followers who just wouldn’t go away!

Can you imagine what it must have been like for them? They were constantly in the presence of God Himself. They had set aside the agendas of life in order to sit at the feet of the Master, absorb His every word, and serve Him no matter the cost. They were experiencing God in worship every day.

When it came time for Jesus to proceed toward His human destiny — Jerusalem and the cross — they were the ones He chose to go and announce that He was coming:

“Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves. Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road. When you enter any town, and they welcome you, eat the things set before you. Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’ ” Luke 10:3-4,8-9

All they had to do was go to the places Jesus sent them, follow His explicit instructions in the process, proclaim that the Kingdom was near, and put their faith into action in order to see God’s intervention in many, many lives. And in the process, these Seventy — these ordinary people just like you and me — experienced God in amazing ways:

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you.” Luke 10:17-19

The Seventy must have learned numerous valuable principles during the time they had spent at Jesus’ feet; and when it was time to put their faith to work, they were empowered by His presence. These ordinary people got a firsthand view of God’s willingness to respond to their act of lateuro worship!

So, although the principles that the Seventy had learned at the feet of Jesus were important, what they really needed to fulfill their mission was God’s presence; and they experienced God’s presence as they served and worshiped. The same is true for us today!

Let’s review our working definition of worship. By now, you may know it by heart! Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done.

From James 2:17 we read, Faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. How do you see faith and works as complementary? The Seventy proved their faith by their actions, and their reward was great: they experienced God’s presence and power! Think of a few actions you have taken in the past month as a result of your faith. How did you experience God in the process?

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Class 8 “Experience”

“Each of us was created by God for relationship with Him, but we can only enjoy that relationship by God’s grace. God’s great love for us, demonstrated in Christ Jesus, initiates our response. The only reasonable and adequate response is our expression of worship. And as we worship, God has promised to be present. We can always experience God in worship!”

Let’s begin to connect with this class by considering the following questions:
• Which of the revelations of God’s presence has made the biggest impact on you personally?
• To which of the Old Testament encounters with God’s presence that we’ve discussed could you best relate? Why do you think that is?
• Which elements of worship do you include as a part of your regular worship lifestyle? Which is most important to you?
• How would you describe the expectation factor in worship? How does expectation affect you personally from week to week?
• If you feel comfortable doing so, share your personal declaration of faith from the last class with someone. Encourage one another to live such a life of faith in worship!

Watch and listen as Mike sets the stage for our study on worship by explaining how we can “Experience” God in worship.

Engage by reflecting on the following questions from the Word of God and Mike’s message:
• Mike describes the difference between a worship experience and experiencing God in worship. What has this contrast looked like in your own life?
• Mike mentions three marks of a person who is living a lifestyle of worship: obedience, testimony, and humility. Which of those three do you most desire to see evidenced in your own life and why?
• Can you think of a story like the car in the department store incident that made such a big impression on you that you are still telling it? Is there a God story that has grown out of your worship lifestyle?

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You have come into my life and made it possible for me to honor You with my worship and service. I know that every time I lift my voice and my life in worship, You are enthroned in my praise. I want to know You more and see You at work in every part of my life, Lord. May we all continue to experience You in worship in the coming days so that You might be glorified! Amen.

Think about any terms or concepts that are new to you for this class.
• When we experience God in worship, we are empowered to serve Him— and worship Him more. Experiencing God in worship requires time and sacrifice.
• Experiencing God in worship requires us to trust and obey and keep our focus on Jesus.
• God shows up when His people lose themselves in worship!
• Our worship invites God’s presence; His presence brings increased revelation; and we respond with never-ending worship.

Lesson 5 Faith Required

MAIN IDEA: Faith is foundational to worship

We have seen that encountering God’s presence requires faith. Faith fills us with expectation and prompts us to take action, being confident that God will respond. This was true in the days of the Old and New Testaments, and it is true today. As we’ve seen, we can come before God with faith-filled expectation because God has promised to reward those who believe that He exists and who diligently pursue Him:

Without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Before the fall, Adam and Eve had every reason to expect good things from God. They were qualified to dwell in His presence. There was no barrier between them and God because sin had not entered the world. Then, because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve, and all their offspring to come, were disqualified from God’s presence. As we have underscored throughout our study, a righteous God can never dwell in the presence of unrighteousness.

But the good news is that we have been re-qualified because of Jesus’ sacrifice. The only way we can come into God’s presence is through Jesus.

Receiving salvation through Jesus by faith fulfills the requirement of the law. We have been redeemed and justified (made right with God) by the blood of the Lamb. Our “right standing” with God gives us every right and every reason to worship God with the faith-filled expectation that He will respond.

So, by faith we come before God to worship Him for who He is and what He has done. Our worship makes a place for us to encounter God’s manifest presence. And when God is present, our lives are changed!

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Faith — The Sure Foundation
Faith, then, is foundational to worship — and to all of Christian life. Just consider the role of faith in the process of the Christian journey …

1. It is by faith that we surrender our lives to the saving grace and lordship of Jesus Christ and choose to remain or abide in Him.
By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5, NKJV

2. It is by faith that we choose to be different from the world and to receive God’s truth so that we may be transformed.
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

3. It is by faith that we believe and act upon God’s promises.
In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. James 2:17

4. And as we act upon God’s promises by faith, we receive the promises of God in our lives!
Ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil excess, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts — this person will be blessed in what he does. James 1:21,25

This is the Christian life — receiving and believing the Word of God and allowing that Word to transform us more and more into His likeness.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him. 1 John 2:27

What Faith Is and What Faith Does
The Bible gives us an excellent definition of faith:

Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Faith is essential, but faith is possible only where there is hope — hope that comes from relationship with God. As you read and meditate on God’s written Word, hope will abound in you. God is the God of hope, and you can abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are struggling with your faith today, these verses from the Book of Romans are just waiting for you:

Whatever was written before was written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:4,13

Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5, NIV

The Bible also tells us what faith does:

By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift. Ephesians 2:8

The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

Faith allows us access to God and all that He desires for us. As we have seen, flesh and blood cannot reveal the truth of God; only the Spirit of God leads us into all truth. God has given us the ability to live by faith, but it is up to us to put our God-given faith into action.

How We Obtain Faith
Again, we can look to the Bible for instruction regarding how we obtain faith:

Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. Romans 10:17

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had not heard about Jesus and your need for faith in Him? The Bible is very clear: faith comes by hearing. That’s why preaching and teaching the Word of God, and then proclaiming His love for and to every person on the earth, are so important. As we worship God, even unbelievers can be drawn to know more about this wonderful Savior we serve.

The Results of Faith
According to the Word of God, faith provides salvation, peace, hope, power, grace, and so much more. And faith is the foundation to which we add those things that are necessary to make us fruitful throughout our lives on earth:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

Through no decision of our own, we were born into a life of sin. We were born with a sin nature. No matter how good we are, we all fall short of perfection:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

But through our faith in Jesus Christ, we have been made completely new:

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

As a result, we are worthy of God’s presence, now and for eternity. Faith allows us to know God, fellowship in His presence, and receive the blessings He has promised. God truly is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him!

The Requirements of Faith
We cannot experience the results of faith unless we meet the requirements of faith. The Bible tells us,
We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

We are saved by faith and faith alone, but faith without corresponding action is like being able to breathe and choosing not to take a breath! It is in the implementation of our faith — the actions we take by faith in our daily lives — that we discover who we are in Christ. This is a core message of Blackaby and King’s Experiencing God: we experience God in our lives as we respond to Him with faith and action.

Worship — Our Faith in Action
Our freedom in worship is totally dependent on faith. As we put action to our faith, God has promised to reward us. In worship, we put action to our faith by lifting our voices in praise, and God rewards us with His presence.

Have you ever written a personal declaration of faith? Here’s an example to help you get started:
I thank You, Lord Jesus, that Your sacrifice makes it possible for me to worship. I am worthy to enter God’s presence completely by the grace that I receive by faith in You. I am righteous because You are righteous, and I can freely enter the holy place and worship Holy God. By faith, I worship You!

As you worship, remember that your worth is not an issue if you have surrendered your life to God. He is worthy of your praise, and you are able to worship Him because His righteousness has been placed in you — by faith! God simply wants your full attention and your complete surrender. You don’t need to be perfect to enter the King’s presence. All you need is to have faith that God is who He says He is and to make a place for Him to come and meet with you. God desires to inhabit your worship! He is the One who is high and lifted up.

He is the One who is worthy of all praise. There is nothing like the awesome, abiding, and amazing presence of the Lord. In His presence, all things are possible!

Points to Ponder
• God has promised to be present when we worship.
• God revealed His presence in Old Testament times in many different ways.
• God revealed Himself in New Testament times through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
• We can encounter God’s presence today when we worship.
• Faith is foundational to worship.

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Resources used for this class:
• “presence.” Dictionary.com [online]. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1), Random House, Inc [accessed 28 August 2008]. Available from the Internet: www.dictionary.com.
• “manifest.” Dictionary.com [online]. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1), Random House, Inc [accessed 28 August 2008]. Available from the Internet: www.dictionary.com.
• Jack W. Hayford, Manifest Presence: Expecting a Visitation of God’s Grace Through Worship (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2005), 28.

Lesson 4 Encountering God’s Presence Today

MAIN IDEA: We can encounter God’s presence today when we worship.

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.” John 15:7-8

We have seen that God made Himself known in a variety of ways in Old Testament times. Then, in the days of the New Testament, God made His presence known through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures also tell us that God is fully and forever present in heaven, and one day we will know what it is like to experience God’s presence face to face. But what about today? How do we encounter God’s presence right here and now?

We’ve explored three dimensions of God’s presence: God’s awesome, abiding, and amazing presence. We experience all three of these dimensions of God’s presence at various times and in various ways.

God’s awesome presence is with us every day, moment by moment, whether we realize it or not. God is indeed everywhere at all times. We also can experience God’s abiding presence daily. God has promised to dwell with us and in us, and God’s Word is always true. It’s up to us to make a daily decision to abide, remain, and dwell in Him. This decision leads to an intimate relationship with God and a fruitful life that glorifies Him. And, finally, there are many ways we can experience the responsive, intervening nature of God’s amazing presence — often in the midst of worship!

Encountering God’s Amazing Presence
Do you recall the story I shared about my encounter with God’s amazing presence at a Promise Keepers’ event? I was surrounded by over 60,000 men that day, but God reached out and touched me as if I were the only person in the entire stadium. Of course, I knew others had to be encountering God’s presence in a powerful way, too, and I was correct.

My coauthor, Stan, told me about a friend of his who had an amazing encounter with God at the very same event. Stan and his wife, Sue, were having dinner with their friends Tom and Celina Martinez when Tom told the story of this encounter that had changed his life.

Tom grew up believing in God, but like so many of us, he drifted away and began living for himself. The choices he had made in life were costing him his marriage, his family, and all the things he held so dear.

Some friends invited Tom to attend the same Promise Keepers event that I attended, and in spite of his spiritual condition at the time, he accepted. Though he didn’t know it, Tom was about to encounter the manifest presence of God — and his life was about to change forever!

As the men traveled across two states, the van was filled with praise and music. Tom had never seen grown men so excited and filled with expectation. God was using their expectation to set Tom’s encounter in motion, because coming with expectation is crucial to experiencing God in worship.

When these friends entered the stadium to join 60,000 men in worship, the presence of God was overwhelming. As so many men have commented through the years, the sense of God’s presence is very real at these events. A stadium full of men worshiping together is truly an unforgettable experience!

Within minutes, in the midst of worship, Tom was face to face with the One who had created him and who loves him with an everlasting love. He thrust his hands in the air and received Jesus. Through tears of repentance and joy, the old Tom tried to drag him back to “reality.” After all, what was he thinking? And how could he act like this in front of all these macho guys?

Then God sealed the deal. As Tom opened his eyes, all he could see was thousands of men around him in the same condition — worshiping, surrendering, repenting, and crying out in adoration and desperation for the One they always longed to encounter.

Worship was the key! When God is present, even “macho sinners” like Tom find themselves responding!

“As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.” John 12:32

God’s Amazing Presence Is Available to All
Since that day 12 years ago when Tom encountered the amazing and overwhelming presence of God in worship, Tom’s marriage and family have been restored. Today he and his wife, Celina, are intercessory prayer leaders who serve regularly in one of the most dynamic churches in the country. Even though we have never met, Tom and I forever will be linked by our Promise Keepers encounter. I’m certain that Tom and I were not the only ones who were deeply impacted by God’s amazing presence that day, and I look forward to hearing story after story around the throne of God one day.

God’s amazing presence is available to all who surrender their lives to Him. As we learn to live by faith with expectation that God will respond, He will do just that. He is ready to meet you now as you worship Him. Recall God’s promise to inhabit the praises of His people:

You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3

Questions for Reflection
• How does your worship provide a place for God to meet with you?
• How would you describe the role or purpose your expectation plays before and during worship?
• When you prepare to worship God — whether corporately or privately — do you expect to encounter God’s presence? Why?
• Is your worship different when you have the expectation of encountering God? If so, how?
• Do you honestly desire to encounter the Living God in a tangible and undeniable way when you worship?
• Are you content with your worship as it is now? If not, ask God for a fresh encounter with His amazing presence. Then, worship Him with faith-filled expectation!

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 3 God’s Presence in the New Testament

MAIN IDEA: God revealed Himself in New Testament times through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

God has always desired a people who could dwell in His presence, but mankind was disqualified through disobedience in the garden. Dwelling in the presence of God Almighty always requires complete righteousness.

Something had to be done, and God took the initiative again. God’s people needed His presence. God desired relationship with mankind so much that He came to earth in human form to make a way for us to have an eternal covenant relationship with Him — not a covenant sealed by the blood of sheep and goats, but a covenant sealed forever with the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ:

Now the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:11-14

Now, that is reality! From the beginning of time, God existed — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three in one are the God who made man in His image:

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26

The plan for the creation of man and the salvation of those who believe was set in motion long before Jesus came to earth. Jesus came in the form of man, fulfilled His destiny, and returned to His rightful place in heaven, but He did not leave us alone. The Holy Spirit remains with us today to carry out God’s will in each of our lives. The Spirit of the Living God provides for us every moment of every day. Now that’s revelation worthy of worship!

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8, NKJV

New Testament Expressions of God’s Presence

1. Jesus was the Word of God who physically dwelt on the earth.
The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Jesus of Nazareth came to earth and lived as a man. He felt what we feel, and he experienced every temptation we will ever know:

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-15

Our God became real flesh and blood to make it possible for us to be re-qualified for His presence.

2. Jesus was and is the exact image of God, for He is God.
[Now] He is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation. For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him. And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together). Colossians 1:15-17, AMP

From the creation of the earth, the stage was set for God’s entry through Jesus Christ. God knew exactly what it would take for man to respond to His love: Jesus. He is the full revelation of God!

3. Jesus’ life and words gave testimony of God.
“The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.” John 8:29

When we examine the love that Jesus demonstrated in word and deed — the mighty signs and wonders that He performed — there is simply no doubt that He was God. God is love, and only God could love us enough to die for our sins.

4. Jesus and God are one and the same.
“The Father and I are one.” John 10:30
“The one who has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9

There is simply no doubt: Jesus was and is God. While on the earth, Jesus demonstrated the very life of God — only doing and saying as the Father directed. His communion and communication with God was complete!

5. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to remain with us.
“It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.” John 16:7-8

We all understand the principle of giving to receive, and Jesus embodied that truth. He knew that His presence as a man was only a foreshadowing of God’s desire to intervene in our lives. Jesus had to depart the earth, but He did not leave us or forsake us.

6. The Holy Spirit came upon and empowered His people; He is present in us.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

The Holy Spirit enables us to experience God’s presence and be in relationship with God. And He operates through us to impact the world around us. That is what experiencing God is all about — the Holy Spirit invites us to join Him as He works! He really is alive and well on planet earth, dwelling in and among His people. We are the body of Christ.

I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.” John 14:18

Made to Enjoy God’s Presence
There is no doubt: we were made to enjoy God’s presence both now and throughout eternity. God has given us the invitation and the means — Christ in us, the hope of glory — to do just that. Our part is to live our lives by faith, fully expecting that we will encounter God’s manifest presence.

We experience God’s presence as we respond to His great love and surrender our lives to Him. As we have learned, surrender involves presenting all our members and faculties as a living sacrifice, as instructed by Romans 12:1:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Romans 12:1, AMP

I like the way the Amplified Bible describes a living sacrifice: holy, devoted, consecrated, and well pleasing to God. This, we are told, is our reasonable — rational and intelligent — act of service and spiritual worship.

As we come before God in worship with surrendered and expectant hearts, He will respond, making His amazing presence known to us. He is, of course, worthy of our worship and adoration, but what does that actually look like? As always, our best source for direction is God’s Word. A survey of biblical elements of worship includes the following.

• Expectation (Ps. 27:14; 62:5; Isa. 8:17; 40:31)
• Obedience (Jer. 7:23; 42:6; Titus 3:1; Heb. 5:9)
• Sacrifice (Ps. 51:16-17; 54:6; 116:17; Matt. 9:13; Rom 12:1)
• Faith (Matt. 17:20; 21:21-22; Rom. 3:28; 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 11)
• Patience (Luke 8:15; 2 Thess. 3:6; Jas. 1:4; 5:10-11)
• Thanksgiving (Ps. 50:14; 95:2a; 100:4a; 107:22; Phil. 4:6)
• Attention (Prov. 4:20; 5:1; 7:24; 1 Tim. 4:13)
• Submission (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17; 5:5)
• Prayer (Matt. 6:5-6,9-13; 14:23; 26:41; Rom. 8:26; 1 Thess. 5:17)
• Meditating on God’s Word (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 63:6; 119:15,148; Phil. 4:8)
• Humility (Col. 3:12; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 5:5)
• Surrender (Rom. 6:13-14; 12:1; Phil. 3:8-10)
• Drawing near (Ps. 73:28; Heb. 10:19-22; Jas. 4:8)
• Listening (Ps. 78:1-4; 81:13; Prov. 8:32; 19:20; Eccl. 5:1)
• Watching (Matt. 25:13; Mark 13:35-37; 14:38; Luke 21:36; Acts 20:28-31)

Now, focus on any element on this list that has captured your attention. Your particular interest in any one element may be the Lord drawing you into a deeper worship experience. Take the time to examine each related Scripture carefully. God deeply desires to speak to you personally as you study His Word!

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 2 God’s Presence in The Old Testament

MAIN IDEA: God revealed His presence in Old Testament times in many different ways.

As the Scriptures demonstrate, God has manifested His presence in many different ways since the beginning of time. Let’s consider some of the ways God made His presence known in the Old Testament. In the next lesson we will turn our attention to the New Testament.

Though the number of ways God manifested His presence in the Old Testament is too great for us to cover, let us explore just a few examples.

Old Testament Expressions of God’s Presence

1. God was present before the heavens and the earth existed.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

God Almighty, the Creator of everything, existed before anything ever existed. In this age of computer-generated graphics and video games, that concept is not as hard to grasp as it once was. If a graphic designer can “think it,” he or she can “create it.” That’s essentially what happened in Genesis 1:1. God was there, and He brought everything we know into existence.

2. God was present with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Adam and Eve knew God. But instead of worshiping God for who He was and what He had done in their lives, they chose to disobey His clear direction, which would have enabled them to have the perfect life on earth. As a result, sin entered the world through their trespass.

Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12

Adam and Eve’s response to the Lord’s presence in the garden indicated that their revelation of God was complete:

The LORD God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Genesis 3:9-10

Like Adam and Eve, we have been given a clear revelation of who God is, who we are relative to who He is, how we should respond, and what we can expect. Instead of bowing before the Lord in repentance and worshiping God for His great redemptive power, Adam and Eve hid from His very presence — from the very One who could redeem them from the sin they ushered into the world. Let’s not make the same mistake!

3. God made His presence known through His creation.
From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Although the Gospel message is being preached around the world today, that wasn’t always true. Nevertheless, God has always been “visible” to humanity through His creation. When God made the earth and all that it contains, He created a reality that testifies of His greatness to every generation of men and women who have lived or ever will live on the earth.

4. God’s presence was in the cloud and pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness.
The LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. Exodus 13:21

Before Jesus came to mediate between God and fallen man, God interacted with His people in some amazing ways. The unseen God had to find a way to lead His people to freedom in spite of their sin and rebellion. Evidently they could not respond to His leadership without a direct encounter.

5. God revealed His presence to Moses in the burning bush.
The Angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire within a bush. … When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush. Exodus 3:2,4

Can you imagine walking down the street in your neighborhood and encountering a burning bush? It most certainly would get your attention! God was determined to relate to His people, no matter what it took. Moses had the faith necessary to respond to the unseen God. Even when God does something extraordinary to get our attention, it still takes faith to “hear” Him.

6. God was present in a cloud at the dedication of the temple.
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. 2 Chronicles 5:14, NIV

Can you imagine what that worship must have been like? Surely the leaders and the congregation prepared for months, if not years. This was the crowning moment for the years of dedicated work in building God’s place of residence.

Just picture for a moment all the Levites and priests in their finest clothing, fulfilling their duties after months of rehearsal — and God brought the whole ceremony to a screaming halt! His presence was undeniable.

That is the same “presence” that God wants to bring to our assemblies today — and our worship creates that opportunity!

7. God was present with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.
King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

When God intervenes, it’s hard to deny. Even an ungodly leader like Nebuchadnezzar recognized the presence of God. There is no limit to God’s desire to rescue His beloved — and we, too, are the objects of His great love!

8. God was present in the holy of holies inside the temple.
The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the veil in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.” Leviticus 16:2

As we have discussed previously, God has always been present. God existed before the foundation of the earth was laid — in fact, He spoke all of reality into existence. However, as we also have explored, man was disqualified from direct contact with God because of sin. There simply was no way that unholy man could encounter the one true holy God and survive direct contact, as this verse from Leviticus makes clear. Yet even with the self-imposed limitation of God’s holiness, God made His presence undeniable.

Perhaps a contemporary term can help us understand how God tried to communicate with His people in Old Testament days. In our computer-driven world, virtual reality is a familiar term. It describes our technological ability to experience and interact with events, characters, and situations through a computer-simulated sensory environment.

Similarly, God loved His people so much that He revealed Himself through sensory experiences — images and sounds with which they could interact for guidance and instruction. Why? Because without Jesus, our great High Priest, any contact more direct than that would have been fatal!

Read More About It
• King Nebuchadnezzar builds a golden statue: Dan. 3:1-7
The scheme against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Dan. 3:8-15
• Refusal to worship the statue: Dan. 3:16-18
• Thrown into the fiery furnace: Dan. 3:19-23
• Delivered from the fiery furnace: Dan. 3:20-27
• Nebuchadnezzar praises God: Dan. 3:28-30

From Virtual Reality to Reality
Yes, God was the “ultimate” in virtual reality throughout the Old Testament. God manifested His presence as He willed in order to impact His chosen people and reveal Himself to the ungodly. God wanted His people to have a clear revelation of Him and to respond with worship, and sometimes they did. Unfortunately, they didn’t always respond to God’s visitation — His virtual reality — with repentance, obedience, and ensuing righteousness.

Even so, God still wanted an intimate relationship with His people — and still does! After all, He created man and woman for relationship. He walked in the garden right in their midst. He spoke to them face-to-face. His great desire always has been for us to be together in harmony. Yet the problem remained: unrighteous people cannot be in the presence of a perfectly righteous God.

Virtual reality just wasn’t enough. But God, who is gracious and merciful beyond our comprehension, knew exactly what to do. He was about to move from virtual reality to reality. He was about to send Himself in the form of a flesh and blood Savior. Jesus — the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the full and complete image of God — was about to come to the earth!

Can you think of other times and ways when God revealed His presence in the Old Testament? Why do you think God chose to manifest His presence in a variety of ways?

Have you ever experienced an unusual encounter with God? You may not have seen a burning bush or followed a cloud to your destination, but you may have an inspiring story of God’s unusual direction or intervention in your life. I encourage you to share that story with others when appropriate. Your testimony of God’s faithfulness may be a key to helping those around you overcome obstacles they are facing (Rev. 12:10-11).

You know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 1 Peter 1:18-19

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?