Saturday, March 08, 2008

Does God inhabit our praises? (Or do we have it even better!)

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
(Ps 22:1-3 KJV)

Throughout my evangelical and pentecostal life, I've heard verse 3 above quoted many times. The application of the verse has generally been this: When we praise and worship God, He is actually right there in our praise. He inhabits our praise. And so we get the idea that either when we're alone or in a gathering of the saints, worshiping God together, God 'comes down' or manifests Himself in our praises.

I was listening to a tape of a sermon from an old pastor of mine in the late 90's, "Pastor Mark," and he gave a somewhat lengthy talk on this at the beginning of the hour long sermon. He spent about 18 minutes on this. At the time (back in the 90's), this gave me a whole new view of this.

My quick summary of his words would be to say that we don't praise and worship God for the purpose of "bringing Him down to us" or to cause Him to come to us. As people who have been joined to the Lord (1 Cor 6:17), He doesn't inhabit our praises. He inhabits us!

When we worship Him and praise Him, sometimes we may feel or experience wonderful things (and we may not!). If we do feel or experience things, it's not that He has come down to us, but rather that Christ in us is coming out of us, so to speak. In other words, Christ is in us, and He may manifest Himself through us in various ways... prophecy, praise, exhortation, word of knowledge, tongues, healing... or in other ways such as feelings of peace, comfort, joy, calmness, etc. While this particular list of the ways He may manifest Himself is small, I want to say again that there also may be absolutely no extra sensation or feeling, or manifestation. And that's quite OK! The overall point is that God inhabits us and we're not praising Him in order to get Him to do something that He's already done, which is that He has already come to be with us and in us!

I've made the tape into an mp3, and below you will find a link to the part in which Mark gives this exhortation. There are many little nuggets in this, so feel free to give it a listen. I edited it down to 17 minutes, and just less than 3MB.

As always... my purpose and hope here is to edify and bring encouragement. If you don't agree with any of what I've said or what's in the audio, that's quite ok with me!


  1. Joel--The whole idea of having a time when I feel close to God, or God feels close to me, is kinda ridiculous. He can't be any closer to a believer than He already is!

    I'm amazed at how often I forget this truth, and feel like God is somehow distant from me. I guess it's those times I have to really hang on to the reality of God's presence, even if my perception is off.

    I wonder if that's what Jesus was feeling on the cross when He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" With the weight of the world's sin on Him, maybe He couldn't feel Father's presence any more. It would have been the only time ever that He didn't feel perfect fellowship with the Father.

    I know that last paragraph is off-topic, but you got me thinking. (I hate when that happens!) You can have your comment section back now...

  2. Richard... I couldn't have said it any better. The reality is that God is always with us, but our perception often doesn't match up with the reality. I think the more we focus on "Christ is our life" rather than "Christ is a part of our life," our perception hopefully change more and more to match with the reality.

    The same pastor from whom I shared this audio also once talked about an ad for some praise and worship tapes that he saw in a Christian magazine.

    The ad had a picture of a mountain and a picture of the tapes. The caption read something like, "Which will bring you closer to God?" The implied answer in the ad is, "the praise and worship tapes will bring you closer to God."

    "Now wait a minute," my pastor said. "I thought JESUS brought us close to God!"

    We're as close to God as we'll ever be!

  3. Great audio teaching. I haven't thought about that scripture in a while but, in the past, I claimed it like everyone else not realizing that Jesus doesn't inhabit my praises, he inhabits me. My praises are just an overflow of his life in me.

    Ever so often, even now, I find myself singing "Holy Spirit, Rain Down" out of habit. When I realize what I'm doing, I'll stop and remind myself that he's not out there on the other side of Pluto but that he's in me.

    Jim Palmer has a chapter in Wide Open Spaces where he discusses the fact that we tend to have our focus upward when we talk about God as though he's far, far away in the sky when actually he lives in those of us who are his children. I just read it yesterday so what he said is fresh on my mind and the audio reminded me of it. Like Richard, I need to be reminded that Jesus is in me since I tend to forget at times.

    I also found it interesting when the pastor spoke about all of the ceremonial washings of the body that took place. I finally got that they were a symbolic representation of the flesh that still needs to be dealt with at times. I never made the connection.

    It's always bothered me that it almost seemed like women were punished for having a monthly cycle, something that we can't help. It made God seem somewhat chauvinistic in my mind. Now that I understand the symbolic washing and cleansing rituals, it really makes more sense and helps me to see another way that our convenant is more superior to the old one. This is another place where understanding grace has set me free as a woman.

    Thanks for posting the audio, Joel. It was very refreshing and very freeing.


  4. Aida... I really miss this old pastor of mine. It's been about 8 years since we've seen him. His weekly messages were close to an hour long, and were always full of meaty nuggets of truth. I have about 60 sermon tapes, some of which I've already converted to mp3, and I'm working on more of them, so I'm sure I'll share more from him in the future.

    In general, I'm not really drawn much to Old Covenant studies, but this man in particular had a way of bringing them into the light of the New Covenant that was very interesting and captivating, and he really has helped me to see a little more clearer about what it was all about.

  5. This one was great and I look forward to hearing more as you feel led to post them.


  6. Joel, I really like this post!! I have a question for you, cause I am still not sure I fully understand some things. I believe the Holy Spirit is alive within us, but how do you explain the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. As well as the time when the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus. I am trying to wrap my mind around this dual role of the Holy Spirit or so it seems through Scripture. What are your thoughts, I would love to hear from you..........

  7. Lydia,

    I'm not going to claim expertise on the understanding of this, but my thoughts are that in Jesus' case, it wasn't that He was suddenly being filled with the Spirit right after He was baptized, but rather that He had always been "filled with the Spirit." When Luke 3 says that "the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him," I think this was simply a visible way to mark the beginning of His 'ministry.' Having been conceived by the Spirit, I don't think there was ever a time when He was without the Spirit.

    I actually think the day of Pentecost was the first time the Spirit had ever come to live in man. I could be wrong about this, but I think this is when people were first actually "born again." At the beginning of Acts, Jesus had told them to not depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the Promise of the Father... "John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Up to that point, He had been teaching them, but I don't think the church of born again believers started until that moment.

    Again, I could be wrong but this is simply what I've thought about this.

  8. Thanks for your thoughts Joel. It would be interesting to really flesh all this out further. I feel the need to understand the Holy Spirit that is already within me and the Holy Spirit that annoints or pours out upon me. If Jesus was to truly be the Annointed One, He needed to have the Holy Spirit come upon Him, even though He already was born of the Spirit, and always carried His Presence with Him. But, does the Holy Spirit serve an additional purpose in annointing us, we are already filled with him, but when He comes upon us additionally it's like a match being ignited - are you hearing where I am going with all of this?

  9. Hi Lydia,

    Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you!

    I'll probably say some things here that you perhaps disagree with, or that simply differ from common teachings, and maybe some things you agree with too. This is simply how I see things right now.

    I spent a few years "trying" to be "filled with the Spirit" and to find the "anointing" to do the work of God, but to no avail. Long story short, I simply began to question why I was saved but yet couldn't get God to do all those "Holy Spirit" things through me. I was beginning to grow in my understanding of grace, and I began to see some things (sometimes on my own and sometimes through some great preaching) that I hadn't seen before. Or perhaps better said, I began to stop seeing things that I had seen before - because they weren't actually there! Maybe I'll put it this way. In the Pentecostal church, I began to see that certain scriptures (a lot of them from Acts) were ripped right off the pages of the Bible and used to build entire doctrines, without taking into account other scriptures from the rest of the NT scriptures. These scriptures were then applied to what was supposedly supposed to happen during church services, and in our daily lives as we go out "witnessing" and such.

    For example, this whole thing about "the anointing" or "being anointed." Like I said, I kept waiting till this time when God would "anoint" me to go out and be a bold witness, since I was so shy about sharing Jesus with others, and to "anoint" me to lay hands on the sick so they would be healed. None of it ever happened. But then I saw that the Bible never tells us to seek after an anointing. What it says is that in Christ we have been anointed by God (we are anointed by God) (2 Cor 1:21, 1 John 2:20, 27). Jesus Himself had one "anointing" through which He "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil" (Acts 10:38).

    I don't believe the Holy Spirit kept coming upon Him and then leaving and then coming upon Him again and again with different anointings and such. Same with us. We've been filled with the Spirit of God, He indwells us and we've been anointed and we walk in our individual gifts (which are unique to each of us - and that's ever so important, so as we don't go around wondering why we can't do certain things that others can do) through that anointing and by the Holy Spirit that indwells us.

    I do see a few instances in which the phrase "filled with the Spirit" is used. Acts 13:9 - "Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said..." Acts 4:8 - "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them..."

    I think we have taken verses like this and made them into something they're not. As I see it, especially along with the rest of the NT passages that speak about the Holy Spirit in us, it's not that in these cases, Paul and Peter were suddenly "filled" with the Holy Spirit, which enabled them to say and do what they did. I believe that they were already filled with the Spirit, through having been born again, and in these specific cases, the writer, Luke, was emphasizing the fact that Peter and Paul did what they did because they were filled with the Spirit (already).

    It's not as if we need to take in a huge breath of air and be filled with the Spirit each and every time we're led to do something by the Spirit. We're constantly filled with the Spirit, because Christ is our life, and we've become a new creation that is one spirit with God (1 Cor 6:17) and we've become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

    As always, it's taken me a while to make a point. LOL. What I'm saying is that we're never not filled with the Spirit. In other words, I don't think there's any such thing as us being additionally ignited like a match, as you mentioned. We simply are filled with the Spirit all the time. Now, He may manifest Himself through us in some pretty spectacular ways sometimes (and in some pretty un-spectacular ways other times!), but I don't think there's any special we do to cause that. In Him we live and move and have our being. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. It is God who works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. We're simply along for the ride (a pretty splendid ride!) and we simply get to take part in what He does!

  10. Thanks Joel for your response. I think you make a valid point, one that I will most definitely be thinking about more. I agree with you, that we are always filled with the Spirit and never not filled with him and I also would agree that we don't do anything special to cause Him to manifest to us, other than simply ask at times, and at other times He just does. But there is more to this that I can't put my finger on just yet.......So again thanks for your thoughts! And yes it's a fun ride indeed!!

  11. Hi Lydia,

    I like what you originally said about fleshing all of this stuff out. I'm really just saying what I've experienced over the past 17 years, essentially, both in churches and in my reading of the scriptures, and when it comes to talking about the Holy Spirit in our lives, it's always worth sharing with each other and talking it out. Although I've arrived at certain ways of seeing things, I know I still have plenty to learn, and my thoughts could change as I learn more. As with you, there are certain things that I still can't quite put my finger on.

    My thing is that I don't want to 'blindly' listen to what others have to say, and simply accept it as rock solid truth, because I did a lot of that in the past and I found a lot of it to simply not be true, or to be an exaggeration or a misappropriation of scripture. I also don't want people to blindly listen to what I have to say as if it's rock solid truth, for the very same reasons. :) What I really like doing is talking these things out with others, as we're doing here, and learning and growing. Whether or not we all arrive at the same conclusions, it's worth sharing with each other. If you have any more thoughts, either now or at some future time, I'd love to hear them!