Hook’d on a Feeling?


I habitually hear, “I love this church I’m attending. I can really feel God’s presence through the music and atmosphere.” I know what she means. I remember sitting in a “church” in Oklahoma City feeling the same way throughout the music “worship.” I would leave “the experience” jazzed, excited, encouraged, and wanting more, ‘Wow, I really feel something.” During the week I began reading Ephesians. I learned about God’s grace; how He blesses His children; how I’m to walk in a manner worthy of the calling; and about my spiritual armor. Everyday I read Ephesians over and over again. You know, I had that same feeling and wanted more. It must be the Spirit right?

[1] Then after six months, that feeling did not hit as often. I asked, what’s happening? I want more! Where is He? How do I get this feeling back? My conclusion to this dilemma, “I’m in the wilderness.” God is here, but right now he’s drawing away from me. Okay, now some analysis. If you’re reading this right now with skepticism, then you’re tracking with me. But for the sake of understanding, why would someone think this? Let’s look at it.

UnknownFirst, I have this feeling during music and corporate gatherings. Second, I have this feeling when I read and pray. So, it seems this feeling comes up while I’m doing spiritual things. The Holy Spirit is pretty spiritual (and He does indwell me), therefore it HAS to be the Holy Spirit. Now, add to this other people saying the same thing and calling worship an experience — something you can even do online at home. People use feelings as the primary criteria for determining a good church, feeling God’s “presence”. Then we hear preachers describe this same feeling as “unction.” So it’s a SLAM DUNK, the presence of God can be felt!

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking: God’s Word. God wrote His Word to reveal Himself to us; His works, and His relationship to believers. Consider these verses:

“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:24) The first verse references this reality, believers have a relationship with Jesus Christ that places us in His family. We are united to the Triune God. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. Observe, the only contingent factor in this verse, do you keep the commandments? Does union end when a believer sins? John asks what kind of fruit do we exhibit? Someone who says, “No, my life is marked by disobedience to God” should conclude “I don’t really belong to God.” The Spirit abides in believers all the time, even when you’re sleeping. The Spirit doesn’t leave the believer when she sins, it leads her to repentance. So if the Triune God always dwells in the believer, then how can we not be in His presence?

“He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17; emphasis mine). The second verse may seem an unlikely proof. But I use it to summarize an important part of Christ’s priestly ministry. Christ is our High Priest. We never need another priest ever again. Like the Levitical high priest, He offered the great sacrifice. His ministry differed though because He also was the perfect, blameless offering; Yet, His ministry continues. This day, He makes propitiation (intercession) for believers. The Greek uses a present aspect infinitive to portray the habitual action of interceding. Christ habitually intercedes for you believer. Whether you realize it or not, whether you “feel” it or not, He habitually ministers to us. His faithfulness to His role and intercession is not contingent on your actions. God doesn’t look at His children, true believers, and say, “I won’t be near you today because you’re having a bad day and struggling with patience.”

Unknown-1Finally consider the cross. “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,” (Hebrews 10:19-21). These verses examine the cross. What did Christ accomplish on the cross. “Since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.” What is the holy place? The author already explained the holy place, “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb 9:24). The holy place is the presence of God. Christ’s blood, aka His death, brings believers into God’s presence. “We have been set apart through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are set apart” (Heb 10:10, 14). God brings believers under the New Covenant, meaning sins are forgiven (10:17-18). The cross sets believers a part, makes us holy, and God forgives us. But we can go one step further, because of Christ, believers enter into God’s presence. In fact, the text says, “we have confidence.” Believers are always in God’s presence because the cross accomplishes this result. Where in Hebrews does God say, “Your music really helps me draw near to you” or “The right ambiance, lighting, and music brings the Holy Spirit to life and you into my presence”?!?! To think the music and atmosphere brings us close to God undermines the cross and Christ and His atoning work.

Christ is God’s greatest joy. Do you think He would undermine His Word and His Son and relegate His presence to our music, ambiance, or preacher’s ‘unction’? I have a hard time saying yes. Here are all the verses in Scripture affirming God’s presence being felt, . The lack of biblical support should leave us suspect.

So what is this feeling? I mean, I had this experience too. But to be honest, I have this experience when I watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling played — I wanted to experience this again.

Last year I was in San Diego with my bride for our 10 year anniversary. We ate at a few restaurants, their food was so good I had the same feeling and wanted more. We went to Petco park, same feeling, wanted more. Was I more in God’s presence watching, a silly movie, eating good food, and enjoying a baseball game? Is Hook’d on a Feeling a hymn or spiritual song? I really like it, in fact, I confess, sometimes I replay the song 2 or 3 times, but I’m not 100% sure it should be used in corporate worship because it brings me closer to God. No, I’d probably advocate the feeling is excitement and adrenaline. Music can get us excited, raise the adrenaline. I was learning God’s Word for the first time and I was excited. I was excited because I was no longer a walking dead zombie, instead I’m alive in Christ. It’s okay to be excited and even say, I’d like to experience this again. I’m just not sure corporate worship should be treated like an adrenaline event. It’s most definitely contrary to God’s Word to associate it with His presence.

[1] Songs intentionally placed in this post to prove my point. I like them, you may not. Both illicit excitement and desire to hear again, neither probably used by God to draw me closer to Him or bring me in his presence. Both get stuck in my head. Both I like, neither do I reference to offend anyone. . . . and just in case you think one of these songs would never be caught dead in a ‘worship experience’ . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF2Ix-_a04o

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About Jason Vaughn

Jason is a graduate of the Master's Seminary and the pastor of Cornerstone Las Vegas, a Grace Advance church plant. He loves Christ, his wife Kyla, sometimes his kids :), the church, missions, people, and coffee. You can also follow his podcast at https://soundcloud.com/user-201412896.