June 2018

From The Pastor's Heart

Is it possible to come into God’s presence corporately and truly worship Him if we haven’t prepared our hearts beforehand?

By Charles F. Stanley

How much time and effort does it take for you to get ready to attend church? This varies according to your stage in life, especially if you have young children. But we all generally arrive groomed and well dressed as we walk into the sanctuary. However, how much time is spent preparing spiritually before we gather to worship?

Is it possible to come into God’s presence corporately and truly worship Him if we haven’t prepared our hearts beforehand? Think about the baggage we often bring with us. Maybe we didn’t have time for prayer and Bible reading before church so we arrive in a spiritual deficit. Or perhaps the morning was filled with frustration and conflict, and we come in to church cranky and angry. Without a worshipful attitude, we have to wonder if we are truly ready to worship God.

Jesus had an interesting conversation about worship with a Samaritan woman in John 4:20-24. She wanted to know where to worship. The Samaritans had built an alternate temple on Mount Gerizim, but the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. Jesus’ response was undoubtedly surprising to her: “An hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (v. 21). He was introducing an entirely new way to worship that wouldn’t be centered in a particular place but in human hearts: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (v. 23).

Today all over the world in various locations, Christians gather to praise and glorify God. Yet we must be careful to worship Him in truth, or we’ll veer off into shallow emotionalism. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (v. 22). Sincerity is no replacement for truth. Therefore, worship must always be in accordance with Scripture since it’s the only way we will accurately know who God is and how He desires that we approach Him.

Without a worshipful attitude, we have to wonder if we are truly ready to worship God.

Worship is a response of praise, adoration, and reverence based on who we know the Lord to be. Although it involves our emotions, it flows from our knowledge of God. I believe one of the primary reasons we don’t praise and worship the Lord as we ought is ignorance. That’s why it’s so important that we grow in our knowledge of God as He’s revealed Himself in His Word. Otherwise, our sincere worship may be for a god of our own making rather than the one true God.

Jesus also tells us to worship in spirit, which is our inner being. God is more concerned about the state of our hearts than He is about all our external acts of service and worship. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ourselves spiritually before we gather to worship.

First, we need a submissive, obedient spirit. A rebellious, self-willed heart cannot worship the Lord because it’s in opposition to Him. The first mention of worship in the Bible is in the context of Abraham’s obedience to God in willingly offering Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:5). In fact, in Hebrew the word worship means to bow down in subjection and reverence: “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). This is the attitude we should have as we gather to praise and honor God.

Second, worship requires a repentant spirit. Sin is a hindrance to our relationship with God and makes our religious efforts worthless. The Lord doesn’t delight in praises offered from an unclean heart, yet sometimes we come to church with unresolved anger, unforgiveness, secret sin, or sinful attitudes. David understood the futility of worship apart from confession: “You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it ... The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:16-17). Only then can we open our mouths in genuine praise.

Third, we should have a God-focused spirit. Worship is not about our experience but God’s honor and glory. We come to exalt Him by praising His marvelous attributes and works, humbly bringing our petitions to Him in prayer, giving back a portion of what He’s given us, and learning from His Word. Although we are blessed by God when we worship Him, what we receive should never be our primary motive. In fact, the joy, peace, and delight we feel in God’s presence are simply more reasons to praise and thank Him.

So how should we prepare to worship God each Sunday? I believe that public worship must be preceded by private praise. If worship is not a part of our daily lives, it won’t be all that it could be in church. In those quiet times alone with Him, we learn to know Him through His Word, and as our knowledge and understanding of Him increase, so will our love for Him. And it’s our love for Him that fuels and motivates us to praise and adore Him. When God becomes our greatest delight, worship is our joyous response.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. There’s nothing like the benefits of gathering with a local body of believers to worship and praise the Lord, but if you find it difficult to attend a church, I’d like to invite you to worship with us at In Touch Ministries via television, radio, or online. And to all the dads I’d like to say Happy Father’s Day. May God strengthen you to fulfill this awesome responsibility.



What happens to my notes

20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

21 Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

5 Abraham said to his young men, Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you."

6 Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

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