It is time to prepare our hearts for worship. What do I mean by ‘our hearts?’ When I use the term heart, I don’t mean the organ in our chest. I mean it as J.I. Packer says that the heart is “the central, dynamic core of personal life. The Bible uses the word in this way about a thousand times, and thereby highlights, illustrates and enforces the following truths: 1. The human heart is the controlling source of all that we do in expression of what we are: all our thoughts, desires, discernments and decisions, our plans and purposes, our affections, attitudes and ambitions, all the wisdom and all the folly that mark our lives, come out of, and are fueled, serviced and driven by, our hearts, for better or for worse. 2. The salvation that God gives us in Christ is rooted in a created and creative change of heart, as described by Ezekiel in an oracle about the restoring of Israel following the captivity: ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek. 36:26-27). The new, renewed heart becomes, on the one hand, the source of faith in Christ and in the gospel promises, whereby we enter a new relationship of acceptance with God; and, on the other hand, the source of love to God and man – the grateful, responsive, resolute purpose of honouring and pleasing God in all things, and seeking the best for our nearest and dearest and whoever else may cross our path. The new heart, acting in these ways, is in fact the sign of our salvation, and the inward discipline of sustaining such action is the reality of ‘heart-work:’ which, be it soberly said, is work indeed.”
So, when we are preparing our hearts for worship, we are preparing ‘the controlling source of all that we do in expression.’ We need to do what Packer calls ‘heart-work’ as we prepare for worship. Which Packer goes on to say that heart-work is “in effect, talking to oneself before the Lord, reminding oneself of truths about the ways of God and the grace of Christ that will energize and stabilize one for a return to, and continuance on, the path of faithfulness, no matter what. These truths, re-anchored in the heart by applicatory meditation, will stir believers to renew their prayers for strength to carry on through thick and thin.” The Puritan preacher John Flavel said: “The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God.” So, as we do heart-work tonight and tomorrow before we worship, we are trying to keep our hearts with God. We are praying for and seeking to stir our affections up for the Lord.
I don’t want this heart-work to be too introspective. Robert Murray McCheyne wisely said: “Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in his almighty arms. . . .Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him. Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.” So, let’s say you begin to do heart-work tonight and you look in your heart and you see that your affections for the Lord are low, and are cold, and you see sin there. You realize that you have been too caught up with the things of this world this week. If you stay there in this introspection, you will grow sad and possibly depressed. If that is you tonight, lift up your gaze to Christ. Race to the cross and dwell there tonight. Repent of the sin you find and race to Jesus. While dwelling at the cross, remember that: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;…” Remember at one time how we were all far from God. Then be freshly amazed by remembering that “the Lord has laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all.”
As we go to the throne of grace while preparing for worship, let’s be sure to lift up Ian and Erin at the throne of grace, as they will lead us in worship tomorrow. Let’s also pray for Jerry who will lead us in confession and let’s lift up Mark at the throne of grace. Mark will be looking at different chapters in Genesis. The link to the ESV text of Genesis 20,21, and 22 are below:
Picture from here