It is time to prepare for worship. John Piper gives us some helpful ways to prepare for worship. He says that we should “renounce all known sin in our lives before coming to worship God.” So, we need to examine our hearts to see if we find sin there. We need to repent of sin that God may be convicting us of, or sin that we have knowingly committed this week. If we don’t do this, Piper says: “Worship will inevitably become a weak, empty form and ritual if we try to keep on with it while our hearts are running after other gods. God will gladly take the dirtiest sinner into his arms on Sunday morning who comes with a broken and contrite heart intent on forsaking all known sin and trusting in Jesus for cleansing. But God will not be mocked by those who make like they love him and willfully break his law during the week.” He goes on to say that part of preparing for worship is: “to confess and renounce all known sin and come to worship cleansed by the blood of Jesus and resting in his forgiveness and hope.”
Piper summarizes what most of my ‘Preparing for Worship’ post are about when he says: “we prepare for worship by drawing near to God in our hearts.” I will quote Piper at length here, because I believe this is helpful:
“There is a heart preparation to be done in order to meet God.
Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). When this is the case, the preparation needed is a movement of the heart from far to near, and yet it is a movement that is not measured in inches or miles.
- It is measured with the tape of attention—you may not even be thinking of God Saturday night or Sunday morning. So your heart is far from him measured by attention.
- Or it may be measured by the tape of focus—you may have some attention on God but it is broken up by other things and there is no focused attention that gets God clearly in view and makes him the primary object of attention.
- It is measured by the tape of desire—you may feel little desire for God but be very much caught up in a greater desire for sports or finances or a trip to the lake, while the desire and the longing for God is weak by comparison.
- Or it can be measured by the tape of trust and hope—your trust in God may be weak and your hope faint and wavering.
- Or it may be measured by the tape of delight or joy in God—you may feel much more pleasure Saturday night in a late movie than in meeting God in the morning.
Every one of us is far from where we want to be on one of these measuring tapes every week. So I want to close with some practical suggestions that I think will help us prepare to meet God in worship together Sunday morning.”
Going Hard After God In Worship
Piper continues by telling us that we need to learn to go hard after God in worship. He says:
“My assumption is that our primary goal is to meet God in this service on Sunday morning, and to commune with him and to hear him and to speak to him and to savor him. My further assumption is that this is very hard to do and that it takes teaching and preparation of heart. My third assumption is that most of us grew up in churches where this was not a conscious priority—a sustained, God-centered focus on dealing with God without human distraction.
Let me illustrate. I was at a gathering recently where we were worshiping. The pianist was very accomplished. It was obvious. But he had led us into the presence of the Lord and most of us really were singing to the Lord and dealing with God. Another act of worship was to follow this song that would have kept us in conscious communion with God. But as the hymn came to an end, the person who was to lead us into the next act of worship looked at the pianist and said, “There is living proof that all men are not created equal.” A few people chuckled. And then he tried to reintroduce communion with God.
That sort of thing is what I grew up on. And many of you did. And it’s why we never learned what it is to go hard after God in worship. It’s why a sustained communion with God in corporate worship is a foreign experience for most people. And yet when most Christians taste it, they sense that they have come into something that they have missed and that is needed in the core of their lives.”
We should not come to church wanting to be entertained. We should come to church wanting to go hard after God in worship. Piper gives a few practical things that should help us prepare for worship. First, we should: “Set aside some time Saturday night to begin the orientation onto worship. Turn off the television and set your mind on things that are above with the word of God and a time of prayer.” So, after we have repented of sin, let us lift up Erin and Ian who will lead us in worship. Let’s pray for Jerry who will lead us in a time of confession, and let’s pray for Mark who will open up God’s Word to us.
Lastly, Piper says we should become the actor in worship. “Finally, before every act of worship, whether a hymn or a reading or a prayer or an anthem or a moment of silence or a sermon, say to the Lord, “Lord, I come. I come to sing to you. I come to pray to you. I come to listen to your Word. I come to enjoy your presence.” Don’t drift through the service as though the action is on the platform. Become the actor. The greatest action in worship is when a heart that is far from the Lord draws near to the Lord, and focuses on him and desires him and trusts him and enjoys him.”
Mark will be looking at Genesis 21 and possibly Genesis 22. Both chapters are below:
Picture from here