It is time once again to prepare our hearts for worship. One of the reasons why I do this post each week is because I don’t want us to honor Jesus with our lips on Sunday when our hearts are far from Him. Jesus in Matthew 15 said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” John Piper says: “For Jesus, this worship amounts to zero. That is what “vain” means. “In vain do they worship me.” Zero. It is not worship. This is a zero worship. It is zero if there is no heart dimension to it. So, you can do as many deeds as you want and go to as many church services as you want and never be worshiping if it is all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. All true worship is in essence a matter of the heart. It is more, but it is not less.
Piper goes on to say that: “True worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things. So the inner essence of worship is the response of the heart to the knowledge of the mind when the mind is rightly understanding God and the heart is rightly valuing God.” He later concludes with this: “The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.”
So, we want to rightly understand God and we want to know God truly as Piper says. To do this we must read our Bibles as we prepare our hearts for worship. I read something from J.I. Packer recently that has stuck with me this last week. Packer said that we should think about the Bible as “God preaching—God preaching to me every time I read or hear any part of it—God the Father preaching God the Son in the power of God the Holy Spirit.” That is amazing! We hold in our hands a book in which the God of the universe preaches God the Son to us in the power of God the Holy Spirit! We should not treat the Bible like an old history book. Sam Storms said that we should never think of “Scripture statically but dynamically, that is to say, not merely as something that was spoken or recorded centuries ago but also as something God is saying today. The Bible speaks not merely to men in general but also to each particular person who reads or hears it in the present moment.”
So, maybe we just grab our Bibles and pray a short prayer similar to Psalm 119 and say: Heavenly Father please ‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things’ in your Word this morning. Then turn to maybe a familiar passage. Say maybe the book of Colossians. Just read the first couple of chapters slowly. Colossians 2:13-15 gets me almost every time: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
This passage tells me that I was ‘dead in my trespasses.’ This was the first 23 years of my life. I was dead in my sin. I was running a hell bound race, but God in His mercy reached down and He made me alive together with him. As Mark said this past Sunday God snatched us like a brand from the fire. Charles Spurgeon said: “Out of the state of our natural depravity we have been plucked so that every man who is delivered from its sway may well say, “Am not I a brand plucked out of the fire?” Colossians goes on to tell us that God has forgiven us all our trespasses, which is stunning, but the passage tells how this was done: ‘by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
God took the record of debt that stood against us, which was a massive debt and he put that record into the palm of His dearly beloved, precious, innocent, perfect Son. Then God took the spike and nailed the record of our debt to the cross. As John Piper says the spike: “was driven through the record into the hand, into the wood, and that record was settled, paid, finished!” As we dwell on these gospel truths our hearts are warmed, and our affections for God are raised.
As we prepare for worship lets be sure to pray for Ian and Erin as they lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he leads us in a time of confession. Let’s be sure to pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will be preaching on Genesis 44. The link to the ESV text is below.
Picture from here