When you come to the worship assembly, what preparations have you made? What thought and meditation have you given to what you are about to do? What is your attitude? Where is your mind? What is your spiritual condition?
Moses and the children of Israel were instructed to prepare themselves for the Lord’s presence (Exodus 19:10-11, 14-15). True, they were in His presence each and every day; But, He was about to bless them with His presence in a special way.
Even so, He is uniquely in our assemblies (Matthew 18:20 cf. Matthew 26:29). What preparations do we make?
1. We should prepare by seeking to be clean from sin.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded” (James 4:8). It is not possible to worship God properly, and have sin issues unresolved in our lives. He desires that we “keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). We are to approach Him in prayer with “holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8; Note the words ‘holy hands’ is a figure of speech, a metonymy. What is being said is that we are to be holy when we approach Him in prayer and worship cf. Isaiah 1:15; Lamentations 3:11; Psalm 143:6). It is “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (which) availed much” (James 5:16). On His regard of those who approach Him without such preparation see: 1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 16:8; 21:27; Isaiah 1:14-ff.
2. We should prepare by seeking to get things right with our fellow-man.
Jesus said, “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remembers that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24). One cannot mistreat his/her spouse and be received favorably by Him in prayer (1 Peter 3:7; cf. Malachi 2:13-14). Consider also these words, “out of the same mouth proceeded blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
3. We should prepare by determining to be thankful.
Worship should flow from a grateful heart. We are to sing “with grace (thanksgiving) in (our) hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). We should “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). Let us determine to “serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). Let us set our minds to “praise the name of God with a song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). Our giving should be done cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). We should be glad to be in the worship services. The Psalmist said, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1).
How do I prepare my heart to have such an out-look? Meditate on His goodness (Psalm 23:6; 100:4-5; 106:1; 107:8, 15, 21, 31; Psalm 126:3; Lamentations 3:22-25). Remember what He does daily for you (Psalm 68:19). Especially, we should think of His redemptive love (1 Timothy 1:15).
4. We should prepare by determining to put our all into worship.
We should not be passive in worship. We should not come to worship wishing to be served, or entertained, or catered to by others.
We should come desiring to pour out our whole hearts unto our Great God. The Psalmist said, “I will praise Thee, O Lord with my whole heart… I will be glad and rejoice in Thee: I will sing praises to Thy name, O Thou Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2); Again, “I will praise the Lord, with my whole heart” (Psalm 111:1). Let us “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2).
Instead of thinking of ourselves as the audience and the one in the pulpit as the performer, let us each think of ourselves as performers before God. He is the audience.
5. We should prepare by deciding to participate mentally.
When taking the Lord’s Supper, our minds are not to be on how brother or sister Smith is dressed, or the pot roast at home, or the movie I want to see this afternoon, or the ball game that will be on T.V.. My mind should be “discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:29).
You might try reading from the Bible about His death at home before going to worship.
When you listen to a sermon, listen with the intent of learning something new, or at least being reminded of something that you need to know. Have the attitude of Samuel who said, “Speak Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9). Be like Cornelius, who said, “Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33).
Don’t listen for mere entertainment (Ezekiel 33:30-33). Don’t listen just to apply the message to others (Matthew 7:3; Romans 2:1). Haddan Robinson, in his book, Biblical Preaching, reminds us, “A congregation convenes as a jury not to convict Judas, Peter, or Solomon but to judge themselves.”
We should listen eagerly. Jesus said that we should, “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Our “delight” should be in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2). The Psalmist says, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10), speaking of God’s Word. Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”
We should listen and verify (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonins 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Once verified it should be received as from God (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and should be put into practice (James 1:22).
When prayers are offered I too should be actively and sincerely engaged in the prayer. I should be able to render an “Amen” to the prayer (1 Corinthians 14:16).
6. We should prepare by planning.
Thought should be given before arriving to things like how much am I going to give. A man is to give “as he purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7) according to how he has “prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The point is budgeting and planning should go into our worship preparations.
We should not have to be digging through our billfolds or purses trying to figure out what we are going to give.
Let us have the attitude of the Macedonians whom Paul described as “praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:4).
7. We should prepare physically for worship.
Rest the night before may prove helpful. I’ve witnessed some who have had trouble staying alert or even awake on Sunday morning, only to find out that they stayed up late the night before. Let us seek to give God our best. If possible, we should all seek to get some rest the night before (this is not addressed to those who happened to have had to work the late night shift the night before).
8. We should prepare by ever learning more about Him and His word.
The more one learns Biblically, the more one can get out of a sermon. Don’t get me wrong, one with little knowledge can get something out of a sermon or Bible study. But, the more one learns and the deeper he/she studies in private outside of the assembly – the more things will fit together, and the more one will appreciate an accurate expository or a detailed topical study. A good Bible student may pick up on many finer or more minor points in a lesson that others will miss altogether.
9. We should prepare for worship by considering one another.
“Let us consider one another to provoke one another unto love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). The context here is the assembly (Hebrews 10:25). We ought to thoughtfully and lovingly consider one another. We should think of ways that we can spur one another on to greater service. One suggestion is before we assemble, let us pick out someone who we are going to personally make a special effort to encourage and exhort on to do great things in the coming week for the glory of Jehovah. The next week we might pick yet another. If we each would do this it could make a huge difference in how the coming week goes for each one of us here.
Let us each make the worship assembly be all it should be to His glory:
“To God be the glory, great things He hath done; So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin; And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, Let the earth hear His voice! Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Let the People rejoice! O Come to the Father thru’ Jesus the Son, And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.” (song: To God Be The Glory by Fanny Crosby).