In my morning devotions I’ve been working my way through an old Puritan book by Jeremiah Burroughs titled Gospel Worship: Worship Worthy of God. It is a three-hundred page exposition of God’s words in Leviticus 10:3: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified.” In typical Puritan fashion, Burroughs preaches 14 sermons on half of a verse, and it is pure gold!
This week I read his sermon “The Importance of Preparing for Worship.” He writes, “The God whom we come to worship is a great and glorious God, and, having to deal with such an infinite, glorious, dreadful Majesty, it is fitting that we should make preparation when we come nigh unto Him.” He is addressing those who stay up late trifling around on Saturday night, roll out of bed at 9:30am on Sunday, show up at church five minutes after the call to worship, and think they can experience the blessedness of communion with God all the same. Burroughs laments how much of our worship never actually reaches true worship all because we have been negligent in preparing ourselves. If worshiping the Triune God is the most important vocation we have, then it certainly warrants careful preparation!
But what does a heart prepared for public worship actually look like? That is what Burroughs spends the majority of his sermon fleshing out (while offering precious little practical help in how to obtain it). He argues that a heart prepared has five chief characteristics:
1. It is a Godward heart. “Labor upon your going to worship God to get your heart possessed beforehand with rich apprehensions of the majesty of that God whom you are going to worship, and of the greatness and weight of the duty that you are setting about, the nature of it, the manner how it is to be performed, the rule by which you are to be guided, and the end at which you are to aim.”
2. It is a repentant heart. “If there is iniquity in your hand or heart, labor to put it out. When you come into God’s presence, do not bring into the presence of God the love of any sin in your heart, but labor to put it from your heart.”
3. It is an undistracted heart. “…the preparation of the heart is the disentangling of the heart from the world and from all occasions and businesses in the world. At other times God gives me liberty to let out my heart to common uses, but when I come to worship Him I must separate my heart from all common uses so that my heart may be wholly for God. I must be as one who has nothing to do in the world for that time.”
4. It is a watchful heart. “We should watch over our hearts lest they be made unfit for duties.”
5. It is a ready heart. “Preparation consists in the readiness of the faculties of the soul and the graces of the Spirit of God to act and set upon a holy duty.”
To sum it all up, we need to labor to get our heart in a frame that is not fixed on sin and worldly business but is rather fixed upon God and the weightiness of ascending His holy hill in worship. We shouldn’t assemble in the hopes of obtaining such a heart through worship; we should assemble with such a heart already pumped, primed, and ready to engage with God.
Next week, I hope to provide some practical thoughts on how to actually go about heart preparation for the Lord’s Day. But for now let me encourage you to set your face to seek the Lord for His blessing this coming Sunday. Let us pray that our blessed God would bless us by His grace and truth!
Yours in Christ,