Arguably, there is nothing we do that is more important than public worship. Every other vocation will pass away, but our vocation as priests of God will continue forever. One day our hearts will be perfected, enabling us to perfectly exalt God with the whole of our glorified humanity. But now we struggle against the world, the devil, and especially the flesh. These foes seek to render our hearts unfit for worship, and thus we must be strategically cultivating Godward souls that reach the Lord’s Day primed and ready to engage with God.
Last week I gave four practical suggestions for how to prepare your heart for public worship:
- Pray for the Spirit’s blessing.
- Meditatively work through the order of worship ahead of time, especially the sermon texts.
- Meditate on the greatness of God and the great privilege of worship.
- Get to bed early on Saturday and wake up early on Sunday.
It occurred to me later, however, that I failed to mention the most basic and essential means of possessing hearts ready to fellowship with God in the assembly of His covenant people. It is so basic and obvious that I am tempted to not even mention it. It is so essential and necessary, however, that it would be irresponsible for me not to mention it. What is it?
Personal holiness in Christ.
At the beginning of the month I preached on Psalm 15. We saw that only those who are justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus are fit to ascend the heavenly Zion to commune with God. God’s priesthood is a holy priesthood. Yes, we climb God’s holy hill only by faith in Christ’s blood and righteousness as our Mediator. We are justified in Him, and thus we have confidence that our worship is pleasing to God, though fraught with much weakness and imperfection. So in saying that personal holiness is necessary to fit our hearts for worship, we’re not espousing legalism (as if we somehow make ourselves worthy to dwell in God’s presence by our own moral resolve).
But those who know Christ as their righteousness also know Him as their sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). The Christ who is our Priest is also our King. In steering clear of legalism, we must likewise steer clear of antinomianism (as if it doesn’t matter how we live since we are declared righteous in Christ). God hated much of what went by the name of worship in the old covenant tabernacle-temple because it was offered up by people who had a love affair with sin.
Simply put: if we are not seeking to live devoted to God throughout the week, we will be unfit to live devoted to God on Sunday.
So perhaps the most important way to prepare for Sunday is to wage an all-out war on our sin through faith in Jesus Christ. Every temptation to sin is an opportunity to either devote your heart more to God or to dull your heart more to God, and depending on what you choose throughout the week will determine in large measure what kind of heart you wake up with on Sunday.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I’m not tell you that if you trip and fall morally during the week that you shouldn’t bother assembling with God’s people on Sunday. That kind of thinking is from the pit of hell! Come, but come repentantly like the tax collector, crying out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk. 18:13). Come, resolving by the grace of Christ to walk in the newness of life that is yours in Him. Come, pleading with David, “Cast me not away from your presence…Renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10-11) And then allow your gracious encounter with God in public worship to propel you into the new week with a heart earnestly desirous to please God in all things through Christ. For God delights in renewing covenant with repentant sinners, not presumptuous sinners.
Friends, as we prayerfully look ahead to this coming Lord’s Day, let us strive after the holiness without which none of us will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). For it is sin that hardens our hearts with cold indifference toward our weighty God and His weighty worship. So let us reckon ourselves dead to sin and not allow it to reign in our mortal bodies through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:11-12). That is the path to a heart prepared for God’s worship.
Yours in Christ,