Words or Worship?

When asked, “What is your purpose for going to church?” you most likely will respond with, “To worship God.” But do you truly worship? If someone raises their hands or stands up in heartfelt worship do you follow suit because they did it? Do you criticize the praise team or the pastor’s sermon? Or do you sit quietly with few words, in eager anticipation of hearing God speak to you with a heart willing to obey?

If your purpose is anything less than worship, then it’s nothing more than church attendance that is unreal, empty and fruitless – or for Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, it is “vanity.” In Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, Solomon writes about religious behavior and warns us against trying to impress God. God wants genuine worshipers who are ready to hear from Him. Not fakers who are more worried about what man thinks of them than what God does. He’s not interested in our words, unless they are words of praise or repentance as an act of worship.

Religious Behavior that God Accepts

In these two verses we can see the kind of religious behavior that God accepts and expects when we come to church to worship. First, we find that worship begins before we ever get to church. Verse 1 starts out “Guard your steps when you go to the house of the Lord.” We should be preparing ourselves for worship deliberately, thoughtfully and prayerfully so that we are poised and ready to draw near and be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is communicating to us.

If all we are interested in when we get to church is comparing dresses or shoes or the newest gossip, the headlines in the news, or the latest political fiasco, are we honestly ready to worship? Are we ready to hear God speak to us? Are we more concerned with the words of our friends at church than we are the words God wants to speak to us?

Preparing to come into God’s Presence

In Exodus 19, God calls the people of Israel to prepare and get ready to come into His presence. In verses 10-11, it says, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “God to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” God wanted His chosen people to get ready to come near to Him and to prepare their hearts for an encounter with Him. 

Although it would be Moses that would go on the mountain and receive God’s words, the people were to only come near, but they still stood in the presence of God and witnessed the thundering and lightning, the thick cloud on the mountain, and the sound of the trumpet that was so loud they all trembled. In Verse 17, it says, “And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.”

How would you prepare to meet God if you knew He would be physically present at church this Sunday?

How different would we approach going to church if we knew that God would physically be there to meet with us? Most of us would have quite a bit of confessing to do before meeting with God. The emotions we would feel would be everything from the greatest excitement to the greatest fear. We probably wouldn’t sleep at all. There would be a million questions, like “Why would God want to me with me? What did I do that He is physically coming here?” But each one of us would do everything we could to prepare ourselves for meeting the Almighty God.

While God may not physically show up at out church this Sunday, He is there. He hears the conversations, knows our innermost thoughts and motivations and I wonder if He is disappointed week after week as He examines our hearts only to see that we were more interested in the mistakes the soloist made, whether we sang the old hymns or contemporary music, if the pastor preached from a Bible or his ipad, or if the honored pulpit was removed in favor of a smaller stand or no pulpit at all.

Why We don’t hear from God

God stands in His own house to hear His children squabble over the color of the carpet, to hear them complain and mock the pastor who He called to shepherd His children, and to hear them talk about the latest sports game more excitedly than they are to hear from God. Then we as Christians wonder why we never hear from God. Could it be that we need to take time before coming to church to guard our steps and prepare our hearts so that we can truly worship our Heavenly Father? If we do not come with hearts that are prepared that we are no better off than the “fool” that through their own ignorance offers sacrifices wrongly. If we are going to truly offer sacrifices of praise and worship and come into the presence of God, we must prepare and consecrate ourselves before coming into His presence.

Appropriate worship involves few words and a lot of listening

The second behavior of appropriate worship involves our communication with God – our payers. In verse two we find, “Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God.” Communication involves two people who are taking turns at talking and listening. Without listening there is no communication – just a lot of noise.

If when we approach God in prayer our words are the only ones being said and we do not listen for His voice we will miss what He has to say to us. Instead, we need to take time to invite God to speak as we quietly listen. Our words need to be few.

If He calls us to serve Him, we do not need to impulsively make excuses for why we can’t, but be ready with an obedient, “Yes, Lord.” If He calls out sin in our life, we do not need to impulsively offer a defense. Instead, we need to kneel before Him with a repentant heart and seek His forgiveness. If He prompts us to forgive someone who has wronged us, we don’t need to impulsively give Him the “But God….” speech. Instead we need to remember that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and He stands ready to forgive us every time we sin against Him so we ought to always be ready forgive others.

If we are constantly talking when we bring our petitions to Him, we will miss out on hearing God’s answer and direction. So be slow to speak. Listen more than you talk because the Creator of the universe has something He wants to say to You and when you have taken the time to prepare your hearts and come to Him with a heart ready for worship, you’ll be in a position to hear what He has to say.

#worship #preparingtoworship #listenwhenyoupray

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