It’s early Sunday morning, and I am going through my typical daily preparation ritual: Coffee! Then, I open my Bible to read and journal according to my chosen reading plan. Today brings me to Exodus 30 and 31. In these chapters, God gives Moses explicit instructions for worship and honoring the Sabbath that speak volumes to how we prepare for worship. You see, I think most of us prepare for worship like we prepare for a routine day. What a mistake!
Exodus 31 speaks specifically about the ritual worship for the Israelites, and I see significant ways in which we 21st Century Christians should follow to prepare ourselves for worship.
Sanctify the Place of Worship
Worship can happen anywhere: in a house of worship (church building), a school, an auditorium, a gymnasium, a tent, an open field. But worship doesn’t happen until the people who gather for worship see the place as a special place. Where you worship becomes a special, holy place when God’s Spirit inhabits the place. When we consider that the place we meet together for worship is inhabited by the Spirit of God, we cannot help but treat that place has holy and sanctified, set apart for something very special. In a way, when we recognize God’s presence and expect Him to move among His people, we acknowledge that He has already sanctified the worship place. This has nothing to do with worship style, for God is present — period!
Purify Yourself Before Worship
The Israelites would ritually purify themselves by ceremonially washing their hands and feet, and by going through other rituals. How do you prepare yourself for worship? All too often, we are unprepared for worship. God told His people to confess their sins and repent from them. Confession and repentance are two words we use a lot, but the meanings get lost, so let’s take a look at them:
- Confession is not telling God something He doesn’t know! Confession is the admission that He is right, and we are wrong. Perhaps it’s a habit you are struggling with. Or an attitude. Or road rage. Or the way you treat your spouse. Sin is anything God calls wrong, and we must come to the point of agreeing with Him about these sins in our lives. Confession is a full agreement with Him in humble attitude that He is right. We are wrong.
- Repentance is not just saying “I am sorry.“ Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that there is a sorrow that leads to repentance. But just saying, “I’m sorry” is not the same as repentance. The sorrow that stops without repentance leads nowhere. Repentance takes place after confession, agreeing with God that He is right. Repentance is humbly seeking God’s strength in commitment to end this particular sin — the one you are confessing — and never take it up again. This is huge! And we can’t do this under our own strength and power. We must rely on God’s Spirit within us to turn completely away from these things.
When you prepare for worship, spend the time necessary in personal prayer, confessing those things in your life that God says are wrong (sin), and seeking His strength in your life to permanently lay them aside, committing not to repeat them. Come to worship with a pure and clean heart. Psalm 24 is a beautiful reminder that only those who come pure and clean are true worshipers. All others are just spectators. Are you a worshiper or as a spectator?
Prepare Yourself Unlike Any Other Day
There is something special about today. This is God’s holy day that He set aside for worship and rest. Worship is distinctively different from anything else we do. Treat this day with respect and honor. This is not a time in which we go to some arena to watch God do amazing things. This is a day set aside to gather in His Name so that we can experience His presence as we sing His praises and learn from His Word. The Lord’s Day is not like any other day.
Expect to Experience God’s Presence
God promised to the Israelites that when they gather for worship, they will experience His presence in a remarkable way. When we gather for worship, are we treating the place as a holy place? Have we spent time confessing and repenting of the things that separate us from God? If so, then expect to experience God move through the music, the prayers, and the message to touch you. Expect Him to empower you to share your faith with that class mate who has been on your heart, or with that co-worker in the next office or cubicle. Too often we show up in the worship place with little or no expectation, little or no preparation. Ask God to speak powerfully and unequivocally to you through the music, prayer, message, and even the offering.
Leave Worship With Purpose
What have you learned? What have you gained through this worship? How is God leading you? When you return to your routine tomorrow, will you be routine? Or will you return changed in some small or great way? The purpose of worship is to adore and glorify God. But it is also to challenge us to live with purpose. When you leave your faith family, you become a missionary, and ambassador for the Lord. He has put you where you are at work, at home, at school, or wherever, so that you will be an intentional witness for Him. Do you live your life on mission? Do you live your life with God’s purpose? Worship doesn’t end when you say the final “amen” or when you walk out the door. Worship is 24/7/365. Let your life reflect God’s plan and purpose in your daily living.