Before, During, and After Worship

Before, During, and After Worship

As you get yourself and your family ready to come to worship services, do you have a routine? You probably have your class lesson done the night before. Hopefully you wake up refreshed from a good night’s sleep. Perhaps you have a healthy breakfast, or a cup of coffee, so that you are ready to give the Lord your best attention. You make sure that you and your kids are presentable. If you have a baby, you make sure you have the diaper bag full of supplies. You have your contribution tucked into your pocket. You grab your Bible. You leave in plenty of time to get there before the class starts.

I want to suggest a few deeper things that we might remember as we prepare our hearts for worship, attend worship, and leave worship. James 1:21-22 could apply to many aspects of life, but I often like to think of it as a three-step process for getting the most out of worship:

Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

Preparing to Worship: Put Aside all Filthiness
Obviously, eliminating sin from our lives is important every day. But hands and hearts ready to be lifted to God in praise must not be burdened with sin. Paul said, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (1 Tim. 2:8). He was concerned with the inner attitude which accompanies prayer, the sanctification, the relationship with God that allows unfettered communication.

Sin creates a barrier between us and God when we approach Him in worship. In the book of Isaiah, the people wondered why God hadn’t responded favorably to their fasting and prayers. Isaiah pointed out that at the same time they fast and pray, they remain involved in all kinds of sin behind the scenes. “Your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear” (59:2).

We might also consider our relationship with other people. It’s difficult to have hatred and strife in one’s heart, and at the same time join in unity to praise God (Matt. 5:23-24). Part of putting aside all filthiness is healing our relationships. “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14-15). This is even true in the family (1 Peter 3:7), “so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

No one will be able to approach God in utter perfection; the same Isaiah said, “Woe is me!” when he entered God’s presence (Isaiah 6:1-5). But we do our best. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

While Worshiping: “In Humility Receive the Word Implanted”
It’s sad, but many think of worship less as a joy, and more as an obligation begrudgingly fulfilled. “O what weariness” they say (Malachi 1:13), inwardly, if not outwardly. They can’t wait to get out and get back to worldly obligations. “When will the new moon be past, that
we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade our wheat?” (Amos 8:5).

If this is your mindset as you enter the church parking lot, it’s time to change it. Think instead on David’s spirit, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1).

Our attitude needs to be especially enthusiastic when we open God’s word and learn “wondrous things from your law” (Psa. 119:18). Think of worship as a time to become a better servant by picking up new truths and being inspired by old truths. Not a time to be spoon fed or entertained. A time to allow the seed of the gospel to sink its roots more deeply into our lives.
After Leaving Worship: “Prove Yourselves Doers of the Word”

The ultimate test of effectiveness of a Bible class or a sermon is not the number of plaudits, but the number of changed lives. Too many come “to hear a good sermon” without meditating on the meaning. God cautioned Ezekiel that the people may compliment his message while ultimately ignoring it.

“But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ They come to you as people come and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them” (33:30-33)

Exit the worship service ready to make an impact on the world around you for your Master Jesus. If that requires repentance, do it. If that requires rededication, do it. If that requires extra effort, give it (Matt. 7:21-27).
—John Guzzetta