In last week's feature lesson we began talking about the need for properly preparing oneself for worship. We established two primary points: (1) one must be at peace with other humans and, (2) one must be at peace with God to prepare himself for worship. Today we will consider a third and final multi-faceted point; we will discuss how...
3. IN ORDER TO BE PREPARED TO WORSHIP, YOU MUST HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there are many things that are vitally important in Christian living, but developing a proper attitude is, in my opinion, highest on the list. A person can do many wonderful things and even obey the gospel, but if his attitude is rotten, his soul is in jeopardy. Even if we're right with our fellow man and right with God, our worship is worthless if our attitude is improper.
So, what are the components of a proper attitude? Here are seven aspects to reflect upon:
(1) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES OUR OWN UNWORTHINESS.
Listen to David's words in Psalm 51:1-4 - "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight--that You may be found just when you speak, and blameless when You judge." David knew he was unworthy before God; he could do nothing but plead for mercy.
Consider the prophet Isaiah's words in 6:5 - "So I said: 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'" Like David, Isaiah recognized his unworthy condition before Jehovah.
What about Peter? He too recognized his unworthiness. Luke 5:8 reads - "When Simon Peter saw it [i.e., the miraculous catch of so many fishes], he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'" Peter felt he was unworthy of Jesus' presence!
No one alive today is inherently any more worthy than David, Isaiah, or Peter. We're all sinners, and we all deserve destruction. Recognizing and remembering that fact will help us develop a proper attitude.
(2) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT IS FULL OF GRATITUDE AND JOY.
Luke 17:17 reads - "So Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?'" In that narrative the foreigner returned to give thanks for being healed and the others did not; he had a proper attitude and Jesus commended him.
Remembering James 1:17 should help a great deal on this point - "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
Also, I Corinthians 4:7 - "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive?" Everything we have is from God; how can we not be grateful if we truly realize this? Do we rejoice in our blessings? It's an important part of our attitude.
(3) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES GOD'S MAGNIFICENCE AND POWER.
Have you ever wondered just how big God is? No, I'm not speaking in terms of physical size, I mean big so far as His magnificence and power are concerned. He's just unfathomable really! Job had this to say in 26:14 [he had been talking about the magnificence of God's creation] - "Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" We really don't know much about the Almighty God, but we should know this--He is awesome and more than we can even begin to imagine!
Isaiah 40:22 - "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." That's right, we're just like little grasshoppers to God!
Listen to what the Psalmist wrote - "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" (Psa. 8:3,4). Have you ever thought about that? Why does God care about us, little grasshoppers? Why is He mindful of our thoughts and activities? Because He loves us, His creation.
Consider this wonderful description of our magnificent and powerful God in Amos 4:13 - "For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth - the Lord God of hosts is His name." Recognizing God's awesomeness will help us develop a proper attitude for worship.
(4) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES GOD'S HOLINESS.
Consider these three passages that relate to this point: Isaiah 6:3 - "And one cried to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!'" Deuteronomy 32:4 - "He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He." Revelation 4:8 - "The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'"
Our God is a holy God; He is righteous and just. He is worthy of our praise because of who He is, not merely because of what He has done. Recognizing God's holiness will promote a proper, healthy attitude.
(5) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES GOD'S MERCY AND GRACE.
This ties in with the need for realizing our own unworthiness. It's only by the mercy and grace of God that we are alive today! As David wrote in Psalm 103:17 - "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children."
Certainly we all appreciate the beauty of John 3:16. It's a verse that shows God's grace very plainly; it shows His willingness to give us that which we don't deserve - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
And then there's Titus 3:4,5 - "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." Being reminded of God's mercy and grace will help us to cultivate a proper attitude for worship.
(6) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES GOD'S SEVERITY.
We also need to remember that there is a Day of Judgment coming. II Corinthians 5:10,11 declares - "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..." Do you understand the terror of God?
Paul said it this way in Romans 11:22 - "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off."
Perhaps the writer of Hebrews expresses the thought most powerfully with two statements - "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (10:31). "For our God is a consuming fire" (12:29).
If we can remember that God is a just God, and thus He has a severe side, we will be better able to develop a proper view of ourselves--hopefully an attitude of humility.
(7) WE NEED AN ATTITUDE THAT RECOGNIZES ETERNITY.
Jesus said in Matthew 25:46 - "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." There is a separation at death between the righteous and the wicked, and that separation will be finalized at the Judgment Day. We must always have eternity in the back of our minds or else we'll end up living for the moment; we'll end up living for the flesh, and that is just plain foolish.
Jesus said in John 11:26 - "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" We've got to believe it! We've got to shape our minds around the concept of eternity, not the concept of the present which only lasts for a moment.
I hope that considering these seven aspects of our attitudes has been helpful. Perhaps you have seen some personal deficiencies that you need to address. Recognizing and remembering these truths will help us develop a mindset like Christ--and that's what we're supposed to be doing (cf. Phil. 2:5). Paul said - "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (I Cor. 11:1). May we always be mindful of our attitude, especially as it pertains to preparing ourselves to worship God.
Friends, may we never forget that a primary purpose for assembling with other Christians should be to worship! When we gather for that purpose, may we not seek to be entertained; may we seek to glorify! May we not seek to get something; may we seek to give ourselves! May we not seek to please ourselves; may we seek to please Almighty God! When we gather to worship, let's make sure that we really are declaring the worth of God in a reverent manner.
If you find the worship hour to be dull or boring where you attend, then something needs to be changed. However, it isn't the physical acts of worship that can be found in the New Testament that need changing. Those actions have been prescribed by God, and we must strive to follow that prescription faithfully. If our worship seems lifeless, the part that must change is you and I. John 4:24 states - "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." May we always strive to worship with all our heart (i.e., "in spirit") and according to God's word (i.e., "in truth"). I know that it is not always easy. If you're not careful, your mind will wander. If you don't practice self-discipline, then you won't really be worshiping God. You'll just be sitting on a pew looking at ink on paper and a man talking, but you won't be ingesting the word of God. You'll be nibbling a cracker and sipping some grape juice, but you won't be communing with the Lord. You'll be singing musical notes from a book, but not worshipping in song. You'll close your eyes and bow your head, but you won't be speaking with God. You'll put a piece of paper in a collection basket, but you won't be giving yourself to God.
Dear listeners, the physical actions of worship are vain if one's heart is not behind the actions! Your mind must be focused or else you'll go to worship God with your spiritual family, and you'll end up going home not having done what you came to do. I know it happens, but may it not be so with you.
Are you really preparing yourself before worship? We need to--every time we worship. We need to be at peace with other humans, we need to be at peace with God, and we need to have a proper attitude. It is such a privilege and an honor to be permitted to come into God's presence! I hope you understand just how awesome it is to worship the Creator! I hope you comprehend what you're doing when you gather with Christians to worship--you are honoring the most powerful, wisest, loving, and just Being that exists! And that is something for which to prepare yourself! Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.