By Pastor Don Strand
In the previous two posts, we’ve learned that we need to go to church, first and most importantly because God commands us to appear before Him. We are commanded to hear from our Heavenly Father of our hopeless condition of fallen and sinful creatures and to hear of His gracious solution to our problem. We are unable to do anything to restore our relationship with the eternal holy God. And in His unfathomable grace, He has provided the means to restore us by giving His only and most beloved Son to pay the debt we could not pay.
Second, we are commanded to “not neglect” meeting together as the family of God on the earth. We learned last week that we are to seek diligently to meet with other Christians on a regular basis for the purpose of encouraging one another and to work actively to advance God’s kingdom by sharing the gospel and reaching out to meet physical needs in our community. The two go hand in hand. We serve no eternal purpose in meeting needs unless we also share the gospel with boldness.
Third, we learned that by gathering to together on the Lord’s Day we experience, in the words of the traditional hymn a “foretaste of glory divine.” With that promise, why indeed would a Christian not want to go to church?
Now, as promised, here are some practical considerations you can do to prepare yourself for the unique experience of coming into God’s presence.
First, recognize the seriousness of the occasion. In Exodus 3:6, Joshua 5:13, Isaiah 6:5 and Revelation 1:17 we have four examples of how we as creatures respond to the presence of God. In each case, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah and John the Apostle were utterly overwhelmed. Moses hid his face, Joshua and John each fell on their face and Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost.” Granted, in each case God appeared before each man, an event called a “theophany”, but the inference is clear. Each week as we gather in worship, we are, in a sense, appearing before God. Therefore, it is a serious and solemn event.
Years ago, I worked as a senior manager for a Hi-Tech company in Boston. The expected dress code for the management team was a coat and tie every day. When I transferred to the west coast, I was told “we don’t do that here. We want a casual atmosphere here in Silicon Valley. Now, in the 21st century, a coat and tie are almost unheard of, except for perhaps an undertaker. And while causal is good it does have a time and place. So when you prepare to meet with your Heavenly Father, while a coat and tie or a woman’s suit are not required, at least your “Sunday best” should be your choice. If you are dressed simply in whatever, the temptation is to treat worship in the same manner. Proper dress honors our God and each other.
Second, begin your preparations for Sunday on Monday. Developing the proper attitude for corporate worship starts with your daily devotions. Your devotional time, either individual or family, or, preferably both is the means to practice praise and worship every day.
I enjoy a well-done interview. Not the kind where the sports writer interviews a coach or player after the game which usually goes something like this. Interviewer: “In the third period you faced a tough run by the other team.” Player: “Yea, but we kept our focus and just played our game.” How often have you heard that same interview? But in a well-done interview, the person doing the questioning has prepared in advance. Maybe they read the interviewee’s book thoroughly or researched their family and career. In a similar way, your experience in corporate worship is enhanced by the time you spend in understanding with whom you’re meeting. So an essential part of preparing to meet God is to have been meeting with Him to know Him through regular, daily devotional time.
These are the first two practical suggestions; seriousness and preparation for you to consider as you prepare for the Sunday worship service. Next week I’ll have three more suggestions for you. Let me conclude this week with this thought from Pastor Jason Helopoulos. He helpfully points out that the elders and angels who worship before the throne of God day in and day out are never casual about their worship. Casual worship of the living, true, holy, sovereign God of the universe just doesn’t exist, he says. So for us, there is a seriousness that must mark our worship; a solemnity and honor that must attend it, a gravity that must saturate it. See you in church!