Called to Worship – Issue #20
By Phil Mershon
Have you wondered how to best prepare for worship each Sunday? What does the bible really say about that?
In the next couple of issues I will offer some answers to these questions.
3 Ways NOT to Prepare for Sunday Worship
I’ve been leading public worship for over thirty years. As you can imagine, I have sinned in thought, word and deed many times before preparing to get up and lead God’s people to the throne of grace.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard voices whisper, “You’re not worthy to be standing up here,” or “Remember how you treated your kids yesterday,” or “After the way you yelled at that driver, how can you call yourself a worship leader?” The accusations mount up every week.
After weathering the storms of guilt, shame and false humility, I’m here to share a few things to avoid when you wake up next Sunday morning (or any day for that matter).
1. (Don’t) Put on Your Sunday Best
I’ve spent a majority of my life in churches where a suit & tie would be the most appropriate (and sometimes expected) attire for church. But why do we do that? God knows what we look like at our best and worst. I fear that many of us put on fancy clothes to hide the insecurities and wounds of our lives—or worse, to impress the people who will see us.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) Those aren’t words addressed to the finely dressed, but to those who know they are spiritually clothed in rags. In fact, Jesus told the rich young ruler to give away all his possessions (Luke 18:18-23).
I don’t think God cares whether you wear a coat and tie or shorts to church. He cares more about your heart. What we wear typically has more to do with cultural norms than spiritual requirements. So in some cases, wearing a suit will enable others to hear the Gospel better (which is a far better grid for evaluating what we wear – remember Paul said, “I become all things to all men” in 1 Cor. 9:19).
The most important clothing to wear to worship is Christ’s robe of righteousness (Is. 61:10). God accepts you based solely on Christ’s perfect sacrifice—nothing else. Remind yourself of this good news every day.
2. (Don’t) Wait Till You Get Your Act Together
When I believe the voices that shout, “You’re not worthy to be here,” I’ve bought the lie that I somehow can earn admission to God’s presence. Of course God cares about how I live my life, but I can never change my status through moral perfection. I can never accumulate enough good deeds to deserve entrance to God’s presence.
There are many Christian leaders who would tell you that you must “pray yourself clean” before God can use you. I do believe sin impedes our prayers and fellowship with God, but it never changes our status before God.
In fact, our sin qualifies us to tell others of God’s indelible grace. Let’s be clear: that doesn’t mean we should aim to sin to improve our qualifications (see Paul’s rebuke in Romans 6 if you have any doubts); even an eight year old has enough sin to understand his need for grace.
If I wait till I have my act together, I may miss out on God’s movement and blessing as I proclaim the very grace that I depend upon.
3. Only Think About Spiritual Things (NOT)
Have you ever awakened early enough to have a good quiet time (I’ll define that as a lengthy time of reading, prayer and meditation) only to come out of your prayer closet to a relational storm among your kids? How do you react? My first tendency is to want to shut the storm down so I can resurrect the peaceful feelings I had secured through my blissful quiet time. If I do that, I’m missing out on the chance to see God’s grace at work in my children.
I recognize Paul’s admonition to think about whatever is holy, pure, true and lovely (Phil. 4:8-9) and we should strive to think in these ways continually. But these thoughts don’t change our status. They do change our perspective.
You Have Been Raised
I’ve used the phrase “change our status” at least three times in this short article. This highlights one of the most common errors among Christians. We often confuse our status before God (declared righteous based on the blood of Jesus) with the process of becoming holy (what theologians call sanctification). We are able to worship because of our status purchased by Christ. We grow through worship as we daily repent of our sins, rejoice in the cross and obey the voice of our Savior.
One of my favorite songs for reminding me of my standing before the Father is You Have Been Raised from Sovereign Grace Music.
A prayer to consider
As I prayed with the choir at Lake Oconee Presbyterian Church each week, a prayer started to form on my lips that made its way into a song. Here is a prayer I offer as I prepare for worship:
Open my mouth to sing forth your praise
Open my ears to the melody of grace
Open my eyes to the beauty of your face
Open my heart to know you all my days
From the song: In the Morning by Phil Mershon
How do you prepare for worship?