Why You Should Check Your Heart before Worship
- Topher Haddox Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 31 Jan
It’s Sunday morning. And if your Sunday morning routine is anything like the one at our house, it can be hectic. Each Sunday, the hour between 8:00 am and 9:00 am seems to disappear in some sort of time-warp that takes everyone’s grace and patience along with it.
Like clockwork, everyone in the household appears to have either had all of the clothes in their closets stolen, or they gained 20 pounds overnight. Once you find a shirt that is halfway decent enough to present yourself as halfway put together, you grab your family and rush out the door into church traffic. Your zeal for global missions seems to completely fade before your eyes as you burn with anger at the Crown Victoria in front of you that dares to only go the speed limit (you know the one).
You finally and tardily make it to church, fresh coffee in hand—more than likely the reason you’re late. The muffled bass of the worship band lets you know just how late you really are. You rush into the sanctuary and find a seat, adrenaline still running from the chaotic morning (and still angry at the Crown Vic).
This is the self-centered mindset you find yourself in while trying to enter the presence of the King of Glory and worship Him—and being in that mindset is by no accident. It’s no coincidence that Sunday morning’s chaos far surpasses the Monday through Friday hustle to get the kids to school and get to the office.
Satan doesn’t want you to prepare your heart for worship.
The enemy tempts us to focus our attention on anything but glorifying God. After all, seeking the glory and honor that belonged to God was the reason Lucifer rebelled in the first place. I’m sure that hunger for glory hasn’t changed.
Consider the temptation of Christ. After 40 days in the wilderness, Satan approaches Jesus with an offering of earthly possessions. Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:7-10)
The enemy knows where we are going on Sunday morning, and will therefore do anything in his power to make sure the worship service is completely inward-focused and void of exultation for God. He wants us completely focused on all the grief, stress, and problems surrounding our life. The more you’re focused on those things, the less you’re focusing on God and His attributes.
We see this tactic play out in Job. Job was an upright man, but Satan wanted to prove to God that Job would cease to worship Him in his suffering. God, in His sovereignty over Satan, gave the enemy permission to bring a great suffering onto Job. Satan’s goal in this account was to take Job’s worshipful heart and focus it on his suffering. The plan ultimately failed. After hearing the news of losing all of his children and property in the same day, Job’s response was one of worship. Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22)
Even in suffering that I can’t dare to imagine, Job glorified the name of the Lord. I believe this was because, through faith, he prepared his heart and worshiped daily.
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. (Job 19:25)
Our hearts are naturally wicked.
Although we have an enemy that eagerly wants to destroy our worshiping of the King of Glory, most of the time, we don’t need help neglecting God. Without discipline, our hearts naturally drift in the direction of sinful thoughts. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:19)
That is a major reason why we need to prepare our hearts before worship through prayer and meditation on the Word. There is no hiding our wicked hearts before the Throne of God. He knows our hearts. Outwardly, we are dialed in and singing corporately. But God is actively searching our hearts. There is nothing that we can hide from him. I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)
Worship is the overflowing of thankfulness from the heart, so if we have a heart full of malice and sin, there is no form of worship. True worship is sacrifice. It’s the outward pouring of denying yourself in repentance while submitting wholly to the will of God. When Abraham submitted in obedience to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he still considered it worship (Genesis 22:5). And in his obedience and faith, God provided a suitable sacrifice and spared Isaac.
What are we neglecting to sacrifice in order to worship our King? When I examine my heart against that question, I picture my relationship with my wife. Sometimes, the chaotic Sunday mornings can bring tension between us That tension often leads to passive aggressive behavior which can lead to an argument. It’s extremely rare that those arguments are resolved before the church service. Needless to say, on those occasions, my heart is not prepared for worship. According to Matthew 5, I’m commanded to make things right with my bride before I offer my worship to God.
Only God changes hearts.
All throughout the Bible, we see God sovereignly changing the hearts of man.
- I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 24:7)
- Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
- And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)
- The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
This is unbelievably comforting for the Christian. God has given you a desire for Him that goes against your natural sinful desires (Romans 3:11). Because we still battle the flesh daily (Galatians 5:17), we still have to depend on God to continually change our hearts. By the renewing of our minds through His holy Scriptures, The Holy Spirit changes our hearts and desires to align with His heart and desires, overflowing with worship for Him. In this truth, we can have the blessed assurance that He will continue to change our hearts until we meet Him in Glory (Philippians 1:6).
We need to remember this truth every Sunday – that we have an enemy. That enemy wants to steal our joy in God, and he is working hard to accomplish that mission. Without the purifying work of the Holy Spirit, we don’t stand a chance against Satan or our own flesh.
So, as with any battle, a winning strategy is needed. We need to be proactive in preparing our hearts for worship by countering the schemes of the enemy and subduing our own fleshly thoughts. A few suggestions would be to perhaps set aside some family prayer time on Saturday night to pray over the pastor and staff, lay our clothes out the night before, or wake up early and get ahead of the traffic. Do whatever is necessary to be fully present in worship.
God is serious about how His people worship Him. In today’s church culture of entertainment-driven, irreverent “worship” services, it seems as though the odds are stacked against us to prepare our hearts properly for worship. In any case, the burden to check our hearts for obedience and repentance before we step foot into the presence of God and bring our gifts of worship relies completely on us.
Topher Lee Haddox is a grace-addicted husband, daddy, and wretched sinner utterly dependent upon the Cross of Christ. Born and raised in Louisiana, he thoroughly enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He has a deeply ingrained passion for worship and feeding others the Word of God. His work appears regularly on Crosswalk. Visit his blog at https://topherhaddox.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/LiudmylaSupynska