By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy (sanctified, KJV),
And before all the people I will be honored”
The question before us is “what does it mean, practically, to be sanctified or ‘to sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts’” (I Peter 3:15). Many times over in the Old Testament, men are sanctifying themselves before the Lord. In I Samuel 16, Samuel sanctifies himself before the awesome and fearful task of identifying Saul’s successor, David. In the first chapter of Job, although Job did not hear of any notorious abuse of his sons in their “feasting”, Job was still afraid lest they should sin. He knew how dangerous it was to have so much satisfaction in the flesh and not to transgress bounds. So, Job went out to his sons and their families and sanctified them. Sanctifying and preparing one’s self for worship is one and the same in Scripture. It is one special thing that God requires, in our drawing near to Him, to make a full and right preparation.
In my journey of studying worship, I have found that my own preparation and worship has been muted, restrained and out and out wrong due to misguided, impotent and blurred approaches to the Lord. I am great at studying, searching and gleaning, but I am hard pressed to “take my eyes off the map and fix them on to the treasure” (Piper), to actually worship and adore Christ. I personally feel that it is a long distance between reading the Word of God and worshipping, between singing a grand hymn or excellent scripture song and worshipping, of performing the duties of worship and true worship from the heart. The chasm is deep and broad. We all need a heavy dose of “gazing” on the glory of God in the face of Christ. Sadly, I have to be honest. I don’t gaze, I glance!
Our attitude and approach is of the greatest importance to God and to us as worshippers. Right feelings, rooted in right apprehensions, are the doorway to Biblical worship. This is seen clearly in the lives of two famous men of the Old Testament. One was accepted and one rejected.
In Chronicles 12:14, there is a terrible verdict on Solomon’s son and successor, Rehoboam. He reigned in Jerusalem at the age of 41 for 17 years and it is said of him “and he did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” It is not enough to come to worship, dressing up, arriving on time, smiling, singing, praying, reading, listening and responding. It really is a heart issue. Do you come seeking the Lord? Do you prepare your hearts to seek God? Are you sufficiently prepared for prayer? For hearing the Word? And for the sacraments?
The second example is found in II Chronicles 19:3. Jehoshaphat was not a perfect ruler. In fact, he went boldfaced against the Lord’s command and joined himself to wicked men too often. He was rebuked by the prophet from the Lord who warned Jehoshaphat of the wrath of God on him. At a time when the Lord is most displeased with Jehoshaphat and sends His prophet in His name to pronounce that the wrath of God is out against him, God cannot but take notice that he had an upright heart though he failed in some sin. Burroughs says “It is as if God were to say, ‘Indeed, through some sudden temptation you are drawn aside in this particular act, yes, but it has been your care to prepare your heart to seek Me, and in that regard, I look upon you as having an upright heart.’” It really is a heart issue.
Stephen Charnock, in his extensive work, “The Existence and Attributes of God’ holds back no punches about the importance of our hearts being made ready. He says “Is our diligence greater to put our hearts in an adoring posture, than our bodies in a decent garb? Or are we content to have a muddy heart, so we may have a dressed carcass?” God is not looking for perfection in us, in our outward appearance or in the diligence of doing the acts of worship…He wants our hearts. God desires and comes near to those who are humble and contrite in heart and tremble at His Word. His call to all believers is “Son, give me thy heart!” (Proverbs 23:26)
What are some principles we can glean from these scriptural directives?
- Secure right understanding and apprehensions of the majesty of God before worship. Prime your pump. Read the Psalms, Isaiah 6, Revelation 4 and 5
- Meditate on Scripture. Get drunk! Yes, you heard me, get drunk with the Holy Spirit. This takes extended time. No one ever got drunk from a little sip of wine here and there. Long, quiet, uninterrupted time in the Word.
- Confess and seek forgiveness and labor to put sinful things far from you. “There must be distance between you and sin or there will be distance between you and God.” Thomas Shepherd.
- Disentangle your heart from the world. Do you love someone or something more than the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, you have a divided heart. God is a jealous God who does not share His glory or devotions with anyone or anything.
- Watch and pray, guard your heart in worship. Be vicious against wandering thoughts. When you find yourself wandering, pray for help! God loves your worship, He desires it, He delights in it and He will help you.
Once again, I am indebted to C.S. Lewis who cuts through the music and clears the way for us to see. He exposes the obvious in preparing our hearts for worship using reverse psychology. This is entitled, “The Art of Avoiding.”
In drawing near to God…avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and above all your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. Read fluff. Begin your day with the newspaper, especially those ads with a sexy or a snobbish appeal. (“The Seeing Eye” Christian Reflections)
June 2, 2015