Stepping into the Psalms
Part II: Preparing for Worship
February 24, 2013
Last week we looked at PSALM 13 and said that God will NEVER FORSAKE you, even if it feels like he has. Since he has given us his son and promised that nothing can SEPARATE us from his LOVE, we can respond IN FAITH.
* This week, we see it’s a little MORE COMPLICATED – God may not leave us, but WE may LEAVE HIM.
Last week the problem was assumed to be on God’s end, this week asks if it is on our end.
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 15 (Eddie)
PREPARING FOR WORSHIP
The Psalms were written for us to “STEP INTO,” to make these words our own, just as WEDDING VOWS become our own. This isn’t a THEORETICAL question, this is the question we need to ask:
Psalm 15:1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
The first users of this psalm would have been the REGULAR peOple of Israel. Not the priests and kings, but the farmers, shepherds, and craftsman.
They DIDN’T HAVE CHURCH like we did and the only place they were allowed to offer sacrifices was at the temple. Several times a year they would come to JERUSALEM to WORSHIP God.
Q How do you PREPARE for worship?
Keep in mind that the entire temple system impressed upon the ancient worshiper the TERRIFYING HOLINESS of God:
1 Chronicles 13:-12 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. 12 David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?”
Imagine that Psalm 15 was written SHORTLY AFTER the “Uzzah incident” (as it could have been).
* This isn’t “Who shall we ALLOW in?” but “Who DARES enter?”
They understood God’s holiness and understood that you needed to prepare yourself, not enter his presence CARELESSLY.
With the NEW COVENANT, we can come to God much more easily, without sacrifices, without a temple, which is good. We are invited to KNOW GOD is a way the Israelites were not.
* But we have become BLASÉ about coming into God’s presence.
We STAY up late Saturday, get up late, RUSH to church. We come into the presence the Almighty God, maker of Heaven and earth who killed Uzzah, with less respect than a being at LIBRARY.
We worship HALF-HEARTEDLY, unprepared and thinking nothing of CHECKING our TEXTS during service.
* Every week, we pray that GOD SHOW UP, but WHY would he show up if you haven’t PREPARED to meet him?
Is it any surprise if God SEEMS DISTANT? He hasn’t changed, but maybe you have.
* EG: Call between two CELL PHONES, assuming the INTERFERENCE is on their end, when it may be on mine.
ASKING THE QUESTION
Psalm 15 calls us to PREPARE for WORSHIP, to take the time to prepare our hearts and focus on the one this is about.
* EG: King’s Kids – “HEART PREP.”
FIRST, we ask the questions: Who may dwell? Am I READY to WORSHIP? What has happened in me since last time?
Second, we LOOK at our ANSWERS and DO SOMETHING about it.
Let’s begin by asking the questions. These are NOT RHETORICAL questions. The fact that we have to ask means that NOT EVERYONE can answer yes.
* We don’t say that in self-righteousness but sorrow.
A PARTIAL CHECKLIST
Psalm 15 gives us a CHECKLIST, the sort of questions we need to be asking to prepare for worship. As we read it, notice that is very PRACTICAL, not DOCTRINAL.
* It is NOT EXHAUSTIVE, yet covers many key points:
1. Are you pursuing righteousness?
Psalm 15:2-5 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,
In GALATIANS, we have emphasized grace, and we will come back to grace again at the end of this list, yet many Christians have OVEREMPHASIZED GRACE at the expense of righteousness.
* On one hand we need grace because we can NEVER be GOOD ENOUGH, on the other, God EXPECTS us to PURSUE holiness.
One reason we need to spend time in the OT is that NT is only ADDRESSING HALF the issue and we forget this half too often.
* In the OT, RIGHTEOUS LIVING (not self-justification) is not only POSSIBLE, but EXPECTED.
Q Would OTHER PEOPLE call you righteous?
2. Are you speaking truth?
who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue,
We do MORE DAMAGE with our TONGUE than any other part of our body, so it is no surprise this is at the top of the list.
James 3:7-10 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
“Speaking truth” goes deeper than “Do you tell LIES?” to “Are you a TRUTHFUL PERSON in your HEART?” EG: SALES PEOPLE who don’t technically lie.
Q Have you ever said, “TECHNICALLY, I wasn’t lying?”
That means that your express words may have been correct but that your INTENT was to DECEIVE.
3. How are you treating others?
who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
We tend to think that worship is all VERTICAL, between us and God. But God considers it very HORIZONTAL as well – how you treat others has a profound effect on your worship.
* In 1 Peter 3:7, HUSBANDS are warned that DISRESPECTING our wives will hinder prayers (cf. “prayers of the wicked are not heard”).
JESUS made this the first test:
Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
This was a key part of “HEART PREP” in King’s Kids, especially living in close quarters like that.
Q Is there anyone YOU need to go to?
They MAY NOT RESPOND (many won’t), but you must do your part.
4. Who is influencing you?
4 who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD,
We read this and kind of freak out, “Aren’t we supposed to HATE the SIN but LOVE the SINNER?”
That is true to an extent, but this is talking about something very DIFFERENT than how you feel about broken and hurting people who need God’s love.
* This is all about who you SPEND your TIME with, SPEAKS into your life, you ask for GUIDANCE, and INFLUENCES you.
We need to understand the difference between SHINING a LIGHT and BEING INFLUENCED by the company you keep.
Q Think about who you spend YOUR TIME with, are they helping your PREPARE for worship?
5. Have you kept your promises?
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
Have you acted with INTEGRITY in BUSINESS DEALINGS? In personal FINANCES? I was struck by one man, “Next to my hope in Christ, my greatest comfort is I NEVER WRONGED any one in BUSINESS.”
Q Are there any OBLIGATIONS you need to make up?
I have a friend who lost a lot of money in the recession and found himself in dept. He could have easily declared BANKRUPTCY (and was encouraged to) but refused, on this principle.
6. Is money your god?
5 who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
BRIBES and loan SHARKING are not serious issues for most of us today, but this speaks to a DEEPER ISSUE:
Q WHAT are you WILLING to do for money?
If you are willing to CHEAT your TIME CARD, cut the CORNERS, or fudge your TAXES, then this applies to you.
And even DEEPER than this is a trust issue – if you are willing to bend your principles for money, then you demonstrate that you do NOT TRUST GOD to take care of you.
STILL BY GRACE
The Psalm ends with:
Psalm 15:5 He who does these things will never be shaken.
So that is all we have to do. It seems almost MANAGEABLE until we remember the first part, “he whose walk is BLAMELESS.”
* Then we remember that it’s not just about ACTIONS, it is about the HEART, “...looks at a woman lustfully...”
The longer we spend looking at this list and DEEPER we DIG, the more UNMANAGEABLE it seems. Before too long, we see the answer to the QUESTION, “Who may dwell on your holy hill?” is “NO ONE.”
Remember what I said a couple of weeks ago about “the WORKS of the LAW”? These things are part of the works of the law:
Galatians 2:16 So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
This list will affect how WE RELATE to God, but they won’t change how GOD RELATES to us – it have always been ABOUT GRACE.
* It is only by GRACE that we are free to WORSHIP and free to PURSUE the RIGHTEOUS LIFE God desires.
Helpful distinction: JUSTIFICATION, forgiveness and acceptance by God, only comes freely FROM GOD. SANCTIFICATION, the process of being righteous, is COOPERATIVE.
I said earlier the PREPARING for WORSHIP means first of all ASKING the QUESTIONS, then DOING SOMETHING about our answer.
* So the answer to the QUESTION “Am I able to worship, to dwell in God’s presence?” is “YES and NO.”
YES, by grace I am FORGIVEN, ACCEPTED, and MADE RIGHTEOUS. NO, I am not living up to God’s RIGHTEOUS STANDARDS. My life is filled with SIN that SEPARATES me from God and others.
Q What can WE DO in response to that YES and NO?
We respond to the “NO,” to our sin with REPENTANCE. The call to WORSHIP begins with a CALL to REPENTANCE.
* Worshiping without repentance can be one of the MOST DANGEROUS things you can do.
Sin NATURALLY SEPARATES us from God. When you come before God with sin, you have a choice:
1. REPENT here and now (remorse and change)
2. IGNORE it – SPLIT your soul into two parts, the Sunday morning part and the rest of your life part.
But we respond to the “YES, by grace” part of the answer with GRATITUDE and PRAISE.
After REPENTANCE, we can set aside our SIN, knowing that we are FORGIVEN and that God is leading us to GREATER and GREATER HOLINESS, and freely and CONFIDENTLY ENTER God’s presence.