I ran across this on the internet: One of my favorite songs is, “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship,” but now I’m singing, “I Come to the Garden Alone.” That’s been our story for a while now. I think (hope!) most of us are getting anxious to return to church…and our normal lives!
Did you realize, though, that coming to church could be an absolute waste of time for some? Considering the fact that we haven’t been together for a while, this may not seem like the wisest introduction to a devotional! But, it’s true.
Think about it – what is the purpose for coming corporately to meet with the church? It is to worship the Lord, sing His praises, pray together, to learn about Him, and to offer our gifts to Him, whether that be financial or our gifts of service.
But, what if the Lord won’t accept it? What if we get a heavenly “no thank you” when we offer up or worship, praise, and gifts? What if the prayers are lifted but the Father says, “I’m not listening!” You ask, “Why in the world wouldn’t the Lord receive our gifts and hear our prayers?”
Speaking to Israel in Isaiah 1:11-15, the Lord asks, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (12) When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (13) Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. (15) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
All of the things we come to church for must be offered from a heart that is right with the Lord. That’s where the Lord is looking and listening. The Lord isn’t weighing our praise by our ability to carry a tune or to harmonize. He isn’t accepting our worship based on whether or not we shed a tear or raise our hands. Our giving isn’t accepted if it is over an arbitrary dollar amount. And, our prayers do not carry weight if they are embellished with deep, theological words. It’s all about the heart!
As we continue our study of Psalm 4, David has something to say to those who have caused him such distress. From yesterday, “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” And, for today, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalms 4:4-5)
The only way our sacrifices – our gifts to the Lord – can be righteous is if the giver of those gifts has been made righteous. Back to the passage in Isaiah, the prophet tells Israel, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; (17) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (18) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:16-18)
Acceptable and receivable worship cannot be offered with dirty lives. Our “sacrifices” begin with Psalms 51:17, 19 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise… (19) Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.”
At salvation, we are “made the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus).” Once we are saved, we have to keep our lives clean and pure. When we offer the sacrifices of righteousness, they really HAVE to be righteous sacrifices.
David wasn’t done with his admonition to those who were causing him distress. He told them to “trust in the Lord.” We must trust the Lord about everything, not just salvation.
Now, as I close this devotional, I want to encourage you to come to church (once we are able to again) even if your heart isn’t right. Perhaps you ask, “But, why? You said at the beginning that it was ‘an absolute waste of time.’” Maybe it’s not a complete waste of time. That was an overstatement to get your attention – and it worked!
Even though your heart isn’t right, there is still the possibility that through the preaching and teaching of the Word that the Lord is going to bring conviction. There could be repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. You might hear the very thing that the Lord has been trying to tell you all along. That church service just might be the “come to Jesus” moment you’ve been needing!
So, don’t get too comfortable sitting at home in your jammies, listening to the sermons online or on the CDs we’ve delivered. Use this “down time” to be with the Lord, focusing on your heart. And, even if the heart isn’t where it needs to be, that first service when we are able to return – be there!!! Who knows what the Lord might have for you!!