THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE: THE ENTRANCE INTO WORSHIP
'Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name', (Psalm 100:4).
The entrance into worship is
thanksgiving and praise. Thanksgiving
brings us through the gates of worship, and praise brings us into the courts of
worship. We give thanks to the Lord for
what He has done, and we praise Him because of who He is. This is the way we enter into worship, but
this is only the beginning. We should
always seek to move higher in worship.
I once asked the question; 'Why
is it important to always give thanks?'
The Bible says 'in everything give thanks' (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and
'giving thanks for all things' (Ephesians 5:20.
Why is this necessary? I am a
father, and I have not always expected my children to say thank you. There are times when the joy on their faces
was enough. Their joy gave me great
pleasure. But this is never enough for
the Lord. He wants us to always give
thanks. Some parents expect their children
to always say 'thank you' because it is good manners. This is commendable, but God is not teaching
us good manners. When my daughter was 15 her school class had the opportunity
to decide where they would like to go for a school trip. My daughter always wanted to go to
The cares of life can take our attention away from the Lord and stop us from being worshippers. We cannot worship if we carry the burdens of life. Thanksgiving will divert our attention away from the cares and burdens of life. The Bible appears to be too good to be true when it says: 'Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.' (Philippians 4:6-7)
Being free from care is not irresponsibility. We must be diligent in everything we do so that our lives are a good testimony. But we cannot worship if we worry over things we are not able to control. God has told us what to do when our needs are greater than our resources. We are not to be concerned, but instead we are to draw on God's provision and with prayer and supplication make our requests known to Him with thanksgiving. This allows our thoughts to be free from anxiety. Even in trials and difficult situations we can be worshippers and be led into worship by giving thanks and offering praise. This turns everything around, so that difficult situations become opportunities to worship.
Our brain enables us to think great thoughts, but it is also very limited in what it can do. If we direct all our concentration onto a particular thing then it is difficult to think about something else at the same time. Very intelligent people are often known for neglecting their personal appearance. The great professor of modern science may be able to unravel the mysteries of science and yet be completely unaware that his hair is a total mess or his shirt is buttoned wrongly. This inability to think on many things at the same time is a great blessing in worship. God tells us to give thanks in everything and for everything. When we are giving thanks it is difficult to think about the difficulties of life that would pull us down. Thanksgiving lifts us above the situations and the problems that we face. The problem is still there, but now our thoughts are higher. The house fellowship where I came to the Lord used to have a sign on the door that said 'If you worry you die, if you don't worry you still die, so why worry?' Well maybe this is worldly wisdom, but the truth is that if we are anxious over the cares of this life we cannot worship. The cares of life must be left behind so that we can be free to worship, and our hearts and minds can be filled with thanksgiving and praise.
It is not just the cares of life that pull us down; the concerns of life can also take our attention away for the Lord and stop us from being worshippers. If we become fully occupied with the affairs of life then we will not be worshippers. It is often not bad things that stop us from being worshippers. It can be very legitimate things that turn us away. It can be family affairs, business affairs, or everyday things. The secret is learning to worship as we do these things. In the story of the healing of the ten lepers, all were healed, all had something to rejoice about, but only one became a worshipper. What was it that concerned the other nine? They were more concerned about getting involved in everyday affairs than they were in knowing Jesus. Here is the story: 'And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go your way: your faith has made you whole.' (Luke 17:12-19)
The ten lepers had been united by their uncleanness, but once the leprosy had been healed the Samaritan had nothing in common with the Jews. The Samaritan departed from following the others because the unity was gone. A negative unity does not last. Some people are united in what they are against, but true unity in the Spirit is a unity built on who we are in Christ. He now had nothing in common with the others, so his attention was focussed upon 'who Jesus is' and 'what He had done'. He knew he was clean and he had no fear of approaching the One who had made him whole. He was able to come near Jesus, but he still worshipped with the characteristics of a leper. He shouted as though afar off. He had no concern about his own reputation; he had no reputation to lose. The Samaritan had become a worshipper. The other nine lepers were eager to begin again in taking an active part within society. They hurried to be seen by the priest and to be declared clean. The affairs of life were more important to them than worshipping Jesus. Most believers are like this. Salvation has made them what they are, but they are so caught up in everyday concerns that they have no interest in becoming worshippers.
The pride of life will take our attention away from the Lord and stop us from becoming worshippers. Humility is essential in worship. In this respect we need to be like the children who offered praise to the Lord in the temple. Jesus cleansed the temple and healed the blind and the lame. The children in simplicity glorified God because of the things Jesus did. They worshipped Him by offering praise in the temple. 'And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, do you hear what these say? And Jesus said unto them, Yea; have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings You have perfected praise? And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.' (Matthew 21:15-17)
The worship of the children glorified the Lord because of who He is. The children had no thought of themselves they had become captivated by the glory of the Lord because of what they had seen Him do. They recognised who He was because they had no thoughts of selfish ambition to blind their eyes. They worshipped Jesus because they had seen what he had done, and they knew only the promised Messiah could do these things. The religious leaders were blinded by their own pride so they were unable to recognise that Jesus was the Messiah. Worshippers must be like the children. Pride will make us like the religious leaders who resisted the moving of the Holy Spirit. The First Epistle of Peter tells us to be clothed with humility because God gives grace to the humble: 'Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:' (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Humility is essential in worship. The grace of God is given to those who walk in humility, and this grace can be described as 'the beauty of Jesus in the life of the believer'. It is the gift of God; undeserved favour. The worshipper clothed in humility radiates the beauty of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. We will only enter into worship if our desire is to know Christ. If we are eager to fulfil our own ambitions we will not enter into worship. The worshipper is someone who has turned his back on his own ambitions and seeks only to do the will of the Lord. Pride is the greatest enemy to worship, and pride in our own achievements will prevent us from becoming worshippers. We must humble ourselves and come before the Lord as children in order to worship the Lord.
Our hearts must be continuously full of praise and thankfulness. Entering into worship depends on the state of our hearts. Worrying is disobedience because the Lord has told us not to worry about anything. If we keep the anxieties of life in our hearts, we cannot be thankful. We are to pray and give thanks, and to 'seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness' (Matthew 6:33). We cannot be worshippers if we worry. Thanksgiving enables the worshipper to focus all the attention upon the nature and character of God. The worshipper leaves all the cares and concerns of life behind by placing his or her thoughts on the Lord. Giving thanks is an essential part of worship, and the scriptures place great emphasis upon thanksgiving. The Lord has given every believer the provision to be free from anxiety and from the cares of the world. Scripture tells us to bring our needs to the Lord in prayer and then rejoice with thanksgiving.