“Now, while the people were in a state of expectation….” (Luke 3:15)
To the Pharisees who joined the crowds emptying the cities and flocking to hear the rough preacher in the desert proclaim Heaven’s message, John the Baptist asked, “Who warned you vipers to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7)
What were they doing there, he wanted to know.
Long after John had been decapitated for his faithful proclamation of the Lord’s message, Jesus asked the crowds who had thought so much of his rough-hewn cousin:
–“When you went out into the wilderness to hear John, what were you looking for?” (Luke 7:24)
–“What did you go out to see?” (7:25)
–“But what did you go out to see?” (7:26)
Anyone see a trend here?
When we decide to worship, when we settle ourselves in to hear a sermon, when we enter God’s House, when we gather with the Lord’s people, when we do anything which smacks of churchgoing–we would do well to begin by asking, “Why am I here?”
“What am I looking for in church today? What do I expect to happen?”
–I venture to say that most of the Lord’s people who enter His house on typical Sundays expect nothing. They are there for a hundred reasons, but have small expectations other than to get through that service.
It simply has never occurred to them that they should be expecting something.
–What should they expect to happen? For starters, the Lord’s people who gather for worship should expect a) to give something of themselves, b) to do something–such as humble themselves, pray, submit, commit, listen, learn, and change, and c) to get from the Lord whatever He wishes to give on this particular day.
–What we should be wary of is focusing our expectations on the preacher. That is one of the great errors in modern Christendom. Even the most faithful enter the Lord’s house and put much of their expectations on the minister.
We expect to be taught, lifted to the heavens in worship, to be entertained, to be…something, I’m not sure what. And we are quick to register our disappointment if the poor preacher did not accomplish some or all of what we were expecting.
“I didn’t get anything out of that service.” Ever heard that before? Ever said that?
Those words constitute a rejection of the entire worship event that day, a denial of the sermon the Lord gave the pastor to preach, a putdown of the pastor’s ministry itself, and a thumbs-down regarding whatever the Lord had for this one who is so quick to spread the discontent.
Scripture nowhere tells us to enter the Lord’s House “expecting to get something out of it.” Rather, we read that we are to “give unto the Lord the glory due His name.” “Bring an offering.” “Come before His presence with a song.” There must be a thousand such commands in the Word.
I love these opening lines from Ecclesiastes 5–
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.
“Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in Heaven and you are on the earth; therefore, let your words be few.”
Imagine that. “Let your words be few in the Lord’s house.” We are a vociferous people, genetically engineered to give God instructions, to chat endlessly with friends in church, and to make our prayers monologues.
To be quiet in church? Are you serious?
Try it, Christian.
Try approaching worship expecting to give instead of getting.
Expect to humble yourself, to silence your mouth and still your spirit. Expect to listen, to give yourself anew to the Father, and to encourage all others who come to worship Him also.
Expect to exit the service with a prayer of thanks to the Father for His mercy (in not giving you what you deserve!), for His grace (in giving you blessings untold), and for His continuing work in your life as He makes you more and more into the image of Christ.
And one more. Expect to give thanks to the Lord for all that transpired in the service you just attended. Good or bad, poorly done or professionally presented, God can use it all so long as His children are faithful and humble in His presence.