Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Do you ever find yourself spectating during the worship time at church? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to get more involved.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re not the audience, sitting there or standing there waiting to be entertained. We’re supposed to be active participants, and God is the audience.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for November 22, 2016. Nancy is in the series "Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving."

Nancy: We’ve set aside this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, which I’ve always said is my very favorite holiday. I don’t know if it’s my very favorite, because I love Christmas, I love Easter—I love Passion Week—I love celebrating the great days of our church, our Christian faith. 

But this Thanksgiving thing, it’s so critical to all of life. What a great reminder, once a year, that all the year throughout we’re to be thanking the Lord, giving thanks with joyful hearts.

So we’re unpacking Psalm 100 this week—a psalm for giving thanks. It's the only psalm in the Jewish psalm book that is specifically titled this way, that it’s a psalm for giving thanks. We’ve talked about how in the 1500s this psalm was set to metrical verse and has been sung to the tune we know as The Doxology.

I’d encourage you to go on youtube and find one of those renditions: there are contemporary ones, there are more traditional, conservative ones. Find those renditions of "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" and sing it as, I’ve been doing this week.

Maybe get your family together on Thanksgiving Day and sing together, as we’ve been doing in this room—as we’re recording. Sing together, giving your thanks to the Lord.

As we saw yesterday, Psalm 100 has two calls to praise—calls to worship the Lord and to give thanks. You find that call in the first two verses, and then again in verse 4. Each of those calls to worship is followed by causes for praise and thanksgiving—reasons to thank the Lord, to praise Him. Those are in verses 3 and 5.

And those reasons, those causes, are affirmations of who God is and what He has done, and they form the basis for our worship. We’re seeing that worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is.

So we’re called to worship Him, then we’re told why we should worship Him. As we see who He is, what He has done, we respond in worship. Let me read this psalm, Psalm 100. Again, you see in these first two verses three exhortations in this call to worship.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1–2).

That’s the phrase we’re going to look at today, but now let me just read the rest of the psalm, so we get it in the whole context.

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. [And then, another call to worship.] Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (vv. 3–5).)

One of the people I love quoting is Charles Spurgeon. He just had such a magnificent way of talking about the things of the Lord. His commentary on Psalm 100 is particularly beautiful. He says,

The invitation to worship, here given, is not a melancholy one—as though adoration were a funeral solemnity but a cheery, gladsome exhortation, as though we were bidden to a marriage feast! [This is a celebration. This is a joyful expression from the hearts of God’s people! My friend, Charles Spurgeon goes on to say:] Our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people! Our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people! A cheerful spirit is in keeping with His nature, His acts and the gratitude which we should cherish for His mercies. 

Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people—not only during Thanksgiving Week—but all the time.

So, we’ve talked about making a joyful noise to the Lord, we’ve talked about serving the Lord with gladness, but now we look at this phrase at the end of verse 2: “Come into His presence . . .” Now, let me just stop there; we’ll get to the singing part in just a moment. But just those first words: “Come into His presence.” That phrase is amazing. That the holy, powerful, majestic God who fills heaven and earth with His presence and His glory should invite us—tiny, puny, fallen sinners—to come into His presence. That’s amazing! It’s astonishing!

Imagine if you got a really special invitation—I’m talking about fancy—to attend a special meeting with the President of the United States or the Queen of England or someone famous whom you greatly admire. You would consider that such an honor. But do we stop and think about what an honor it is to be invited, called, commanded, to come into the presence of God?

There are just a few people who have access to walk into the President’s office or his living quarters, but every child of God in the world is invited to come, anytime day or night. Come alone, come together with someone else, come together with your church family. All of us are invited to come into His presence.

Now, the Old Testament Jews reading this psalm, hearing this psalm, singing this psalm as they went to the temple to worship, would have been amazed at this, too—to be invited to come into the presence of God. That’s not how they had first come to know God.

Do you remember Mt. Sinai, Exodus chapter 19, where the law was given? Verse 12 says: “You shall set limits for the people all around [all around the mountain—set a barrier, set limits], saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.’”

So these children of Israel lived in mortal fear of getting too close to God. You know, the tabernacle had the Holy Place, the holiest place, where only the High Priest could go once a year. That’s where the Shekinah glory of God dwelt.

And the normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill people couldn’t just walk into God’s presence. They would die if they did! Same when the temple was built, as they would go to worship. Yes, they could come to the outer courts, but they couldn’t walk into the presence of Jehovah. They were sinful; He was holy. To walk into His presence would have instantly killed them.

“Stay away!”—was the message they had. “Oh, yes, you can come so far—but no further.” That’s why you love, when you get to the book of Hebrews: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest . . . he entered . . . into the holy places [He’s gone there] . . . by means of his own blood . . . for Christ has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf (9:11–12, 24).

“Therefore [now into Hebrews chapter 10, verses 19 and 22] brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience!” Wow, oh wow, oh wow!

So this Old Testament psalm anticipates the day when Christ would come. He would shed His blood, so that we could walk right into the presence of God—not in our own righteousness, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ who stands and pleads our case at the throne in heaven. 

He says, “You can enter because I am welcome here, and you come in My Name—because I have shed my blood for your sin. The penalty has been paid, the sacrifice has been made—and you can come with boldness into the presence of God! “Come into His presence!”

Now, the Old Testament faithful Jews went to the tabernacle or the temple to worship, because that’s where God’s presence dwelt. So when the passage says, “Come into His presence,” it’s saying, “Come to the temple. Come to the place where God’s presence is.”

But as New Testament believers, we are always in the presence of God, because His Spirit lives in us! He lives among us. When we come together, to a building we may call a church, we come together for corporate worship. We come into His presence together, to worship the Lord.

So it’s an invitation; it’s a call; it’s a command: “Come into His presence! Come. Come. Come boldly, come eagerly. Come!”

Now, there are some ways we should not come. As I’ve been meditating on this passage, I’ve been thinking about our corporate worship. (Now, I know some of you have church services on Saturday night, but for the purposes of most of us, let me just talk about Sunday morning—whenever you come together with God’s people for corporate worship.)

I’m thinking about how my husband and I go to corporate worship on Sunday mornings. In our case, I think the implication is, “Don’t come casually. Don’t just saunter in late, preoccupied, distracted . . . texting (that one convicted me!). There are some ways we shouldn’t come into the presence of the Lord. Don’t come casually—don’t come because it’s just rote habit.

“I’ve always gone to church; that’s just what we do on Sundays.” Don’t come into His presence out of a sense of duty or obligation: “I have to.” Don’t come that way. Don’t come just putting on a good face, even though you and your husband or you and your kids have been mad at each other all morning.

But you get to church—and all that stuff disappears—and little halos sprout themselves, and wings. Now you’re an angel. You walk into church: “How are you doing?” “Oh, just fine . . . so good to see you!” “How ya doin’?” “Great!” You’re not doing great! Don’t come, putting on a good face when your heart is not in a good place.

Don’t come with a critical spirit, to evaluate the service, the musicians, the preaching. Now, come filtering everything through the truth of God’s Word, but don’t come to pick and to criticize and to complain about how, “They don’t do it as well here,” and “They were flat there,” and “I just don’t care for this stuff.” Don’t come with a critical spirit!

Don’t come in a hurry for it to be over, so you can get back to things you really love: sports and food and fun. Don’t come into His presence conscious of how you look, or what others think about you—or what they might be saying about you. These are some ways not to come into His presence. 

How should we come? Well, do come into His presence thinking about God—Who He is. Do come into His presence preoccupied with Him. Do come with wonder at the incredible privilege it is to come together into the presence of the Lord.

Come with anticipation, expecting to meet Him, expecting to experience the reality of His presence in our midst. Come with reverence, come with awe, come with amazement, come with a healthy sense of the fear of the Lord. God is here! This is not just every day, ho-hum religion. We’re in His presence.

Come humbly, realizing, “I don’t deserve to be here . . .” Come humbly, just amazed, astonished, overwhelmed with a sense of wonder that He would let you come into His presence—of what it cost Him to invite you into His presence—of what Christ has done to make it possible for you.

Come wide awake, not sleepy. That means, for most of us, that preparing to come into His presence starts the night before. If you stay up all night watching trivial, silly TV shows or the news—or playing games, or just fooling around—and stay up late, ‘til the crack of dawn . . . and then you get up Sunday morning and you wonder why you’re exhausted.

You’re sleepy—trying to keep your eyes open at church (now I’ve been there, done this so many times!). But come—awake—in the presence of the Lord. Listen, if we really knew that God is really in this place, do you think there’s any chance we could fall asleep . . . if we realize the glory, the wonder, the power, the awesomeness, the majesty of God!

Come prepared. (Again, this starts the night before.) If your pastor’s preaching through a passage of Scripture, read it in advance, meditate on it, have your heart prepared. If you have an order of worship or service (some of our church websites print the church bulletin—you can see what hymns are being sung—maybe look at them in advance the night before). Maybe look at them as a family. Prepare your heart for worship.

Come Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise.

This was written by Robert Robinson in 1758. “Tune my heart”—come to church with that prayer: “Lord, tune up my instrument. Make me ready to sing, ready to worship, ready to praise, ready to pray, ready to give, ready to respond to Your presence.”

Come with gladness in your heart. Gladness! Put away sadness, put away doubt, put away fear, put away anger. Come with gladness into the presence of the Lord, realizing that the things that make you sad—real as they are—look a whole lot different when you see them through His presence, when you see them through His eyes.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

And come thankfully. Thankfully! Again, grateful for what God has done to make it possible for you to be in this place. So come into His presence. Think about that. Think about His presence—think about what it’s like.

Go to passages of Scripture that talk about other people who went into His presence. One thing you’ll find: when the people of God experience the presence of God, they end up—more often than not on their faces—in wonder, in worship and awe!

There’s nothing trivial, nothing light about this—nothing casual. This is serious business, but it’s joyful, glad business.

And then, come with singing. Come into His presence with singing. Now, that may mean, literally, just sing in the car on the way to church. You may find that it helps prepare your heart; it helps prepare your kids’ hearts, too, to be singing. “We are going to sing—NOW! (laughter) It means we’re not arguing, we’re singing!”

Sometimes I find that I have to, in my own heart—whether it’s in my private worship or in corporate worship—I kind of have to make myself sing. Sometimes I don’t feel like singing. Sometimes I’m crying so hard in my own little personal quiet time, because something is really troubling my heart. I’ll open my hymnal or go to a familiar worship chorus, and I’ll find I’m crying so hard you can hardly understand what I’m singing. But I find that, if I will keep singing, the cloud lifts, and I become more aware of His presence than of my problems. So sing when you don’t feel like it. Sing until you do feel like it.

I find that Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, in the smallest little church . . . and I’ve been in corporate worship in churches all around the world with little tiny congregations, with great big congregations, with fabulous orchestras and choirs, and with just very simple musical instruments, or none at all. I’ve found in all these circumstances and situations, if I will come into His presence with singing, God will give me a joyful heart. It changes the way I think, it changes the way I feel. Come with singing. We sing because this pleases Him—because He is worthy.

We’re not the audience—as so often seems to be the case in many of our contemporary worship services, where we’re the audience and we’re sitting there or standing there waiting to be entertained or moved by the so-called worship team on the platform. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Now, it’s fine to have a worship team on the platform, but they’re just worshipers to lead us in worshiping. We’re supposed to be active participants in worship, whether private or corporate. And God is the audience who’s listening as we sing. Sing to the Lord! Come into His presence with singing.

Of all faiths and religions, Christianity should be a singing religion, should be a singing faith, because we have something to sing about! We have Someone real to whom we sing, and He says it pleases Him.

Singing does something powerful, I have found, to banish the enemy, to banish fear, to banish doubt, to banish self-centeredness and fix my eyes and my heart on God, and Christ, and the great truths of our gospel faith!

So the measure of “great worship” (“How was the worship at church this morning?”) is not how talented the leader is, or the singers, or the musicians. The measure of great worship is whether the people of God are worshiping—singing, praising with all their hearts, not with wandering minds but thinking about what they’re singing about, not doing this mindlessly but thinking about it, praising, entering into the worship—singing, actually singing! Now, I don’t have any kind of solo singing voice. I promise you that. When we have a conference or a session like this and I’m singing, I’m a sound man’s worst nightmare—because all he can hear is my voice. He can’t hear the voices of the congregation sometimes, and I don’t have a great singing voice. I hardly have a singing voice, but I sing. 

I follow in the steps of my dad who had—arguably—one of the world’s worst singing voices, but He didn’t seem to know it. And he definitely didn’t care! We’d get to church and he would be singing, and singing loudly and joyfully and gladly and thankfully. He couldn’t carry a tune, didn’t know the right pitch, but he was singing. And I have his genes! So, sing to the Lord; come into His presence with singing.

The great Methodist revival of the 1700s was characterized by singing, hymn-singing, as was the Welsh revival of 1904 and 1905. Many of these great revivals have been characterized by people singing with new joy, new fervor, new whole-heartedness to the Lord. Many of our hymns were written in times of revival, as people would lift their hearts and their joy to the Lord.

John Wesley was the great preacher of the Wesleyan Awakening—the awakening in the Wesley era. His brother, Charles, wrote thousands of hymns, many of which we still sing today. In his 1761 collection of Methodist hymns, John Wesley wrote a short guide to singing hymns. He had seven principles. Let me just share two of them with you.

He said, “Sing all. See that you join the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. Don’t let that hinder you. If it is a cross to you to sing, take it up, and you will find a blessing. Sing all.”

And then, I love this one—number four in his seven principles. He said, “Sing lustily and with good courage! Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep, but lift up your voice with strength.” Sing to the Lord. Sing lustily!

You look around at so many church services today and you see people on the platform who are singing with courage and strong voice, but you look around and you see lots and lots and lots of people whose mouths are not moving. Let me just tell you this: you can’t sing without moving your mouth. (laughter)

Now, they may be singing in their heart to the Lord. That’s a good thing. But I’m saying we need to come into His presence with singing—all of us—courageously, boldly, lifting up our voices with strength.

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Charles Spurgeon said: “Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow. Sing of what is yet to be.” That’s one of the things I love about our great hymns of the faith—and many of the great hymns being written today. They focus on what God has done in the past, who God is right now and what He is doing in our midst, and what is yet to come. The best is yet to come! So if you can’t think of something happy to sing about today, then borrow a song from tomorrow and sing of what is yet to be.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2) And then, that call is repeated in verse 4: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Revelation 21:27 tells us that those who are unclean can’t enter His gates; they will be kept outside the gates of the New Jerusalem. But, thank God, Christ has opened the way! He is the gate. He’s given His life to open up the way for us to enter, and He welcomes us!

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they . . . may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14). “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise!” Enter His presence with thanksgiving—with praise—not with whining, murmuring, anger, bitterness. Leave all that behind and put on the garment of praise.

As we give thanks to God, as we bless His Name, that’s an expression of humility. Get your eyes off yourself and onto Him. We get our eyes off of what we don’t have on to what we do have. We acknowledge that we are dependent upon Him, that we can’t provide for ourselves; we can’t protect ourselves; we can’t save ourselves. All of these things are good gifts from our Father in heaven.

As we sing and praise and bless His Name and give thanks to Him, it reminds us that we don’t deserve any of His good gifts. He doesn’t owe us anything, but He has lavished His gifts upon us.

So we make a joyful noise to the Lord. We serve Him with gladness. We come into His presence with singing. We enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. We give thanks to Him and we bless His holy Name! Amen.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been unpacking Psalm 100, a psalm of thanksgiving. Nancy spent a lot of time pondering the topic of thankfulness. It was the theme of her book Choosing Gratitude. Listen to how that book has affected Greg.

He wrote to us on Facebook and said, “I’m rereading your book, Choosing Gratitude, for the umpteenth time!” Greg went on to tell us how he first encountered the book. He said,

A few years ago I got so frustrated with my seventeen-year-old daughter and yelled at her to the point that she moved out for a week. I turned to my brother, a pastor. This pastor recommended Nancy’s book, Choosing Gratitude. This pastor told me to get past the notion that you are a ‘woman only’ author. A few pages in, I did. The book has helped me immensely! Now I find myself in another season of complaining about nearly everything! So, I have reached for the spiritual medicine cabinet again and pulled out your book—well, opened it up on my Kindle.

I like myself so much more when I have a grateful spirit! I think those around me feel the same. Sometimes, I do wish I could I could get my ‘gratitude certification’ and move on. The truth is, I keep coming back to the trough for another drink.

I told a friend that if stranded on a desert island with a few books yours would be one I’d take with me. 

You can see how developing a grateful spirit can change everything, and we also need reminders to keep developing gratitude.

You can check out Nancy’s book Choosing Gratitude at ReviveOurHearts.com, and I also want to tell you about a follow-up resource. It’s called "30 Days of Choosing Gratitude." When you go through the booklet, you’ll get ideas on how to be more grateful day by day.

We’ll send you this booklet when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. When you donate to Revive Our Hearts, you’re helping us continue providing resources and helping families like Gregg’s.

Ask for the booklet "30 Days of Choosing Gratitude"* when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one booklet per household for your donation of any amount.

If you don’t think you have musical talent, can you still worship? Nancy will talk about it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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