Sunday Morning Preparation Part II: Unveiling Our Hearts
Going to church is still hard.
As you come to pray about your Sunday mornings, you’ll likely encounter this roadblock: You’ll have spent a couple minutes praying before church. But now you’re in the middle of the service and you just aren’t feeling it. You sang the songs, but you were concentrating harder on getting the tune right than thinking about the words. You mindlessly plodded through the confession and creed because everyone else was. And now you’re halfway through the sermon and you just realized you haven’t understood a thing that’s been said. “What’s going on?” you may begin to wonder. “Am I being dumb? Are spiritual things just boring to me? Why can’t I focus?” The Apostle Paul has an answer for us. He tells the church at Corinth,
Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their [unrepentant Jews’] hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor 3:15-17, English Standard Version)
When Paul refers to reading Moses, he’s using shorthand for the Old Testament. Paul is saying that whenever those who reject Jesus read the Bible, they are unable to understand what’s really being said. This isn’t just a matter of unbelievers being unintelligent or not paying attention, it’s a matter of the heart. Remember this last Sunday when Pastor Mike pointed out that the Pharisees thought Jesus must be in league with the devil because he exorcised a demon? The Pharisees were the PhDs of their time, and they were certainly paying attention to what Jesus did. Intelligence and attention spans had nothing to do with it. Paul says that a veil is over their hearts. We know that if a veil is over our eyes, we cannot see those physical things that are plainly before us. But when a veil is over our hearts, we cannot see the spiritual things that are plainly before us. Yet all is not lost. Paul says that when we turn to the Holy Spirit, he takes the veil away.
“But,” we can’t help wondering, “If I’ve already become a Christian, why is it that my heart so often feels veiled while I’m at church?”
Martin Luther famously described Christians as being sinners and saints at the same time. We know that we have died to sin (Rom 6:5-6), yet we also know that we sin constantly. Until Christ completes the work he began in us, we live in a cycle of sin and repentance. What we don’t think about is how when we sin, we’re effectively hoisting that veil over our hearts again.
Does this mean all those people who are able to pay attention during the service haven’t sinned that week? Of course not! Sometimes, God graciously tears down the veil almost as soon as we’ve put it up. Other times, God graciously leaves it up, forcing us to see how we need to rely on him to even worship him. And when this happens, we need to seek God and beg that the veil be lifted from our hearts.
We may be scared to ask for this. After all, if we had a child who blindfolded himself hundreds of times a day, we might get a little cranky about untying it nonstop. But God’s patience is infinite. He is not only willing to help us, he is full of compassion and loves to help us in this way. Jesus asks,
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11-13)
And so our asking for the removal of the veil naturally leads us to the first lesson from Hebrews 10:24-25: meditating on the faithfulness of God.
Our preparation for Sunday mornings, then, should look something like this:
- Turn to the Lord and ask that the Spirit would lift the veil from our hearts
- Meditate on the faithfulness of God
- Consider how we might stir one another up to good works
- Look for ways to encourage our brothers and sisters in the Gospel
Going to church next Sunday will still be hard. But the way to guarantee that it won’t get easier is to downplay the Spirit’s role in a God-glorifying service. We don’t need to wait until Sunday to begin praying that God would give us the right approach. Pray every night before bed. Pray on the drive to church. Pray when the service is beginning. Pray when you’re singing, confessing, and listening. Pray that the Spirit of God would remove the veil from your heart, that you might behold the glory of God. Pray that...
We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, [will be] transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18).
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