When we discuss the issue of sin in worship or coming before the Lord with sin, we often imply that in order to have true worship we must confess to the Lord each sin committed for that week or that day…..to come before Him with any sin will hinder our worship experience. We teach our people that we must constantly be confessing our sin to the Lord, and if we fail to do so, our worship will not reach heaven. Our prayers will fall short of the pearly gates because we have failed to confess every little sin that we have committed up to that point. Heaven help us if it happens to be a sin that we don’t know we did! A sort of sin list that must be forever in check and constantly wiped clean. The question arises, "Can we experience true worship if we have unconfessed sin in our lives?" Psalm 24:3-4 states, "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false." What is it really that this verse is saying? Is it saying that anyone who has sin cannot reach God's holy place in worship? Remember, this is before Christ had died on the cross for sins. We often throw around this verse without putting things in proper context.
First, we have to remember that when Jesus came and died for our sins, He died for all of them. Yesterday’s sin, today's sin, and tomorrow's sin. When we accept Christ, we confess that we are sinners and in need of a Savior. We cannot begin to remember every sin we have committed. Christ came that we might have freedom from sin and death. Why do we continue to hold the cloud of sin over our lives when God says, they are removed as far as the east is from the west? For many, they are still with us when we put things in this distorted light. In the Old Testament, the people were required to bring their sacrifices to the Lord for forgiveness of sin. This had to take place in order for them to be clean - to be forgiven. There had been no complete payment for sin…..no final sacrifice. It wasn't until Jesus was crucified that the debt was paid in full and we could go straight to the Father for all we need.
What about today? How does this scripture apply to us? I truly believe that my sins are forgiven. When I confess them to God it is for my benefit. He knows the sin, but wants us to recognize it and bring it to Him. It's not a confession for forgiveness, but an asking of Him to take it and help us with it. We call on Him to help us be what He wants us to be. When I enter our house of worship, at times, I will offer up a prayer of forgiveness to the Lord. It is an acknowledgment that I have sinned and desire for Him to help me. You can call it tradition or the prompting of God, but it happens from time to time. You see, worship is a time when God can reveal to us our sin. He shows us how unclean we are and it helps us to better remember and appreciate the gift He has given. Let’s face it, we take advantage of His grace by abusing it for our own desires. However, the fact remains that He has forgiven us of it.
When will our worship be hindered by sin? There can be times when our worship will be hindered, and when God may choose not to accept our praise and worship. These usually are the times of ongoing sin in our lives. Times when we are deliberately disobedient to Him day after day can affect His acceptance of our worship. I believe to have unclean hands means you are living in a life of sin and you know it full well. It's one thing to get angry with your children or the guy that just cut you off, and another to live in sin daily. Throwing the grace of Jesus around to suit our own desires cannot please God. The price He paid was too great to abuse in a life of continuous sin. Those who seek the Lord daily will experience worship. None of us will ever attain perfection here on earth, because we will have to wait for that. Until then, we will continue to sin and fail God. However, He has forgiven us. But, we must remember that those who choose to live in sin - who choose to continue to be disobedient to Him, will find their worship stale and meaningless. If it’s stale and meaningless in your eyes, think what it must seem like to God who knows each thought and every intent of your heart.
My prayer is that our people would worship God in spirit and truth. I pray that they would not be burdened with the load of sin in their lives - Jesus has already taken care of that. Come to worship ready to give to God and hear from Him. How He chooses to move in your heart is totally up to Him. It’s crucial that we be led by Him and not assume we know what's best for ourselves. However, for those who are living in sin, my prayer is that they would turn from their sin and return to a loving, worship relationship with the Father. Many areas of our Christian walk give opportunity to hide inward sin from others, but worship is one thing you can’t give to God as you harbor continual sin. He won’t be fooled by our doing all of the right things. You may “do” the motions of worship, but the heart doesn’t lie.