When I was younger, we used to sing a cheerful song in church with the words: “I will enter His courts with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice ‘cause He has made me glad.”
What always struck me, was the joy expressed in entering the Lord’s presence. The delight of the singer in being able to enter into the gates of the Lord’s temple.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4
This week I was thinking about worship and prayer and our desire to enter into the very presence of God. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it hard to enter in.
My heart is not right and neither is my mind.
I realized this week that it is the act of thanksgiving as we enter through the gate, that makes all the difference in entering the Lord’s presence.
We often come in asking for stuff, telling Him what is going on in our lives (as if He does not know) and asking Him to bless so-n-so. We often have an agenda and are not always mindful of who we are speaking to.
Thanksgiving however refocuses our hearts and minds on the fact that we live and breathe by God, all we have is from God and that we are totally dependent on Him for everything in our lives. By thanksgiving, we once again acknowledge all of His goodness and faithfulness to us, by simply saying thanks.
The interesting thing, is that the very right to walk through the gate and enter into the presence of God, was given to us by Jesus. He said:
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
In Psalm 118, Jesus is the first to enter through the gates of heaven on our behalf. He would have sung this psalm at Passover on the night of His crucifixion, looking forward to the realization of what His death would mean for us as believers. We now as the righteous (made right by the blood of Jesus) enter into God’s presence.
Our attitude: one of thanks for our salvation.
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” John 10:2
Now as the righteous, it is almost as if we call to the angels who guard the gate: “Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” Ps 118:19-20
What a privilege to enter the Lord’s presence!
However, I am understanding that an attitude of thanksgiving is the right way to enter. Not a demanding, or sniveling, or arrogant heart, but a heart filled with thanksgiving for the salvation we have that gives us the right to enter into the presence of God. I am all for practicing thanksgiving in general, but focusing on thanking first, is a good strategy.
Thankfulness is the neglected activity of the believer when it comes to praise and worship. Psalm 100 makes it very clear that all worship starts with thanksgiving, so why is it that we have to be reminded to count our blessings instead of being aware of our blessedness?
It’s working for me, entering with thanksgiving. My heart and mind is right.
Father thank you that I can enter in. Thank you, Jesus, that as my high priest, you sit down at the right hand of God the Father and intercede on my behalf. Thank you for saving me from sin. Teach my heart to be thankful when I come in, to thank you first before I ask. Help me to be characterized by thankfulness, to be attentive to the Spirit when He shows me my blessedness.