Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4 ESV)
I’ve been serving in the worship ministry for over 18 years. In that time, I have frequently heard the verse above as our highest protocol and path to enter worship. It’s been said that it is the reason churches start their song sets with fast, upbeat songs of praise and thankfulness well before any slower songs of love and worship. Many times the worship leader/speaker will say that we have to make our way into the Lord’s presence before we worship Him, and this is the biblical way to do it.
While I believe this scripture is right to follow and believe in (since it is part of the Bible), I think we must remember the context of it. This psalm and instruction was written to Old Testament Israel. They were not saved or redeemed. Rather, they did have to enter the gates and courts each time they wanted to worship God. They were not subjects of the kingdom but were rather guests that we occasionally let in to worship the King.
It’s easy to get in the same mindset as them. It’s easy to follow a formula. But the New Testament tells us that things have changed for those who believe in Jesus.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 ESV)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)
The gospel transforms us from enemies to friends, from guests to sons/daughters. We are not outside the Kingdom anymore. Rather, we are seated with Him where He is. I feel like, that sometimes, we want to cast ourselves out of the kingdom, based on our unworthiness, and start a long process of earning and working our way back to Him by our laboring praise and formulaic thanksgiving. This is not the case. While we are completely unworthy, Jesus by His grace and kindness, has welcomed us in as family, not based on our merit but His.
Now I think in our personal, private lives, Psalm 100:4 is a great help in aligning our mind and heart to focus and worship God. In fact, Paul gives us a very similar charge like that in the psalm:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
The difference is mindset. We rejoice, pray, and give thanks as an overflow of being children, not as a formula to get into His presence as guests. So stop casting yourself out of the kingdom and worship Him as a child of God. You’re right there with Him.