What is Worship Part III
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24
What is the difference between worship and praise?
In our normal "church speak," worship and praise are intertwined in our everyday language. Thus, the denotation and implication of worship and praise seem blurred and even skewed by many. However, there are key differences found in Scripture, as worship is our inward expression by attitude to His Holiness and praise is our outward expression like singing and clapping in gratefulness for who Christ is and what He has done. Both are offered as a church service for worship and a lifestyle for being a Christian (Psalm 22:27; 29:2).
Worship is our act of awe and attitude, our official reverence, respect, and thanksgiving with our humbleness and adoration. So, with worship, we give our admiration and honor; in so doing, we give our love and our respect to our Most High Lord God (Psalm 150; Matt. 4:10; John 4:20-24; Rom. 12:1-3). Praise is more about our physical and practical outpouring, where we actively honor Him by expression and applause to our Lord God (Gal. 1:23-24; Eph. 1:2-15; Heb. 13:14-16; Rev. 19:4-5). You can see it this way as an illustration: worship is the respect we give to a dignitary like a president or king, and praise is like the fans cheering at a football game. Now translated to a kingdom environment, we venerate our Lord by our response to Him with our trust and obedience from a mind-set of worship and we show our appreciation to Him by our praise and gratitude, blessing and glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ. And, we do this in truth for His Truth, His holiness, and His honor; how great thou art!
Worship is a covenant and call from our Lord to come before Him and meet with Him with our reverence, gladness, and joy. It concerns how we draw near and give God the recognition and admiration that He deserves. Praise is our motivation from an impassioned, changed heart, with an emotional and mindful exaltation of our gratitude for what God has done. It is a call to know Him intimately and express appreciation to Him with honor and thanksgiving, doing so with passion, sincerity, conviction, and in reverent fear and trembling. Worship is our aptitude and attitude of our expressions to God and praise is the practice of expressing our desire to know our Lord and Savior further, and being grateful for who He Is and what He has done for us. Worship and praise are the giving of our best to Him. And, we do this because we are His; we give Him our heart that is already His. He has given His best to us already; in addition, we are enveloped in His eternal love and care for pure and useful purposes. This has nothing to do with musical prefaces or orders of worship. It is the matter of a changed heart that responds back to Christ who is the audience of our worship, as we are the performers. What we are to do in our church services is place this attitude into a presentation where God is the audience and we are the ones who offer praise.
What is wrong with the worship in most Churches?
We, the conservative and Evangelical church, for the most part have forgotten what it is all about. The liberals and mainliners did these decades ago now we are doing it? How? Just as they did, by substituting what we want and throwing out what God wants! We just rationalize it better (well, not really). The prime problem we have is that most of us in ministry should know what worship is; but, in practice, we do not. We ignore the main event and place our emphases on the trivial and unimportant. We focus on our style and music preferences, the techniques and practices of the sound and the instruments, the trimmings and trimming and so forth, thinking we are being practical when we are not. Like in Revelation chapter three, while Jesus is knocking on the door, we ignore Him, too busy; too preoccupied. He is left outside of the Church when He should be front and center as Supreme, exalted, worshiped, and reverenced! While the technicalities are important to a degree, they are not meant to be center stage or even given a place in worship. Most pastors and churches totally ignore Christ in their worship (Rev. 3:14-22)!
The foremost aspect to keep in mind about worship is that it is not about us! It is not about preferences of style, order, procedures, music, who is leading, who is not leading, and so forth. Worship, which is real authentic and practical praise, is all about placing Christ first, acknowledging His Lordship and place, and our response of praise with reverence and gratitude to Him for who He is and what He has done. The sad fact it most Christians in the pews do not have a clue about worship or praise-and may I go on so far as to say-even most worship pastors. Why? Because, we do not model and/or teach them properly! So, they are consumed with what they want and forget what He wants. We forget that it is about Christ-not about us!
In John, chapter four, we are given some key aspects of what God desires and requires concerning worship through His encounter with an outcast woman. He is seeking worshipers, real Christians giving real, effectual, true adoration from hearts that truly love God, who are grateful for His work, and are dedicated to His true Truth-not to schemes, trends, or feelings. This is also is a snip at the overly traditional church missing the point, both in the pretentious Jewish services then and the ones many of us lead today. The contrast Jesus was making is that there are too many worship services that are merely rhetoric, driven by obligation, meaningless ritual, and liturgy that just spins one's pride and/or hides one's heart (John 1:18; ; 3:3; 4;1-26; 14:16-18; Acts 2:33).
Are you ready for Worship?
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25
In the context of the passage, Hebrews chapter nine, we have a reminder that we enter a Most Holy Place; we have access to God's Heavenly Temple where before, in the earthly copy, only the high priest had access, and then only once a year. This is a monumental opportunity and shows us the depth and magnitude of how much we have been saved, the whole propose of giving honor to God. This passage shows us that Jesus is our Perfect Sanctuary and gives the comparison between what God expected in the Old Testament and how we were not able to meet His standards; but, Christ does so in our place (Psalm 100; Heb. 9-10).
The passage in Hebrews, chapter ten, gives us an incredible promise and hope for our lives. We have the mind-boggling opportunity and call to approach God with boldness and confidence since He has covered our sins by the Person and Work of Christ. In worship, we are entering God's holy sanctuary! We must be aware of the extraordinary unique sacrifice our Lord paid on our behalf and the agony and cost He bore, just so we could enter into God's presence (Rev. 4-5).
Perhaps by refocusing on what Scripture lays out, we can fix our broken churches and our irreverence for our Lord. We must pay attention to Christ with faith and hope. He is giving encouragement to show an essential aspect of faith; it is trusting in Christ, but not blind faith because we know in whom we trust. This gives us assurance. We do not need to go to an altar or a priest, since Christ fills that role Himself. Jesus now asks us to come, where before, we had to stay away and give a sacrifice that was very temporary; in addition, if one's heart was not right, the sacrifice was not accepted. Now we can go before Him anytime and anywhere. In context, we are also given four conditions:
1. Sincere heart!
2. Undivided allegiance, as in loyalty to Christ and His Church!
3. Full assurance of faith!
4. Hearts sprinkled and Bodies washed!
The question is why do we not, or why do we do so, so rarely? The pointed question for us is: are we filled with gratitude for who and what He has done? Can we really draw near to Him (Heb. 10:19-25)?
This all means we have clear, uninhibited access to God because of Christ (Gen. 4:2-15; Psalm 15; 73:28; Jer. 30:18-22; Matt. 27:51; Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:13-22; Heb. 4:16; 7:19-25; 12:28; 3:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). And what makes this entrée happen is responding to His call with our sincere and true heart. This is showing that our willingness to be dependable and faithful without ulterior motives are the practical applications and exhortations of Christ's precepts (Psalm 24:4; Jer. 24:7; Matt. 15:8).
Then, our full assurance of faith indicates our commitment; our faith does not hesitate since we are trusting in and following Christ. This sets us up for the Hebrews chapter 11 "hall of fame" of faith, what godly people do with faith. Salvation is not meant to be an invitation to merely sit in a pew; it is meant to impact our lives so we can motivate others to be encouraging and practical to one another.
By the work and love of our Lord, our hearts are sprinkled. By this, I mean a complete change and renewal of our hearts and minds when we receive Christ's work and gift of grace and are thus released from a guilty conscience. This is about who Christ is and what He has done, and that we have freedom because of His once-for-all sacrifice (Rom. 1:8-15; 1 Cor. 11:4; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:1; Philemon 4).
We are given covering and spiritual cleansing as our bodies are washed. This is like how the Hebrew Priests who went through the cleansing rituals could enter God's presence with reverence and respect. We are cleansed before God's sight; what an animal sacrifice did in the OT law, now Christ has done permanently for us, and we are washed so we can enter God's presence (Ex. 24:8; 29:4; Lev. 16:4; Rom. 12:1-3; Heb. 9:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). Why is this important? It prepares us to worship God, for our sins are temporarily hidden. Now, in Christ, we are cleansed by the New Covenant and we are enabled to worship, which is an essential component of communion and community in Christ. We communicate our love, adoration, and gratitude to Christ, doing it together as a church locally, as a Church universally, and with all of creation "in concert" (Ex. 30:19-21; Lev. 8:6; 14:7-9; Ezek. 36:25-29; Eph. 5:26).
However, we must be on guard for the barriers that block us from receiving the application of worship. First, we are not to doubt, rather, trust and obey. James warns us that being double minded is like being on a rudderless boat, in a storm, on the sea. It will toss us to nowhere but ruin. Second is unwavering faith. The result is we will turn our frustrations and problems over to the Lord. If we insist on solving life's issues ourselves, we will be very disappointed at the outcome. Giving of ourselves is a prime aspect of worship as our own personal gift to ourselves cannot work. If you are too busy working it out yourself, then the opportunity for God to work in you will be lost. Let God give Himself to you, let Him be God. Instability leads us nowhere, just like the storm tossed sea. Let your faith be unwavering and your boat be guided by God's rudder and power; then, we can be healthy growing Christians in that elusive healthy church (James 5:1-8).
Worship is to help us draw near to God
Draw near is our invitation to enter the presence of God. This is what we do in worship and in our personal relationship with Christ. Draw near is what we can, we should, and we must do; Christ is our high priest who is loving and ever merciful to us, who tore the curtain so we can have intimacy with Him; whereas before, only one person, once a year had that, now all have it (Matt. 27:50-53)! When the veil of the Temple was torn, it was terrifying as many thought no one can approach God and live (Ex. 3:5; 33:20; Eph. 3:12). The "Holy of Holies," the section reserved for the Ark of the Covenant, was separated from the rest of the sanctuary by this curtain. Only the High Priest could go in to dust once a year (Ex. 26:33), and it was now exposed. Undoubtedly, this happened to the Temple as God demonstrated that the reign of sacrifice and law was over; grace was now at hand (Heb. 9:1-25; 10:14-22). All who are in Christ would now have access to the Holy of Holies (Ezek. 10-11; 1 Pet. 2:9).
We have to see that when we go to church, open a hymn book, or look at a PowerPoint slide and sing a song, these are sacred and entrusted endeavors that cost our Lord dearly. Our ability to worship and give praise had an extreme cost that must draw gratitude out of us. Jesus opened the door for us to go in. And in so doing, gave us an open door policy to His greatness and presence. So, we are to go to Him with confidence and assurance of His promises to receive the help and answers we need. Our Lord's sacrifice paid for our entrance. He has literally paid our way to the greatest trip conceivable to commune with Him. It is an awesome privilege and a responsibility we need to take seriously. We have the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, a place where before, only the high priest had access to once a year. So, let us embrace Him and commune with Him with our time, confidence, and the surrendering of our will.
Worship in Truth!
Being practical in our praise and worship is in knowing what and to whom the object and point of it all is; we are there to worship in spirit and in truth. We worship Jesus who is Truth, who is Christ the LORD. Again, it is not about the presenters or the audience, because God is the real, true audience of worship and we as the congregation are the presenters and the past; musicians and sort are merely the orchestra leaders who establish their focus and direct the people's focus on Christ. He is the only Way to God that we are to recognize with our spirit and soul and follow suit with our actions and lead.
This is not based on location or liturgy or externals and formalities; rather, it is recognizing Christ, our Savior and Lord, with proper attitudes and motives. It also indicates a sacrifice of our hearts over animals and an offering of praise over burnt offerings. We are not speaking about the Holy Spirit here; rather, Jesus is emphasizing a matter of the heart and obedience from our gratitude over and above ceremonial requirements and orders. It is also a transformational call to true worship, as the Church transitions from the provisional Law of ceremony to honor God's holiness to honoring God with our grateful hearts for giving us unearned and unmerited salvation and by placing the Living Holy Spirit in us. This impact from the Spirit nourishes, invigorates, and empowers us to deal with life here and now. His qualities and character become real in us and are modeled as real to others around us. This empowerment gives us salvation and builds our maturity so we can have joy and contentment, purpose and meaning. It allows us to know we are deeply loved and makes us able to replicate that love to others. In that way, we can worship Him and lead others, in powerful and adoring worship, to a deeper level than we could do without that growth (1 Sam. 10:5; 1 Chron. 25:1-6; John 3:3:21; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:25; 9:4-5; Phil. 3:1-14).
Worship is realizing that God is giving.
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Revelation 4:2
What would a glimpse of heaven do to and for you? Revelation, chapters four and five, are about coming before our Lord with worship from our gratitude for who He is and what He has done for us as individuals. He is the depiction of the centrality of His Supremacy as Christ. Christ is the Priest, Head, Lord, and Prime Shepherd of the Church. He is the object and reason why we meet and function. Christ is the destiny and pattern we follow and emulate. But, do we do this by our own understandings or by His precepts? Do we "do" our church by relying on and glorifying Him or by pleasing those whose checks fill our plates?
God is calling us to be better at worshiping Him, and in so doing be wise, which means relying on and trusting in Him. Wisdom is the practical exercise and aspect of knowledge. God is actually telling us He will help us if we ask! Worship, praise, and prayer will seek out the wisdom and apply it to our lives so it infects others through us. When we are living a life of worship, we will be in God's will and pleasing Him. When we please God, we will receive His blessings, one of which is helping produce a healthy and spiritually growing church family that loves and cares for one another. We must realize that God alone is the true source of wisdom and truth that will edify and grow us and help us do a better job at worshiping Him in truth, and that pleases and glorifies Him. Any other source will lead our fellow believers and us into a path of disorder and destruction, which will push us to the practice of the dysfunction in our personal lives as well in the church (James 1:5-7).
We are to let our worship of God be real and our praise to be practical in our lives so we can handle life's situations and circumstances. Worship and the attitude of worship permeate our daily lives, not just Sunday mornings when we feel like it. This happens when our mindset and attitudes change as we become more like Him and less like the world. God will hear and answer our authentic worship and prayers. He will give us the pure, simple, ample, and overflowing gray matter (brains) to take us through life with gusto and contentment.
So, what would a glimpse of heaven do to and for you? One of the points of Revelation is to motivate us as a Church to get right, and get busy in Him. How many churches do we know who are indifferent, who just get by and do nothing to exercise their faith or show who Christ is in their lives? Such a church is exercising faithlessness to the point that they actually scheme to not grow in Him, revealing their breach of faith and disloyalty. Such a church will not reach out. Their programs are superficial and inclusive to themselves and not available to others who need them; thus, they are not worthy to be called Christians. God wants us to give to Him, not just receive and do nothing with what He gives.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Do you really know what Amen means? So many of us may say it many times each day; it means "so be it forever and ever." It is also a call for us to learn to surrender to Him and be trusting and obedient to Him, because nothing can stand against Him (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; Isa. 60:1-5; Psalm 37:7, 20, 24; Rev. 7:9-17; 10:11; 12:5; 13:7; 14:6-8; 15:4; 17:15; 18:3; 19:15; 20:3; 21:24-27). This is an aspect of the fear of God. "Fear" means awe and reverence of God, not being scared of Him (Prov. 1:7; 3:5).
Do you really know what Hallelujah, or Alleluia or Praise the LORD mean? We say the words, but do we mean it? It basically means more than just "honor;" it is a call to worship. As the church is the representation of Heaven on earth, this is a command to worship God in His court. Revelation 19:1-10 is the only place in Scripture the word Hallelujah is found, although its Hebrew equivalent rendered as "Alleluia," (Greek rendering) "Praise the Lord," or "Praise ye the LORD," (Praise Yahweh) are found in the Psalms, chapters 104-106, 111-113, 117, 135, 146-150, and many more places. This is a Liturgical expletive a priest uses called a "piel," as in a command to call the people to praise and worship Yahweh (Jer. 51:48; Psalm 104:34).
Do you really know what Psalms means? You may think about the Book right in the middle of the Bible, the "Psalter." The reciting of the Psalms, blessings, and worshipful knowledge of our Lord were also sung with or without accompaniment in the local churches and homes. When we are filled with God's Word, we will have gratitude that will be manifested in our nature, temperament, and attitude. We will want to sing the songs that He has planted in our hearts-the songs from His Word the Bible (Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33; 1 Cor. 14:26).
Do you really know what Hymns means? It refers to the praise and celebration of our Lord in unity with willing, loving hearts. It also means that significant doctrines and truths are articulated in hymns written by authentic Christians from the beliefs in Scripture. Real worship and music are never a show; rather, they are responses of our love-giving praise. We as a congregation are the performers, and Christ is the audience. Real, authentic worship is to be inspired by who Christ is and what He is doing in us. It is not about form or function or type; it is about our hearts showing our love to Him (Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:19; Heb. 2:12).
Do you really know what giving thanks in worship means? Like the term spiritual songs, is about being inspired by the Holy Spirit to worship, thanking God and recounting the deeds of God in Scripture and in one's life that inspires holy living. In contrast are secular, worldly songs, like bar songs and sports chants (1 Chron. 16:29; 25:1-6; 1 Cor. 14:15; Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3).
Do you really know what the most important aspect God wants in our Worship is? It is Gratitude! Thankful means graciousness and tact as in acting with and in grace that brings glory to our Lord and a positive prime testimony to our community. This comes from our enjoyment in Christ. When we realize who and what He is and what He has done for us, we respond. The opposite is being a complainer, grumbling as the Israelites did in the desert, which only leads to bitterness and anxiety both personally and collectively and no change in one's situation (Eph. 5:18-19; Phil. 4:6; Col. 1:12; 3)
Practical worship is about us being useful and sensible in the honor of our Lord. Practical praise is not about the techniques or the personalities; it is about honoring and not hindering Christ, leading people to Christ and not leading them to our services to see us. This is about seeking His glory and our surrendered devotion of gratitude and our genuine praise poured out to Him. If we do not get this, then worship becomes at best routine and performance and at worst, a rotten place to exercise our pride and techniques while missing what the Supremacy and Lordship of Christ are all about, missing what being a Christian is and who Christ is all about! How sad would that be if your church did that!
Is Jesus outside or inside your worship?
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20)
Jesus is beckoning us to come to Him; He is doing this in a church worship service, where the people are doing their thing and He is left out! He stands at the door of our souls and of our churches and asks us to open ourselves to Him and His ways. The request of Jesus is that the self-deluded and compliant members of a church who refuse to invite Christ into "their" church or be a part of "their" activities and lives are being called out by Him. So, He wants us to hear Him and then obey Him, yet we so often place other things in the way so we cannot hear and thus do not obey. He will come into our church even when it is dead; He will eat with us, and share the ministry, rebooting and rebuilding. It is never too late to acknowledge and grow in Him while we still have breath in us. But, Jesus' point was that we should not wait, but get busy in Him now! He wants us to be victorious for His glory (Matt. 24:33; Mark. 13:29; James 5:8-9; Rev. 3:11-22; 22:7).
So, do some soul searching and deep prayer and ask our Lord King, is my worship real, reverent, and practical? Does it honor Christ or draw people to just my place, my church, my ministry, my teaching, and therefore, He is left outside, knocking on the door? We are given in Scripture a simple and clear proclamation: whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord. This simply means our actions must reflect our faith. With our lips and lives, all we do must have as a focus the glorifying of Christ and the furthering of His Kingdom. This is a reminder that God is Sovereign; He is our hope and reason, so we must line up our lives to Him. We are not to have a pagan religious service, which means it is about me and not about Him. We are to make sure that our influence is right and our influencing of others is righteous. We are not about the over emphasizing of ritual observances and negated personal holiness. We are to "shape up." All aspects of our lives must reflect His Lordship over us (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Thess. 5:8)!
Then, we can really worship and hold fast to the hope, to be unshakably confident-without doubt or hesitation-in our trust in Christ. The reason is because Christ is faithful, even when our friends and circumstances are not. Thus, our confidence is in Christ, not the people in the church or how we are tested or treated either inside or outside the church walls (Acts 21:26; Rom. 3:24-26; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 3:1-14; 6:18-20).
How can your church be better at leading others to worship? Better at leading others to a worshipful lifestyle of loving and strengthening one another for His service? Why do so few of us actually do it? What can you do about this?
Parts I and II here: Worship
© Richard .J. Krejcir Ph.D. 2010 Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org/