Worship. Underrated and undervalued. How does it happen? Can anyone engage in it? Is there a wrong way to do it? One thing is for certain: worship needs to be real. Authentic.
However, before entering into a larger discussion concerning our topic, I’d like to first offer an explanation of terms. Those two terms are: 1) Praise and, 2) Worship
I believe sometimes we make the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably. However they are not the same. While there may be elements of each within both of them, let’s take a closer look at the differences.
There are several words for praise in the bible, and without getting bogged down in the original languages, suffice it to say that the definitions range from blessing and thanking Him with our mouth, to lifting and spreading the hands to bowing the knee, or even dancing. Having said that, let’s take a look at several scriptures. Psa.33:2 Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Psa.149:1 Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. Heb.13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
According to these scriptures, praise can consist of song, music, or words, and should be done consistently, even when it is a sacrifice. Depending on which version of the bible you use, where the word praise is seen in the KJV, you may read ‘rejoice’, ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘declare’, among others. These words are all reflections of what praise is.
Here’s one more great verse concerning the power of praise:
2 Chr.20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. This is a great truth! When we praise, it not only serves to fend off the enemy, but also enables us to walk in His power and protection. There is victory through praise!
Worship, on the other hand is defined as, ‘to make obeisance, do reverence to; to serve, or give homage.’ Take a look at these verses: 1 Chr.16:29 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Psa.95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. Psa.96:9 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
As we see in these verses and in so many others, worship is not necessarily singing and such (though of course it can be), but it is more of an action taken in acknowledging the Lord in who He is. Worship goes beyond praise; it is an act of bowing down and honoring Him. Worship is also an act, for example in our daily work or our giving. We even serve others as a way of worshiping the Lord. Our lives should be an act of worship. The difference between praise and worship can be stated this way: praise is about what God has done; but worship is about who God is.
This subject is much to exhaustive to be treated here, and I am by no means an expert–but I am a participator. Please allow me to offer a few thoughts on this important matter.
So how do I worship God authentically? I’m going to make a startling statement. Anyone can praise. Anyone can shout, dance, or lift their hands. Praise can also be fickle. To be fickle is to constantly change loyalties or affections. At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the praises went up, and the garments went down. There were no doubt genuine praisers in the crowd. But among them were many who would shout, less than a week later, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ This is not meant in any way to demean praise, and place it on a par below worship. Both worship and praise are absolutely essential elements of every Christian’s life, and both need to be authentic. But because of the nature of worship, it being a way of life, authentic worship can only flow from authentic people of God.
Jo.4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
According to this pivotal verse, God is not seeking authentic worship; He is seeking authentic worshipers–if God gets this, He will get the other.
What does it take to be an authentic worshiper who offers authentic worship? Several things must be in place:
• Authentic worship is dependent upon authentic relationship As stated earlier, authentic relationship cannot happen apart from salvation. I must know Him, serve Him, and appreciate His goodness in order to worship Him. • Authentic worship must be in response to God’s awesomeness When I am confronted with God’s greatness, I am filled a desire to honor Him. Worship has to with the worth of its object. Worship is ‘worth’ship. He is worthy!
Rev.4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Psa.145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One version translates a portion of this verse as: ‘and most worthy to be praised’
• Authentic worship should have the heart as its source Mat.15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (also Isa.29:13) Worshipping the Lord with our heart is synonymous with worshipping Him ‘in Spirit’
• Authentic worship must be transparent We must come to Him as we are, not trying to be who we’re not. In John 4, the woman at the well was never going to enter into proper worship of God until she came clean about who she was.
The Binding Tie
The final thing that ties all this together is the fact that worship is sacrifice. Read these crowning words from scripture:
Rom.12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Rom.12:1 (Expanded Bible) So [Therefore] brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I ·beg [urge; appeal to] you to offer your ·lives [selves; L bodies] as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be ·only for God [holy] and pleasing to him, which is the ·spiritual [or authentic; true; or appropriate; fitting; or rational; reasonable] way for you to worship. This verse makes it plain that authentic worship is to be:
• An offering of ourselves This statement lines up with Jo.4:24. It states that we are to worship ‘in spirit’. This means that we are to worship God with all that we have: mind, body, soul and spirit. • Exclusive to God Only God is deserving of and is worthy of this type of worship. Isa.42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. God does not share His glory with another, and neither should we. • Pleasing to God Our main goal as Christians, as it pertains to God, is to please Him. This means obedience. Jesus said ‘…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ When it comes to authentic worship, you cannot be a member of the ‘eighteen inch club’. Eighteen inches is the approximate distance between the brain and the heart. To worship Him authentically, I must not just know Him: I must know Him. Listen to David’s heartfelt cry:
Psa.27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. Psa.27:4 (Amplified Version) One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.
Is this where I am? To please Him, to dwell in His presence and simply gaze upon the greatness of who he is? Ladies and gentlemen, this is the attitude of authentic worship. We all fall short because we are all still wrapped in this flesh; yet God sees graciously sees our hearts. Even now, let us begin to enter in to his presence by lifting up holy hands. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Ti.2:8)