Today is the Christian day of worship. Though for a long time now I have been concerned about the direction of both praise and worship in the church, this past week my concerns have been underscored by events that I’ve observed.
We have seen a surge in apostacy in the church and I have written about that earlier. In addition to that we are seeing those who have never been a part of the faith who have seen the profitability in subverting scripture and claiming to be inspired apostles who can provide independent revelation outside of the Word of God.
This week I was faced with a group of those who call themselves believers but consider the only means of elevating worship and praise is to have more lights, effects, and dazzle the masses to heaven.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalms 46:10 (ESV)
I am not going to say that creating an environment filled with lights, haze, and music is bad, but it can’t be considered the basis of either praise or worship.
What is worship?
Paul provides what I would believe to be the purest form of worship…
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
Paul’s position is that spiritual worship involves total and complete surrender of self to God, so much so, that he presents this worship as the presentation of our bodies themselves as a living sacrifice.
The Jesus said that there was no greater love than a friend lay down their life for another. Here Paul is saying, if you want truly worship God, you are going to lay everything at God’s feet, totally and completely surrendered to His will.
This isn’t a clever play on words, this utter surrender of my will for the will of Jesus.
Paul is taking the words of Jesus and putting them to work in this graphic representation of what real worship is all about.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:24 (ESV)
Something designed to raise the emotional level without the Spirit based motivation may accomplish a good show, with participants waving their arms and jumping up and down but when Jesus look to the heart of person and disregards the external ornamentation, do you honestly believe He can’t perceive manufactured worship from that that is born of the Spirit and coming from the heart of the worshiper?
Worship begins when we have humbled our hearts before God and assume the position of the servant before the master. It takes place when we recognize who God is and what we are in relationship to His mighty power and majesty.
Unfortunately, in many churches today even when they are providing the Gospel before the masses assembled, they are only being fed spiritual milk and are being stunted into an emotionally driven frensy of mock worship, having little more substance that the spiritual growth of those who are taking part.
For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – 3:1 (ESV)
The mind of Christ – is that what this type of worship is about?
What is Praise?
Where we often find mistakes is thinking that praise generates worship. The truth is that worship results in praise. When we engage in spiritual worship, it will certainly result in genuine praise.
There is a great deal of wonderful contemporary music out today, and much of it is written directly out of scripture reference. With the exception of those music sources who are sponsored or associated with false teaching churches, or those who have gone the way of apostacy, most of modern contemporary music I fully support and enjoy.
But we need to approach the music we use in praise with as much or even greater scrutiny as the teachers we follow. I say greater, because the first test is to be certain the lyrics convey a message this is scriptural. But once you’ve have done that, you need to understand that the source of the music is coming from a church or organization that faithful to the word of God. This is because of music’s powerful effect with our emotional state.
If someone see’s you and because you enjoy a certain song, they can and may take that as assurance that the source of that music is worthwhile because you have included it in your praise. That can be a simple means of ascertaining confidence in the source. So, the group or individual singing the song is considered worthy of acceptance. Then the person comes to understand where that group or individual is an outgrowth of, and the natural inclination is to assume because it is good music that the message the organization proclaims is good as well.
Don’t assume that they will be able to know the difference when the scripture tells us that even the elect will be deceived.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Matthew 24:24 (ESV)
That is a cautionary note regarding praise, but we still haven’t fully defined it yet.
Let’s reference the Psalms. It is the source a of a good deal of the praise recorded in the Bible.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Psalm 150:1 (ESV)
Unfortunately, we will not find much definition to praise in the Bible. A lot of reference. So I’m going to quote from the Strong’s dictionary regarding this word praise used here and found in numerous places in the Word of God.
a primitive root; to be clear (orig. of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence, to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causatively, to celebrate; also to stultify: — (make) boast (self), celebrate, commend, (deal, make), fool(-ish, -ly), glory, give (light), be (make, feign self) mad (against), give in marriage, (sing, be worthy of) praise, rage, renowned, shine.
What I pull out of there is something like: To make a show, boast, apparently to the point of foolishness, to rave, to celebrate: boast, celebrate, commend, give, glory.
Sound pretty out of control and over the top. There is some singing in there too but it’s not a focal point of the activity, more an attribute of it. Some of the parts not summarized but interesting are ‘mad’, ‘give in marriage’ and ‘rage’.
If I had to boil this down to its essence, it would like to have to be considered as unrestrained glorification expressed in every manner possible almost simultaneously. Praise IS thanksgiving with recognition of beneficiary to the benefactor.
When I really consider what this Hebrew definition of the word suggests I immediately reflect on a passage in the New Testament.
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)
We’ve talked about this passage before but when you consider just how crazy this sound the mad abandon of the Hebrew definition makes this statement blissfully peaceful by comparison. And if you really think about it, bring this back around to worship again
Praise & Worship? You be the judge if your offering fits into this or not.
In the Grace of Jesus!