Praise and Worship

Praise and Worship are described well in the passage below.

Psalm 147.1:  “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.”

The psalmist tells us that praise and worship is a pleasant and beautiful thing.  There ought to be no greater joy that to extend our hearts to God.  Unfortunately you will not find a subject that has caused greater division in the church.    

The idea that any kind of worship is acceptable to God is just not taught in the Bible.  As a point of fact, God is very specific in the kind of praise that He finds acceptable.

What is acceptable to God?  Jesus answers that question during a conversation with a Samaritan woman in John 4.23,24.

John 4,23,24:  “For the hour is coming and now is when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is sprit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  

Let's study these verses more closely to understand the kind of praise and worship that God finds acceptable and even demands.

In John 4.20, the Samaritan woman whose name is not revealed asked Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus replied in John 4.21, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.”  Jesus explains that there is going to come a time when the place or location where you worship will not matter.  Whether you praise and worship on a mountain or in Jerusalem or anywhere else is inconsequential.

Jesus then continues in John 4.22, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”  There are some who worship God, but they do not know what they are worshiping.  Is it possible that there are individuals today in various church buildings who do not have a clue about what they are doing or whether or not their praise and worship is acceptable to God?

When we come to John 4.23,24, we learn the formula for praise and worship that is acceptable to God.  Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”   Notice that…

  • There are true worshipers who worship the Father.  Does that not imply that there are false worshipers?
  • Worship must be “in spirit.”  The idea of spirit is a reference to attitude.  Our worship cannot be out of obligation.  We give praise and worship to God because we love the Lord and want to please Him.
  • Worship must be “in truth.”  Jesus defines truth as being the word of God  (John 17.17).  For our worship to be in truth, it must be consistent with the kind of worship that God specified in His word, the Bible.
  • The Father is seeking such to worship Him.  How interesting that God is seeking true worshipers to offer praise and worship with the right attitude (in spirit), and according to the pattern He revealed in the Bible (in truth).
  • Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth.  This is not optional.  For our worship to be pleasing to God, it must be in spirit and in truth.

Let’s give some thought to the kind of praise and worship that is acceptable to God.  As we give some thought to the praise and worship of God, let’s think about the definition of these words as they are used in the Bible.

The Definition of Praise and Worship

As we consider the definition of praise, let’s take a look at the passage below.

Hebrews 13.15:  “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

What is Praise?

When we are worshipping God, we are praising God.  God deserves that praise because of who He is.  I see all that God is and all that He has done, and it makes me want to worship Him.  How can I not when He has done so much for me. 

The word “praise” comes from a Greek word that expresses the idea of applause.  If you were to go to a concert or sporting event, and you enjoyed the show, you would applaud.  If you really enjoyed the show, you may jump to your feet and give a standing ovation.  That is the meaning behind the word “praise.”

We consider all that God has done for us, how He has made it possible to be saved through the blood of His Son, and it makes us want to give to God a standing ovation.  Not literally, but our praise and worship to Him is to be with such excitement and such an expression of appreciation for all that He has done for us. 

That is why I enjoy attending the worship of the church.  I do not go to engage in social activities.  I do not go to play games.  I go to give praise to God.  When I consider all that God has done for me, I want to be there.

The kind of standing ovation that God desires, He has specified in the above verse.  In Hebrews 13.15, the writer states that the praise I offer is the be “the fruit of our lips.”  I am to express to God my appreciation with my lips.  I am to express to God my love for Him with my lips.  I am to express to God my desire to live for Him with my lips.  And I do it by song and by prayer.

What is Worship?

The word translated as worship comes from the Greek word “proskuneo” which itself is a combination of two different Greek words.

  • “Pros”  is the prefix which mean “towards”
  • “kuneo” is the root word.  It is a verb that means, “to kiss.”

When we put those two words together we learn that worship is literally to kiss toward God.  To worship is to blow a kiss toward God.

So when we think “worship," this kiss toward God, it is an emotional expression.  Worshiping God is more than just making sure that as we sing correctly.  It is more than just making sure that our voices go up and down properly as we follow those little black dots on the page.  It is more than just focusing on the words and understanding the meaning behind what we sing, though that is important.  Worshiping God is an emotional expression.

Notice another passage…

Ephesians 5.19:  “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,”

In this verse, I read that our singing is to be done with “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”  As we sing to the Lord making melody, we need to use our hearts.

Has your wife ever blown you a kiss from across the room?  Has she ever done so publicly?  Were you embarrassed?  Has your young child or grandchild ever blown you a kiss as they say goodbye?  What does it mean?  It is an expression of how they feel.  That’s the definition of worship.  It is to blow a kiss toward God.  It is an expression of how you feel. 

We are not just giving attention to praise and worship.  We are giving thought to true praise and worship in contrast to false or unacceptable praise and worship.  It is possible for me to express to God how I feel, but do so in a way that is unacceptable to God.  It is possible for me to want to express to God how I feel, but if I do so in my own way rather than God's way, my worship will not be acceptable to God.  

So as important as it is to understand the meaning and definition of praise and worship, it is equally important to understand how God wants me to worship.   When I read the Bible, I learn exactly how God wants me to express my feelings toward Him.

How Does God Want Me to Offer Praise and Worship?

Let's go back to John 4.24 and notice four characteristics of our worship that God demands that I have for my praise and worship to be acceptable to Him.

1.  God is the One we are to worship

John 4.24:  “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The direction of our worship is upward toward God.  God is the One whom we need to worship. 

You may think that this is obvious.  Of course we are to worship God.  If that is as obvious as we may think it is, then tell me why congregations split because there are some in the congregation who want to do things one way, and there are others who want to do things another way?

So often the worship of the church is misdirected so that the worshipers are worshiping an individual rather than God.  It may be a preacher who is very charismatic.  It may be a particular elder who commands a great deal of respect.  It may be someone who has a position of great authority in the business world who also is a member of the congregation and is used to having his voice heard and his orders followed.  So we begin to give our allegiance to and follow an individual rather than God.  And in doing so we have forgotten what worship is all about.

We come to church to worship God, and not any one person.  There is nothing more collective, and at the same time, nothing more individual than our worship.  It is collective because we sing together, we remember the death of Christ together, and we pray together. 

It is individual because what I do in worship I do to God and to no other.  If there is someone who is very charismatic, so what?  If there is an individual who wants to lead me according to his preferences, I’m not interested in that.  I am here to praise and worship God and to do so His way. 

In Acts 14, the apostles Paul and Barnabas came to a city named Lystra and healed a man.  When the people of the city saw this they exclaimed that the gods have come down in the likeness of men  (Acts 14.8-13).  What did Paul and Barnabas do? 

Acts 14.14-15:  “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.’”

Paul and Barnabas turned the people’s attention away from themselves and toward God.  They told them, “Don’t worship us, worship God.  He is to be the object of your worship.”

We start complaining about our worship. 

  • The songs are not led fast enough or slow enough.
  • The one leading prayer needs to understand that his prayers do not have be eternal.
  • I wish that the preacher would deliver the truth with a bit more enthusiasm. 

While we can have our preferences, it is important to remember that I am not at worship so that I can be pleased.  I offer praise and worship so that God is pleased.  That’s what I need to be concerned about.  We start saying that we want this and we want that, and we want things done this way or that way.  And we have forgotten a critical principle.  Worship is not for me.

Please understand that we worship God, not because it pleases us, but because it pleases Him.  The Father is seeking such to worship Him.  Until we understand that, our worship will never be acceptable to Him.

Are there benefits that I gain by worship?  Of course there is!  But the primary function of worship is to express to God how we feel about Him.  It is for Him.  Listen to the words of Peter who wrote in 1 Peter 2.5, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

  • If we are going to sing, it needs to be acceptable to God.
  • If we are going to pray, it needs to be acceptable to God.
  • If we are going to remember the death of Christ, it needs to be acceptable to God.

How do we make our worship more meaningful?  That’s the wrong question.  If our praise and worship is offered from the heart in all sincerity, and it is directed toward God in a manner that is acceptable then it will have more meaning. 

2.  Our worship is a requirement

John 4.24:  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Did you notice the word “must?”  It is a word that describes being bound.  It is a requirement.  There is no option.  There is no suggestion.  There is no, if you feel like it.  It is a must.  You must worship Him.

It is the same word that we find in John 3.7 where Jesus says, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”  Jesus says that I must be born again.  This is not optional. 

It is the same word that we find in Hebrews 11.6, where the Hebrew writer says that “he who comes to God must believe that He is.”  Again, this is not optional.  I must believe in the existence of God. 

Equally so, I must worship God in spirit and in truth. 

Do you ever get up in the morning and say, “I just don’t feel like worshiping Him?”  Do you get off of work Sunday night and say, “I’m just too tired to drive to the church building and worship?”  Our worship to God is not based on how we feel at the time.  It is not circumstantial.  Jesus said you must worship Him.

In reference to how I am to worship God, we also notice that our worship is to be with the right attitude. 

3.  Our worship must have the right attitude

John 4.24:  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you will find this to be a common theme.  In Joshua 24.15, you have the well-known and oft quoted passage.  “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 

Just prior to that verse, we read in Joshua 24.14, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth.”  Notice how they were instructed to praise and worship God “in sincerity and truth.”  Doesn't that sound a lot like worshiping God “in spirit and truth?”

Then notice this passage from Ecclesiastes 12.13 in which Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.”  Notice the phrase, “fear God and keep His commandments.”  That sounds a lot like worshiping God “in spirit and in truth.” 

The idea is to worship God with all of our hearts, with passion, with heart-felt sincerity.  It is more than just going through the motions, but it is in spirit.  When I think about all that God has done for me…

  • All the love that He has shown me.
  • All the mercy He has extended to me.
  • All the kindness He has displayed in sending His only Son to die an excruciating death so that I, who do not deserve it, can be rescued from an eternity of torment.

…What else can I do but get down on my metaphorical knees and give praise and worship to God. 

Is your worship with sincerity in your heart?  As a worshipper of God, your heart needs to be in it.  If you are of the belief that you can be there and sit in the pew and be acceptable to God while your mind is somewhere else, then your worship is not pleasing to God. 

Isaiah, as quoted by Jesus in Matthew 15.8, said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.  Is that perhaps an apt description of how you worship? 

4.  Our worship must be according to the Bible

When I think about how to worship God acceptably, I learn that the kind of praise and worship that God demands and expects is with the right authority.

John 4.24:  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

I am to worship God, not just with the right attitude, but I must worship Him “in truth.”  What is truth?  Jesus defined it in John 17.17 when He said in prayer to God, “Your word is truth.”

The kind of worship that God desires, even demands, is worship that is in truth.  How many choose a church whose worship activities are not designed with an eye on pleasing God, but are designed with an eye on pleasing themselves.  Some say that they like a particular church because...

  • It has a great program.
  • They have a great band.
  • Because of the beautiful and majestic architecture.

If you are there only to please yourself, then you have missed the point of worship.  When we are taking our Bibles and rightly dividing them according to 2 Timothy 2.15, we can know what we can and cannot do in reference to our praise and worship.   

Getting Prepared to Praise and Worship God 

 I have found that my heart is not like a light switch that I can just turn on and off whenever I feel like it.  I cannot walk into the church building and switch on my feelings of appreciation and praise, so that I can express them in praise and worship.  There needs to be some preparation. 

In the Book of Exodus, I come to chapter 34 and can read of some tips that will help us in our preparation for praise and worship.

1.  Get up early in the morning

Exodus 34.1,2:  "And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.  So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.’”

God tells Moses to get ready early in the morning.

Can you imagine God coming to us on Sunday morning and telling us to get ready?  When we talk about getting ready for worship on Sunday what comes to mind? 

  • You need to take a shower.
  • You need to eat breakfast.
  • You need to run a brush through your teeth and your hair.
  • You need to pick out some nice clothes, maybe a tie. 

That’s what we think of when we hear the term, “get ready.”  We even will tell our kids that it’s time to get up and get ready for services. 

Getting ready is more than just what we do outwardly.  We need to be prepared inwardly.

2.  Bring something to take notes

Exodus 34.3,4:  “And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.’   So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

Moses came with something to write on. 

I would like to suggest that it would be very helpful to all of us if we would bring our Bibles with us, and bring some paper with us, and bring writing utensils with us.  When you sit down to study the Bible in your Bible class, or as a sermon is being presented, take out those items and take notes.

  • Underline important words in the Bible.  
  • Write in the margins of our Bible.  
  • Take some notes.  
  • Right down important thoughts, scriptures, things you can take home with you for further study or as a way to refer to if you have questions about it.
  • Write the name of the subject that is being discussed somewhere on the top of the paper, and when you get home start a filing system so that when you have a question about something or if you want to teach someone else, you can pull it out at any time and review it.

3.  Focus your attention on God

Exodus 34.5-7:  “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.  And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.’”

Moses was focused on God.  He was focused on…

  • The Greatness of God.  (vs. 5,6)
  • The Goodness of God.  (vs. 6)
  • The Grace of God.  (v. 7)

Do you want to be prepared for praise and worship?  Get up early in the morning and start getting your mind right.  Come with something to write with to take notes.  Put God in the center and make Him your focus.

Remember that Jesus died for you.  It seems that many will stay up late on Saturday and wake up tired and exhausted on Sunday morning.

Too often we sleep in as late as we possibly can on Sunday morning.  They we get up and rush around the house, we take out something for lunch, get the kids ready, jump in the car and race down to the church building hurried and frazzled.  We sit in our pews and then what do we do? We say, “Phew!” 

If you want to be prepared for the praise and worship of the church, rise early in the morning and give yourself enough time to get ready and get here so you can have a right mind when you sit down.

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