By Jeff Miller
Point 1: What is True Worship?
So what’s the difference between praise and worship? I mean, we use the two synonymously. We often use the phrase “praise and worship” as a way in which we sing our hymns and choruses or some churches may put that in their bulletin as the time before the sermon. But praise and worship are not exactly the same things.
Throughout the Bible, we see many commands to praise the Lord. In Psalms 89, Psalms 103 and Psalms 148 we read that Angels are to praise the Lord. In Psalms 138 and Romans 15 all inhabitants of the earth are instructed to praise the Lord. The Bible says we can praise Him with singing (Isaiah 12:5; Psalm 9:11), with shouting (Psalm 33:1; 98:4), with the dance––though you’re not going to see very many Baptists doing that (Psalm 150:4), and with musical instruments (1 Chronicles 13:8; Psalm 108:2; 150:3-5).
Gotquestions.org said: Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving as we offer back to God appreciation for His mighty works on our behalf. Praise is universal and can be applied to other relationships as well. We can praise our family, friends, [coworkers], or paperboy. [We are taught to praise our puppy when we train it, and we praise our children for doing a good job]. Praise does not require anything of us. It is merely the truthful acknowledgment of the righteous acts of another. Since God has done many wonderful deeds, He is worthy of praise (Psalm 18:3).
If we praise our puppy for obedience, can’t we praise God for his majesty, for answered prayer, for his goodness and his sweet presence and love? In a world so messed up, praising God for his love and goodness is a no-brainer. Thank God for God. Because sometimes, He’s all we have.
“God invites praise of all kinds from His creation. Jesus said that if people don’t praise God, even the “stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40) (Gotquestions.org).”
Now, I’ve never heard stones crying out in praise of God, I believe it is meant as a figure of speech. But do animals praise God? I don’t know. Maybe. I have no Biblical basis for that, but I believe that animals are aware of their creator. And I often wonder if birds or crickets chirping might be their way of praising God.
I don’t know, just a thought.
In scripture, praise is often associated with joy.
Psalm 100 in the King James Version reads: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” In the NIV it reads: 1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his[a]; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 150 1 Praise the Lord.[a] Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
So praise is often joyful and from a happy and grateful heart.
Worship also comes from a grateful heart, but its meaning is a little bit different.
In Psalms we read verses like, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9). And, “Come let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95:6). Often, worship is coupled with the idea of humility and contrition. 2 Chronicles 29:27-30 makes this distinction. It says
“27 Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played and the trumpets sounded. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed.
29 When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped. 30 King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.”
Going back to gotquestions.org again––you’re probably sick of hearing me quote them, they say that, “It is through true worship that we invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us, convict us, and comfort us. Through worship, we realign our priorities with God’s and acknowledge Him once more as the rightful Lord of our lives.”
So worship is more of a quiet and humble heart attitude. It is a moment of surrender. It is placing God first in our lives. It is making sure we don’t have any idols in our lives that are taking the place of God on the throne of our hearts. As Jesus said, “It is impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time (Luke 4:8).”
So see, we can praise God and man and pets. But we can only worship God.
Point 2: Having no other gods before me/ Denying yourself and taking up your cross.
Let’s take a look at that. When God gave the Hebrew people the 10 commandments, what was number one?
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
I know I’ve pointed this out before, but what does it mean for God to be a jealous God? Paul tells us that we shouldn’t be jealous. So how can God be jealous and not sin? Well, because jealousy isn’t a sin. It’s like anger. Anger is not a sin, but how anger gets ahold of us can be a sin. Paul said to the Ephesians, “In your anger, do not sin.” Anger isn’t a sin, but we can sin through anger.
In the same way, we can sin in our jealousy. But God, being perfect, does not sin when He gets angry and does not sin when he gets jealous. He wants us fully. He doesn’t want us “having an affair with the World.” He loves us so much that he wants us for his own and is grieved by our love for the world and our love for sin.
Whatever we love more than God is an idol. And idol is not just a physical statue, it is a spiritual thing. A physical idol is just the representation of a god. The true idol, or false god, is what we worship in our hearts. It’s what we place first in our hearts. It’s the god on the throne of our heart. What is the god of our heart?
Well, I’ll tell you that even for pastors, it’s hard to keep the real and true God there 24/7 without failing. It’s easier and much more natural to put myself there. Like last time when I talked about the desires of our hearts, we all struggle with a Godly desire in our hearts. What do we want compared to what do we want that is holy and good? We have a lot of selfish desires in our hearts.
Or we might have good desires, but God will hold off or not give us that desire for some other reason. Either case, God has to be first in our hearts, not our desires.
We were watching a documentary on Netflix the other day, I shared it on Facebook. It’s called The American Gospel: Christ Alone. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. It is the best Christian documentary I’ve ever seen––not that I’ve seen many, but it has a lot to do with things that I’ve preached on, if fact. It gives you a lot of examples of false prophets and false teachings I’ve touched on and countered in my preaching. Some false prophets that I’ve called out by name are on here, and some false prophets that you’ve heard of and have made household names for themselves are on here. One, in particular, I’ve seen in person before I knew he was a false teacher. And I wondered why I didn’t get anything out of his so-called sermon. But he has since repented, and hopefully takes that repentance to heart.
There are so many of these prosperity preachers that teach health and wealth that they either live in an ivory tower or they’re charlatans. One of them said, “I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness.” First of all, you’re not supposed to create a theology, you’re supposed to learn theology, and second…seriously?
Another one said, “I am young, I am beautiful, I am attractive. Remember, what follows the ‘I Am’ is going to come looking for you.”
But I don’t like naming any outright, and I made a vow to not do that very often. But I have to name one so that I can get my point across. Maybe you’ve heard of Benny Hinn, he’s a famous faith healer. And his nephew, Costi Hinn is on this documentary exposing his uncle’s supposed faith healing. Costi travelled with his uncle and other members of his family for years as part of Benny Hinn’s ministry crew. And he tells all. Costi is now a pastor of his own church and has turned away from his uncle’s ministry.
But as I was watching this, I couldn’t help but think, ‘my goodness. This guy is bold. What does his family think of this? What do his parents and especially his uncle think of him being on this documentary and exposing all of this? I mean, his parents are part of Benny Hinn’s ministry too. What are their family get togethers like, you know? What is Thanksgiving and Christmas like in the Hinn family now?’
And as I’m thinking these things, in the documentary Costi eventually said, “I love my family, but I love God more.”
He’s got it right. In Matthew, Jesus said:
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
What does that mean? The IVP New Testament Commentary said it means that “The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.” To the point that families will be divided. To the point that one will turn to Christianity in a family of Muslims or Jews or atheists. It will divide families. Even from Catholic to Protestant.
To put Christ first even in these circumstances––even when it divides the family––is true worship. That’s not just praise, it’s worship. To put Christ above everything in your heart is true worship. To sacrifice your place in your family, to be ostracised and even disowned is to truly worship God.
I’m glad I’ve never had to be put in that position. But I have had to be put in the position where I’ve had to set things aside. I’ve had to set myself aside, I’ve had to set being liked by people aside in order to follow Christ. Do I follow the World or Christ? Do I stand up for what I believe in and be a sheep of Christ or a sheep of the World? Do I fear God or do I fear man? Do I want to be rewarded by God or rewarded by man?
But in order to do that, we have to do as Jesus said and take up our cross daily and follow him. That’s because we’re inclined to follow ourselves daily, even if we’ve been his for decades. We still bend toward ourselves naturally and have to make a concentrated effort to die to ourselves daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. That’s true worship. And worship comes from our hearts. It’s a daily decision we make. It’s not just singing praises. It’s how we live.
Point 3: In Spirit and in Truth
A while back when I used the story of The Good Samaritan in one of my sermons, I mentioned something regarding Samaria being smack dab between Nazareth and Jerusalem. And Samaria was a region where mixed breeds lived. They were part Jew and part Gentile. Not a full-blooded Jew. So they were despised by many Jewish people. So of course Jesus gives them the story of “the Good Samaritan.” An oxymoron to the Jewish people.
But in addition to that, Jesus doesn’t just tell a story, he practices what he preaches. One day, while he was going through Samaria, he encountered a Samaritan woman at a well. This was a bit uncouth for a Rabbi. Rabbis didn’t talk to women––especially Samaritan women that had been married and divorced five times and was unwed to the man she was living with currently. And furthermore, being a Samaritan, she was unclean. Not based on God’s Law, but according to the Jewish Law she was. But Jesus showed his love and compassion toward this woman and showed that she had dignity.
Of course this story is a sermon unto its own, but I want to point out something that Jesus says to her.
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
What does that mean? In Spirit and in Truth? It sounds nice, but does it mean? It means that it is more than a ceremony. The Jews and even the Samaritans worshipped through ceremony. Their worship was ritual. And when their ritual was over, their worship was over. That’s not what God wants. He wants true and sincere worship.
The Pharisees were sort of the religious media of their day. Not that they reported news, and you can argue whether or not our media reports news or propaganda today. But the pharisees were like today’s media because they always had to ask questions to trap Jesus. And one day, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied from Deuteronomy: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second, which came from Leviticus is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus demonstrated loving his neighbor by talking to this Samaritan woman. But what he taught her by telling her about worshipping in Spirit and in Truth was the first commandment. To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. That is what it means to worship in Spirit and in Truth.
Our heart and soul are Spirit, and our mind is where we should store up and––as Paul said––be renewed with God’s truth.
You see how this is a lifestyle, not just Sunday mornings? Yes, we praise God and worship him on Sunday mornings with our heart, soul and mind. We posture our hearts and minds in humility and adoration on Sunday mornings. But it’s not just for an hour on Sundays, it’s every day. We take up our cross every day in humility and adoration and decisiveness. Worship is intentionally placing God first in our lives, dying to ourselves and living holy lives.
Worship is an act of the heart and soul when we disperse from this church on Sundays and live out day-to-day. How we love one another as Jesus did to the unclean and sinful Samaritan woman; deciding to take the risk of our family disowning us for following Christ or making some kind of ‘line in the sand’ decision at our work or school because it may compromise our Godly beliefs. Maybe we have to show those prosperity preachers what true Christianity looks like by risking our health to take care of someone with COVID or take on a lesser-paying job simply because God called us to.
Worship is obeying God even when it hurts.
Conclusion: Are we ready to worship? I say ‘we’––myself included. It’s easy to sing praises, but are we ready to worship? Are we ready to risk our comfort for God’s call to obedience? Are we ready to risk the leap of faith in obedience? Dad used this illustration not long ago––the scene from Indiana Jones where he makes that step of faith in the cave. All of the sudden, a way appears where there seems to be no way.
God will provide. He said it time and time again. He said it to the Hebrews at the mouth of The Red Sea. 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
And when there seemed to be no way, God created a way––right through the Red Sea.
Here’s what he said to Isaiah:
This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me, [see, there it is, animals praising God]
the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
Obedience to Christ, putting Him first in our lives and setting ourselves aside is rewarded by God with peace that passes understanding and joy unspeakable. We have a cleansed heart and innocence restored. And we will have the true, Godly desires of our hearts. It’s worth it.
Prayer: Dear Lord thank you for granting us the desires of our hearts. Thank you for taking out that muck and replacing it with joy and peace. Lord, that is the fruit of obedience, that is the fruit of worship. That is the result of adoration. That is the result of having our eyes and hearts and minds on you.
Lord, as we posture our hearts in worship this morning, I pray that you would become first in our lives. May you give us a greater strength to set aside the temporary things of this world for the light and love and power of your Holy Spirit within us. May we be cleansed and made new. May we have the strength to set aside the things of this world for more of you. May you work in us as we worship you.
In Jesus name, amen.