Praise be unto the Lord!

by Mike Ratliff

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB) 

I remember several years ago in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, my wife and I were sitting in our auditorium at our church, waiting for worship service to start. In the seats behind us were several ladies who were of my parents generation. We could hear them talking very clearly. They were discussing the music and worship songs that they liked and disliked. Just a few weeks earlier, the contemporary Christian Music group Sierra had performed during our morning worship service. It was awesome. However, the opinions I was hearing from behind us left me thinking.

None of them liked that sort of worship music. They wanted hymns. They wanted no drums or guitars. They wanted an organ installed on one side of the stage with a grand piano on the other. It just did not feel like worship to them unless the choir wore choir robes and we sang out of hymnals. When we sang more modern praise and worship songs they did not like it.

Since the majority of the members of that church were in their age group, they ended up having their way. For the eighteen months we were members of that church, we went through three different ministers of music. No one could come up with the right combination of hymns and contemporary music to please everyone, especially the older members who were responsible for a largest part of the tithes and offerings.

The insistence of certain forms of praise and worship music over and above any other suggests a focus problem. Those of us who do this want to sing songs or hear songs that we like. If we do not like a certain song then we do not sing or worship. This attitude is a symptom of a very immature understanding of praise and worship as long as there are not doctrinal issues with the songs themselves or if the artists are not doctrinally questionable in their matieral. If we are self-focused, we act like that scenario above. We sing our songs or listen to certain praise and worship music to please ourselves. That is not true worship of our Lord. Instead, it is a form of self-gratification.

The correct way to worship God is according to His standards not ours. As Jesus traveled through Samaria He stopped at a well. He met a woman who told Jesus that the Jews demanded that everyone worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans worshipped in their mountain. Then Jesus replied:

21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 (NASB) 

What does worshipping God in spirit and truth mean? Jesus was telling her and us that true worship is not outer religious activity which includes simply singing along at church while our minds a million miles away. Jesus reference to the “Spirit” in this passage is to Man’s Spirit not the Holy Spirit. Our Spirit must be involved in genuine worship. This means that the worship that glorifies God comes from not only our bodies and minds, but our Spirit as well. We truly worship out Lord when it springs forth from our intense love and devotion to Him. When we express that love to our Lord, we focus our worshipping and thankful attitudes upward to Him. It is then expressed by our minds and bodies as we sing, pray and worship our Father who art in Heaven.

What about that word “truth?” What part does that play in our worship? That means genuine worship that glorifies God is consistent with revealed Scripture and centered on our savior, the living Word. Hymns or songs that fail to match those criteria do not glorify God and do not constitute valid worship. Whatever form of music we use to worship should be validated with scripture. If they do not or if there is doubt about them then they should be avoided.

Shouldn’t our worship services be geared towards loving our Lord and expressing that to Him in a way that is a sacrifice of praise? Isn’t He worthy of our praise? Let’s look again at the passage I placed at the top of this post.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB) 

This four-verse passage is an awesome expression of worshipping God in spirit and truth. Who is the focus? God is the focus. What does it say about Him? His wisdom and knowledge are deeper than we can conceive. They are treasure indeed. His ways are beyond our understanding. No one has equaled God in intellect or can advise Him. He is debtor to no one. We desperately need Him, but He does not need us at all. He is sovereign. There is not one person, place, or thing over which His sovereignty does not reign. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things! I hope you got that. These statements about God are found throughout the Bible. Paul’s expression of praise here is “truth.” It is also worship in the spirit. You can almost feel Paul’s love for God exude through this exultation. I contend that if a believer can read that passage and fail to worship it is an indication of a problem.

What problem could block us from worshipping God? Sin is the culprit every time. If we covet sin in our hearts then we are self-focused. If we are self-focused then we are mired in sin. Regenerated believers sin when they live for self. Those bought with the price of Jesus’ blood are not their own. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) They belong to Christ. The Father gave them to Him. They are His disciples. (John 17:6-19)

Genuine worship is God-focused, God-centered, and God glorying. It is not about us. When we complain about certain praise and worship songs because we don’t like them we have revealed our self-focused and non-worshipping heart. Self-focus is self-worship. What attitude leads to genuine worship? Only a humble heart can truly worship God. Any prideful attitudes present will block the hearts focus. The humble heart is a worshipping heart. It is not self-focused. Only a genuine believer is capable of having a genuinely humble heart.

The humble, worshipping heart will exult in genuine worship as the believer reads passages such as Romans 11:33-36, Isaiah 42-10-17, Psalm 98 or Micah 1:3-4. If we are having trouble worshipping then we have a distracted heart. That means we have our focus off God. None of us can direct our hearts to the Lord in worship when we are focusing our attention on anything or anyone else but Him. Therefore, we must examine ourselves.

Does your heart want to flee from throne of God? If so, then you are coveting sin in your heart. God is calling you to confess and repent. Does your heart feel dead or trampled down so that you can only despair? If so, then life’s circumstances have crushed you. God is calling you to turn your heart towards Him for healing. In any case, we must pray that God will show us what our problems are.

1 Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity,
And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
2 Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
3 For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
4 I do not sit with deceitful men,
Nor will I go with pretenders.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
And I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I shall wash my hands in innocence,
And I will go about Your altar, O Lord,
7 That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders.
8 O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells.
9 Do not take my soul away along with sinners,
Nor my life with men of bloodshed,
10 In whose hands is a wicked scheme,
And whose right hand is full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on a level place;
In the congregations I shall bless the Lord. Psalms 26 (NASB)

If we come before our God with that attitude then be we must also be prepared for God to answer. One of the most precious truths I have learned from this process is that God is serious about our spiritual growth. If we get serious as well then He will give us the help we need.

7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (NASB) 

If we will do this, God will heal us and cleanse us. He will grant us repentance. After He does this for us then we must develop humble, worshipping hearts. We must develop a worshipful attitude that we express throughout each day by praying without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) If we do this then our lives will become sacrifices of praise that glorify God in every part. When God makes these changes in us then praise and worship become totally God-focused rather than self-focused, after all, isn’t it all supposed to be about Him?

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “Praise be unto the Lord!

  1. Here is what troubles me about the contemporary music of every Colorado Springs Church I’ve visited. During “worship” time the lights in the sanctuaries are turned off and only the singers/performers are spotlighted. The church platform becomes their stage. When the show us over, the auditoriums are again lit for the pastor’s message. At one church, as sound as the sermon was, I left seeing in my mind only the woman leading the music time—standing with her microphone and emoting her songs. I wish some of the staff would roam through the crowds (I’m speaking of huge Colorado Springs churches) and see how few even sing because the well-lit performers are absorbed in their own thing. An important step to reduce this would be to keep the lights on throughout the sanctuary, and thereby, make all of us feel together in singing worship songs.

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  2. It’s not just a local observation. I believe that is prevalent coast to coast! Like the lyrics that say, “it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s not about I”. We now live in the “me” generation, we love ourselves more than the lover of our souls. I’m retired and a senior citizen, and I appreciate the new worship/praise along with the old!

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