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Praise or Worship

Praise or Worship.

What’s the difference?

I was asked this question in a recent “sermon” at Westgate Chapel, based on questions texted to the church from the congregation. I jokingly said the difference was tempo. But the question deserves a more thoughtful answer than that.

Worship is one of the chief activities of every true Jesus follower.

Worship is what keeps us from being Christians just from the neck up.

Worship is what keeps us all from thinking too highly of ourselves.

Worship is what keeps our hearts supple in the hands of God.

The Hebrew words translated into praise or worship run the range of expressions from bowing to raving, raising hands, singing or playing an instrument of music. They are all physical expressions offered in worship to the Lord.

And, as a pastor of a worshipping church, I am always encouraged when I see people entering into extravagant expressions of worship, with the caveat that these are intended to glorify God and not attract attention to the worshipper.

But what about the heart?

Jesus said that it was possible to worship God with physical expressions of praise but have our hearts far from Him.

So, we have to enter God’s presence in praise and worship with a sincere heart (Hebrews 10:22), which requires a prayerful, faith-filled approach to God, not a thoughtless, flippant, casual sauntering into the place or posture of worship like you would a concert.

Worship is fundamentally different from a concert performed on a stage… or church platform, where carefully rehearsed sets of songs impress audiences.

When we come to worship, we can come boldly, but only because of Jesus’ blood, which should be a sobering thought for us, on its own.

Then, with hearts genuinely engaged, praise, to my way of thinking, is a joyful celebration of God’s attributes and deeds. And since we are saved body, soul and spirit, praise should encompass the full range of expressions found in Scripture. Hands, faces, voices, feet. All of you!

Extravagant praise to an extravagant God.

Worship then, to my way of thinking, is more personal and intimate than praise (although I’d be hard pressed to give you Scripture and verse for this).

When I, or a congregation, move into worship, we express our hearts directly to the Lord. When worship is expressed through singing, I move from singing about God to singing to Him, expressing my love, my devotion, my undone-ness, experiencing an embrace from Him that forgives, heals, restores and strengthens me in His presence.

At that moment, my heart has found its home in Him and nothing else matters.