In recent discussions about our article on "Getting Crunk", it seems that some may not understand what praise and worship is. It is not something we do for God; it is something He does through us. If praise/worship is not born of His Spirit, then God will not receive it.
The Threshing Floor
Praise and worship is first and foremost an offering.
"Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." I Chronicles 16:29
"And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD. " Psalms 27:6
"I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good." Psalms 54:6
"The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD." Jeremiah 33:11
"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." Hebrews 13:15
We make offerings to God not because He needs anything from us, but because we desire something from Him: His presence. God dwells in the praises of His people and therefore praise is all about His glory, His love, His providence, His guidance, His mercy, His salvation. For these things and more, we recognize Him as worthy of all adoration.
Not Me Lord, But You
Sacrifices or offerings to God are made at the expense of ourselves. It is an expression of depreciation from the created in acknowledgment of the Creator. If there is no personal cost to us in making the offering, it is indeed not a "sacrifice" at all.
David referenced the significance of personal sacrifice in offerings when God commanded him to build an altar on the threshing floor. Araunah offered to give David what was needed for the sacrifice, but he responded, "And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing." (II Samuel 24:24a)
The threshing floor is where the wheat was separated from the chaff. After the stalks are threshed, the grain is tossed in the air so that the wind will blow away the chaff.
In the New Testament, our lives are the offerings sacrificed on the altar (Romans 12:1). During the act of praise, we are inviting the breath of God to blow upon us, fanning the flames that burn off the chaff while at the same time bringing life to our spirits. This offering becomes a sweet savour unto the Lord because it is inspired by His Spirit.
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:11-12
"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." Mark 9:49
"And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt." Leviticus 2:13
One of the important purposes for salting the sacrifice is purification; God demands a pure sacrifice. How do we offer "pure" sacrifices? It has to come through the new man.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27
There is a cost that comes along with the sacrifice of praise, and that cost is the crucifixion of the old man. During praise and worship, we decrease or lower ourselves in humility (the old man) so that God might be increased and exalted through the new man. The one who is lifted up in the act of praise is always the object of the praise.
The first offering we see in Scripture is a great pattern for understanding how God receives our offerings to Him.
"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." Genesis 4:3-7
Some would have us to believe that God accepts anything we offer Him as long as we mean well in our hearts. However, the Scriptures are clear that this is not true. If anything, we are told that the heart is desperately wicked and not to rely upon it in defining our relationship with God. Our guide must be God's words, not man's intentions or feelings.
Surely Cain labored hard. He tilled the ground. He worked to bring forth fruit. He patiently waited for his produce to grow. He gathered from it to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Yet Cain's offering was rejected.
Being a tiller of the ground is a representation of the nature of fallen man, and it is from this cursed existence that Cain produces his offering.
"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. " Genesis 3:17-19
Conversely, Abel offered a sacrifice from the promise of new life in God. He was a shepherd who offered the first of his flock, a blood sacrifice symbolic of Christ's sacrifice (Hebrews 12:24).
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21
Offerings coming from the old, Adamic, fallen nature are always rejected by God. No matter how much we have labored in producing them, no matter how pleased we are with the work of our hands, they are dead offerings.
The name Abel in Hebrew is Hebel which literally means "breath." Again, God calls us to bring offerings that have been breathed or inspired by Him; and this includes the offering of praise. Only those offerings presented in the newness of life by regeneration of His Holy Spirit are acceptable.
"Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints." Psalm 149:1
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Romans 6:4
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." II Corinthians 5:17
Why is it so important that there is a "new" life? Because the old life stinks to God. The fallen nature of sin is what stands in the way of man's reconciliation with God. This is why we must be born again of God's Spirit. The New Testament continually shows that we are to turn away from the things of the world and towards the things of the Spirit...not drag the things of the world into the church in the hopes of "sanctifying" them. The new birth is not a change in "name only" where we are really the same, but just stick "Jesus" on the end of what we do. If we are truly born again, then we are truly made new.
The Scriptures say it this way, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Hebrews 11:4
Faith is not just believing in your heart that something is true. Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus have faith that their beliefs are true. Real faith has substance and vigor. It comes first from the Spirit of God; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we offer what we like or consider good, then we are offering strange fire to the Lord (Leviticus Chapter 10).
Becoming All Things to All Men
When the contemporary Christian duo Mary Mary first came out, I was a leader in dance ministry and loved their song "Shackles." I could really identify with it. Jesus had in fact set me free so that I could praise Him!
Traveling on a business trip to New York City, I arrived at the hotel my firm had reserved for me. It was new and trendy; created by the same men who had owned Studio 54 back in the 1970s (although I didn't know this at the time). There was a line round the corner of people waiting to get into the hotel's club/bar and the music was blasting. At first glance, I was so shocked by the spirit of that place that I told my driver this had to be the wrong hotel. It wasn't.
As I registered for my room in the lobby, what starts playing in the club but Mary Mary's "Shackles." "Wow," I thought in amusement, "These people don't even know that they are dancing to a praise song. How great it was that God was moving here to reach people."
God's response and correction was quick. He told me that this song being played had nothing to do with any outreach by Him. Instead, it should have revealed to me the type of song this was. The song was being lifted up by the world because it carried the spirit of the world. If I knew enough to recognize the spirit operating in this hotel, then how could I not understand why this song was being so freely played and promoted?
Talk about shocked. I could not believe what God said to me as I stood in that lobby. "Now wait a minute God", I thought. "I like this song. Are you saying that I am worldly?" Man, I had to chew on that for several days.
I just didn't get it. There was nothing wrong with the words of that song; they were true. It was a nice song and fun to listen to. They were speaking about the things of God. What was the problem? The problem was that I didn't understand about the spiritual aspects of music. The words were right, but it was still being presented by a worldly spirit.
Do you know that you can have two people saying the exact same things and yet one person can be right and the other wrong based solely on the spirit they carry? Scripture says we can ask and not receive from Him because we ask amiss. God is not looking at the words we say or the actions we perform; He is looking at what spirit we are of. When He looks at our offerings, is He seeing a reflection of His glory and His Spirit or is he seeing the old man on display?
Too many people think that it doesn't matter how they praise God. Just as I did, they think, "Well, I like [fill in the blank]" and use that as a basis for defining worship. If you get anything at all from this article, let it be this: Praising and worshiping God is not about what YOU like.
Your life is not your own. It is not about the music you like, how you like to dance, what you like to wear, places you like to go, people you like to listen to. It is about Jesus Christ alone and what He likes. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you...or else you are not in Christ.
Mary Mary has a current song called "God in Me" where they speak of how people lust after what they have achieved.
You're so fly, you're so highDoes the song have a nice beat? Yes. Can you dance to it? Yes. Is it catchy? Yes. Is it of the Lord? NO!
Everybody 'round you trying to figure out why
You're so cool, you win all the time
Everywhere you go, man you get a lot of shine
You draw like a magnet, better yet I have it
Everything you wear people say they gotta have it
From the sweat suit to the white tee to the Gucci
You can probably say people wanna get like me
Yes, they say in the song that the "God in them" gave them these things, but this is NOT the Gospel message. Are we to exploit man's lust for material wealth as a draw to Jesus Christ? Are these people seeing Jesus in them? Is it His love, grace, peace, and righteousness they see reflected in Mary Mary which draws others to them? Not according to their own words. The "draw" these ladies are singing about is nothing but the pride of life.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." I John 2:15-16
Further, what does God say about those who assert that gain is godliness? (I Timothy 6:5) This is a lyrical example of the confidence in boasting which Paul describes.
"I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft." II Corinthians 11:16-23
Too many "Christian" artists are putting out worldly "praise" while the "Church" drinks down this music as worship. Many artists even collaborate with secular artists who are openly against God and think it a compliment to be labeled as "cool" by the world.
Did you hear what God has to say in the matter? Such attitudes are "not after the Lord" and are "foolish". It is glorying in the flesh. It is an offering from the fallen nature of man. Remember what was stated earlier: The one who is lifted up in the act of praise is always the object of the praise.
This is not about the artists themselves. It is about the degradation of "praise." No longer is praise a sacrifice birthed by the Spirit of God to send forth pure worship magnifying the Lord. Now, praising God is about what is pleasing to my flesh and my lifestyle, what is entertaining for me.
A Heart Like Yours
What happened to praying for a heart after God's own heart? Wanting to be molded and shaped into a vessel fit for Him to use? Yearning to be changed so that our thoughts and ways could be pleasing unto Him? When did we begin to think that we become the determinant of what is acceptable to God?
Taking the fruits of fallen man and giving them as an offering to God leads to nothing but a Mega Mess (or as T.D. Jakes would call it, a Mega Fest). We cannot take what is worldly, carnal, and fleshly and say, "Here God. Take this and be pleased with it. We have done this in your name." As with Cain, He will reject these offerings because sin lies at our door.
Does becoming "all things to all men" mean that we now can become worldly in an attempt to woo the world? Or does God state that those who are the friend of the world are the enemy of God?
We cannot compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ by claiming that such things are done to "win" others. In truth, they are done to accommodate our own fallen natures and sinful desires. Let us not malign the name of the Lord simply because we prefer our own ways to His. Do we not recognize when the glory of the Lord is departing [Ichabod]?
All praise is not all good. Praise is for God and is inspired by Him. Praise does not have to be quiet, reserved, dull, or rehearsed; but it must be born from His Spirit. When man is being glorified and exalted, you can be sure this is not a sacrifice received by the Lord for no flesh shall glory in His presence.
When seeking to praise God, ask Him what He likes. Seek what is pleasing to Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart, so that you may worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
For those who are really struggling with how to understand the difference between that which is soulish and that which is of God's Spirit, you should get a copy of the book Merismos by Randy Shankle. Soulish offerings and indeed the soulish life itself is offensive to God. Understanding the merismos that God does in the heart of every believer will be a tremendous value to those who seek to walk in victory.
"This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth MY praise." Isaiah 43:21