Monday, August 23, 2010

Three Words Christians Don't Understand

Recently, I’ve been thinking about three words, blessing, praise, and worship. In those three words we have two pairs. We often use blessing and praise in a similar way. The Bible tells us to praise God and it also tells us to bless God. And we often talk about praise and worship. But as we consider these words, I think few people use blessing and worship correctly while praise isn’t used enough. The reason I say that is that I believe many churches are doing a lot of praise while forgetting about blessing and worship.

Praise is an easy word to understand. When a child does something good, we praise him for it. We never praise a child for something that he will do in the future. The same is true when we talk about praising God. We don’t praise God for the things he is going to do, but when we talk or sing about the great things he has done for us, that is praise. The song says, “Praise him! Praise him, Jesus our blessed redeemer. For our sins he suffered and bled and died.” Notice the use of past tense in the wording. We praise him because he has already suffered, bled, and died for our sins to redeem us.

Bless is a similar word to praise, but rather than talking about the events of the past, it refers to telling about the things of the future. When we sing the words, “For he shall reign forever and ever,” we are blessing God. There is confusion with this word because we think of the blessings we receive from God. We talk about being blessed with good health or with financial wellbeing and think of the stuff we have. This isn’t an incorrect usage of the word because when God says something will happen it is guaranteed, but the blessing isn’t the thing we receive but what God has said. Consider that blessing and cursing are opposites. If I say, “the Lord be with you,” that is a blessing while “go to hell,” is a curse. I have no more ability to cause the Lord to be with you than I have to send you to hell, but that doesn’t keep me from blessing or cursing you. The strength of those words are only as strong as the one who backs them up.

Worship is a word we use often to refer to what we do on Sunday. We attend a worship service. We have praise and worship. We talk about contemporary or traditional worship. Most of the time, we are using the word incorrectly. In the Bible, worship is always done with the worshiper facing down. Often we see it with the worshiper flat on his face before God. Worship never takes place with the worshiper standing. In praise we talk about how great God is, but in worship we recognize how unworthy we are. Worship is about recognizing that we are sinners. Worship is about recognizing that God is sovereign. Worship is about recognizing that God is holy and we are not. We don’t see a lot of that these days. So many people are focused on telling about the love of God and how much God wants to have a good relationship with people and making people feel good about their relationship with God. People like to focus on what God can do for them, but they aren’t so interested in worship. People are interested in forgiveness, but they want nothing to do with repentance.