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Worship and Service

Praise

The First Element of Worship

Winston Churchill put it this way: "Logic is a poor guide compared to custom." In our time we have seen our worship services "modernized." To some extent this is good, for we must praise God in the fashion which we understand. But in the hearts of many there is a longing for what was. We must remember that we are part of the eternal church. What is fashionable today may vanish tomorrow. We're in the forever business.

To understand why this discomfort exists - and what to do about it - we must understand a very basic principle: worship and service are the same thing. We in our time have formed the strange idea that our worship on Sunday has no relationship to our service during the week. This is utterly strange - and utterly false.

The Greeks had a word for it: latriea. It is used five times in the New Testament, and its use is instructive:

·         In Romans 9:4 it refers to ceremonial worship in the Temple.

·         In Hebrews 9:1 it refers to the regulations for Temple worship

·         In Hebrews 9:6 it refers to the actions of the priests in the worship service.

·         In John 16:2 it refers to physical service (our Lord speaking) to God. It has nothing to do with ceremony.

·         In Romans 12:1, it refers to our service of offering our bodies - as a spiritual act of worship.

Worship and service - they are the same thing. How can this be? Think for a minute about the word "marriage." It can mean, in the sense of a marriage ceremony, a ritual. It can also mean the day to day experience of being married. This is just an example of a central fact. Human beings using symbolic experience - ritual, if you will - to express the deepest and greatest meanings. If the deepest and greatest meanings of our hearts center around our Lord, then we will have ritual around him - worship. But we will also go out to do his will - service. And if we have integrity - which means "oneness" - these two meanings will be the same. If a man went through a wedding ceremony and then continued to live the life of a man who had no thought of fidelity, you would certainly call him a hypocrite. The ceremony should match the actions. The principle applies in our Sunday worship as well - service on Sunday should match service the rest of the week, as symbol matches action.

So what you say, symbolically, on Sunday morning ought to match how you serve the Lord the rest of the week. Let us examine, therefore, the first element of that worship: praise.

Praise is commanded

There is a curious fact about praise, found throughout the Bible: it is commanded. God does not invite you to praise him; he commands it.

·         It is so commanded that one common form of praise is to command others to break into praise.

·         Praise is not restricted to once a week. Morning and evening for the priests; for others you see seven times a day.

·         This is not restricted to people. Trees, stars, rivers, seas - all of creation is commanded to praise. Indeed, as Christ made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, did He not say that the rocks would cry out if we were silent?

·         Most commonly, praise is not spoken - it is sung. Using whatever instruments were available, often accompanied by dance, God is to be praised in song.

Why?

We may deal with song first. Athanasius, writing in the 4th century, told Marcellinus that time spent chanting the Psalms was the time a Christian was closest to heaven. Chanting the Psalms? Perhaps the backup band was a little limited, but his rationale was quite simple: it is only in song that a Christian praises God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. As man is created to love God and enjoy Him forever, and man is meant to be whole, we may conclude that Athanasius knew his theology. And most choir singers would tell you he knew his musicians too.

The Necessity of Praise

Why does God command us to praise Him? Is it just his ego trip? I think not. We need to see praise for what it really is.

Praise is natural

I once was sitting in a bar (well, a TGI Fridays) when one of the prettiest girls I've ever seen came in. She wasn't sexy; she had a Doris day wholesome look. Every man in the place had the same comment: "What's a girl like that doing in here?" Our sense of fitness said she shouldn't be there. We have a sense that some things are "fitting" and others are not. Philosophers would interpret that to mean that we recognize that certain things are deserving of praise. The Mona Lisa is a great work of art because it is, not just because I think so. Man does not declare it so; it is and man finds out.

Our time does not recognize this concept. We have become like Oscar Wilde's cynic: a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Praise is deserved

If there are things which are of value in themselves, then they should be praised. Paul told the Philippians as much:

(Phil 4:8 NIV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

We should praise God for two general categories:

·         His character: holiness, omnipotence and unfailing love

·         His actions: creation, our victory and rescue.

Of these we will see more later.

Personal relationship

If you wish to have a personal relationship with someone, you must recognize who they really are. You must also know who you are.

·         Psalm 33 assures us that it is fitting that the upright praise him, for he is righteousness itself. Like calls to like.

·         It is called a sacrifice of praise. Why? Because our praise comes at the price of our pride.

If you want that personal relationship, you must be upright and humble!

Daily Living

That's fine - for Sunday morning. But what about the rest of the week? What does it mean to praise God during the week/

To whom?

First, praise is something which just can't be kept inside. We don't mind praising God during the week as long as no one else finds out. But there are some people who ought to hear:

·         First, ourselves! We need to keep the praise of God on our lips to remind ourselves of his character and deeds.

·         Next, those around us - so that they might know that we believe. One group which is particularly called out to hear our praise is our children. We may speak to them of God in severe tones; but consider the effect it has when they hear us praise Him.

·         Finally, there are all those we meet. Who knows what your words might bring?

How?

·         Obviously, we can do this in our ordinary speech. Most of us know how to talk.

·         But consider that the Scripture constantly enjoins us to song. So you can't sing? Praise God that you live in a time of Christian radio and recorded music! Hum along! There is music that praises him in practically every musical style.

·         In prayer. The Lord's prayer begins with praise, as befits one who is going before the throne of Him who deserves all praise.

Praise Him for…

There are two general categories of praise: His character and his deeds, what He is and what He has done, is doing and will do. Here are some things to praise him for (which we will do in prayer in class).

Character

Holiness and Righteousness

·         The holiness of his Name

·         That the righteous are privileged to praise his Name

·         The righteousness and holiness of his Word

·         The moral righteousness displayed in the universe

·         That He will come to judge the living and the dead

Omnipotence and Omniscience

·         That his power is so great that infants praise him - and enemies are silent

·         That he knows our every thought and action

·         That He holds the future in his hands

·         That his strength is available to us through Christ

·         That his Kingdom is everlasting

Unfailing Love

·         That his mercy endures forever

·         That we should praise him to our children

·         That Christ went to the Cross for us, for our salvation

·         That he is slow to anger and quick to forgive

·         That Christ intercedes for us

Deeds

Creation

·         For the creation and sustaining of our physical world - sun, stars and planet

·         For the creation and sustaining of life itself, and his care for nature

·         That he is creator of this universe, and the new heaven and new earth

·         That we are given the privilege of borrowing existence itself from the great "I AM"

Victory

·         That Jesus came in the form of man

·         That Jesus is the first fruits of the Resurrection

·         That the Cross was not final

·         That He will return again

·         That we shall rise from the dead

·         That we share, and shall share even more when he comes, his victory

Rescue

·         That he delivers us from our enemies

·         That he has provided us with is Word for guidance

·         That he defends the weak, the poor, the widow, the orphan

·         That he uplifts the humble and defeats the proud

·         That he rescues us from our own sins and raises us to worship Him.

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