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
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
Most commonly, praise is not spoken - it is sung. Using whatever
instruments were available, often accompanied by dance, God is to be praised in
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
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
(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
We should praise God for two
His character: holiness, omnipotence and unfailing love
His actions: creation, our victory and rescue.
Of these we will see more later.
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!
That's fine - for Sunday
morning. But what about the rest of the week? What does it mean to praise God
during the week/
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
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).
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
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
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
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
That he is creator of this universe, and the new heaven and new
That we are given the privilege of borrowing existence itself
from the great "I AM"
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
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