What Do I Still Lack?

What Do I Still Lack? | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

Several years ago, I heard a speaker say that he thought most of us would ask, “When is Christ returning? How much longer do we have to wait?” That’s not what I’d ask, though. Does it really matter to you whether it’s 10 months, or 10 years, or 10,000 years? We could quite literally die today (though we don’t like to think about it), so we should be working on being ready to meet God at any moment. We should be watchful, yes, but the focus is on growing to be like Him and knowing Him more fully.

With that in mind, I think my question would be more like that of the rich young man in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.

The First Question

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

He said to Him, “Which ones?”

Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Matt. 19:16-19)

I get the impression that this is the bare minimum required to get into God’s kingdom. We know from Hebrews that the law by itself isn’t enough to save us, so we’ll assume this list implies that we also repent and accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. There’s also a relational aspect implied.

 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)

So, to get into God’s kingdom we need to repent and be cleansed of our sins, keep the commandments, and walk in relationship with God. But what if we feel like we’re doing all this, and still there’s something missing?

The Second Question

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matt. 19:20-22)

That’s the question I would ask — “What’s missing from my Christian walk? What do I still lack?” Honestly, though, the thought of getting an answer is kinda scary. I think Jesus would look into my heart and find the biggest thing that is pulling me toward this life instead of Him, and tell me to give it up. Would I be like the disciples, who could say, “we have left all and followed You” (Matt. 19:27), or would I be like this young man who wasn’t ready to go that far for Jesus?

Paul had a proper perspective on this sort of situation. He didn’t even ask the question, but Jesus answered it anyway. Once Paul realized that faith in Jesus as the Messiah was what his walk with God needed, he gave up his prestige as a pharisee to become a persecuted, itinerant preacher.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ …. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (Phil. 3:7-8, 12)

Both here and in Matthew 19, the word “perfect” is translated from teleios (G5046), which we talked about last week. It is connected with growth as a Christian; becoming more mature as we become more like Christ.

We might be able to get by doing the bare minimum, but that’s not how we reach perfection. We become perfect by learning to think like God (Matt. 5:43-48) and giving up anything that keeps us from fully committing to Christ. Let’s not allow fear to hold us back from taking a good, hard look at ourselves and asking God, “What do I still lack?”

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Praise and Worship: What is Worship?

Praise and Worship blog series, "What is Worship?" | marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve titled this blog series “Praise and Worship,” but so far we’ve only talked about praise and prayer. I think it’s typical to think of praise and worship going together, and perhaps you’re like me and the first thing you think of is praise and worship music. While praise is typically done aloud and often includes music and singing, worship in the Bible is actually quite different.

Defining Worship

In the Old Testament, most mentions of “worship” are translated from the Hebrew word shachah (H7812). It is a “verb meaning to bow down, to prostrate one self, to crouch, to fall down, to humbly beseech, to do reverence, to worship” (Baker and Carpenter). It was the accepted way of showing respect to powerful people, such as Boaz (Ruth 2:10) or David (1 Sam. 25:41).

While it was acceptable to bow before other people sometimes, when their position and character called for such a gesture of respect, it was never acceptable to do this before any deity other than the one True God (Josh. 23:7). When using shacha in the sense of worship, it may only be used toward God if you intend to worship properly.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! (1 Chr. 16:29)

In the New Testament, there are several words translated “worship,” but we’ll only look at two of them right now. One, latreuo (G3000) is associated with the act of serving God, and involves the voluntary service of a hired servant rather than the compulsory service of a slave. We’ll get back to this word near the end of the post.

The Greek word most often translated “worship” has a meaning very similar to the Hebrew shachah. Proskuneo (G4352) means “to worship, do obeisance, show respect, fall or prostrate before. Literally, to kiss toward someone, to throw a kiss in token of respect of homage” (Zodhiates). I’ve written about this word before, in a post called “Blowing Kisses to God.” In the New Testament, the usual meaning is to bow or kneel before someone in reverence.

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)

In Spirit

Praise and Worship blog series, "What is Worship?" | marissabaker.wordpress.comWe no longer use this form of salutation to show respect, at least in Western cultures. Bowing to someone seems very foreign, unless we are kneeling in prayer, and even then most of us aren’t crouching on the ground.

While the physical act of bowing before God does endure — for “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil 2:10) — that is no longer the main definition of worship. Jesus pointed this out when talking with a Samaritan woman about whether God should be worshiped in a specific location.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. … But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 23-24)

So, it is not enough to model the physical act of bowing down in worship. We have to find the “spirit and truth” at the heart of worship that pleases God, and then model that.

People in the Bible who rightly worship God do so when they are asking Him for something (Ex. 34:8-9), as part of their praise (Ps. 138:2), and with godly fear (Ps. 5:7). Reverence for God is at the core of true worship. We worship Him because we believe He is worthy of worship.

All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God. (Ps. 86:9-10)

Worship seems to be the natural response to an encounter with God or one of His messengers. Abraham “bowed himself toward the ground” when the “Lord appeared to Him” (Gen. 18:1-2). Manoah and his wife “fell on their faces to the ground” after the angel of the Lord prophesied Samson’s birth (Judg. 13:20). Exekiel says, “I fell upon my face” when he saw his first vision (Ezk. 1:28), and Daniel describes the same reaction (Dan 8:17). John fell at the feet of two angels intending to worship them when he received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, though they corrected him since they were servants of God and not God Himself (Rev. 19:10; 22:8).

When we see a glimpse of who and what God the Father and Jesus the Son are and understand it at all, it’s impossible not to worship. The disciples worshiped Jesus when He demonstrated power over a storm (Matt 14:32-33), and when He ascended to heaven (Luke 24:51-52). Peter, James, and John fell on their faces when they heard a Voice from heaven while witnessing Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:5-6), and a blind man who was healed worshiped Jesus when he understood who He was (John 9:38). We were created to recognize our Creator and pay Him the honor He is due.

Sacrifice and Service

I mentioned earlier that one of the Greek words translated “worship” is connected with serving God. This is also the case in the Old Testament, where we often see worship and sacrifice paired (2 Chr. 29:27-30). Jesus also connected worship and service when rejecting Satan’s temptation, saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matt. 4:10).

Praise and Worship blog series, "What is Worship?" | marissabaker.wordpress.comIn the Old Testament, service to God involved animal sacrifices and a physical priesthood, but that was simply “a shadow of the good things to come,” and now a different sort of service is expected from God’s people (Heb. 10:1-4). Now, personally being “a living sacrifice” is described as our “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). This will likely involve a physical aspect, but that’s as a result of our spiritual worship (Phil. 3:3).

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. (Acts 17:24-25)

To repeat Christ’s words to the woman at the well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4;24). In the New Testament church, God wants to be closer to His people than ever before. He’s not putting physical sacrifices and forms of service between us any more — those are done away with and we are brought near Him by the sacrifice of His Son (Eph. 2:13). His Spirit is communicating directly with our spirits, and He wants us to serve Him from the center of our being.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Heb. 12:28)

 

Praise and Worship: How We Pray and Praise

We’ve embarked on a mission to study the subject of praise and worship in the Bible. Last week’s post served as an introduction, explaining why I’m studying this topic and supplying a foundation for what praise means in scripture. We looked at various Hebrew words translated “praise,” and saw that it involves not keeping silent about the splendor and goodness of God. Praise includes verbal acknowledgement of Him, singing His praises, and offering thanksgiving, and involves a certain level of excitement.

Praise and Worship blog series, "Words of Praise" | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis tells us that simply having unverbalized thoughts of praise is not enough. Yes, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) — we can’t have genuine praise if our hearts and spirits are not right with God. But when we are worshiping in spirit and in truth, there will be some sort of physical aspect as well. God looks on our hearts, and on what comes out of our mouths as a result of our heart. What we say and how we say it is important.

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. … For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt. 12:34-35, 37)

So, what does this have to do with praise and worship? Well, we can agree that some way of praising God aloud is good and proper, but the form that takes is still up for debate. I want to take the time today to look at examples of people praising and praying in the Bible, and see what we’ve given in terms of description. What details are we given of their physical posture, the music that accompanies their songs of praise, and other examples of coming before God?

Prayerful Postures

In churches today, I’ve seen people come before God in prayer and/or praise standing, sitting, and kneeling. I’ve seen bowed heads, and raised hands. There are many ways people approach God, but they are not all equally well-received in every church group. I’ve been told that it is disrespectful to pray sitting down, that it is showy and inappropriate to raise your hands, and that if you want to kneel do so in the privacy of your own home. Often, there’s a prescribed mode of worship and it makes people nervous when you deviate.

Praise and Worship blog series, "Words of Praise" | marissabaker.wordpress.comIn the Bible, however, I’ve found positive examples of people praying with their faces to the earth as they bow down (Deut. 9:25), while looking toward heaven (Ps. 5:2-3), in a seated posture (2 Sam. 7:18), standing up (Mark 11:25), with their hands lifted (Ps. 141:2), lying in a sick bed (2 Kings 20:2), and while kneeling (Dan. 6:10). Biblical people pray silently and aloud, alone and in groups.

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.” (1 Kings 8:22-23)

Solomon began his prayer at the temple dedication standing before the altar with his arms lifted toward heaven. As he continued, he prayed that God would hearken unto prayers made toward this temple (which is why my Messianic group still recites the shema while facing Jerusalem, though we know God always hears us whichever way we’re pointing). At some point during this prayer, Solomon went to his knees.

And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the Lord, that he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. (1 Kings 8:54)

This is an example of a public prayer, and sometimes such prayers are called for. I think most prayers given in public today, though, will be in a smaller setting with other believers. We see examples of this type of prayer in the gospels, when Christ prayed with His disciples present (Luke 9:28-29; 11:1; John 17:1), and in Acts when the disciples pray as a group (Acts 1:24; 4:24-31; 12:12; 20:36).

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Tim. 2:8)

Prayer is also a very private thing, when not part of public praise and worship. It can be silent, as was Hanah’s prayer (1 Sam. 1:13), or aloud like Christ’s prayer in the garden (Matt. 26:39; Heb 5:7), but the focus is always on talking with God, not on being seen.  God hears all sorts of prayers and doesn’t have a set mode for how we should physically approach Him. What He cares about is the inner state of our hearts (which we’ll talk about in a moment).

Modes of Praise

Most of the musical forms of praise aren’t talked about in the Bible until David became king. There were songs of praise to the Lord, like Moses and Miriam’s song after crossing the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1-21), but music, singing, and dancing as praise isn’t really mentioned as part of regular worship practices until David set up the tabernacle. This “man after God’s own heart” appointed 4,000 priests to praise the Lord with music (1 Chr. 23:5). They used instruments like the harp, psaltery, trumpets, cymbals, and tambourines (Ps. 33:2; 149:3; 2 Chr. 5:13)

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Ps. 150:3-6)

Praise and Worship blog series, "Words of Praise" | marissabaker.wordpress.comPraise we see in the Bible is loud and enthusiastic (2 Chr. 30:21; Ezra 3:11; Jer. 31:7), full of gladness, joy, and song (2 Chr. 29:30; Ps. 28:7), but can sometimes be described with more subdued words like “harmonious” and “solemn” as well.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night, on an instrument of ten strings, on the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound. (Ps. 92:1-3)

Many of God’s holy days are described as “solemn assemblies.” The Hebrew words — and there are several — don’t necessarily mean what we think of as “solemn,” though. They refer to  appointed times, meetings, and assemblies of great importance. One of the words (H2287) actually means “to march in a sacred procession, to observe a festival; by implication to be giddy” (Strong’s Dictionary, see Deut. 16:13-15)

Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob. Raise a song and strike the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the lute. Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob.(Ps. 81:1-4)

Doesn’t sound so very “solemn” to me, but we can “sing praises with gladness” to a wide variety of music styles. We shouldn’t get bored with more meditative songs, and we shouldn’t disprove of loud, joyful songs either. Both have a place in worship, and both can be used to honor God.

State of Your Heart

Most of what we’ve looked at so far discusses what prayers and praise should look like from the outside. The point I’ve been trying to make by doing this is that the outward expression of worship and communication with God can be quite varied, and that’s okay. God doesn’t ignore people because they chose to pray aloud instead of silently, or standing instead of kneeling, or with hands raised instead of lowered (or vice versa on all these). That’s not what He’s concerned about, and it’s not what should worry us either.

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

The difference between these two men wasn’t that one prayed looking up and one prayed with head bowed. It was the attitude that showed in how they prayed which concerned Jesus. One prayed “with himself” about how much better his way of serving God was than that of other people. The other man made his prayer about God’s love and mercy which makes a relationship with Him possible. One was proud of himself, the other was humble before his God.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matt. 6:5-6)

Praise and Worship blog series, "Words of Praise" | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis doesn’t forbid all public prayer, but rather praying as a pretense just to be seen (Matt. 23:14). There are times to pray around other people, but most conversation with God doesn’t need an audience.

Praise, on the other hand, is often more effective with other people around. As we talked about last week, praise involves declaring the wonder of God and offering thanks for what He has done. This can be done in private, but when the Bible talks about “showing forth” or “telling of” God’s marvelous works, it implies sharing your praise of God with others. This is why it irritates me so much to be told that enthusiastic music, hand lifting, and praise dancing doesn’t belong in a church service and can be done privately at home if you feel you must. Praise isn’t something we should shut up in an out-of-the-way place.

I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. (Ps. 111:1)

The motivation for our praise is just as important as the motivation for our prayers. If we’re praising just to be seen (which is what people who raise their hands are often accused of in more subdued congregations), then our praise is empty. Praise should start in the heart, then overflow to the outer world.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore. (Ps. 86:12)

I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. (Ps. 119:7)

Since God is the only one who can discern the thoughts and intents of a heart, we are left with very little room for criticizing how other people praise and worship. We can’t see into their hearts, and it is not our place to judge whether or not their expressions of worship are genuine. Unless the way they are praising is indecent and causing confusion in the church (1 Cor. 14:33, 40), we shouldn’t judge other worshipers or dictate and micro-manage our worship practices.

Praise and Worship: Words of Praise

The question of how we should praise and worship our God seems to be following me. It comes up at Messianic services where we sing, dance, blow shofars, clap hands and tambourines, and lift our hands in praise. It comes up in my local United Church of God group, where we sing a few hymns then sit quietly in our seats. It comes up in Facebook groups, comments on this blog, and private messages from friends and readers.

On the one hand, we have people who worry that physical manifestations of worship take away from our focus on God, and distract fellow believers. They say the Sabbath is not a time to entertain yourself, but a time to honor God. They’ve seen brethren who started exploring ideas from other church groups leave the faith, so to be safe they stick with tradition and shun anything new.

Praise and Worship blog series, "Words of Praise" | marissabaker.wordpress.comOn the other hand, we have people who think the best way to honor God is to involve the physical as well as the spiritual. The outward forms of worship are not to entertain us — they are the natural manifestation of our inward worship. They say if we see a president for something in the Bible as a good thing, throw out our church tradition and replace it with what we find in scripture.

I try to see both sides of an argument when considering most questions, and to be sensitive to other view points. I understand the reluctance to leave comfort zones, and the fear of change turning out bad instead of good. Still, I’m sure you can tell that I’m leaning toward the later argument, the one in favor of more enthusiasm in our service to God. But why? What does the Bible have to say about the subject of praise and worship, and how important is it to God that we do things one way or another? This will be the first in a series of blog posts on the subject.

Offering Acknowledgement

Often, a word in the Hebrew language will have several different meanings and you have to infer what is specifically being said from the context. Another language, like Greek or English, would use several different words to describe the same idea. This is not, however, the case with the subject of “praise.”

I count 7 different Hebrew words that are translated into English as “praise” in the King James Version. Some are only translated “praise” on occasion and have other related meanings, while others are exclusively used to describe a form of praise. There’s also a separate word for “worship.” What this tells me is that the idea and activity of praise was extremely important to the Hebrew people who worshiped God, and to God Himself. Since He is unchanging, praise is also vital for believers today.

The first time the word “praise” appears, it is spoken by a woman (not saying that’s significant; just interesting). After giving birth to another son, Jacob’s wife Leah says, “‘Now I will praise the Lord;’ therefore she called his name Judah” (Gen. 29:35). The word for “praise” here, and the root word of Judah’s name, is yadah (H3034). It means to acknowledge, recognize and declare a fact. It can mean confession, or to acknowledge the role of God in one’s own life and thereby five Him praise. Zodhiates notes it can also mean speak out, sing, or give thanks.

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. (Ps. 9:1-2)

Here, yadah in verse one is paired with another word for praise in verse two. Zamar (H2167) is the word for musical praise, and playing instruments or singing in a praise celebration. It’s often translated “sing praise,” or with reference to stringed instruments.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! (1 Chr. 16:8-9)

Singing is an integral part of several words for praise. Another, todah (H8426), “describes an offering of thanks or a sacrifice of thanksgiving,” which could be delivered in the form of a song (Baker and Carpenter). This was the purpose of the two “large thanksgiving choirs” appointed by Nehemiah (Neh. 12:27, 31, 38), the appears in other verses as well. Praising God involves thanking Him and acknowledging His goodness, often publicly with songs or spoken words.

But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. (Jon. 2:9)

Offerings like this are part of the service God expects of His people. We’ve spent all our time in the Old Testament so far, but this is certainly part of New Testament Christianity as well. Let’s take a quick look at a verse from the book of Hebrew before going back to the Old Testament:

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15)

Hallelujahs

The Hebrew word halel (H1984) is the word most often translated “praise” (closely followed by yadah). Baker and Carpenter’s dictionary says it comes from a root that means “to shine” or “to shout.” Both show up in the meaning of halal, which refers to praising God and is at the root of the word “hallelujah.” In the Old Testament, one of the things it is associated with is Levitical ministry as set-up by the righteous kings of Israel.

And he [David]  appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel (1 Chr. 16:4)

When Zodhiates defines this word, he says that “the idea of radiance” is key to understanding what halal means. We praise God to make His glory shine forth. It is from this word that we get “the connotation of the ebullience of rejoicing and praising God.” It involves cheerfulness, exuberance, and is full of energy. Praise is a powerful thing in the mouths of God’s people. It is an expected service, and can lead to amazing victories, as we see in the story of King Jehoshaphat.

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.” Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. (2 Chr. 20:21-22)

Make-a-joyful-shout-toThese verses used halal, yadah, and another word, tehillah (H8416), which is derived from halal. It is used “of the adoration and thanksgiving which humanity renders to God” (Baker and Carpenter). It refers specifically to a hymn or song of praise, and is the Hebrew name for the book of Psalms (Zodhiates).

One of the main points I notice in all these definitions of words for “praise” is that it is impossible to keep silent. If you’re praising God, in the sense the words convey, you are talking about Him, singing to Him, and making known your adoration for Him all the time.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. (Ps. 43:1-3)

The word for “bless” here is the last on our list of Hebrew words translated “praise” (in Judges 5:2). Usually, barak (H1288) is translated “bless,” and it means “to bless, kneel, salute, or greet.” It is used both of people blessing, praising, and acknowledging God, and of God giving blessings to us.

I realized just a short way into this study that it was going to require multiple blog posts to cover. Consider this word-study a foundation/introduction for a whole series on the subject of praise and worship. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this subject with you in the next few weeks, and welcome any feedback you have. Suggestions for what to include in this study as it continues? Agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Comment below!

 

Choosing For His Glory

Last week, we talked about living our whole lives in the context of praising God. This study is directly related to that, and I want to begin by quoting a scripture that I almost referenced in that post but decided to save until today.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

I don’t know about you, but I know that right now my life isn’t at the point where I can say that every single thing I do is done with the intention of bringing God glory. But that is part of our goal while we are here on this earth. Every aspect of our lives should be contextualized by our relationships with God and Jesus.blog post "Choosing God's Glory" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Every Single Thing

The idea of every part of our lives being lived for God’s glory can be a daunting prospect, as this level of self-control seems almost impossible to attain. That overwhelmed feeling is usually how I react to reading this verse:

Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)

“Every thought”? That’s a tall order. It’s a bit less daunting, though, when we remember Jesus Christ’s words to the disciples in Matthew 19:26 — “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Self-control is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, so we know that it is attainable with God’s help (Gal. 5:22).

I also suspect that, while there may be some days when we literally have to battle every thought, that it gets easier. The closer we grow to God, the more automatic it will be to think and act like Him. Christ Himself is being formed in us (Gal. 4:19), along with His mind and thought processes (Phil. 2:5). Letting, inviting, asking Him to dwell in us is a step toward living all our lives for God’s glory (John 15:4, 8).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col. 3:16-17)

You Are Dead

If we go back to the beginning of Colossians 3 to get context for the verse we just quoted, we find an interesting introduction to a passage that talks about putting to death our sins (verse 5) and putting on the new man who looks like Christ (verse 10).

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3)

If we really are living as if we are dead to the world and our only life is wrapped up in Christ, of course we’ll be living for His glory.

How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:2-4)

Earlier, I suggested that we should be growing to the point where reacting in the same way that Christ would respond is automatic. If we struggle with anger, for example, it might still be our first impulse but we should be becoming more practiced at replacing it with love. C.S. Lewis had this to say about what first impulses can tell us about ourselves.

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

As we mature as Christians we should be quicker to recognize our tendencies to sin, and with Christ in us we now have the power to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is imperative that we be aware of and active in this process. We cannot passively overcome sin.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom. 6:12-13)

As human beings, we can’t be without a “master” — we’re either serving sin, or we’re serving God (Rom. 6:16-23). If we’re serving God in “obedience leading to righteousness,” then we’re also making conscious choices to not obey, or yield to, sin.

Bought and Redeemed

When Jesus Christ died for us, He ransomed us free from servitude to sin. We belong to Him, not to ourselves. Acts 20:28 describes the Church as “purchased with His own blood.” Peter says that false teachers who spread “destructive heresies” are “even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). It is important that we recognize, rather than deny, this fact. blog post "Choosing God's Glory" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Jesus’ incredible sacrifice cleansed us so that we could “serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). He made a relationship possible between us and our creator. He established a new covenant “on better promises” that offers us eternal life as part of God’s family (Heb. 8:6). We don’t belong to this world or to Satan or to ourselves any more — we have been ransomed away from slavery to sin and to our own individual weaknesses. We now belong to the One who ransomed us, as His servants, His friends, His bride, His family, His body, His church, and His temple.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:15, 19-20)

Our physical bodies and our spirits — the intangible part of that makes me “me” and can communicate with God’s Spirit — belong to God. This fact does not, however, mean that we don’t have free will. Even within the choice to follow God (and it is a choice), there are many other choices we’ll have to make. I’ve been talking about this in relation to careers with a new friend I met through this blog. Our latest e-mails brought up the idea that God doesn’t care so much what you do to earn a living (with, you know, the obvious exceptions of earning money in a way contrary to the laws of God and man) as He cares how you conduct yourself in your work and whether or not you’re growing close to Him.

We Give You Glory

Returning to 1 Corinthians 10:31, which opened this post, the context is whether or not Christians could eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. That’s not really an issue for us today, but there’s still a lesson we can learn. Paul says it’s okay to eat or not eat this kind of meat, so long as the way you conduct yourself glorifies God.

Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor. 10:25-33)

Either choice was morally and legally acceptable before God on its own. But because we belong to God, Paul says that our choices need to be examined in the light of “will it bring God glory?” and “will it profit my brethren?” In the same way, once we answer the question, “can I, or can I not” do something legally in God’s eyes, we should then ask, “should I , or shouldn’t I?” It’s a matter of where our hearts are, and what is our motivation. This same topic is also discussed a few chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians, and that passage adds an even stronger warning.

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. (1 Cor. 8:8-12)

That is serious. When our choices, even if they are perfectly acceptable based on our own knowledge, hurt our brethren, it is a sin against Christ. It’s the seam idea expressed in Matthew 25 — “inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matt. 25:41-46). It’s not enough to act based on knowledge of God’s laws, though that is certainly important. We must also be acting based on love, which builds up our brethren, and for the glory of god (1 Cor. 8:1-7).

In conclusion, the song “Glory” by Casting Crowns has been running through my head for two weeks, so I’m going to share it here:

Beginning To Walk

We’re up to week 4 out of 7 in the count to Pentecost, and deep in a study about the Holy Spirit. The reason I wrote last week’s post explaining my beliefs about the Holy Spirit was so I could better write an exploration of what the Holy Spirit does and is used for by God. There is much to cover, so this will probably spill over into at least one more post.

Baptism

When John the Baptist was preaching and answering questions about the water baptism he was performing, he spoke of a greater Baptist who would baptize in something greater than water.

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt. 3:11)

"Begining To Walk" by marissabaker.wordpress.comMy Dad has an excellent series of posts on his blog (starting with this one) dealing with the ongoing baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you’re interested, click over there and check them out. Here, though, I’m going to focus on just a small aspect of this baptism.

Just as water is the medium of our physical baptisms, so is the Holy Spirit the substance with which Jesus Christ baptizes us. Fittingly, then, the Spirit is compared to “rivers of living water” in John 7:37-39 and is said to be poured out in Isaiah 44:3. The Spirit is something we can be immersed in, and which works a real change in us.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

Being born into God’s family takes time and is an ongoing process. The starting point is when God’s Spirit begins interacting with our spirits and opening our minds to understand His mind.

Family

God’s calling goes beyond a mental awakening, though. The interaction of His Spirit with us changes our entire way of life.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Rom. 8:5-7)

The Holy Spirit is essential for us to even be capable of keeping God’s laws. Without God’s Spirit essence present and working in us with power, we “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8) and we could not be part of His family.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:12-17)

From these verses, we learn that it is the presence of God’s Spirit in us that makes us His children. This comes as a result of Christ’s indwelling presence (Rom. 8:9-11). Two weeks ago, we read parts of John 14, 15, and 16 and talked about how the Holy Spirit acts as Christ’s representative on earth and in us. Through the Spirit, He and God the Father dwell in us and work directly with our innermost being.

 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

Worship

So, we see Jesus baptizing us with the Holy Spirit to begin a process of making us part of God’s family. Both the Father and Christ then work in us through Their Spirit to change our hearts and minds to bring us into fellowship with Them.

For through Him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:18-22)

"Begining To Walk" by marissabaker.wordpress.comWhen God’s Spirit dwells in us, we become His temple (1 Cor. 3:16). It is our responsibility to live in a way that glorifies “God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)

We can’t truly worship God unless we are doing so in our spirits — in the part of us that is immaterial and given by God. The interaction between our spirits and God’s Spirit must go both ways. He cannot work in us unless we respond to Him in spirit and in truth. As Matthew Henry said in his commentary on Romans 8:26, “We must not sit still, and expect that the Spirit should do all; when the Spirit goes before us we must bestir ourselves. We cannot without God, and he will not without us.”

This is just the beginning, my friends. Once God starts to communicate with our spirits, and we respond to Him, we begin a journey toward being part of His family. And His presence — His Holy Spirit — is there with us every step of the way.