October 9, 2016

Sermon Message by: Elder, Stan Joosse

On Praising God!

As I stand before you today, please think of me as a messenger not a preacher and consider the message to be God’s message not mine.

PRAYER: Lord, as we open our minds and our hearts to your word and your will for us, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of each of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. Bless us today. In Your Name we pray. Amen

So what is this Praising God business all about? We’ll try to answer that by looking at Praising God from two perspectives: Why we should praise God and How we can praise God?

So why should we praise God?

The Bible teaches us that God wants all of his creation to praise Him, but especially us who are the pinnacle of His creation being created in His own image. Remembering that the Bible is God’s word so when we read it we hear God speaking and in Isaiah 49 he is saying:

Sing, O heavens!

Be joyful, O earth!

And break out in singing, O mountains!

Sometimes we sing as our final response the song about the trees of the field clapping their hands. The full passage is from Isaiah 55:12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Or from Psalm 98 which Germaine read where God is proclaiming that:

"Let the sea resound, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

let the mountains sing together for joy;

let them sing before the Lord"

And then of course Jesus tells us that we should praise God because if we don’t the very rocks along side of the road will do it. We heard that message in the anthem and I read earlier that account from Luke 19 He [Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

But just last week God revealed to me another reason why we should praise him. That morning I decided that it was time to try to get some thoughts for this message written, and I prayed asking God to give me his words, his message. He immediately answered my prayer as that morning’s devotion in the Upper Room had Zephaniah 3:17 as the scripture reference. Never read much in Zephaniah? Me either. I had to look it up in the index and found that he was one of the minor prophets and the book is the 4th from the last in the Old Testament. Here’s what it says:

"The LORD your God is with you, 

he is mighty to save. 

He will take great delight in you and rejoice over you, 

he will quiet you with his love, 

he will rejoice over you with loud singing."

Here is almighty God, in all of his holiness regarding you and me, and how does he feel about you and me? Remember every word in the Bible is God’s word, written by people through divine inspiration, but these are God’s words. So we would be perfectly correct to revise it to read:

"I the LORD your God am with you, 

I am mighty to save. 

I will take great delight in you and rejoice over you, 

I will quiet you with my love, 

I will rejoice over you with loud singing."

God says that He takes great delight in you and me. He looks at us in quiet perfect contentment. We’re not perfect yet, but he sees us in the perfect image of Christ and the eventual perfect relationship that He desired at creation and that will be restored in eternity. And then have you ever even thought about God singing? Try to grasp the wonder of the Lord rejoicing over you with loud singing. He finds us, who are in Christ, such a delight, a joy, a source of happiness that it causes Him to break out singing. That’s one of the coolest things that I can imagine- God singing about me!

So why else should we praise God? 

Because God desires that His creation, especially us who are created in God’s image, should praise Him and because our joyous praise and adoration is giving back to God what He is giving us, his rejoicing over us.

But an even more compelling reason why we should praise God is that He has through His love and grace saved us from eternal death and granted us eternal life with Him through Christ Jesus. That is, of course, an overwhelming reason to

praise God. But to really understand the full depth and significance of this we need to get into our Bibles and review some things.

The Heidelberg Catechism, one of the catechisms in this Book of Confessions of the PCUSA, tells us that as chosen children of God we have the comfort of knowing that because of Christ’s sacrifice in our place we will spend eternity with our Lord. Then it asks this question: “What must we know and truly believe in order that we may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?”

It provides the answer in three parts. This is slightly paraphrased and it says: first, how great my sins and my sinfulness are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and sinfulness; and third, how I am to be thankful to God or How I Can Praise Him for such deliverance. There is a necessary chronological order to these three things. One necessarily precedes the next. So the first thing that we must know; and not just know it intellectually but we must know it and believe it to the depths of our souls is - the terrible sinful condition that we are in as fallen human beings and how desperately we need deliverance from that condition.

In Psalm 51 David declares his sinful nature: that he is evil, that he is born in sin, and that in sin his mother conceived him, and that it is all sin that he touches.

David understood this question and the first part of the answer of the Heidleberg Catechism thousands of years before it was written because he was open to the Holy Spirit probing the depths of his heart and soul and he saw the sinfulness of his human nature.

Paul also said in Romans 17:9 “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Notice that David and Paul don’t look at anyone else. They know that this is a very personal issue and that only by accepting the leading of the Holy Spirit were they and will we be able to do that in-depth probing of their /our sinful human nature and be able to see that sinful condition.

So how did they and we get that sinful condition? It happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan, and they rebelled against God and broke the one commandment that God had given them; not to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But they did and forfeited their and our perfect relationship with God. God condemned them and us to physical and spiritual death.

Presbyterians believe that because of the fall into sin of Adam and Eve that we have inherited that “original sin” so that we are all sinful by nature. Paul says in Romans 5:12 that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin ..so death spread to all because all have sinned”. Thus we are all born sinful and sin affects every dimension of our lives, no area of our lives is exempt from the influence of our sinful nature. We must know and accept that we are sick with this disease of sin and that we need the cure. We must desperately want to know how can I be delivered from all my sins and my sinful nature [ 2nd part of the answer from Heidelberg Catechism]

Notice that this is written in the passive voice. It does not say what do I have to do to be delivered from my sins and sinfulness. Why not? Doesn’t God require that I do certain things in order to be delivered from my sins, in order for me to be saved? The Bible has some very good news for us – we don’t have to do some list of things in order to be saved; the Bible says that we are saved by grace, God’s grace and absolutely nothing else. Do you know that all religions except Christianity require people to earn their eternal life. There are things that they have to do to get to heaven or whatever is their equivalent. 2 Timothy 1:9 probably explains this most simply and clearly: Starting with the last part of verse 8: But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

Or as stated in Ephesians 2 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved … through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. Our sins are forgiven and our relationship with our Lord is restored through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ took our place, and we have faith because of God’s grace and the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Praise God for that because if it wasn’t this way none of us would ever be saved (Remember our sinful nature?); because of our sinful nature we would never come to believe in Jesus without God causing it to happen. For the chosen ones, the Holy Spirit works in us to create an awareness of our sinful nature and an awareness of our need for salvation and a desire to receive Christ into our lives. And God does choose us to be his redeemed children. Jesus understood that and acknowledged that often.

In John 6 we find Jesus saying "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day”. And in another place in John 6 Jesus says "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain….”

And later He says "All [everyone] that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

Continuing in John 6 Jesus says “ It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.[nothing we humanly do contributes] The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. …And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

How this happens is different for everyone. Each of us can trace our path to our current relationship with Jesus Christ as we became aware of our need for salvation and the joy that awaits us in this new relationship. At the time we may think that we are choosing God but He is actually choosing us through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And at that moment when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit lives in us and we have amazing spiritual potential that we did not have before.

I believe that each of us who are here today have the Holy Spirit in our lives or we wouldn’t be here (Remember our sinful nature?) We would be sleeping in, or at the beach or watching a ball game. But the Holy Spirit worked in us so that we wanted to be here to worship God . Jesus explained this gift of the Spirit to his disciples in John 14. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.” Jesus is revealing an incredible spiritual fact here. He is telling us that when the Holy Spirit lives in us, we are included in the trinity relationship between God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the same exact way that He Jesus is in that relationship. Your relationship to God the Father is exactly the same as Jesus’ relationship with his God the Father. Think about that.

The trinity can sometimes seem to be very mysterious and hard to fully understand. Some of us have found the rather unconventional depictions of the trinity in a book entitled “The Shack” to be helpful. Throughout that book William Young, the author, continuously emphasizes the close relationship between the three persons of the trinity. In one case Mack, the central human in the book, is talking to God the Father, who is depicted as a very large black woman called Papa, and he notices scars on her hands. When he asks about them Papa just says “Jesus and I are very close and I was there with him”{ie.,when he was crucified}. If that’s the relationship that Jesus has with his father, so connected, so close, that his crucifixion scars are also God the Father’s scars, and we as children of God have the exact same relationship – Wow, is that a reason to praise God! So why do we praise God? We praise him primarily because of our great undeserved gifts of eternal salvation and the Holy Spirit and for the difference that makes for us here in this life and in the life hereafter.

Finally, you and I need to know and practice how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance, how do I praise Him? (3rd part from the Heidelberg Catechism) Now the verbs change, Here they are and we are active. We have received this great gift of salvation and we are born again persons, and we should be letting our light shine in this world in which we live by praising God in how we worship him and live our lives.

In I Thesalonians 5:16-18 says

16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is GOD’S WILL FOR YOU in Christ Jesus. The entire Bible spells out clearly that it is God’s will for us, who are believers, to come joyfully in celebration both in corporate worship and our individual worship through how we live our lives. The Bible tells us that we are new people in Christ. Once we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, the Holy Spirit enters our life to start a transformation process. But as Pastor Parrish told us last week, we have to Rekindle that which we have received. Re means "again," and kindle means "start a fire," It’s like when you have a camp fire and it starts to die out you add wood, stir it up to get the flame burning brightly again. We need to stir up our spiritual lives and feed God’s Spirit that’s within us and then be open and eager to the possibilities. If we do that we will begin to view the world, people, and personal difficulties from a much different perspective. Our choices begin to be motivated by love and truth and not selfishness. Gal.5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. Let’s live with love and delight according to the will of God and have all of our actions done to His praise and glory.

There are real practical ways that we can praise Him, things that we can all practice. A powerful specific way that we can all praise God is how we speak. I believe that our speech should reflect that love, joy, gentleness and never be harsh or cruel. If we do that we set ourselves apart from the world. I think there are two words that believers should eliminate from their vocabulary, they are “lucky” and “fortunate” and we should replace them with “blessed”. When good things happen to us we aren’t lucky, that was a blessing from God. We aren’t fortunate to have a good job or a nice house, etc., those are blessings from God; so let’s praise him by giving him the credit and saying that we are blessed.

And speaking of giving God the credit and the praise for all of our blessings, how about doing that in prayer before we eat the meal with which he has blessed us. I hope that you see every meal, regardless of where you are eating it, as a gift from God and that you honor and praise Him by thanking Him for it and asking Him to bless it. Incorporate prayer at meals as an everyday part of your lives.

And finally, another way to honor our Lord and praise Him is through the music to which we listen. If we are listening to only Christian music then there is no doubt that we are praising Him. And when we do that, very likely a song will stick in our minds and we will find ourselves praising God all day as it runs through our mind. So when your radio is on have it tuned to one of the two Christian stations here in San Diego: more traditional hymns are played on KECR 910 AM and more contemporary Christian music on the K-LOVE station which is KPRZ (K-praise) 1210AM.

So as we live more and more to the glory of God in all things, His will becomes our will. It isn't that we bow under the will of God, because we are obligated, but rather because His will is also our will and it becomes the cry of our hearts to walk close to Him and be completely devoted to Him. That’s how we praise God.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, thank you for speaking to us today and helping us understand better why we should praise you and how we can do that. Re-kindle in us the flame of your Spirit that others may see the difference as we praise you in word and deed. Amen