Thursday, November 29, 2007

Praising God Is Reflecting His Character

Many Christian churches have been incorporating in their worship service a style of singing that some call praise and worship. Some of the songs are based on scripture, many of these on Psalms. David as we know praised God in the psalms for God’s goodness and mercy toward him. David was grateful to God. However, many of the other songs are repetitive and limited to phrases, such as: “we worship you,” “we adore you,” and “you are worthy of my praise.” These songs are accompanied by shouts of “Hallelujah,” “Praise Him,” and “Glory to God.” The congregation stands to sing, while their eyes are closed, and their arms and hands are raised in the air. Caught up in the enthusiasm they seem to reach a stage of euphoria and ecstasy; as if they were in drugs. This practice gives them a rush or high, when they finish singing the ecstasy is gone, and they return to the sadness of their existence. The singing, it turns out is a mere form of escape from their empty realities; a life devoid of God. This is ironic; because the God they claim to sing to is the God they do not have in their hearts. It is nothing but lip service. (Careful when you judge the people doing this. Many are sincere brethren who do not know any better.)

We would all agree that Praising God is giving him glory. But, what glory can we give Him. It is sinful, at its best. The Worship He would accept from us is nothing more than us returning from He what gives to us. So, the glory we offer Him comes from the Glory that is His to begin with. What is His glory? Let us read from Exodus 33:18 – 23,

Exodus 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

Exodus 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

Exodus 33:21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

Exodus 33:22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

Exodus 33:23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

When Moses asked to see the great I Am, God replied that he would pass all His glory before Him. Then God proceeded to tell Moses what His glory is. As we read we realize that it was the attributes of God’s character. The Glory of God is His character. And, His name proclaims this glory or character.

In our sinful condition none of us have His character. This is something the Holy Spirit produces in us, as He converts our hearts from “hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.” He converts our hearts from selfish and sinful to righteous and Christ like. He purges our hearts from Sin and turns it into a heart that is Holy. So, only Humans with converted and grateful hearts can truly praise God; because, they reflect His character, which is His glory. A Godly character is true praise toward and to God.

For what are these converted men and women grateful? They are grateful for what God has done, is doing and will do: Salvation. They are grateful for the conversion that is taking place in their hearts. A person that is grateful rejoices. As God is always working, and in all things He works, they give thanks in all things and always. Because they are always grateful, they can always rejoice.

Imagine these people singing to God. There is a difference. It is not lip service. You can tell it comes from the heart – a converted heart. It moves you to know the God they serve. The difference in their singing is consistent with the difference in their life. It is this difference that makes their singing so inspiring and powerful.

Such was the case of Paul and Silas in the prison dungeon. Their singing - praises to God - influenced the jailer to give his heart to Christ. While in Philippi Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching the truth. Then, “…at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts16:25). And, so it seems did the jailer. After an earthquake opened the cell gates the jailer presumed all the prisoners gone. He took his sword to commit suicide, but Paul detained him, by assuring that none had left the prison. The jailer and his family gave their life to Christ that night.

Was it the singing that made a difference? The Bible does not say so. But as Paul and Silas were men who reflected the character of Christ it must have. Despite the persecution, beating and imprisonment they seemed to be grateful God. They were full of the Holy Spirit, so they were rejoicing in the Lord. And, their singing must have reflected Jesus in them. Remember, Paul considered it a privilege to suffer for Christ. He counted all for joy. His singing was no lip service. It projected what was in His heart already, a crucified and resurrected Christ. Is Paul’s experience ours.