Posts Tagged 'good works'

Panic Podcast: 7 Things God Expects From Christians, Part 5

Good morning, everybody. I’m excited. I’m Canadian, so its hard to tell, but excited I am. It’s Monday and I just love Mondays!  We’ll be looking mostly at Philippines 2 this morning, so open your Bibles up and, to quote the great Jackie Gleason, “Awaaaay we go!”

 

Ephesians, Part 3

grace

The grace of God is one the greatest doctrine of the New Testament.  Augustine, in the fourth century, was one of the earliest Christian thinkers to view the entirety of Christianity through the lens of God’s grace.  For Augustine, the only reason for the existence of the Christian faith is the fact of God’s radical grace demonstrated in the work of Christ on the Cross for the benefit of sinners.

Our survey of Ephesians takes us to the second chapter, which contains these famous verses –

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8, 9  TNIV)

If you were to ask the average person, “Do you want to go to Heaven when you die?”, most would answer that they do.  Who would want to go to the other place?  But just how does a person go to Heaven when they die?

Well, according to the Bible, nobody gets into Heaven based on the good things they did while they were alive.  Salvation isn’t attained by works so a person can brag about it.  No, a person gets into Heaven based on what God did for them.  And this is what Ephesians 2 deals with.

Saved By Grace: Regeneration, Ephesians 2:1 – 10

In the first chapter, Paul had laid the foundation for this discussion on the regeneration of believers by explaining God’s plan of salvation and His mighty power which enacted that plan through Christ.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  (Ephesians 2:1 – 3  TNIV)

The second chapter actually begins with the conjunction “and,” so it’s a continuation of Paul’s line of thought in the previous chapter.  He ended that chapter with the idea of God’s mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead.  In chapter two, this exact same power made us, when we were dead in our sins, alive in Christ.

This paragraph, the first three verses of chapter two, describes the true condition of every human being.  Notice it’s all written in the past tense.  We “used” to be like the people in those three verses.  Every single human being who has ever lived, who is alive today, or who is yet to be born, is absolutely dead in sin.  The virus of sin has been passed down from generation to generation at the moment of conception.

It was G.K. Chesterton who responded to the question, “What’s wrong with the world?”, this way:

Dear Sirs, I am.  Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.

That’s the truth, as only Mr Chesterton could write it!  Paul would have agreed with him.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…  (Romans 3:23  TNIV)

The very language Paul used to describe the unregenerate life reminds us of an episode of “The Walking Dead,” and that’s the prefect way describe a sinner, lost in his sins:  a zombie husk, dead but still walking around.  Oh, they may be breathing and eating and functioning day-to-day without Jesus Christ, but they are dead on the inside – spiritually lifeless.  No zombie sinner can ever cure himself of his dreadful condition without the spiritual intervention only God can provide.  The intervention is called salvation, rescue, or even deliverance in the Bible.  And no zombie sinner can earn it or pay for it.  It is offered by God, free for the taking.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4, 5  TNIV)

God made “us,” both Jews and Gentiles alike, “alive in Christ.”  The same power that raised Christ from the dead also raised sinners from their spiritually dead, zombie-like existence.  And, our regeneration is also an act of God’s grace, not just His power.  He exercised that mighty power because of His grace.  That’s the power of the word “but.”  It’s a small word but an important one.  He exerted salvation power only because of His love for us – His mercy and His grace.  Mercifully, not because we deserved it, God saved us.

That phrase, “rich in mercy,” is a profound one because it expresses a fundamental truth about God.  Man is a complete and utter failure apart from Jesus Christ.  That’s the evident truth of the first three verses.  The contrast to the mess man is, is God, who has all this love for man and who is “rich in mercy.”  He’s everything man is not, and God has enough mercy for any sinner.  He doesn’t have just enough mercy, God is drowning in it!  He has a surplus of mercy – He has exactly the mercy any sinner needs.  He has what you need!

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:6, 7  TNIV)

Verse six is another stunner.  Jesus Christ was not only raised from the dead, He actually left the tomb and appeared to His disciples.  Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father.  Both of these events have their counterpart in the life of the believer.  As Jesus was raised from the dead, so we are raised from our spiritual death.  As Christ ascended to Heaven and is enthroned there, so we are enthroned in Christ.  This is a concept difficult to wrap our minds around.  In some way we can’t comprehend, God the Father sees us in Christ, so that Christ’s experience is ours.  He is with the Father, as we are.  Bruce wrote this –

Believers are viewed as being already seated there with Christ, by the act in the purpose of God.  Temporarily, indeed, we live on earth so long as we remain in this body; but “in Christ”; we are seated with Christ where He is.

Now, we were told just a couple of verses back that God made us alive in Christ, but here we are given some more details as to the real reason behind God’s acts of mercy and grace:  “in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace.”  That’s right, everything God did for us in Christ, He did to show in successive ages the vast wealth of His grace.  Think about what that means.  In an eschatological terms, our salvation – and we could say everything God ever did for us – will serve as an eternal witness to God’s endless supply of grace.

All from God, Ephesians 1:8 – 10

This marvelous paragraph brings us back to something Paul mentioned in passing back in verse 5.  Believers owe their whole salvation experience to God.  As A. Skevington Wood so astutely wrote –

Grace is at once the objective, operative, and instrumental cause.

He’s right about that.  Man plays no part in his own salvation other than responding in faith to the call of God.  Our salvation from the bondage of sin springs from God’s grace and appropriated by faith is a gift from God that cannot be earned in any way.  Grace means says that salvation is a work of God from the very beginning to the final end.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:8 – 10  TNIV)

From conception to realization, salvation is work of God and a gift from God.  It is not the result of works, which is another way of saying it is “not from yourselves.”  There is just no possible way that any kindly person can do enough good work to move the meter one iota.  Or, another way of putting it, there is not the slightest reason for any man to be glorified apart of a work of grace.  Faith is the complete opposite of works.  It’s not that good works are bad or to be avoided.  Here’s the problem: man is so prone to sin that if works were involved in salvation, man’s predilection toward boasting would ruin everything.  God, being perfect in every way, could never allow even the slightest risk of causing man to sin, so His plan of salvation has nothing to do with man.

If verses eight and nine put forth the fact that God is the author of our faith, then verse ten emphasizes this remarkable fact:  God created us.  No, it’s actually more than that.  The Greek word behind our English “workmanship” or “handiwork” is poiema, or “poem.”  We are God’s poem, or as J.B. Phillips says,

We are God’s works of art.

This idea is both personal and corporate.  Individuals may be considered to be God’s works of art, but taken collectively the church, the Body of Christ, is a work of art created by God.  That’s more than a beautiful sentiment.  It shows the great care and precision with which God created us and re-created us at salvation.  We are not merely creatures.  We are works of art.

But we were saved (“created in Christ Jesus”) for a purpose:  “to do good works.”  By the time we reach the end of this little letter, Paul will tell us how to do this in a way that is acceptable to God.  We may be seated in Heaven with Jesus Christ, but for now we are living on the Earth, and we should be living in a way that glorifies God.

While we don’t do good works to get saved, once we have accepted God’s gracious, free gift of salvation, we are to do good works.  The order is vitally important: salvation first, works second.  But, and here’s how much God cares about us:  Since we’re on the hook to look for opportunities to do good works, and because of our tendency to sin, there’s that risk of boasting again.  God in no way wants us to sin by bragging about all the good works we’ve done.  This risk is eliminated because – and this is remarkable – God has planned and set up opportunities for us to do good works.  Do you see what that means?  Whatever good works may follow our regeneration, they are the result of the One who created us.

It’s really simple from Paul’s perspective.  We tend to complicate everything, including the Christian life.  But it’s not complicated at all.  Our responsibility is to follow God’s plan for our lives, responding to the impulses of the Holy Spirit as He gently moves us to fulfill His will.  All the good works we need to tend to were planned by God in eternity past.  We just need to keep our eyes open and be obedient.

Biblical Faith, Part 9

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By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.  (Hebrews 11:29  NIV)

When we think about the ancient Israelites, the word “faith” usually doesn’t pop into our minds.  “Rebellious,” “contentious,” “grumblers,” and very often “idolaters” are the words we attach to the Israelites.  But here in Hebrews 11, these very people are listed among those in the great Hall of Heroes simply because they got it right once.  They manifested the tiniest bit of faith – and courage – in their obedience to the word of the Lord they were given by their leader, Moses.  The writer to the Hebrews wants us to notice that their faith and not just their courage was important because the Egyptian army that was following the Israelites was just as courageous as they were.  They, after all, attempted to cross the Red Sea just as God’s people had.  But they had no word from the Lord to go on; they didn’t have faith, only presumption, and the result was disastrous.  Regardless of the doubts the Israelites had and in spite of the fact that many of them had to be dragged kicking and screaming into obedience, the fact the whole nation survived shows that the faith of Moses was real and the obedience of the people, albeit grudging obedience, is equated with that faith.  And that should be a comfort to us all.  What we think is important, but what we do is more important.  Your mind will always want to rebel against God’s will.  Your mind will tell you that God’s way doesn’t make sense.  Your mind will almost always give way to doubt.  That’s why knowing God’s will is so vital and obedience to it so essential.  The big lesson in verse 29 is simply that if you want to be victorious in life, do what God wants you to do because He wants you to do it. Don’t give into your doubts.  Your mind will betray you, but God’s will is always dependable and sticking to it will always get you where you need to be.

One more time around the wall

The writer to the Hebrews, in the very next verse, writes this:

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  (Hebrews 11:30  NIV)

These are not the same Israelites that crossed the Red Sea in the previous verse.  It’s the next generation.  The 40 years of desert wandering is bypassed.  The faithless generation, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, has passed away – dead and buried in the desert.  Nothing good can be said about the people who were led out of Egypt beyond their obedience to the Lord’s word through Moses.  These people, once on the other side of the Red Sea, were completely devoid of faith and they died in their disobedience.

But this new, young and energetic generation is marked as being one with faith.  They had learned from the moral and spiritual failures of their fathers.  The Jordan River had been crossed, as the Red Sea, in miraculous fashion.  The only thing between the people of God and the Promised Land was a den of iniquity known as Jericho.  Taking that city was key to the land God had given Israel.

Moses by now is dead.  The people can no longer depend on his faith. But they had Joshua, Moses’ successor, and a man of faith.  Who else, besides a  man of faith could give orders like these:

So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.”  And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”  (Joshua 6:6  NIV)

But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!”  (Joshua 6:10  NIV)

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!”  (Joshua 6:16  NIV)

If these verses teach us anything it’s that sometimes God wants us to do crazy things in order for His glory to be seen.  To their great credit, the people of Israel obeyed the Word of the Lord through Joshua and, once again, the Lord came through.

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.  (Joshua 6:20  NIV)

The crumbling of the walls around Jericho is ascribed to faith.  It wasn’t the vibration of the Israelites’ feet as they marched around and around the walls.  It wasn’t the volume of their shouting.  You won’t find a natural reason for this miracle.  It was faith.  All the histrionics that preceded it were just window dressing.  The key to understanding what happened at Jericho this day is expressed in the New Testament:

Faith without works is dead.  (James 2:26  KJV)

But “works,” those of the Israelites, yours and mine, must be dictated by God, not by man.  That’s the key.  Doing what you think is right will be wrong.  Joshua’s instructions to his people sound ridiculous to us.  Do you think they made any sense to the Israelites?  These were not stupid people.  They could think and reason.  I’m sure many of them had their doubts.  But they obeyed.  They did the “works” God and Joshua wanted them to do.  Faith achieves its goal mediately, not immediately, through two things:  our obedience combined with the power of God.  We as Christians should take a lesson from this incident.  We would be unstoppable if we could just learn how to obey and let God work His wonders.

Rahab

And here’s why so many of us struggle with faith:

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.  (Hebrews 11:31  NIV)

She is well-known as the prostitute who had faith.  She’s also listed in the genealogy of our Lord.  But it seems almost incredible that she would be listed among the heroes of the faith.  Consider these things;  Rahab was a pagan; she was a Canaanite; she was a prostitute; she was a woman.  And all this teaches us one extraordinary truth about faith:  It knows NO barriers.  While all her fellow citizens were killed, Rahab and her extended family lived  because she placed her faith in Israel’s God.

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.  (Joshua 6:25  NIV)

Once again, her actions – helping Israel – has been equated to faith.  God didn’t condone her sinful lifestyle – He granted her grace and salvation.  And although traditionally in Israel it was always the man, not the woman, who was heir to the promises of God, when it comes to faith and salvation all distinctions vanish.

But let’s take a closer look at Rahab.  She and her people knew all about the recent history of Israelites.  We might say the reputation of Israelites preceded them.  They knew about the spies and they were scared to death of God’s people.  Here’s what she said:

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.  We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.  When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”  (Joshua 6:8 – 11  NIV)

So do we equate fear with faith?  Or was there something hidden deep in her fear that transformed it into faith?  Consider:

  • Somehow this pagan woman was able to perceive the plan of God.  This is truly astounding when you stop and consider the number of Christians who live an entire lifetime gloriously unaware that God even has a plan!
  • She accepted God’s plan and adjusted her life around it.  Again, many Christians are experts at finding ways around God’s plan.
  • She acted in faith even at the risk of her life.  Rahab didn’t “play it safe.”  She didn’t measure her actions or her words.
  • She gathered her family and hung out the scarlet thread; an act of faith if ever there was one.

James wrote about faith, too.  And he used some of the same examples the writer to the Hebrews did.  Here’s what he wrote about Rahab:

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?  (James 2:25  NIV)

“In the same way” are words that point us back to Abraham, whom James had just written about.  They both had faith and that’s just about the only thing Abraham and Rahab had in common.  Rahab was a complete pagan.  She was a prostitute.  Abraham was a mature man of faith, having believed the Word of the Lord for some three decades, whereas this pagan woman had only recently come to faith when the Israelites were surrounding Jericho and sent their spies into the city.

As different as these two people were, they had this in common:  By God’s own declaration, both were declared to be righteous.

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.  (Genesis 15:6  NIV)

…was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did …  (James 2:25  NIV)

By a decision and pronouncement of God, Abraham and Rahab were declared to be righteous.  Abraham was like a pioneer in living a life of faith.  Rahab was so young; so immature in her faith, yet both did what they had to do – both believed God and their actions followed their beliefs.  Their lives measured up to the faith they had.

Throughout this great chapter of Hebrews, each person’s faith is manifested by his works.  The writer spends a lot of time on Abraham’s works, for example.  Like Hebrews 11:31, James does not speak of Rahab’s justification in the sense of saving her soul; technically her faith saved her from perishing “with the disobedient.” By God’s verdict she was not condemned to die as were the rest of the disobedient in Jericho.  But the fact that she is an earthly ancestor of Jesus Christ shows us that she had a faith that was alive with works.  Or, as we could observe, God didn’t save her life for no reason!

 

 

HEBREWS AND THE FOUR WAYS: THE WAY OF LOYALTY

The Way of Loyalty, Hebrews 13:9—16

The first 7 verses of Hebrews 13 contain the first of “three ways,” namely, The Way of Holiness. The life of faith demands that believers pursue a life of holiness. Holiness isn’t always spiritual; verses 1 through 7 illustrate this great truth that one cannot be holy if one’s actions aren’t holy. How we treat ourselves, other believers, strangers, and even those in prison serves to show the world just how holy we really are.

The last point we looked at was the idea that believers should never forget their spiritual leaders; to remember what they taught them and to follow their example. Verse 8 may be regarded as a transition sentence which leads the reader from practicalities to a brief discussion of doctrine.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

We live in a world that is constantly changing. This has always been the case, especially in the first century AD, when social and political structures were undergoing mighty upheavals. Not long after this letter was written, Jerusalem was conquered and the Temple leveled. Our generation is also experiencing tremendous change, some of it good, much of it bad. Many people today are asking the same questions those in the first century asked: Is there anything or anybody you can count on? The Bible gives us the answer: Jesus Christ! He and His kingdom cannot be moved. If we build our lives on Him, we will discover that He alone is the firm foundation; Jesus Christ is the rock that doesn’t roll! Anything else cannot be trusted. Only Jesus has proved Himself to be absolutely trustworthy 100% of the time.

1. Jesus is the Christ, 13:8, 9

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. (Verse 9)

In our earnest pursuit of holiness, we must make sure that Jesus Christ is the Source, Center, and Goal of that pursuit. True Christian holiness—separation from the world to God—must always be Christ-centered, not man-centered. That’s why the writer cautions his readers not to be “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” How tempting it is to replace the spiritual pursuit of genuine holiness with man-concocked rules and regulations! That is NOT not God’s way! Holiness cannot be achieved by the outward dedication to set of teachings or doctrines. Holiness concerns what is on the inside of a man, not the outside.

The first century readers of this letter, Jewish converts all, were tempted to fall back to the forms of Judaism, mainly the Old Testament laws surrounding food and drink. They are reminded that those dusty, old rules did no spiritual good to anybody who observed them. The heart and soul of man are strengthened by God’s grace, not by food and drink.

And there are all kinds of “strange teachings” circulating today for the unsuspecting Christian to latch onto. The word “strange” does not mean weird or oddball; it means “strange” in relation to the Gospel of Christ. Maybe a better word wold be “foreign.” It’s hard to spot these false teachings. The Greek word for the English “all kinds” is poikilais, and means “many colored.” The idea is that there are so many false teachings or variations on the truth, it’s like looking through a prism. Why waste your time on those things when all you have to do is remain absolutely loyal to the teachings of Christ?

2. Jesus the Crucified, 13:10—14

We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. (verse 10)

This is a verse that would have been extremely powerful to these Hebrew-Christians. The great Temple was still standing when this letter was written, and there were two altars back then: one in the Temple and the greater one in Heaven. The power of this verse is unlocked by a principle taught by Christ:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. (Matthew 6:24a)

For the original readers of this letter, there was a real temptation to blend their old religion in with their new Christian faith. But it is impossible to trust two altars—those who serve in the Tabernacle had no right to eat at Heaven’s altar. In other words, an overlapping of beliefs and practices could not be tolerated. Intrinsically, Judaism and Christianity are incompatible, even though both faiths center on the same God, Yahweh. Why was it so dangerous to mix the two? The essential, Biblical tenets of the Christian faith can never be watered down because in doing so, the meaning of the Cross becomes diluted. To mix in elements of Judaism or any other belief system is to rob the Cross of its power and it reduces the Cross to the same level as those “foreign” elements. This is why the writer of this letter is so dogmatic on this point: when it comes to faith, it’s one way or another.

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (verses 11, 12)

Verse 11 gives us a specific example of what “those who minister” in the Temple did. The example probably refers to the ceremonies that took place on the Day of Atonement, where the bodies of the animals slain that day were completely burnt up in a fire outside “outside the camp,” a phrase that would have reminded the readers of the Tabernacle in the wilderness during the days of Moses.

The phrase “and so,” which introduces verse 12, also introduces an inference: the Day of Atonement typologically foreshadowed the great atoning work of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross took place just outside the city, just as the carcasses of the animals are burnt up outside the city. To you and me, the power of this inference may be minute; we are not Jews and even if we were, we are thousands of years removed from the days of the Temple ceremonies. But to the Hebrews reading this letter, this inference would have felt like a slap upside their collective heads! Christ’s ability to cleanse from sin and His suffering outside of Jerusalem is as superior to the old sacrificial system as fiber optic communication to smoke signals! His atoning work does not involve any special meals for it is faith in Him alone on which the believer’s right relationship to God hinges.

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (verses 13, 14)

Here are two more powerful verses in letter awash in these kinds of verses! As far as holiness is concerned, the cost of pursuing it is no less than the cost of providing it. It literally cost our Lord everything to make it available to us. Can it cost us any less than our very lives? These two verses call on believers not to feel at home where Jesus wasn’t welcomed: in the world. We can’t afford to make our homes where Jesus was homeless! This is the definition of loyalty; to identify ourselves completely with Him in every way. If we are so comfortable so as to remain “in the camp,” we’ll never venture out of it to be with Jesus. There was no holiness to be found in Jerusalem; Jesus did His work on the outside. That’s where He is to be found. He is not in the world or the things of this world.

There is a choice every believer will be confronted with: to be loyal to Christ or cling to the so-called security of the world. The writer urges us to “go to him outside” the world; Jesus can’t be found in the world.

That “city” we are seeking is the city of God, or the Kingdom of God. That’s we are to pray “thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.” That’s our hope—our realistic hope—in the kingdom to come. And yet, our hope is also here, in the here and now, as we spiritually abandon the sinful world in which we are forced to live so that we may abide spiritually in the Kindgom, where Christ is.

To look for hope and security in the world (in Jerusalem) is to look in vain. For the Jews living when this letter was written, Jerusalem was their permanent city. Little could they know that its days were numbered and it was slated for destruction. The things that people think are permanent and trustworthy are really only temporary, while that which believers hope for is eternal.

3. God is the author of all, 13:15, 16

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Verse 15 reminds us that one of the most powerful dynamics of the Christian life is praise. When life beats us up, when we get discouraged, depressed, and despondent, when we’re tired of the “fight of faith,” we need to remember that praise both produces and releases God’s energy in our lives. If only we could grasp and hold on to the reality of this truth! Self-pity and whining about the circumstances of our lives would fade away and be replaced by a cheerful optimism that is rooted in the grace and power of God.

But this praise must be constant, not only when you feel like doing it or when the going gets tough. If you wait till then, it’s too late. There are no inappropriate times to praise God! True believers didn’t get motivated to praise God by the sight of bloody, dead animals in the first century, and true believers today shouldn’t be motived to praise God by any external influence, save the Person of God Himself.

Just in case some of the readers of this letter had been tricked into thinking that without the elaborate sacrificial system of Judaism they had nothing to offer God and no acceptable worship to offer Him, our letter writer reminds them that there certain sacrifices acceptable to God. These acceptable sacrifices can be offered anytime, all the time, not just on certain hours of certain days of the week.

  • The sacrifice of praise. The “fruit of our lips” should be a thankful attitude to God. But this attitude must be expressed; vocalized. Vocal praise of God is a proper response to our indebtedness to Him! We owe Him everything; the least we can do is praise Him.

  • The sacrifice of good works. “Faith without works dead,” wrote our Lord’s half-brother. Our vocal praise of God is directed heavenward, but our good works are directed toward our fellow man. This manifestation of brotherly love, though it benefits people, is really an acceptable sacrifice to God!

God finds great pleasure in us when we praise Him with our voice and honor Him with our actions.

It may seem strange that Christians need to be reminded to praise God and to do good. Unfortunately, sometimes we get so caught up in the minutia of our lives, we get so used to looking inward, that we don’t notice there are people in need all around us and, when it comes to worship, sometimes our worship becomes merely lip service.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd

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