Friday, May 18, 2007

Saved to Praise

If you are a Christian reading this, I have a question for you: Have you ever meditated on the purpose for which God has saved you? Why did He choose you before time began (2 Tim. 1:9)? Why did God go through all the trouble of sending His Son to die on the cross for your sins and then raise Him from the grave in order for you to be declared righteous in God's sight (Romans 4:25) ? Why did He send His Spirit to regenerate you, bringing you to faith in Jesus (Titus 3:5) ? Why is God presently at work in your life to ensure that you will be preserved through the trials of this life and make it all the way to resurrection ( Phil. 1:6, Jude 24) ? I ask because we often think of the purpose of our salvation only in terms of being rescued from hell. Or perhaps we focus on the positive benefits of eternal life, everlasting joy in the presence of God, and continuous fellowship with God's redeemed, glorified church throughout eternity. All of these things are true, of course. And they are all glorious realities for the believer. However, these things don't really get at the why of salvation as much as they describe the what. In other words, these things are not ends in and of themselves, as true and wonderful as they are. When we search the Scriptures, we get a compelling and surprising answer for the why of salvation. Perhaps no single verse is as clear on this point as 1 Peter 2:9:

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

Here we see a beautiful, vivid description of the church of Jesus Christ. By God's grace, we were selected out of the masses of fallen humanity to receive the gift of salvation (chosen race). Though union with Christ, our great King and High Priest, we share in His reign (royal priesthood-
2 tim. 2:12). We have been set apart from the world (holy nation) as a redeemed community, purchased by the infinitely precious blood of Jesus Christ and uniquely claimed as God's very own (people for His own possession). What a high view of the church on display in this text! But notice the explicitly stated purpose of our high calling in this verse- "that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" In other words, we were saved to praise God!

This is consistent with God's saving purposes throughout redemptive history. The theme of God saving a people to declare His praises appears repeatedly in the Scriptures. For example, God's explicitly stated purpose for telling Pharoah to release the nation of Israel from bondage to Egypt was so that His people could worship Him in the wilderness:


"Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'" (Exodus 5:1; see also vs.3)

God's purpose has always been to preserve a people in every generation whose hearts and affections are directed towards Him. This is what the psalmist had in mind in Psalm 79:13:

"But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise."

Human beings are naturally wired to praise that which we consider praiseworthy. Professional sports arenas are packed with thousands of people who are eager to praise the home team for every good thing they do. Theaters, concert halls, museums, golf courses, national parks and auditoriums are all places that people go prepared to voice praises for what they appreciate there. The reason for this is that there is a clear connection between praise and joy. We praise what we enjoy. When we delight in something or someone, our natural response is to be vocal about it. The sad reality of the fall is that the praise which rightly belongs to God as the benevolent Creator of all things has been stolen from Him and given to the creature instead (Romans 1:25) . The question is not if we praise. We all do so by nature. The question is whom or what we will praise when we inevitably do so. One of the glorious implications of the gospel is that our praise has been rescued from inadequate, insufficient objects and redirected by God to the only One big enough to both receive our praise and satisfy us in the process- and that, of course, is God Himself.

In the Scriptures- especially the Psalms- we see a clear connection between enjoying God and praising God. There are to many passages to list here, but consider a few of them:

"Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God." (Psalm 43:4)

"Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright." (Psalm 33:1)

"My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips. (Psalm 63:5)

"My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed." (Psalm 71:23)

"Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!" (Psalm 98:4)

In Psalm 33:1, quoted above, it says that "praise befits the upright". As I bring this entry to a close, I want to briefly list 2 reasons why it is fitting for the redeemed to declare God's praises:

1. God should be praised simply for who He is.

Who is as Holy as the triune God? Do you know of anyone who is absolutely intrinsically perfect besides God? Is there anyone as beautiful as God? Anyone as powerful? Who is in sovereign control of all things, if not Jehovah Himself? Can anyone come close to matching His infinite wisdom, knowledge and understanding? Do you know of anyone who loves like God ? Who is more creative than God? Who else is eternal, self-existent and self-sufficient? Who can claim to be as faithful, true or righteous as the Holy One of Israel? Assuming we've tasted and seen His goodness, how can we possibly refrain from bursting forth with rowdy praise for the God of heaven and earth?

2. God should be praised for what He has done for us in the gospel of Jesus Christ

If anyone has cause to continually praise God, it is His redeemed bride, the church. We who were once dead in our transgressions and sins have been made alive in Christ. We were once God's enemies, but now, by His grace, we're His children. Christ has rescued us from sin, satan, death and hell through His death on the cross. We've been raised to newness of life through Christ's resurrection- with His power at work in us to help us overcome sin. God has freely given us eternal life by declaring undeserving sinners righteous in His sight. He will never count our sins against us. He is only merciful toward us.

We deserve His frown, but because of Christ we only receive His smile. God has secured our eternal joy in His immediate presence forever. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth, helps us understand God's Word, comforts us in times of trial, testifies with our spirits that we our God's children and steadily makes us more and more like Jesus. These are just some of the innumerable blessings that God has given believers in the gospel- the greatest gift being God Himself. Surely we have ample reason to open our mouths and praise the God of our salvation!

Test yourself by this doctrine. Do you enjoy praising God? Heaven will be filled with perfected saints who delight in singing God's praises for eternity (Revelation 7:9-15). Does that thought excite you? Consider that, according to Hebrews 2:12, Jesus Christ Himself will be the worship leader in heaven! Do you long to gather with God's people to declare His praises together? Do you praise God privately? How much of your prayer time is devoted to praising God for who He is and what He's done? Are you using the gifts God has given you in a way that would either directly or indirectly point to the excellencies of Christ? Would those who know you say that they are more familiar with God's excellencies due to your proclamation?

May God work in us in such a way that His praise would be our greatest joy. May we live out the purpose for which He saved us. May we not only honor Him with our lips, but with our hearts and our lives as well. And may our short time here on earth be the dress rehearsal for heaven, as we warm up our voices in preparation for forever praising the Lamb who was slain for our sins.

grace and peace,
shai




9 comments:

Vikki said...

Thanks for reminding me about why I'm saved. God is truly the greatest treasure in the universe!!!!

Steven said...

Amen! Thanks for that shai.

tina! said...

thank you for your post! it is great blessing! some other good reading and listening on this topic of salvation that i have encountered are R.C.Sproul's essay 'Brother, Are you Saved?' and the White Horse Inn's talkshow episode called 'What does it mean to be Saved?'. check it out.

tina!

Q. A. Jones said...

that's some serious theology on worship...

you just need to go ahead and tell Mase now that when I start my church in Camden, Ft. Worth, or MD that I'm going to be trying to recruit you as my worship leader; it would be an Assistant Pastor position (teaching, shepherding, leading worship, etc.)...i'll throw in another bone...we could even split the pulpit 50/50 each month! :-)

It may be a few years coming - but I just wanted you to know that in advance...

your biggest fan... :-)

Eva said...

YYEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

thanks for letting the Lord use you to get our focus on track, bro.

HE'S GLORIOUS!!!!!!!!!!

yolanda said...

Amen!

Gloria said...

Exactly. Well stated and on time.

SDG.

eternal said...

Amen! Too many people see salvation as "getting to heaven." The bible doesn't present this as the primary thrust, or even a significant one in its discussion of salvation. Rather it is all about God, and His will.

What I have noticed, especially in reading passages such as Phil. 2, is that it is the CHARACTER of God to offer salvation. It was NOT His character to "seize the divine nature" but rather to lay it down and come in humility, even death. THIS is the character of God. It is the glorious character/nature of God to offer Himself in this way.

What an AMAZING God we serve! His sheer greatness is what should attract us to Him, not any superficial desire to "go to heaven."

Thanks for this blog Shai.

Aisha Woods said...

Wow! This was good!

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Richard Baxter, "May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him and delighting in Him, may be the work of our lives," what Piper calls 'Christian Hedonism.'

You're right, we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise completes and satisfies the enjoyment. In the same way, we ought to be "Delighting [ourselves] in the Lord" Psalm 37:4. To not praise Him, is to dishonor Him. To praise and delight ourselves in Him, we must first find pleasure and joy in Him. To praise when there is no pleasure is nothing more/less than hypocrisy. Joy in God is the very thing that makes praise an honor to God.

Thanks for this Shai!

-Aisha