The Church – A Community of Praise

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The Church – A Community of Praise – notes on sermon preached 6 September 2009

We are concluding our series on the church – finishing today with the church as a community of praise.

 

1. The Priority of Praise

Isaiah 43 – v 18-21. Here we see that God promises to pour out His Spirit on His People, in order that they proclaim his praise. He promises that as this happens, the wild animals (i.e. those who do not know the Lord) will honour him.

I Peter 2 v 9 – here God describes us as a holy nation a people belonging to God, with a purpose, which is that we declare His praises.

It’s all very clear – we are to be a people of praise – praise is what we do!

2. The Person to Praise

There is only one object of our praise – the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So in Revelation when the scene cuts to heaven we have the hosts of heaven worshipping day and night:

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever” (Revelation 5 v 13)

 

3. The Pattern of Praise

The New Testament in filled with examples of individuals and groups praising God. Here are a few:

  • Mary – Luke 1 v 46 onwards
  • Zechariah – Luke 1 v 67 onwards
  • Angels – Luke 2 v 13
  • Jesus – Luke 10 v 21
  • …and the crowd – Luke 19 v 37-40
  • …and his disciples – Mark 14 v 26
  • Paul and Silas – Acts 16 v 25
  • The Epistles
    • Romans 11 v 33 onwards
    • Ephesians 1 v 3 onwards
    • 1 Peter 1 v 3 onwards
  • In Heaven: Revelation 4 v8-11; 5 v 9-14 etc

4. The Practice of Praise

NB – some pitfalls!

1. Worshipping Worship – when we love doing something, it is easy to worship the practice rather than the object of the practice. Worship is focused on God – not on the practice of worshipping him.

2. Self Indulgence – on the same theme, it is perfectly possible simply to be gratifying our own need for a “spiritual buzz” in worship.

On the other side of the fence – a more sophisticated form of self-indulgence: is not our reluctance to lose our inhibitions in worship sometimes an indication that we can be more concerned with our dignity than with praising God?

3. Criticism – how easy it is to criticise those who are either less or more free in praise than we are! If praise is an area in which you find yourself easily moving, remember that you can only do it because of the grace of God in your life. Those who you criticise may in fact be way more advanced than you in other area of the Christian life!

As for criticising those who express themselves with freedom – there is a severe warning from the life of David’s wife Michal. We read that when she saw him dancing with abandon before the Lord she despised him in her heart… The Lord dealt with her most severely – the rest of her life was filled with sadness. Read her story in 2 Samuel 6 v 16.

The Practice of Praise:

We praise God INDIVIDUALLY. Do we have an individually time of praise ourselves each day? Try praying through one of the praise Psalms every day and making it into your own time of praise.

We praise God CORPORATELY. It is one of the great joys of our corporate church life together to spend time together in praising God.

We should not get into the habit of organising praise by numbers. However..there is plenty in the Psalms that is directional about how we should offer our praise to the Lord when we are together as God’s people. Please note that the list below describes aspects that should characterise our praise. It is not possible for each of them to be in evidence all the time

Our praise should therefore be characterised by the following:

  1. 1. Celebratory

Ps33 v1 “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you upright”

Ps 47 v5 “God has ascended amid shouts of joy”

Ps 66v1 “Shout with joy to the Lord all the earth”

Ps 67 v4 “ May the nations be glad and sing for joy”

Ps 68 v “May the righteous be glad, and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful”

Ps 81 v1 “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob”

Ps 95 v1 “Come let us sing for joy to the Lord. Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation”

Ps 98 v4 ”Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth”

Ps 100 v 1-2 “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs”

Ps 108  v1“My heart is steadfast O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”

Ps 145 v7 “They will celebrate your abundant goodness, and joyfully sing of your righteousness”

Ps 149 v 2-3 “ Let Israel rejoice in their maker, let the people of Zion be glad in the King. Let them praise his name with dancing, and make music to Him with tambourine and harp”

Ps 150 3-6: “Praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals”

  1. 2. Reverential

Ps 5 v7 “In reverence will  I bow down towards your holy temple”

Hebrews 12 v28 “..let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably, with reverence and awe”

Ps 29 v2 “Worship the Lord in the splendour of His Holiness”

Ps 99 v5 “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool – he is holy”

Ps 46 v10 “ Be still and know that I am God”

Ps. 95 v6 “Come, let us  bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our maker

  1. 3. With Music and Singing

Ps 32 v11 “Sing all you who are upright in heart”

Ps33 v1-2 “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you upright. Praise the Lord with the harp, make music to him on the ten stringed lyre”

Ps. 43 v4 “ I will praise you with the harp”

Ps 47 v6 “Sing praises to God, sing praises, sing praise to our King , sing praises”

Ps 57 v7 “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music”

Ps 98 v4 “Burst into jubilant song with music”

Ps 71 v2 “I will praise you with the harp… I will sing praise to you with the lyre”

Ps 81 v2 “Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre”

Ps 92 v3 “…to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp”

Ps 95 v1 “Come let us sing for joy to the Lord. Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation”

Ps 100 v 1-2 “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs”

Ps 108  v1“My heart is steadfast O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”

Ps 147v7 “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving…make music to him on the harp”

Ps 149 v 2-3 “ Let Israel rejoice in their maker, let the people of Zion be glad in the King. Let them praise his name with dancing, and make music to Him with tambourine and harp”

Ps 150 3-6: “Praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals”

  1. 4. Expressive

– with dancing

Ps 30 v11 “you turned my wailing into dancing”

Ps 149 v 2-3 “ Let Israel rejoice in their maker, let the people of Zion be glad in the King. Let them praise his name with dancing, and make music to Him with tambourine and harp”

Ps 150 3-6: “Praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals”

– with hands raised

Ps 63 v4 “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands”

Ps 134 v2 “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord”

– with shouting

Ps. 29 v9 “In his temple all cry “Glory”!”

Ps 33 v3 “Play skillfully and shout for joy”

Ps 47 v1 “Shout to God with shouts of joy”

Ps 66v1 “Shout with joy to the Lord all the earth”

Ps  71 v22 “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you”

Ps 81 v1 “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob”

Ps 95 v1 “Come let us sing for joy to the Lord. Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation”

Ps 98 v1 ”Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth”

Ps 118 v5 “Shouts of joy and victory  resound in the tents of the righteous”

– with kneeling and bowing down

Psalm 95:6:Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

Psalm 5:7:But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
Psalm 37:14: The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.
Psalm 66:4
All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.”

  1. 5. A Choice of our Will

Hab 3 v17 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are not grapes on the vine……yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour

Ps. 42 v5 “Why are  you so downcast…..put your hope in God for I will yet praise him”

Ps 57 v7 “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music”

Ps 16 v6 “ I will praise the Lord”

Ps 108  v1“My heart is steadfast O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”

The fact is, praise is what we do. We are a people of praise. Let’s ask God together to make us everything that he wants us to be.

Let me finish with a quote from one of favourite books on the subject of prayer. It is called “Destined for the Throne” by Paul E. Billheimer. In it he argues for a program of massive praise to be   at the heart of every church’s program. He writes:

“It is generally recognised that one of the fastest growing segments of the Christian communion is that group of churches which are of the Pentecostal persuasion…whatever one’s position may be, it can not be denied that the Pentecostal groups have re-discovered, for this day and age, the importance and power of praise. To the order of public worship, including periods of congregational singing, public prayer and a gospel message they have added another co-equal with these: a period of united worship and vocal praise. Almost universally at some point in the service time is given specifically for the purpose of praising and  worshipping the Lord. This is not a subjective thing, an attempt to work up an ecstatic emotionalism for the sake of the thrill. But the objective thrust of the united praise and worship of him alone who is worthy often results in an inundation of the Holy Spirit’s presence – which is nothing short of heavenly, for it echoes the praise of the celestial throng around the throne. It is the writer’s considered judgement that it is  this thoroughly scriptural program of massive praise which is responsible for the burgeoning growth of this movement. Whatever one’s position on tongues and other charismatic gifts there is nothing to hinder any groups from adopting the scriptural program of massive praise. The church at large should sincerely repent of its failure to comprehend the overwhelming content of the word on praise, and render due thanks to God for those instrumental in its rediscovery.”

Points for discussion:

  1. Why is praise important?
  2. What is the difference (if any)  between praise and worship?
  3. How can we develop praise in our personal lives?
  4. What place should our own personal preferences play in the way we praise God?
  5. Can you identify with any of the pitfalls described   at the start of section 4?
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