There is always a certain debate that goes on between different groups who claim to be Christian about who are the true disciples and who are the ones in error or simply impostors. I suppose you could make a long list of qualifications to determine who are the legitimate ones from the fakes but I've narrowed these down to three main tests of whose real and whose not:
1. Christians Are Loving People.
- They love each other - John 13:35
- They love their neighbor whether their neighbor is a Christian or not - Matthew 19:19
Love is the distinguishing characteristic of those who claim to be Christians.
2. Christians Obey Christ.
Jesus placed the obeying of His word above the ability to do great things (miracles, works, dynamic religious pomp and ceremony) - Matthew 7:22-23. Willingness to obey Christ is the basic attitude word of true Christians.
3. Christians Praise God.
True Christians are those who truly and sincerely praise God. I know that we could go into a long digression here about the use of instruments in public worship, or the rightness or wrongness of certain types of worship practices (worship teams / use of drama / contemporary versus traditional etc.
And these are important issues that need to be discussed and studied. But the point I want to make about worship is that true praise is not only true praise because it's done without a musical instrument.
There's more to it than just getting the "Form" of praise correct. So love is the character of the disciple; obedience is the attitude and praise is the activity that most identifies him / her. In the short time remaining I'd like to focus on praise as a defining mark of God's people.
What is Praise?
(Halal - Making a noise/to boast)
Dictionary ".. Words, songs that tell the worth or goodness of someone or something." In the Bible it is an expression of joy using different methods:
- Songs, (music and dance in Old Testament times)
- Psalms, poems, scriptures
Expression could be formal / organized. Old Testament had elaborate processions that led to the temple with choirs, music, dancers, and parades. New Testament worship with singing of hymns, prayers, psalms in the public meeting place (I Corinthians 14:26-36).
Old Testament when Jews crossed the Red Sea and defeated their enemies a spontaneous song of joy was sung by Moses and the men Exodus 15:1-2, and Miriam his sister and the women danced and sang with joy vs.20-21
New Testament - Mary rejoices in praise when she visits her cousin Elizabeth - Luke 1:46. Whether formal or spontaneous, praise is the action of externalizing what we believe and feel about God in song, prayer, and other actions.
Motivation For Praise
(Is it because we have to?)
Begins with God. When we discover His widow, power, love expressed in creation and man's salvation it produces in us.
- joy (we're happy)
- thanksgiving (we're grateful)
This awe, joy, thanksgiving is expressed in praise; people who don't praise don't know God.
1. Consider the Sun as a source of motivation to praise
It is a star, the closet one to the earth.Look up to the sun and from left to right is a distance of 865, 400 miles. And it is one of the smallest stars in the heavens. There are billions of stars.
The God we pray to, ask help from is the God that created all of these stars by His word. (We're impressed with a guy who scores 50 goals.) Doesn't that impress you about how great He is! If coming here is a burden and leaving here is a relief - you're in trouble.
David declared in Psalms 19:1-2
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
and the expanse is declaring the work of His hands."
When I look up to the heavens and see all the stars and ask why - the Lord tells me that they are there to show me of how great He is and the strength of His hand. I'm impressed - and I want to say so! This is just one fact of His creation, can you imagine if we understood how the insect world operated, vegetation - the human eye! Everything in creation is wonderfully complex and precise and perfectly made.
When considering all of this we are overwhelmed and it provokes us to be in awe and to compliment the creator concerning His creation. Happily, gifted men and women have written songs and poems that help me express my joy.
2. Consider Salvation as a source of motivation to praise.
Because we are sinners, imperfect, undeserving we were destined to die physically and then face a judgement of condemnation and suffer torment eternally. Instead this God (who created the stars) established an elaborate plan to prepare the world for His own appearance among men as a man, in order to save man from this destiny.
He became part of His creation (Like you becoming part of the picture you paint) isn't this fantastic! The best part however, is why He did it. He did it so that the creation could become like the Creator!
Why do you think Paul says that Christians. "Exult in hope of the glory of God"? (Romans 5:2)
There is no way in the world that I, with my own strength, could become like my creator (share His life experience). Like the drawing has no power to become alive like the artist - it is a painting, reflects life but is not itself alive (i.e. cannot paint another picture, talk, sing) this, only the artist can do.
But God, becoming man in Jesus, gave His creation the life that He had and now the creation is alive in the same way that the creator is alive! Man now shares the quality of life experience that God has:
- God is eternal -- Man is now eternal.
- God knows man -- Now man knows God.
- God is pure and holy --- Man is holy and pure.
- God rules supreme -- Man will rule with Christ.
This gift of life I have received makes me joyful, It's free, precious, indestructible, mine..
- I want to tell Him how wonderful He is.
- I want to express my joy in thanksgiving.
- I want to proclaim the wonderful news that once I was not, and now I am and will always be praising Him!!
Praising God is learned and developed, not innately given at baptism or birth.
Practical Steps to Develop of Praise
The experience of spontaneous praise is quite exciting and organized praise in worship can be very edifying if we have an attitude of praise already within our hearts. This attitude needs to be cultivated everyday so that:
- Sunday / Wednesday praise can be a positive experience not just a habit.
- We can be surprised by the joy of spontaneous praise overflowing from our hearts and out of our mouths each day.
For this to happen, each of us must:
1. Give God the credit for all good
In everything give thanks.
- I Thessalonians 5:18
Eliminate ideas of lucky, fluke, evolution, destiny. Attribute to God the credit for everything good in life each day. - "The Lord has really blessed me." Learn to see His hand working in all things.
2. Focus your complete mind, will and strength on doing His will
If you work, work for the Lord in what you do. When you play, remember Him in your leisure. Live in such a way that you are always aware of His presence. He is always aware of our presence; it is we who are not aware of His constant presence! This is very suffocating at first (because we are proud and independent) but eventually we will love His ever-present company.
3. Pray every day
It is in prayer that we express the reverence, joy and assurance we feel from the works and presence of God in our lives. The reason that pro athletes do such amazing things is that they spend most of their time practicing, where no one sees them. Daily prayer is the spiritual exercise that permits.
- Intelligent, thoughtful, spiritual praise in the assembly.
- Men to pray, lead songs, exhort and teach in the Spirit.
- Outbursts of joyful spontaneous praise when discovering a new or different aspect of God's great love.
Love, obedience to Christ and praise are the marks that identify God's people on earth because they are the marks of those who are already in heaven with God. At this very moment heaven is filled with holy beings who are totally absorbed in praising God constantly (Revelation 5).
Shall we join the celestial beings in praise?