Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Praise

Praise is an integral part of our spiritual experience. It is an act of worship, an offering of thanks. It is a gift we give in glory to God, hoping to honor Him. And while God is a God worthy of praise, He is not a God who requires it. Or even desires it. Or even embraces it.

I don't accept praise from humans. John 5:41

That's Jesus talking, on the streets of the region. That's Jesus, addressing the faithful. That's Jesus, boldly declaring He does not accept the praise of humans. So of course, it begs the question: was Jesus speaking as a man or speaking as a Deity? I'll address one of those today; the other, tomorrow.

But what if He said those words as God? It's not that hard to imagine. In all of the sacrifices and rituals of the Old Testament law, there's not a prescription for praise. Sin offerings, burnt offerings, freewill offerings, thank offerings. People did praise God back then, but it wasn't in the official law that they must, or even that they should. Praise is a concept of man because we needed a way to respond to our God.

And how many times has God said this: "You praise me with your lips, but your hearts are far away?" (Or something similar.) He's not much interested in the praise of humans. He'd rather have obedience, devotion, relationship, love. He'd rather have fellowship than feeble words.

And yet something happens when we give God those things...we're not quite human any more.

Paul said so himself, numerous times. In Christ, you are a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come. When you give yourself to God in the ways He desires, you become a new creation. And a new creation human is vastly different from an old creation one.

Rather than separation, there's a beginning closeness. Rather than sin, there's an attitude of surrender. All of the things that make God say our lips can praise Him while our hearts are far away disappear in a new creation, which makes us more than mere humans; now, we're His.

It changes the nature of our praise. God is no longer the promise of the things that we hope for; He has become the presence of all that we are. Now, when we praise God, it is because we are consciously aware of His indwelling in us, His presence in our lives, His intimate relationship with us as an individual, which has made us who we are. Still human, but wholly His. That is the basis by which we can truly offer praise.

And the condition under which He may accept it.

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