The Postures of Praise

David danced before the Lord with all his might

Scripture teaches that we must worship God with our whole heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). When speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said that true worshipers are those who worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). We worship with music as well as with our lives. We were created to worship God. But is there a posture of worship? Should we lift our hands? Bow our heads? Should we bow our knees, kneeling before the Lord? Should we clap our hands or dance? What is the correct posture of praise, the physical expression of our worship?

The answer is, all of the above. A study of God’s Word will give examples of all of them, and all of them are acceptable ways in which to express our worship and praise. Worship can be expressed with our hands. Psalm 63:4 says, “So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” And Psalm 141:2 says, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” Lifting our hands to the Lord says that we not only worship and praise God, but also that we surrender our lives to Him. Another way to use our hands in worship is by clapping. Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” Clapping can be an expression of joy, something that we should feel in our hearts as we worship the Lord.

Worship can be expressed in ways that reflect not just our worship of God but also the submission of our hearts and our lives to God as we humble ourselves before Him. We do that when we bow our heads in worship or when we kneel before the Lord. In Exodus 4:27, after the people of Israel heard the words that God had spoken to Moses and saw the signs that God had commanded Moses to do, the people believed and bowed their heads as the worshiped the Lord. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Philippians 2:10).” Bowing and kneeling can be an expression of reverence, the fear of the Lord that we should always have.

Finally, worship can be expressed through dancing. When we dance before the Lord as we worship Him and give Him praise, we are worshipping Him with our entire being. Our whole body is used in a joyful expression of praise. One of the greatest worshipers found in Scripture is David. When David brought the Ark back to Jerusalem, he was so overjoyed that, as he worshiped the Lord, he danced. 1 Samuel 6:14 tells us that “David danced before the LORD with all his might.” And after God used Moses to part the Red Sea so that the Israelites could escape Pharaoh and his army, Miriam and all of the Israelite women took tambourines and danced as they praised God for what He had done (Exodus 15:20).

As we worship the Lord, we can use any or even all of these physical expressions of worship and praise to express to Him our love, our joy, our submission to Him, and our reverence for Him. He is worthy of all of our praise!

 

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Boldness to Spread the Good News

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

On the night when Jesus was arrested and led away to be tried and eventually crucified, His disciples were scattered like sheep, just as Scripture had prophesied that they would be (Zechariah 13:7). These twelve men who had walked with Jesus, talked with Him, heard the words that He taught, and witnessed the many signs and miracles He performed, fled in fear of their own lives. Earlier that same night, when Jesus told them that they would fall away (Mark 14:27), Peter declared that, even if all the others fell away, he would not (Mark 14:29). Before the dawn of the next day, Peter had denied even knowing Jesus, not once, but three times (Mark 14:72).

Several weeks later, the man who had denied Jesus stood in front of the high priest and other members of the council, having been arrested along with John and imprisoned for preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. This same man who had, with some of the other disciples, hidden in an upper room so that he would not be arrested by the same leaders who had arrested Jesus, now stood before those leaders and proclaimed that Jesus, the man they had crucified, was risen from the dead. Peter proclaimed, to these men, who could have had him put to death, that there is no other name by which we can be saved but the name of Jesus (Acts 4:10-12).

The high priest and the other leaders knew that Jesus’ followers were all uneducated, common men. When they heard the words that Peter had spoken and saw the boldness of both Peter and John, they were astonished. So, what caused this boldness, this total transformation? Acts 4:13 gives us one reason, which was recognized by the Jewish leaders. The disciples had been with Jesus. But there were two other reasons for the boldness of Peter, John, and the rest of the disciples, reasons of which the Jewish leaders were not aware, prayer and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded His disciples to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, which was the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus told them that when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they would receive the power to be His witnesses throughout the world (Acts 1:7). The disciples did as Jesus commanded, returning to Jerusalem, where they waited in an upper room. In that upper room, in unity, they devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:12-14). Then, on the day of Pentecost, a mighty rushing wind filled the room in which the disciples were gathered, tongues of fire rested on each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. These uneducated, common men began to speak in other tongues, languages they had never before known, and they began to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:1-4). As a result, many people came to faith in Jesus Christ.

As believers, we are called to be Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world. We are called to spread the good news of salvation that comes through faith in Jesus. And, just as Peter and John and the other disciples did, we too can proclaim the good news with boldness. It starts by being with Jesus. We need to seek His presence, learning all that we can about Him and His teachings. We must also devote ourselves to prayer, talking and listening to Him as we seek His will for our lives. And we must seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When we follow Jesus and make Him Lord of our lives, we are promised the help of the Holy Spirit. When we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, He will give us what we need to boldly proclaim the good news.

 

Spiritual Growth

Lobster.jpg

The largest known lobster ever caught was 3.5 feet long, weighed over 44 pounds, and was estimated to be over 100 years old. How does a lobster get that big? Lobsters continue to grow throughout their lives through ecdysis, a process more commonly known as shedding or molting. A lobster has a hard shell that does not grow so, in order for growth to take place, the lobster must shed its shell. When the lobster has removed itself from the shell, it is then able to grow and produce a new shell. Basically, for a lobster, growth requires removing the old so that the new can be put on.

When we make a decision to follow Christ and make Him the Lord of our lives, our lives are changed. As we begin to walk with Christ, we also begin a life of spiritual growth, a growth that should continue throughout our lives. Just as the lobster sheds its shell, a believer must shed the old self, our old way of life that is corrupted by sinful desires (Ephesians 4:22). We must shed things such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (Colossians 3:8). It is only when we shed the old self that we can begin to grow in Christ, becoming more like Him so that we can then put on the new self, which is in His image (Colossians 3:10).

As we shed the old self and walk with Christ, there are several areas in which we should begin to grow. We need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), recognizing that it is only by the grace of God through Jesus that we are saved. As we grow in grace and knowledge, we must also grow in love. Just as God loves us, a love He showed through the sacrifice of His Son, so we must grow in love for one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12). We must also grow in understanding, becoming mature in our thinking while remaining like children when it comes to evil (1 Corinthians 14:20). Our minds need to be transformed so that we can discern God’s perfect will for our lives (Romans 12:2).

Our God is holy. When we shed the old self, we must also grow in holiness. As believers, God calls us to a life of holiness, living righteously in obedience to His will and His Word. (1 Peter 1:15-16). Fruitfulness is another area in which we should grow as we walk with Christ. In the parable of the sower, Jesus said that the seed that fell on good soil is the seed that bears fruit. The seed is the Word of God and, as believers, we should be like that good soil so that His Word in us will enable us to be fruitful, bringing the Gospel to others so that they may also come to know His saving grace (Matthew 13:23).

Finally, we must grow in contentment, learning to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. We must learn to be as content in times of need as in times of plenty (Philippians 4:11-12). In good times and in bad, our contentment should come from the knowledge that God is in control, He is faithful, and His love for us will never end. Throughout our lives, we need to be sure that we continue to shed the old self, enabling us to grow in grace, in faith, in love, in understanding, in holiness, in fruitfulness, and in contentment. When we shed the old self and put on the new, true spiritual growth will be the result.

Faith + Works = A Faith That is Alive

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17, ESV)

Faith is important to the life of anyone who chooses to follow Christ. It is by our faith in Christ that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). In order to follow Christ, we must walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). We need to have faith if we want to truly please God (Hebrews 11:6). And anything that we do in life that does not come as a result of our faith, that doesn’t line up with our faith, is sin (Romans 14:23). But faith that saves, faith that enables us to walk with Christ, faith that pleases God, needs to be a genuine faith, a faith that is alive. The true test of a genuine faith, of a faith that is alive, is in the fruit it produces in the believer. A genuine faith will be accompanied by works.

Some may say, “But wait! Doesn’t Scripture teach that we cannot be saved by works, but by faith alone?” Yes! Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that it is by our faith that we receive God’s gracious gift of salvation and not by works. This is so that we can walk in humility and not boast about how the good things we have done have saved us. But the faith that saves is a genuine faith and a genuine faith produces works as the believer seeks to follow Christ and do God’s will.

Let’s say that you decide you would like some plants around your home. You go to the nursery and buy the plants, the pots and some soil. Using the soil and your gardening tools, you pot the plants and put them around your house. A month later, the plants are dead. Why? You neglected to water them! Without water, the plants could not live. A plant without water is a dead plant, just as faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:17). A dead faith is a faith that is not genuine, it is a counterfeit faith.

The fruit of a genuine faith, a faith that is alive, is a life that pleases God. It is a life that has Jesus at its center. Without Jesus, we do not truly live (1 John 5:12). But when we have that genuine faith in Christ, when Jesus lives in us, we have a faith that gives and produces life. This kind of faith will create a desire in us to do works that please God, doing good for others in His name (Hebrews 13:16).

Trust in the Lord

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT)

Trust is defined as having confidence in someone or something. It means that you rely on the integrity, the ability, or the strength of that person or thing. When it comes to God, it is easy to say, “I trust in God.” In the United States, our currency even says it: “In God We Trust.” But how do we show that our trust is more than just words? I believe the answer to that question can be found in the verses of the third chapter of the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 3:5 begins with a command to trust in the Lord with your whole heart. The Hebrew word translated as “trust” in this verse is bātah, which means “to trust, rely on, depend on.” It carries with it the sense of being fully confident and feeling perfectly safe. God’s people should feel complete confidence in Him and should feel that sense of safety in putting their trust in Him. Trusting God should be a characteristic of all who believe in God. To show that our trust in God is more than just words requires three things: seeking His wisdom, His ways, and His will above our own; honoring Him with our wealth; and submitting to His discipline.

After the command to trust the Lord in Proverbs 3:5, the verse goes on to say that we should not lean on or depend on our own understanding. God’s wisdom is far greater than any earthly wisdom, just as His ways are greater and higher than ours. In verse 6, it says that we should seek His will in everything that we do. God’s will is perfect. In order to understand God’s wisdom, and to fully grasp His ways and His will, we need to read His Word and keep it in our heart. If we truly trust God, we will seek His will for our lives and follow His ways. This means showing a total commitment to God with our lives (Romans 12:1-2).

Proverbs 3:9 tells us that we must honor God with the best of what we have, with the firstfruits of our labor. All that we have comes from God. Whether it is our wealth, our time, or our talents, it comes from Him and so we must honor Him with it by giving of our wealth through tithing, and giving of our time and talents in serving Him. If we do not give faithfully to God, we cannot say that we truly trust Him with all our hearts. In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our heart attitude does not reflect that our hearts are with God, then we cannot say we trust Him.

In Proverbs 3:11-12, we can see another way in which we can show our trust in the Lord, by submitting to His discipline. A loving father disciplines his children. Children need discipline and trust in their fathers (and mothers) to provide discipline so that they can learn from it and grow to be responsible, healthy adults. Our heavenly Father also disciplines us, His children, and His discipline is meant to keep us from sin and prepare us to receive His blessings. When we accept His discipline and submit to it, we demonstrate our trust in Him.

When we truly trust in God with all our heart by seeking His wisdom, His will, and His ways, by honoring Him with our wealth, and by submitting to His discipline, God, in turn, blesses us. When we trust in His ways and seek His will, He will direct our path in life. When we honor Him with our wealth (money, time, and talent), He will bless us by trusting us with even more. And when we submit to His discipline, He delights in us and blesses us.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Seek the Approval of God, Not Man

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43, NLT).

Jesus had performed many signs and miracles. He had gone throughout Judea teaching with great authority. Yet, many people did not believe in Him (John 12:37). They did not see Him to be who He truly was, the Messiah, the Son of God. There also were those who believed, even among the Jewish leaders, but were silent about their belief. They kept it hidden, kept it a secret. Why? Because they feared being ostracized, being put out of the synagogue by the Pharisees. These secret believers were more concerned with the praise of men than the approval of God.

As believers, we need to ask ourselves, “Whose approval am I more concerned with, the approval of the people around me, or the approval of God?” We have been given the good news of Jesus Christ, the news that He came to earth, died to pay the penalty of our sins, and rose from the grave, conquering sin and death so that we may have eternal life with God. Jesus made a way through which our relationship with God could be restored. This good news has been entrusted to us by God so that we may share it with those around us, not to please man, but to please God (1 Thessalonians 3:4).

As believers, we must be ready at all times to speak of our faith with others, to share the gospel. We need to seek the help and power of the Holy Spirit to give us a boldness to share our faith and the words with which to do so. We must never be worried about what people will think of us or what they will do to us. We may be ostracized by others and even pushed away by those we care about. But it is God’s approval we must seek and not human praise. We must never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ because that good news has the power to save all who come to believe it (Romans 1:16).

 

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

The Math of Salvation: Confess + Believe = Saved

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, ESV)

Yesterday, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the defining event of the Christian faith. Easter has now passed, but its meaning for our lives is something that we should celebrate every day. As a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have been given the hope of salvation.

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul talked about this hope and how we can secure it. Securing that hope takes action on our part, action that involves both inward and outward expressions of faith and trust. I will call that action the “math” of salvation. The “math” of salvation is this: “confess + believe = saved.” In Romans 10:9, Paul tells us that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, then we will be saved. Confess + believe = saved!

Let’s look at this a little more closely. When we confess something with our mouths, we are giving an outward expression of the trust that is within us. I love the way this is translated in the New Living Translation, which says, “if you openly declare that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9, NLT). So what does it mean to confess or openly declare that Jesus is Lord? It means that we are acknowledging by our words that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. We are declaring to the world that we believe with our hearts and minds that Jesus is God made flesh.

When we add that confession of the divine sovereignty of Jesus to a heartfelt faith that Jesus was raised from the dead by God, the result is salvation. That faith, the belief in the resurrection of Jesus, is the inward expression of faith and trust. So which comes first? Before we can confess our faith and trust in Jesus as Lord, we must believe in our hearts that He is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. When we have this heartfelt belief, we are justified or made right with God. We are then able to confess or declare that faith with our mouths and receive the gift of salvation (Romans 10:10).

Confession and belief are two separate steps to salvation. They are both equally important. We receive the gift of salvation by acknowledging to God that Jesus is Lord, that He is God and believing in Him. And this gift of salvation is available to everyone. Paul says that, when it comes to salvation, God makes no distinction between Jew or Gentile. Jesus Christ is not just Lord of the Jew or Lord of the Gentile. He is Lord of all. And everyone who calls upon His name will be saved (Romans 10:12-13).

Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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