This summer, we are embarking on a new sermon series in the book of Psalms. The members of our congregation will inevitably fall into one of three categories as they approach church attendance this summer:
#1 Church is optional
“Should we go to church Sunday? It’s vacation time. The weather forecast is great. Perhaps we should use that day and go on a long bike ride.” It’s far too easy to consider church attendance of equal or lesser worth than spending the day in nature or with family. Or then there’s this line of thought: “I have to register online and wear a mask, we can’t sing, there’s no fellowship time . . . I’ll rejoin church when things are back to normal.” (There’s no telling how long that wait will be!)
#2 Church is an item on my spiritual checklist
Maybe you fall into the category of a semi-faithful church attender, but not necessarily because your heart is in it. That internal monologue may sound like this: “I’m going to church because I should and because I will experience less guilt if I do, but if I’m honest, I’m more excited to return home, put my feet up, and enjoy some ‘me’ time.”
#3 Church is vital
Sadly, it is probably the minority that fall into this third category. “Church is vital for my spiritual well-being, therefore not only will I make it a priority, but I will attempt to engage with my whole mind and heart. I need to hear the Word of God preached, but I also need to praise God alongside my brothers and sisters. I need their encouragement and they need mine.”
As we open the book of Psalms together, we will be challenged to praise God.
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
Praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
Praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
- Psalm 150
The truth is that the same three categories exist for praise of God. Praise can be viewed as optional, as an item on our spiritual checklist, or as vital.
C.S. Lewis says this about praise:
I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
Praise involves not only expressing enjoyment, but also inviting others to join us in the enjoyment . . . and of course, I am referring to the enjoyment of God, the worthiest Object of both enjoyment and praise!
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says this:
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”
Praising God isn’t optional if we truly love, enjoy, and delight in God. It will automatically overflow from us if that is the case.
Which one of us perfectly loves, enjoys and delights in God though? The answer is none of us. None of us are “in perfect love with God – drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by…” THEREFORE, we need church! We need to be together. We need to be influencing and encouraging each other.
C.S. Lewis points to Heaven as that time and place in which we will perfectly overflow in praise of God for all eternity. Church, by comparison, is where we tune our instruments; Heaven will be the symphony. But there is beauty and necessity in the “tuning up of the orchestra”. It’s imperfect, even sometimes ugly and messy, but it is a time of proclaiming all TOGETHER how much we love and enjoy our God who is worthy of praise!
(I personally encourage you to go to Amazon and grab a copy of Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis, also available in German: Das Gespräch mit Gott: Beten mit den Psalmen and read it along with the sermon series. I’ll be reading it too!)
Blog by Kristi Walker of CrossWay International Baptist Church.
Published on 16. July 2020 from Berlin, Germany.
Photo by Khalil Yamoun on Unsplash.