Exultant Praise

God chose us before He formed the creation. He separated us out from all those whom He would create and proclaimed that He would be our God and we would be His people. He loves us now even though we daily reject the guidelines He has given us and turn instead to our old chains. What a great God we serve! Why would God choose to love us, miserable people that we are? Our great God chose to love us so that we would see His wonders and praise Him for His glorious grace.[1] We will then praise Him who He is and what He has done for us.

What a glorious God He is! God is the King of Creation. He is sovereign over all things, and has predetermined all of history to serve His own divine will. Not only is He the original being, the Creator of all, and the sovereign King, but He is also the only source of all good. Only God is worthy to be praised. Whom else can demand the praise of men? The greatest of us are but dirt and grime in the light of His boundless power and goodness. Every good thing is given by God, and every evil thing He gives power to and directs to serve His purpose.[2] If this Eternal King gave us nothing but punishment, He would yet be infinitely worthy of all our praise. If He had promised us hell, yet our every thought and desire could only be well directed if it served His commands.[3] He is the one and only God.

This great God is our God! This high and mighty Master of the universe came down to earth in the person of the Son. The Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, condescended to our filthy state to face every temptation and suffer the rejection of His Father, who was one with Him in being![4] All of our sins were erased before the sight of our righteous God as our bleeding Savior, rejected by man and by God, cried out, “It is finished!” Therefore it is not only our duty to praise our powerful Creator, but it is our joy to praise the endless mercies of our loving Father.

We praise our Father, for He has made us heirs of Christ’s reward. We praise Him, for He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings.[5] We bring glory to the Name of our Master as we direct our every purpose, goal, though, desire, and action to the service of His people in the station He has given us. We praise Him as we do His commandments, for only He could free such sin-bound creatures as us. We praise Him after we fail to do His commandments, for we know that only He could turn such stubborn sinners back to Himself. We honor Him for His perfection, and we love Him for He first loved us.

Our Father loves us now. He has loved us from the beginning and He will love us eternally. Despite our wretched state He has purchased us to be members of Christ and live in communion with Him. He has done all of this to serve His own good pleasure , so that we would praise Him for His beauty and grace. Let us praise our King forevermore!

Seth Bleyenberg

 

[1] Ephesians 1:5-6, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

[2] Examples include: God’s use of Cyrus, emperor of Persia (Ezra 1:1-4), God’s use of Satan’s work in the book of Job, and God’s use of wicked nations to purify His people and redirect their hearts to Him (Isaiah 1:24-28)

[3] Even the wicked are called to repent and believe, and therefore are called to obey God’s commands. (Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”)

[4] Jesus did not face every temptation, but He was “in all points tempted like as we are,” so that He fully understands our struggles against sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

[5] Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…”

The Lord’s Service: the Focus of Reformed Worship

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever”

(Westminster Larger Catechism, A.1)

Quite some time ago we introduced an intended series of posts on the nature and purpose of Reformed worship and the reasons we in the PRC worship in the way we do. It is about time that we picked up that dropped thread and begin anew with a few reflections on this topic that is so central to the life of the Reformed Christian. As the blog of the Protestant Reformed young people one of the main purposes of this site is to encourage enthusiasm for our own Protestant Reformed distinctives and unity in our identity as Protestant Reformed Christians. Hopefully, these posts will stimulate thought about our worship practices and remind us of the rich tradition that we are blessed to have received.

Presently, we shall consider the “what” of worship, that is, what worship itself is and what the focus of worship ought to be. The answer to this question should be obvious. The focus of worship can only be whatever it is that we in fact worship. If we worship Jehovah our covenant God, then He must be the center of the service, and He must be allowed to determine every detail of our services. In particular God has determined that our worship is to be directed entirely to Him and His glory. Nothing which distracts or detracts from this supreme goal of worship is to be permitted.  We take this very seriously in the Reformed tradition, and so the focus of worship in our churches is entirely upon God and His glory and worth. After all it is the Lord’s service, a divine service; it is not ours to customize as we wish. This is one of the distinguishing features of our Reformed tradition. Our worship first and foremost is vertically oriented. We emphasize the majesty, sovereignty, and transcendence of God in our worship services, even as we have joy in Him and do not forget His imminence in Jesus Christ. We come to God not casually, but with an attitude of reverence, awe, and humility; for we understand that we are in the presence of the almighty king of heaven and earth. “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him”(Hab. 2:20).

When we enter church, this must be our mindset. When we enter the sanctuary, we must come with the intention of praising God and magnifying His glory. We must not first of all be concerned with what we are going to “get” out of the worship service, but with what we are to render unto the Lord for all His goodness to us.  It follows that true worship can only come from the heart, and not just any heart, but a devout and believing heart. This is because only a regenerate child of God can ever have this proper attitude. Whereas by nature man’s heart is given over to sin and only ever curses God, true worship is the natural language of the believing heart. Worship is the outpouring of Spirit-prompted praise that cannot be contained but rather must bubble forth as a spring of water. The child of God can do nothing else than worship the Lord of his or her salvation with joy and reverence.

This is also the case because the worship of God is the very thing for which we have been created. It is also that for which we have been redeemed in Christ. As the Westminster puts it, the glorification and praise of God is our chief and highest end. God made us for His worship and glory! This is the teaching of Scripture in that illustrious first chapter of Ephesians, in which the apostle Paul, himself busting forth with unrestrainable praise, proclaims:

“that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph. 1:10-12).

For worship we have been created, and to worship we are presently called. On the pilgrim journey of this life the worship of God in the church on the Lord’s Day is the highest calling of the Christian, and also one of the greatest “good works” which a Christian performs out of faith. It is in a real sense a prelude to eternity, in which that chief end of man will be fulfilled, and beholding God in the face of Jesus Christ, we shall worship God and enjoy Him in perfect blessedness forever. It is easy to lose sight of what we are doing on the Lord’s Day, and it is easy to render nothing but routine lip-service, but we must do all that we can to put away such indifference from us. If we truly understand who God is and what He has given us in Jesus Christ, how can we ever be so cold and careless toward worship? As the next Lord’s Day approaches let us strive to focus upon God and His glory so that we may offer sacrifices of praise, which are both acceptable and pleasing in His sight. Such is the Reformed way.

Next time we shall consider the horizontal aspect of worship, namely, the importance which the Reformed tradition places upon the truth that worship ought to be edifying for the believer.

Justin Smidstra