Enter His Presence: Rediscover the Joy of Approaching God
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Because what is praise? It is meant to be a celebration, it is meant to be an extolling of God in His greatness and in His attributes, it's meant to be a boasting of God - and when we boast, we do it in an exuberant, unrestrained manner. Now, I'll grant you this type of praise can be misinterpreted and misunderstood, and especially in our province - because when somebody really starts getting excited, praising God, well then folk think they're exhibitionists, or they're being showoffs or self-centred.
It has to be said that often that can be the case, and often people abuse the liberality of their praise and just want people to focus on them and how greatly they can praise the Lord - but that is not an argument against praising God. Let me show you why: the Lord Jesus Himself in the Sermon on the Mount, did He not say that our almsgiving, our fasting, and our praying can be done hypocritically?
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We can abuse those three things: giving to the poor, fasting and making people know that we are doing it, and praying to God on the street corner and wanting people to think that we are very holy - but that was not used by the Lord to say that you shouldn't give to people who are poor, and you shouldn't fast, and you shouldn't pray; of course not! He was telling us to do it righteously and honourably.
We wouldn't dream of ceasing almsgiving, fasting and praying because it can be abused.
Praise can be abused, and there are people who get carried away and abuse praise, and they cast off all restraints and self-control. There are pretensions and learned behaviours that can be evident in meetings where there's supposedly a great deal of praise - sometimes it's nothing more than playacting or copying - but that is not an argument against exuberant praise!
Far from it, it's a reason to expose the counterfeit by the genuine. Indeed, I am of the conviction that the masterstroke of Satan, the enemy, is to frighten Christians away from exuberant, hilarious praise of God by using the abuses of others.
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Now here's a principle, if you want to know how to praise God and yet avoid extremes and abuses, here's the principle: God-consciousness will cast out self-consciousness. God-consciousness will cast out self-consciousness. In other words, the more conscious you are of God's presence, the more blind you will be to the presence of those around you - that means blind to embarrassment before them, and blind to impressing them if you're prone to self-centredness.
You see, if we could get God-conscious - that's what I said at the beginning, what is praise? It is an appraisal of God, and if we could get so taken up with God we wouldn't care who is around us, we wouldn't care what they thought, whether they are impressed or whether they are embarrassed by us.
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Was David self-conscious when he danced naked before the ark of God? That's an interesting one! You remember how Michal, his wife, was embarrassed at his behaviour. She went as far as rebuking him, and you know what happened to Michal: she was cursed by God and made barren. Was the sinner woman in Simon the Pharisee's house self-conscious when she anointed the feet of the Lord Jesus with that precious ointment, when she washed His feet with her tears, when she kissed them and dried them with her hair - was she self-conscious? If she had been self-conscious, she wouldn't have done it!
Do you know what had to happen? For that act of praise and worship, that very expensive alabaster box had to be broken - and I believe in the life of many believers, including myself, there are restraints and restrictions to exuberant worship, we feel the spirit of worship welling up within our souls, but something is confining it in, and that thing, that vase, needs to be shattered that the perfume might arise. What needs to be broken in your life to let the spirit of praise out? Let me move on now from what praise is and how praise is expressed, to what praise can do.
Before just entering into that, let me say this: the Bible says, 'In the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin', 'Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few'. When I talk of exuberant, excited, unrestrained praise of God, I'm not talking about hot air and verbiage - there's a great deal of that in our churches.
I'm not talking about flowery terminology and expressions that make newborn believers, lambs in Christ, feel that they can't pray because they can't get the dictionary out the way some people do!
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What I'm talking about is what Matthew Henry said when he said: 'Be not afraid of saying too much in praises to God, all the danger is of saying too little' - that's what we're talking about. In other words, if I could put it this way: it is impossible to exaggerate when you're praising God! Now before we move on to what praise can do, I want you to see how it's impossible to exaggerate the praises of God.
Turn with me to Luke 19 for a moment, and here is evidence from the Lord Jesus Himself that He desires this excited, enthusiastic, exuberant praise. Luke chapter 19 verse 'And when he was come near, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice', they were shouting loudly and jubilantly, 'for all the mighty works that they had seen'. They had appraised the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they mentally had that journey of about 16 inches from their mind down to their heart, and then the heart came out in their extremities - their hands, and their feet, and their voice - in praise to God.
Verse 38, this is what they said: 'Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest'. Now watch this please, verse 'And some of the Pharisees', miserable lot they were, 'from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples'.
Tell them to whisht, to keep quiet' - listen to the Lord Jesus' retort: 'And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out'. Does Jesus Christ, the Son of God, want excited, exuberant, enthusiastic praise?
I say He does, but is that what He gets?
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Is that what He gets from you? Is that what He gets from us? Let's see what praise can do, because this message is about the power of praise, and I want to share about six things - and it's not exhaustive, but about six things that praise can do. First of all praise accelerates answers to prayer, do you know that? There are many prayers of the Lord Jesus recorded in the New Testament, but there is only one time that He was asked the question: 'Teach us to pray', and He said these words, 'After this manner pray ye That prayer, that we know as the Lord's prayer, better called the disciple's prayer, begins with praise: 'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name'; and then it ends with praise, 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'.
The first 10 words are praise, and the last words are praise. Now the reason why the Lord Jesus taught us to pray that way is that praise is a means to accelerate answers to prayer. Now I don't have time to show you from the New Testament, but there are many examples of how we are exhorted to pray in supplication with thanksgiving, with praise.
It was George Mueller, that great man of faith, that said when you need God to answer a prayer you ask God for a promise; and when God gives you a promise, having prayed for the promise, then you start to praise from the promise - pray for the promise, and then praise from the promise.
When you start praising God that He has promised you something, He's given you a cast-iron guarantee of it in His word, you will accelerate that answer. I read a wonderful statement this week by a man called John Livingstone, listen to it carefully, he said: 'A line of praise is worth a leaf', a whole page, 'of prayer. An hour of praise is worth a day of fasting and mourning'. Let me repeat that: 'A line of praise is worth a leaf of prayer. An hour of praise is worth a day of fasting and mourning', because praise has a power in that it accelerates answers to prayer.
Let's see something else: praise encourages the miraculous. In Acts chapter 16 - and there are other examples of this, we don't have the time - but in Acts chapter 16 you remember Paul and Silas were in jail for the faith of Jesus. We read: 'At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed' - there's a connection between their praising God, singing, and the miracle!
There is a power in praise in that it encourages the miraculous. If you want an Old Testament example of this, I'll give it to you now, which also illustrates that not only does praise encourage the miraculous, but praise wins battles. In 2 Chronicles chapter 20 we read that Judah faced a huge army across the Dead Sea. King Jehoshaphat didn't know what to do, so he proclaimed a fast and the people sought the Lord.
The Spirit of God spoke through the prophet and told the people: 'The battle belongs to the Lord', and dispelled their fears. They were instructed early the next morning to go out to see what the Lord had done, and at dawn they marched to the battlefield as though they were going to some religious festival. It wasn't the 'SAS' of their time that led them into the battlefield, do you know who it was?
It was the musicians and singers, the praisers of God - they led the way. The Bible story tells us that God heard the praises of His people, God heard the songs of their faith, and the enemy was destroyed.
Enter His Presence: Rediscover the Joy of Approaching God
Do you know how the enemy was destroyed? God caused that they should turn one against the other and slay each other!
The people of Judah didn't have to lift a hand, and the Bible says that when Judah arrived at the battlefield all they had to do was collect the spoil - and it took them three days doing it - and it says that with unbounded joy they went home and praised the Lord, singing on their return to Jerusalem. We read in that story, 2 Chronicles 'Now when they began to sing', here it is, 'and to praise, the LORD', Jehovah, 'He set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated', when they began to sing praises, because praise sparks victory!
Do you have victory in your life? Well, ask yourself how your praise is - is it blossoming? Is it with the whole person, spirit, soul, and body? Is it excited, exhilarated praise, enthusiastic praise, unrestrained praise, exuberant praise?
For if you could only get through to God in your praise, I believe you may well have victory! Now, linked to that is another thing that praise does, for not only does praise accelerate prayer and encourage the miraculous and win battles, but praise drives the devil away. Praise, that's right, drives the devil away! He had been anointed of God as King of Israel, but he had been so disobedient, and God was chastising him with an evil spirit.
We read that, 'it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul', that he called for a musician, and that musician was David - the new anointed of God. Listen carefully: Satan is allergic to praise! We don't just praise God for God's benefit - primarily that's what it's for - but we also, as a secondary benefit, we drive the devil away, and as a selfish benefit we are blessed ourselves and can be delivered.
Where there is jubilant praise, Satan is paralysed.