By Pastor Glenn Pease
In the middle 1800's Henry Comstock staked his claim and dug until he found gold. He was getting some, but knew there had to be more. He was convinced there was a mother load there somewhere, and he kept digging. Weeks turned to months, and months to years, and finally he gave up in 1859 when he was offered $11,000 for his claim. The new owner dug just a few feet deeper and struck that mother load. The Comstock mine produced 340 million in gold.
So often in life we stop digging too soon, and miss the mother load of blessings God has for us. That is why Paul wrote in Gal. 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." After Christmas is over it is easy to give up the Christmas spirit, and put wonder and praise on the back burner for another year. When we stop digging for the wonder that makes us worship, and the presents that makes us praise, we stop short of the mother load, and fail to get all the gold God wants to give us.
Mary Lacyin her book A Woman Wants God tells of asking her new neighbor if they were going to her mother's home for Christmas. "Oh, no," she said, "My husband has to work on Christmas day, so we will stay right here." "But doesn't that nylon plant close down even for Christmas," she asked. "No, they can't," her neighbor replied. "Once the flow of liquid nylon begins to move through the large pipes it would be disaster to stop it. It would cool and harden, clogging and ruining the machinery. They must keep the nylon flowing even on Christmas day, for it is a continuous process."
That is also the description of Christian praise. It is not something you can shut down, for it is also a continuous process. It, of course, does not stop for Christmas, but it is to be a continuous process that does not stop for non-holidays and week days either. We have a tendency to stop and give up praising God, and thereby robbing ourselves of the mother load of blessings God has for those who learn that praise is a continuous process. The main reason we stop short is because we never really grasp the Biblical teaching that every believer is a priest whose job it is to continually offer a sacrifice of praise. This text in Heb. 13:15 that tells us this, is in direct opposition to the common concepts that only a special class of people can be priests, and that sacrifice is no longer necessary, and that praise should be limited to certain days and places. Hidden within this verse is a mother load of golden truth that can make each of us rich if we are willing to keep digging until we strike it.
I am convinced that the key to a happy New Year, and the key to a happy new forever lies in our digging out of this verse all that it contains. This verse is a shaft to a mine that runs all through the Bible, and as we dig deeper and deeper I can assure you that if you hold on to what we dig up you'll be rich in the way God wants you to be rich in the days ahead. This verse opens up many veins of treasure concerning praise. We see here:
THE PATHWAY TO PRAISE-through Jesus.
THE PRIESTS OF PRAISE-let us.
THE PERSON OF PRAISE-God.
THE PERPETUALNESS OF PRAISE-continually.
THE PRICE OF PRAISE-offer a sacrifice.
THE PURPOSE OF PRAISE-confess His name and please God.
These and many other aspects of this subject will be our focus in the coming weeks. Since it is a subject that most of us have not studied in any depth, we are going to start our exploration of this gold mine of Biblical truth by focusing on our duty as Christians to be perpetually offering to God the sacrifice of praise. Therefore, the first shaft we will decend will be called-
I. THE PRIESTHOOD OF PRAISE.
Martin Luther brought it to life; the Baptist picked it up as one of their foundation principles, and most other denominations acknowledge it as a basic Biblical truth. It is the priesthood of all believers. The Old Testament system of priests and sacrifices has been made obsolete. Sacrifice was done away with by the once for all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The idea of a special class of people who alone could intercede and offer sacrifice is eliminated, for the curtain in the temple was rent from top to bottom, when Jesus died on the cross, allowing all to come into the presence of God. There is neither male or female, Jew nor Gentile in Christ, for all are equally free to come into the very holy of holies to offer to God the sacrifice of praise.
No longer is there a Gentile part of the temple. No longer is there a female area beyond which women could not go. No longer is there a division of lay people and clergy where the clergy could go into the presence of God, but not the lay people. All of the old system is changed, and now, in Christ, all believers are equal, and have full access to the presence of God. Freedom of worship is what Jesus made universal by His sacrifice. Now all Christians have the right and the privilege of offering to God the sacrifice of praise.
The primary purpose of our existence is to be people of praise, and to do those things in life that produce praise to God. That is the whole point of God giving man gifts. Every gift we have has one goal, and that is to produce praise. The purpose of all creativity is to produce praise. The beauty of music, art, literature, science, and all of life is to lead us and others to praise God. Thank God for all which kindles love and appreciation for the Author of life.
Why do you think Paul wrote in Phil. 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." It is because Paul knows the very essence of life is in praising God, and the more you focus on the things to praise God for the more you will fullfill your purpose for being. Praise is no sideline. It is the job of the believer. It is the duty of the priests to offer praise perpetually, and this can be hard to do if you take your eyes off the lovely and praiseworthy, and begin to focus on the evil and ugliness of a fallen world. You cannot escape this reality, and neither could Paul, but your job as a priest is to always look beyond it to that which leads to praise.
George Herbert wrote, "Of all thy creatures both in sea and land only to man thou hast made known thy ways and put the penne alone into His hand and made Him secretarie to thy praise." As secretary of praise it is our job description to take notes of all there is to offer praise to God about, and encourage others to do the same, and live a life of praise without ceasing. The point we need to grasp is that this duty of praising God perpetually is the duty of every Christian. It is not a specialized task like teaching or preaching, or playing an instrument. All of the gifts of the Spirit, and all talents are specialized ministries which are limited to those who have the gifts and talents. The members of the body who do not have these things cannot perform the tasks of those who do. The eye cannot hear, and the ear cannot see. The hand cannot smell, and the nose cannot lift, and on and on we can see the many things that are specialized tasks for people who can do them.
Offering the sacrifice of praise is not one of these specialized tasks. It is the duty of every believer because every believer is a priest, and every believer has a duty to offer sacrifice, and the only acceptable sacrifice is the sacrifice of lip and life, which is praise to God. This is what all parts of the body have in common. It is the basis for unity. Gifts give us variety in the body, and praise gives us unity. Since many of you may not have known that you were priests, because you do not recall your ordination into priesthood, it will be our first task to help you see that this is your vocation in the body of Christ. The more you see who you are as a priest who leads worship in the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is your own body and life, the more you will be a true worshiper in spirit and in truth, which Jesus says, the Father is ever looking for.
Christian worship is not a matter of professionals doing something while the rest of the people watch. Christian worship is a matter of participation by every person in the congregation. We need to get the true picture that Kierkegaard gave of the church at worship. God is the audience; the congregation are the actors or worshipers, and the pastor, song leader, organist, pianist, and choir, are the promoters whose job it is to motivate you to praise God. The leaders of worship are to be aids to your worship. You hear a song and you praise God for its beauty and its truth. You hear an insight into God's revelation, and you thank God for it and praise Him for His Word. The essenes of all we do as leaders is to get you, the worshiper, to praise God, for that is your job as priests. If you do not praise God, you have failed to worship, for that is the essence of worship.
If we learn this, every service will become more meaningful, for you will not just be passive spectators, but active participators in worship. If the promoters are so poor that nothing they do or say motivates you to praise God, then do it on your own. Think on those things that move you to praise God, for just because someone else does not do their job does not mean you have no obligation to do yours. Your job is to continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
Now, lest you think this is an isolated verse, let me share with you that this is the clear teaching of Peter the leader of the 12 Apostles. If anyone would want to suppress the idea of the priesthood of all believers, and keep this job in the hands of the professionals, it would be Peter. But Peter throws the door open to all in I Pet. 2:9. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Peter belonged to the most exclusive Christian group ever to exist-the 12 Apostles. But he knew that the 12 had no corner on the priesthood. This was the office of all Christians, and all are called to the ministry of praise. You can lack the gifts you wish you had, and feel inferior and inadequate in many ways, but you are a part of the royal priesthood if you are a believer in Christ, and you have the duty of offering the sacrifice of praise; not once a year, or once a month, or once a week, but continually. The temple of praise is never closed.
As American Christians we pick up the values and practices of our culture. Being a mere spectator is a major part of our culture. Ride the bus and leave the driving to us, or we do it all for you, as the ad says. We bring this attitude to church, and expect others to do our job for us, but it doesn't work that way. I can only praise God for myself. I cannot give God your sacrifice of praise. The choir can only praise God for themselves. They cannot do it for you. Every Christian has to offer their own sacrifice of praise, and this is good, for when they do they become a part of true worship. This is the goal of God, and so everywhere we see the idea of the priesthood of all believers, we see the act of praise. Priesthood and praise are linked, for that is the primary task of New Testament priesthood.
In Rev. 1:5-6 we read, "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father-to Him be glory and power forever and ever." Praise God that we are all called to be priests who praise God. It is our purpose as the people of God to offer perpetual praise. But since we have not paid close attention to this, we can go through a service and never think of it. We have much to praise God for, but we are not conscious that it is our duty. We have stopped short, and the mother load is left just a few feet away, and we rob ourselves of the riches that come with doing our duty.
This vein of golden truth was buried for centuries. The clergy took over the whole process of worship, and the laity was shut out. Only the priest could offer sacrifice and give holy communion, and only they could baptize. The church forgot grace and fell back under the law of Moses. It began to function much like the Old Testament system of temple worship. Jesus destroyed the temple and raised up his own body as the temple, but the church raised up the old temple again, and for centuries Christianity was made a modified form of legalistic and ritualistic Judaism. It was the same system where Jesus himself did not qualify to be a priest, let alone the high priest.
In 1520 Martin Luther began the reformation, and one of the key truths that he revived from the New Testament was the truth of the priesthood of all believers. He wrote, "Christ has made it possible for us, provided we believe in Him, to be not only his brethern, co-heirs, and fellow kings, but also his fellow-priests. Therefore we may come boldly into the presence of God in the spirit of faith and cry "abba Father." Pray for one another, and do all things which we see done and foreshadowed in the outer and visible works of priests."
The basis for women being deacons and serving communion is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Their is nothing any layperson cannot do that the priests of the Old Testament did as an exclusive body of people, for now Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, male and female, are all priests of God. To deny this you have to rewrite the New Testament. Jesus did not qualify to be a priest under the Old Testament, but now He is the Hight Priest over the people of God. None of us qualify to be priests under the Old Testament, but now under our High Priest, we all qualify just by bing a part of His Kingdom.
We no longer offer blood sacrifices, for Jesus eliminated that by His own sacrifice. Now we offer spiritual sacrifices. In I Pet. 2:5 Peter writes, "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ." How often to we come to church and do not recognize that we come as priests to offer the sacrifice of praise? I have never asked anyone if they wanted to be a priest, but I have asked many if they want to become a Christian by faith in Christ. I just never stopped to think of it, but when you ask the one you are also asking the other, for as soon as you become a child of God you are a priest of God. It is the priesthood of all believers, and not just of some, or of more mature believers. All believers are a part of the priesthood. As soon as you believe in Christ you are on duty, and responsible for offering the sacrifice of praise. Praise is the universal gift of all God's people.
A believer who does not praise God is like a doctor who does not give medicine; a teacher who does not give knowledge; a pilot who does not fly. A priest must praise for that is the very purpose of his being a priest. Even the believing children are priests. Psa. 8:2 says, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." When children sing Jesus loves me this I know, or any other song of recognition of Christ, they are fulfilling their duty as priests of the Lord most high. There are no exceptions. There are no children of God who are exempt from this duty of praise. It is absolute and universal-let all who have breath praise the Lord.
If the choir has sung beautifully and we have not praised God, we have not worshiped. If the soloist does a marvelous job, but the rest of us have not praised God, we have not worshiped. If the pastor preaches a wonderful message, but we have not praised God it is mere noise, and we have not worshiped. That which makes all that we do be true worship is the sacrifice of praise. Only when the whole priesthood offers the sacrifice of praise have we worshiped in a God-pleasing and Christ-honoring way. This means we can not longer come to church as mere spectators expecting someone else to do the duty of worship for us. We must come with the expectation that we as priests will offer to God the sacrifice of praise.