Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
– Hebrews 13:15 (ESV)
Today, in my study, I came across this verse. Several thoughts came to mind, but only one has stuck with me all day.
Praise should kill.
Sacrifice implies death. When we offer praise, something within should die. With each praise, a piece of the old self should be crucified. I guarantee that many of us aren’t viewing praise through this lens.
There’s an older praise chorus called We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise. It has a happy, clappy feel to it that is supposed to uplift and create a glad feeling. But I’ve gotta say, that vibe doesn’t seem to fit when you include the aspect of death.
I’m not suggesting that all of our praise should be some morose navel-gazing experiences where we constantly look inward for what needs to die next. That resonates at times because the Psalms include worship that invites the LORD to search and try us to see if there are things that need to go. But not all of the time.
Yet, here it says that we should continually offer up a sacrifice of praise. Give him praise that kills. So that leads me to a few thoughts. What things can always die a little more in us when we gather to offer praise?
I lumped these two together because they’re so closely related. They aren’t the same, but where you have an over-realized sense of dignity, pride is right there with it. Pride makes whatever is going on around you all about you. How’s that? Pride is the opposite of self-forgetfulness. When the ark came into Jerusalem, King David forgot all about himself.
14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.
– 2 Samuel 6:14
The word for dancing here doesn’t appear anywhere else in Scripture, and it means twirling. King David, man of men, killer of lions, slayer of giants was twirling as he danced before the LORD, and not in private, but in front of the entire city.
David absolutely slayed his dignity and pride as he offered his praise to God. Now, I’m neither opposed to nor an advocate for dancing – I can’t dance, so you won’t see me dancing in church except for some occasional in-place hopping. However, there are many ways that you and I can kill pride and dignity apart from twirling. Sometimes it’s as simple as going to the altar when the LORD is showing you something that needs to die. The altar isn’t a silver bullet, but killing pride and dignity always moves you closer to Jesus.
Your mileage may vary, so I encourage you to take an inventory of all the feelings you go through when you see others worship or when you feel convicted to do something but suppress it or reason it away. Not to beat the altar thing to death, but a great many people who’ve said to themselves, “I don’t have to go to an altar,” are the very ones who need to sacrifice pride and dignity.
Perhaps we could all stand to practice some pride-killing self-forgetfulness when we gather to praise and worship Jesus. I can think of a few pride/dignity things right now that I know I could kill every week, and I’m the one typically on the platform leading the worship gathering!
I’ll be practicing my twirl until then…
As I’m writing, I realize that this could fall under the umbrella of Pride/Dignity. That’s fine. Consider it a further unpacking of the issue. Here’s a small one that I’ll volunteer. I’d prefer to do the LORD’s Supper every week. It seems the early church observed it whenever they gathered, so I’m personally inclined to mimic them. But I won’t make my preference something I insist upon. I do, though, want to be careful with this one because having preferences isn’t wrong. Everyone has them. There are only two ways that your preferences can become a problem.
First, when your preference is more important than obeying the LORD. That should be obvious, but it doesn’t always play out in obvious ways. Here’s an example. If a believer, who is naturally introverted and quiet, decides that God didn’t wire them to share the Gospel verbally, that’s elevating preference above Scripture. Let’s bring that to our worship gatherings. If this same person felt the LORD lead them to testify during the service, the preference to remain quiet, at that moment, needs to die. It is better to obey and risk looking foolish (which is a dignity issue) than to refuse the Spirit’s leadership and remain comfortable.
Second, when your preferences are more important than unity. It is never biblical to insist on your way, when your way will fracture unity in the gathering. When you arrive at the realization that insisting on your preferences could fracture unity, you have two godly responses. Either find a gathering where your preferences are better satisfied (which is perfectly fine) or, if you know the LORD wants you to stay put, lay your preferences aside for the sake of unity. In the case of the latter, I would consider your praise to be sacrificial because there’s a kind of death happening to your personal desires for the sake of greater unity in the Body of Christ.
Let It Cost You
“…I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”
-2 Samuel 24:24b (ESV)
King David famously said this when a man named Araunah tried to gift him oxen for a sacrifice. Now, I understand that we’re not buying oxen for sacrifices. The principle at work is that when we gather to praise, we assess the cost of following Jesus and praise Him accordingly. Whatever needs to die, kill it. Make war against the sin in your life and then let unhindered praise flow from your lips to His heart. Do we wait until we’re spotless before we praise Him? Of course not, that’s impossible. But there are times when an offense needs to be dealt with before you offer your praise.
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
– Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)
I’ll close with this. When we enter His courts with praise, hopefully, we have taken a moment to consider what it should cost us. We are to continually offer a sacrifice of praise. When we don’t regularly consider the cost we risk offering praise that costs us nothing.