Christianity 201

November 22, 2018

Most Worthy of Praise (Psalm 96)

by Clarke Dixon

Listen to the 33-minute sermon on which this article is based at this link.

What do we pursue with all our strength? What is of such great relevance to our lives that we invest heavily into it? Crime gives us an indication of what people pursue. The three big pursuits of crime are money, sex, and power. People go to great lengths for the sake of these three things. That might not describe us, but these three may point to things we invest heavily into, such as wealth and security, relationships and intimacy, validation and influence.

Of the roughly 19,000 people in our town, how many are pursuing wealth, relationships and influence? Of the roughly 19,000 people in our town, how many are pursuing God? How many see such a great relevance of God to their lives that they are investing in a relationship with Him?

Perhaps those who are pursuing other things are right? Perhaps wealth is more effective, human relationships are more important, and influence is more useful to daily life? Maybe security feels more necessary, intimacy more satisfying, and validation more important than figuring out the God question? As we consider Psalm 96, we quickly discover that the Psalmist could not agree:

Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods. Psalms 96:4 (NLT)

We might not think we have gods, but things like wealth, relationships, and influence become gods when they sit at the centre of our lives. The Psalmist would have us know that nothing we invest our lives in can compare to God.

The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens! Psalms 96:5

The Lord is the Creator. How can anything compare with that?! We are often made to feel that churches cannot compete with sports and entertainment for the attention of people. Maybe so, however, nothing can compare with God for importance to people. God is most worthy of praise! The Psalmist goes on:

6 Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.
7 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
8 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him. Psalms 96:6-9

God is most worthy of praise! Some would translate verse 9 with “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” While there are ugly sides to money, sex, and power, there is nothing ugly about God or His holiness.

The Psalmist continues,

10 Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.
11 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
Let the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice,
and the nations with his truth. Psalms 96:10-13

God is the ruler who judges “all peoples fairly.” We can take note of the great joy evident in Creation at the thought of the coming king. God is a good king, the kind of king you long for. He is not the kind of king that causes you to run for hiding. God is not the kind of king whose presence you can’t stand the thought of. God is the kind of king you celebrate! God is most worthy of praise!

Thinking of the judgement of the coming king, those of us who are Christians might immediately jump to thinking of the final judgement at the arrival of Christ. The earlier singers of the Psalm would not have thought in those terms. They would have been thinking of freedom for their tiny nation from all their big oppressive enemies. God will judge their enemies “with his truth”. God is most worthy of praise!

If the earlier readers of this Psalm could see how much better the Creator was than all other gods they might worship, then in our day we can see even more clearly that God is most worthy of praise. We have an even better picture of God. We have even more reason to celebrate his presence. We have the benefit of God revealing himself in Jesus. We have the presence of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the once for all work of Christ in breaking the penalty of sin. We celebrate the ongoing work of the Spirit in breaking the power of sin. While rescue from oppression as spoken about in Psalm 96 is important, God goes further to rescue us from the worst oppressor there has ever been; the evil one himself.

We pursue so many things, investing in them with vigour and even excitement. They are not all bad things. However, we may not pursue God with as great a passion as we pursue these other things in life. I forget the exact words, but Timothy Keller tweeted something like “the things you daydream about, can become the things you worship.” It can be very subtle, but God slips from the centre, and good things take His place. However, the good things, no matter how good, are are never a substitute for God. Our Lord is “most worthy of praise!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

All Scripture references are taken from the NLT

October 29, 2017

Sunday Worship

For this week’s Sunday Worship column, we have a writer who is new to us, but part of the WordPress family. Peter Corak has been very faithfully writing devotionals at My Morning Meal since November, 2009. As always, click the title below to read this at source and then use the archives menu to find other material.

Seeker Friendly

I guess I don’t normally think of God as a seeker. Maybe that’s because I think of seekers as needing something and I don’t think of God as in need of anything. But while God has no need of anything, there are some things He desires. This morning I read of something the Father seeks. Of something that He’s actively pursuing–something, in a sense, He craves. Something, go figure, that I can provide.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.”   ~ Jesus   (John 4:23 ESV)

God is a seeker. And He seeks true worshipers to worship Him.

The woman tried to debate the Lord Jesus on the form of worship (John 4:19)– was it after the way of the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim or more along the way of the Jews at Jerusalem. But Jesus didn’t engage in that conversation. He was more interested in the function of worship. The “where” and “what” of worship were secondary to the “how” and “heart” of worship. True worship, said Jesus, was worship offered in spirit and truth.

Authentic worship isn’t tied to the externals of rite and ceremony, but is sourced in the authenticity and sincerity of the inner man. Real worship is less about going through the motions than it is about something moving in and through us. Offerings sourced in the heart and then finding expression as the “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” (Heb. 13:15). True worship is worship in spirit.

True worship is also worship founded on truth, Jesus said. Not in shadows or types, which is what Jerusalem worship offered, but in the substance which those shadows and types pointed to. Yes, it is to be worship based upon sacrifice, but not the shed blood of lambs or goats. Instead, it’s to be adoration in response to the shed blood of the Lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world.

What’s more, worship in truth is not worship offered from afar, carried by another into some cordoned off holy place. Rather, the worship God desires is to be personally, and transparently, brought before the throne of a thrice holy God by those declared to be believer priests, having been cleansed of their sin and robed in righteousness, through the power of the gospel. Able to bring their own offerings, as it were, into the very holy of holies, through the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Worship in truth is direct access worship.

People who worship in spirit. People who worship in truth. The Father seeks such people, true worshipers, to worship Him.

And so, in a sense, God is a seeker. And I ask myself, does God find in me what He’s looking for?

Am I Seeker friendly?

Oh, that my offerings would be sincere. That they would be sourced in thoughtful consideration of the One  I desire to worship. That they would be heartfelt. Brought with fervor before the One who is worthy of mindful and intentional sacrifices of praise. That I would resist slipping into an autopilot slumber with my thanksgiving. But that, instead, my worship would be the fruit of fully-engaged adoration–an expression of loving Him with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind.

That my offerings would be grounded in His word and His ways, enabled and powered by His Spirit. That I would resist the temptation to improvise and bring before the altar that which seems right to me. Rather, that my worship would be a response to the grace and truth found in the Savior. That the cross would ever be my “permission” to boldly approach the God who lives in unapproachable light.

Seeker friendly. That’s what I want to be.

By His grace. For His glory.