A sacrifice of praise Heb 13:15

We are in the third day of national mourning following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Many people are feeling in need of God’s comfort and encouragement and hope and peace in their grief and sadness. We can find all these things in the Letter to the Hebrews and particularly in the final chapter.

The message of the Letter to the Hebrews can be summed up in four words. Jesus IS THE GREATEST! Especially for any Christians who might be weary or discouraged or tempted to wander from their faith. Jesus is the greatest! Jesus is greater than the Angels. Jesus is greater than Moses. Jesus is greater than the Old Testament. Jesus is greater than that enigmatic priest Melchizedek – indeed Jesus is the greatest high priest. And the sacrifice Jesus has made is greater than all the sacrifices in the history of the Temple put together. Jesus’s sacrifice is the greatest sacrifice of all – his giving of himself once for all on the cross for our salvation. Jesus is the greatest. And the amazing salvation He has bought for us is the greatest!

We last looked at the letter to the Hebrews at the beginning of 2015. Let me remind us of some of the inspiring truths we learned then.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

In a world which is changing ever more quickly, it is so reassuring to know we worship and God who will never change – who is always the same for us. That follows two wonderful promises which our unchangeable God makes to us.

Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (quoting Deut 31:6)
Verse 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Quoting Psalm 118:6-7)

Whatever the world throws at us, God is with us. God is our helper. We can trust in Him because God, the unchanging God, will NEVER let us down! Jesus is the greatest! And He never changes – His faithfulness is with us always! So we should step in and enjoy the wonderful salvation Jesus has obtained for us – greater than any other salvation – far greater than the blessings of the Old Covenant of Moses.

9 It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

We are strengthened by grace! Not mere rituals – but the grace of God!

Hebrews 13 continues 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Whatever we may have to suffer, Jesus has already suffered more. And from his suffering we have become heirs to that eternal city which is to come – an eternal salvation beyond time and space in the presence of God and of Jesus our saviour.
Jesus is the greatest! We have received such a wonderful salvation! So what should we do about it? Here are our verses for tonight.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess his name.
16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Let’s begin with the second and third of these exhortations! Doing good and sharing with others. God is faithful to us. He will never abandon us. He will always be our Helper. And that is the standard of Brotherly Love which God expects us to show to each other also. That is how Hebrews 13 begins

Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers.

We should live out the new commandment Jesus gave us – to love one another as He has loved us. We can show our brotherly love in simple ways like hospitality.

2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

And that brotherly love should not be restricted to helping folk who will be able to repay our kindness in the future.

3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.

16 Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

We have thought about those kinds of sacrifices before. God’s faithfulness to us inspires us to show that kind of brotherly love to other people in our own lives. But Hebrews 13:15 talks about a different kind of sacrifice.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.

Sometimes we don’t feel like praising God. Sometimes we forget about all the blessings God pours out on us or about the wonderful salvation we have received through God’s grace. Sometimes we find it hard to praise God because of the weight of circumstances bearing down on us. It may be that many people are finding it difficult to praise God in this period of national mourning following the death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth the Second of blessed memory.
Nevertheless God deserves praise from us even when we least feel like praising Him. We should still be thanking God for all the blessings he pours out on us moment by moment and day by day. God deserves a sacrifice of praise. Whatever may be happening in our lives and in our world, God is worthy of our praise because of who Jesus is – Jesus is the greatest! And God deserves praise from us because of the wonderful salvation Jesus has provided for us. God is always worthy of our sacrifice of praise. We give God our money – our offerings. We seek to serve God in our daily lives in the church and in the world. We read our Bibles and seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus. We work hard to present to God our sacrifices of “doing good and sharing with others.” But Hebrews 13:15 tells us that we should also be offering God our sacrifice of praise and I want to focus on that exhortation for a few minutes.

AW TOZER – “God calls us to be worshippers first and workers second.”

So often we get things the wrong way round. We expect new Christians to work for God straight away but leave them to work out for themselves how to worship God. Of course, in one sense our work and our worship are two sides of the same coin. They are both sacrifices of lives offered up to God. But I suspect if we are honest many of us find it easier to be workers than worshippers. The sacrifice of doing good and sharing with others actually comes much more easily to us than the sacrifice of praise!

“God calls us to be worshippers first and workers second.”

The Shorter Westminster Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” What were human beings created for? What is our purpose in the God’s cosmic masterplan? And the answer it gives is that, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Those two activities are not meant to be mutually exclusive. “Glorifying God” and “enjoying Him forever” are things we are meant to be doing simultaneously. But when it comes to offering to God a sacrifice of praise, many people seem to find it difficult to glorify God and enjoy him at the same time. Worship so often seem like hard work, especially if we are struggling in aspects of our lives. If worship also involves “enjoying God”, why do some people find it such hard work? What hints does Hebrews 13:15 give us to make our worship easier?
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess his name.

The first thing this verse reminds us is that our sacrifice of praise must be offered to God through Jesus. We worship on the basis of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us! Worship is not acceptable to God if it is NOT offered through Jesus Christ His Son. And worship can be false if it is based on wrong ideas about ourselves. Of ourselves we have no right to come into the presence of the Holy Almighty God. By ourselves we are God’s enemies, cut off from God by our sins, in line for God’s judgment. To offer God acceptable worship we must acknowledge our manifold sin and wickedness. We must confess that we have sinned against God and against our fellow human beings, in thought and word and deed, through ignorance, and through wickedness, and through our own deliberate fault, and there is no health in us. Of ourselves we are simply miserable sinners. We have no righteousness of our own, only that which Jesus has bought for us on the cross. There is no good in us – only the beauty and purity and love which Christ shares with us. So our worship to God is only acceptable through Jesus. We are strengthened by grace and grace alone. Our worship is worthless if for one second we forget our own unworthiness and the grace of God which has saved us.

So our worship can be spoiled if we assume a different relationship to God from that which His Son Jesus has brought to us. Many Christians fall into the trap of being too distant from God – like the prodigal son who wanted to be welcomed back as a hired servant rather than a beloved son. But then there are Christians who go to the opposite extreme. Their worship can be too intimate – too irreverent. I have preached on the scandalous intimacy of the woman who anointed Jesus’s head with oil and washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. God does invite us to a delightful intimacy with Himself. The Scriptures do encourage us to go over the top for Jesus! But there are some Christians who approach God with less respect and reverence than I believe is acceptable. We have to ask ourselves – would Jesus Himself address His father that way? Would Jesus pray that way? Would Jesus Himself worship the Father like that? And if our answers are “no” then that kind of worship CANNOT BE worship “through Jesus”.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess his name.

In this verse the second challenge to our worship comes in just one word: continually. Continually. Even when we are making progress in worshipping God in our Sunday services or in our home Groups or in our personal times with God, this one word will still challenge us. Continually! Because God doesn’t just deserve our praise once a week or once a day – but every moment of every day. Our sacrifices of praise should be repeated and continuous. Jesus the Greatest deserves nothing less. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for us demands nothing less. Continuously – even when we don’t feel like praising God and even when circumstances are weighing us down and we are struggling to offer our praise. So how do we praise God continuously?

Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

ALWAYS giving thanks to God for everything. We can do that when we are together as we “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” We should also offer God our sacrifices of praise when we are by ourselves as we “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,”

Praising God CONTINUALLY! We can sing hymns in the car or while we are doing the washing up or even while we are working. Not just in spare moments but taking time to offer God a sacrifice of praise AS WE WORK. This is what the Bible commands us to do.

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

WHATEVER you do – do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus as an act of thanksgiving and a sacrifice of praise. There are different things we can do to help us praise God continually. I guess most people find singing hymns or choruses helpful. We can use Christian music, or books, or postcards or pictures to help us praise God when we are by ourselves. We can listen to Christian radio and add our voice to worship on YouTube videos. I’ve talked before about breath prayers – saying something as simple as “praise you Lord Jesus”. Then there is the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues as a personal prayer language. That spiritual gift can be tremendously helpful because it allows our spirit to praise God whilst our minds may be occupied with other things.

It is very good to make time to praise God whenever the Holy Spirit prompts us. When we see the sunset, or the starry sky, or a beautiful flower or bird or animal. We should resist the temptation to race on and instead take time to pause and to reflect and to praise God. The poet W.H. Davies asked, “What is this life so full of care – we have no time to stop and stare?” We DO have time. We need to make time to praise God CONTINUALLY!
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess his name.

Through Jesus – continually. But this verse carries one more challenge to our praise and worship and that is this. Our sacrifice of praise is “the fruit of lips that confess his name.” In other words – our praise must be expressed outwardly as well as inwardly. Our praises should pass through our lips. Of course, God who knows our every thought can hear our prayers even if they come from the depths of our hearts. But our praise is not just for God’s benefit. Our sacrifices of praise are declarations of God’s greatness to the whole of creation. Not only to the angels who echo that praise, but also to the principalities and powers who are rebelling against the Christ we are praising. Our sacrifices of praise should be united with believers who share our praise. And our praises should also be declared before the watching world who are lost without Christ.

1 Peter 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.

God has saved us so that we might declare His praise before the world. So here is part of the challenge we face – to declare God’s praise continually but also sometimes to declare it so that others may hear who do NOT share our faith. That is our sacrifice of praise – lips that confess the Name of Jesus not only amongst the faithful but also amongst the faithless! Not just in our personal devotions, not only praising God at church with other Christians but also among folk who are not yet believers. We should find opportunities to offer our sacrifice of praise to God every day – lips that confess the name of Jesus.

We may not feel like praising God in these days of sadness and grief. Still we should count all our blessings and continue to praise God our loving heavenly Father for who he is and for all he has done for us.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess his name.

This entry was posted in Hebrews.

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