Who Deserves the Praise?

Imagine working for a boss who never thanks you for your effort. Say there is an important project with a looming deadline, and the whole team makes personal and professional sacrifices to make certain that the project gets completed on time and with superior quality. The owner of the company arrives and throws a big celebration party for your boss – but the team isn’t invited. You hear rumors of awards and bonuses being lavished upon your boss – but the team gets nothing. You see your boss in the hallway and congratulate him on the job well done – but he does not acknowledge that you or the team had anything to do with his accomplishment.  I think you get the picture. And what do you think of your imaginary boss?

You might stay at that job if you have devotion to the work the company does. You might stay because you need to provide for yourself and your family. But I’m pretty sure you won’t stay out of love for your boss. And the sense of injustice you feel toward the situation is not caused from a lack of humility or selflessness on your part. It rubs you wrong because the boss is prideful and the situation isn’t an honest representation of the work that’s being done.

Contrast that with a story a friend of mine shared yesterday. She had worked at a thankless job for years – often fielding complaints and rarely hearing gratitude. She was a teacher. At midlife she made a career change and came to work for a man who recognized the value of each person who contributed to the success of his business. He went out of his way to appreciate the “least” with simple words of thanks.  And he noticed and was thankful for the good work my friend was doing. That happened years ago, but it holds deep meaning for her even now. She said, “I would have done anything for that man.” His appreciation for her effort caused her to want to freely give more effort.

Now listen to this:

I looked again. I heard a company of Angels around the Throne, the Animals, and the Elders—ten thousand times ten thousand their number, thousand after thousand after thousand in full song:

The slain Lamb is worthy!
Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength!
Take the honor, the glory, the blessing!

Then I heard every creature in Heaven and earth, in underworld and sea, join in, all voices in all places, singing:

To the One on the Throne! To the Lamb!
The blessing, the honor, the glory, the strength,
For age after age after age.

The Four Animals called out, “Oh, Yes!” The Elders fell to their knees and worshiped.

The saved in heaven are a part of that crowd. And they are all, of one heart, praising the Lamb of God. There are several such descriptions in Revelation of this type of praise session bursting out around Jesus. This one is recorded in Revelation 5. And that leads me to believe this:

He alone is worthy of all the glory and all our praise.

“Well, of course!” you might say. “Any christian knows that.” We know it in our heads, but do we know it in our hearts?  Is that what comes out of our mouths?

Have you heard “God helps those who help themselves”? Or a similarly themed, “I have to do my best and God will do the rest.” Or “If you want to be saved, you have to keep all of the commandments – or at least try.”  Now I’d like you to consider this: If  when I get to heaven I’ve done 10% of the work to be saved and God has done 90%, where’s my praise? Or if I’ve been very strong-willed and able to pull off 45% and God picks up the other 55%, don’t I get more accolades than the person who could only put in 10%?  Or if I’ve disciplined myself severely and become perfect, obeying every commandment, don’t I deserve … all…the praise?

If I deserve some level of praise and instead all the glory and praise goes to Jesus, God would be dishonest, prideful, and unjust at best.Why would we want to spend eternity with a God like that? Why would we go along with that… for ever? The problem isn’t that we’re currently too selfish to accept that arrangement. The lopsided praise seems wrong because it would be against the very proclaimed nature of God for Him to accept that kind of praise if He wasn’t actually worthy of it.

However, if … if indeed we are in heaven 100% because of the gift of Jesus Christ, then and only then is He worthy of all the glory and all our praise.

And then He is a good, good God for being worthy of the praise and for accepting it.

So, if Salvation isn’t at all tied to what I do, “What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? ” Paul asked that very question in Romans 6.  And here was his immediate response, “Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

As we consider the love of Jesus, the Holy Spirit will increase our understanding of the Father’s heart, and we will respond to His love (John 12). We will desire to spend time with Him, and He will work in our lives to change us as we do so (Philippians 1, John 15). As we look to Him, we will be healed (Numbers 21, John 3). Our desires will be changed (2 Corinthians 3) and doing the will of our heavenly Father will be a natural response (Psalms 37).

So what about the law? It is a tutor, teaching us the nature of God and showing us how it differs from our own nature (Galatians 3). It is a mirror, allowing us to look at ourselves and realize our need of Jesus (James 1). That isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime look in the mirror. It is a daily look, a daily repentance, a daily dependence on Jesus. When we contemplate our lives and recognize where we’ve fallen short of the mark, a God-dependent response isn’t “I should be a better Christian than that. I need to try harder at that tomorrow.” But rather a God-dependent response sounds more like, “I failed to rely on You, Jesus. I believed a lie about You when I acted in opposition to Your way. I have sinned against You. I repent of my self-reliance. I repent of not trusting You in that area of my life today. I want to know You more, Jesus. Draw me to You. Help me to see You more clearly. Create in me a clean heart.” (Psalms 51) You see, we don’t spiritually mature out of our need for Jesus. But rather we realize our need for Him more as we grow (John 15).

There certainly is a reward for choosing to be a rule-follower and acting in kindness toward others. You are much more likely to live a life of freedom rather than imprisonment by doing so. You bring peace to yourself and to those around you. You enjoy a sense of stability and harmony with the world. But if you were hoping to do good things in order to contribute to your salvation, Jesus says, “You’ve already gotten your reward here on earth.” (Matthew 6)

Yes, in Revelation we are told “Here are they who keep the commandments of God” (Revelation 14:12). But I take that as a statement, not instruction. One cannot decide to keep the commandments in order to be in that group – or we would indeed deserve some of the praise that is lavished on Jesus in heaven. Rather, by deciding to follow Jesus every moment of every day, He will work in our lives to cause us to keep the commandments of God. For the commandments will be kept, but they are to be kept in spirit and in truth – not just in letter. (Romans 7, 8)  No amount of personal effort allows us to keep the spirit of the law without a new life in Christ. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1).  It’s not that the glory I deserve pales in comparison to the glory Jesus deserves. It’s that He deserves all the glory.

Jesus is the hero of every story.

He deserves the praise!

And that’s good news!

Advertisements

Bought with Blood

Bright red blood dripped from the blade. The old man looked down at his bleeding flesh. Pain seared through his body. He slowly sank against the terebinth tree and slid his body to the hot sand to avoid fainting. Beside him was his boy. His boy.  But not the boy of promise. Surrounding them were over 300 men. Some were moaning. All were bleeding just like the old man.  He thought back to the conversation he’d had that morning…with God.

God: Didn’t I promise you that I’d make you a great nation?

Abe: Yes. I am an old man now, God, and my wife is way beyond childbearing years. So I helped You out and got a son for myself – You know, Ishmael…

God: I know Ishmael, Abe, and I will take care of him. But he’s not the boy of promise. Abe, when I make a promise, I keep the promise. That’s how I am. Now here’s the deal. You can’t keep my promises for me. Do you understand?

Abe: I understand.

God: To help you remember, Abe, I need you to do something for me.

Abe: Sure God. You say the word.

God: Cut the tip off of that thing.

Abe: What? I’m not understanding anymore, God. What thing?

God: The thing that you used to try to keep my promise for me. Cut the end of it off.

Abe: THAT?!

God: Yep, THAT! I want you to always remember to rely on me. What I say, I will do. The only thing you need to do is believe. Got it?

Abe: Got it.

blood drops

Despite the pain, Abraham smiled as he relaxed into God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.  Praise God, for He changes not and the deal is still the same. All I must do is believe … and quit trying to do God’s work.

The inspiration for this blog was a sermon preached by David Asscherick on 3ABN. Click his name for a link to his Facebook page.