When looking at the Epistles, it is essential to understand how the Bible is presented to us. In the Old Testament and the Gospels were giving a very historical and geographical presentation of Jesus so that we come to know about Him and to know what He has done for us. The gospels give us an understanding of the humanity of Jesus, providing a practical time and place where Jesus lived. This presentation causes us to believe in Jesus because no one comes to the kingdom of God by what they know but rather by the way they believe. We first are born into a relationship. Before we know any of the rules of the kingdom we are born into a family through our relationship with Jesus. A relationship is born through our belief in Jesus as the Son of God.
Once we believe, then we have to begin to know Jesus. The Epistles deal very little if any with the historical and geographical presentation of Jesus but deal almost exclusively with the philosophical presentation, which leads us to learn of the God that we begin to know in the Gospels. So instate of description the Epistles offer a definition. So that we know not just the stories of the Bible, but we know the God behind the stories. For me, this was something that made a powerful impact in my early Christian walk. I grew up in a church that was very much a rules church. We were taught all about hell and how that if you mess up that you were bound for hell. I remember having this unhealthy fear of God. After my conversion and my infilling of the Holy Spirit, I began to study the Word of God and go deeper into the Bible. What I learned was more of God’s personality. From that point, no one could threaten me with God. I mean I reasoned in my mind that if God died for me, then He was not going to throw me away so easily. The Epistles teach us what the teaching, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus mean to us individually and collectively as believers.
When we do not know Jesus and who He is it causes us to have a low view of Him and a low view of ourselves as Christian. Three times Paul tells three different congregations to “Walk Worthy.” Walk worthy of God, walk worthy of the Lord, and walk worthy of your calling. Paul is saying that we should realize that in Christ we have authority and we have blessings that will cause us to be able to accomplish what God has called us to. When we walk worthy, it causes us to see that Jesus has given us an overcoming Spirit. Paul says in Philippians 4 to “Rejoice evermore”….. “and again I say rejoice.” The more that we know Jesus, the more our praise become powerful, and it brings us into a more in-depth understanding with God. Let me explain.
The first level of praise that we see is when we come and praise God for what He has done in our life. This stage is when we look at the things that God has done and we praise Him for all those things. God saved us, and so we praise Him. God filled us, or God delivered us, and so we praise Him. We prayed for a better job, and God gave it to us, and so we praise Him. We praise God for the promise that we have in our life, and this is great, and we should all ways praise God for the blessings that have come into our life, but the truth is that in the best Christian life there are times when things are not going so good. If we are not careful we tend to praise God, less when things are not going the way, we think they should or either we take God for granted with things are going good. Or even worse we begin to believe that we are doing it our self and that God has very little to do with it and therefore we begin to praise our self by doing what we want to. If we fail to realize who Jesus is by understanding Him deeper, then we get stuck here and our praise is never as powerful as God would like it to be.
The second stage as we grow in Christ is that we praise God not for the situation but for the revelation that we have gotten from Him. Praising God because of revelation takes me deeper than just what God is doing, but I can praise God for the revelation that He has placed in my life. I praise Him for what is going to happen even when my situation has yet to change. In the physical, I may still be bound, but God has promised that He is going to deliver me, and therefore I praise Him based on the Word that He has given me, and not on the action that is happening at the moment. We should understand it is dangerous for us to judge people’s praise because we look at what we can see, but we cannot see the revelation that God has placed within their heart. They may not be worshipping off of the situation but instead worshiping God through the revelation.
Paul though is taking us deeper than both of these. Though Paul is writing in Greek, he is speaking of praise in a very Hebrew understanding. Paul understood that before praise can be subjective, it must first be objective, which means that real worship’s objective has to be God which is unmovable. Objective means a fact not influenced by personal feeling or opinion. John says,” God loved us first so that we could love Him.” I could not meet the love of God until; first I met the God of love. God’s love was the objective, and because it was there, I could begin to love Him, which is the subjective. The objective of worship is God and God alone, and that does not change based on my situation, but it is based only on who He is. Therefore the third level of praise, which leads me to worship, is that my focus is not on my situation or my revelation, but it is on God and God alone. The more I get to know Him the more I worship Him for whom He is and not for what He has. I worship the God behind the blessing and not because He has blessed me only.
I encourage you to get to know more of Jesus. He deserves all your worship, and He deserves it in its fullness.