More on the Sacrifice of Praise
Now let’s consider what it means in verse 15 that the sacrifice of praise is called…II. The Fruit of Lips
First, notice that the sacrifice of praise is called a fruit, not a work. It’s not a laborious duty. What’s the difference between a fruit and a work? Well, machines can work, only life bears fruit. You can’t bear fruit unless you are alive, so only those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit can offer the sacrifice of praise. An unbeliever can mouth the words, but he’s not bearing the fruit of true praise and thanksgiving. Praise is a fruit of the Spirit, I know it’s not on the list in Galatians 5, But in Eph 5:18 we read “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now although praise is a spiritual activity, although we need the sap of the Holy Spirit flowing through us in order to bear the fruit of true praise, this doesn’t mean that our bodies are not physically involved in praise. Yes, it is true that all life can be thought of as worship, but that’s not what he’s talking about here. The sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips, it’s sounds coming out of your mouth. singing or some sort of vocal praise is in view here. We tend to be too abstract and ethereal in our thoughts about worship. Even in Romans 12 where we would most likely go to make the point that all life is worship, even there Paul says that your spiritual service of worship is to offer your bodies as living sacrifices. When I encourage you to praise God, I mean sing something. Sing in your car, sing in your home, sing around the breakfast table, sing on a walk in the park. Sing more and more continually says Hebrews 13:15.
Now wait a minute, you say, who can sing continually? You can’t sing 24 hours a day and doesn’t that suggest that the author of Hebrews might have an inner quiet submission in view instead of an external worship?
No, I insist upon it from both exegesis and experience, you’ve got to use your lips if you want the blessing of offering the sacrifice of praise. Of course you can’t sing 24/7, but the phrase continually is literally “through it all” that is, through all circumstances. On bad days as well as good days. And of course the test for us is the bad days. That shows us if our worship is truly spiritual, truly spirit borne joy in the things of the Spirit. Can you rejoice in God even in difficult circumstances. Can you still rejoice in your salvation even if every other hope is being dashed? When circumstances are unpleasant, where do you go for refuge? Do you turn to pleasures of sin and worldliness or do you turn to the pleasures of God?
Now what do I mean by that? How do you turn to pleasures of God? I’ve said over the last few weeks that we can’t pay God back for all his goodness to us, instead we lift up the cup of salvation and ask for more, we ask to be refilled, we seek to drink from the fountain of God’s Spirit. And I have been asked this week what that really means? How do you drink down the Spirit of God? It’s a good question, it’s where the rubber really meets the road. This is what we must learn to do. We must learn how to experience the pleasure of God’s presence. We must find joy in his presence as a superior alternative to the fleeting shallow pleasures offered by the world. So what exactly do we do?
My answer is the same as it was 2 years ago when we looked at how to walk by the Spirit. It’s primarily two things. 1) Meditate on the word of God. Read it and linger over it and delight in it. and 2) Sing. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you sing. Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing… That’s what you need to do to turn to the pleasures of God when your Spirit is downcast. I experienced it afresh Friday. My spirit was restored as I finally picked myself up and started singing. Isa 61:3 says that Jesus came to give us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Praise is the opposite of despair. CS Lewis wrote that “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates himself to men.” Listen to that again… (repeat) That’s when you experience the presence of God, in the act of praising Him. Ps 22, God inhabits the praises of his people. That’s how to come into his presence. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
Now someone might be here saying, “You call me to praise and delight in God, but you don’t know what I’ve been through this week. You don’t know about the horrible fight I had with my wife this morning, you don’t know about my terrible defeat in my struggle against sin. I might be able to move my lips and say He’s worthy, cause He is, but there’s no way I can sing with my heart right. The sap of the Spirit won’t flow through me this morning because I’m too bad.
What you need this morning is the gospel, and I see the gospel in this verse in this next phrase…
III. Give Thanks Through Him
It’s actually the first phrase in verse 15 “Through Him” we are to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Through Jesus Christ. Through Him our praises are acceptable even though they come from unclean lips.
In the preceding paragraph of Hebrews 13 the author has been contrasting Christian worship with the worship in the Jewish synagogue and he wrote this in verse 10 (read)
We have an altar. If you read the whole book of Hebrews, this phrase can strike you as such a triumphant conclusion that it brings tears to your eyes. We have an altar. What is our altar. Jesus Christ is the altar upon which we lay our sacrifices of praise and as Jesus himself said in Matthew 23, it is the altar that makes the gift acceptable. We tend to think its our sincerity that makes the worship acceptable, but the truth is that we are all insincere in varying degrees on different days. That’s not the gospel. The good news of the gospel is that your worship is acceptable to God despite the impurity of your heart if you offer it through Jesus Christ who died to purchase for you the forgiveness of all your sins.