Brother Steve Layne, one of our elders, told us in our men’s Bible study two weeks ago that his class memorized Psalm 100 in public school, this and Psalm 121. At Alexian and Martin Boyd, whenever we do the services for them, I know we can count on that crowd to be able to say by memory, the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, and several other passages of scripture.
It is beautiful and joyful for people, seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, to memorize and proclaim God’s word.
One of the benefits of memorizing scripture is the joy that it brings. Psalm 19 says, the Law of the Lord is perfect rejoicing the heart. The word of God causes our hearts to rejoice. It also can give us wisdom, understanding and protection us from sin. Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
It seems to me that we all at least TRY to remember the things we consider are important, don’t we? We tend to do things to make sure we remember or can recall whatever we most value and care about. We make notes and mark calendars and take pictures of what we think is worth while. Whatever we take delight in we tend to think about often. Psalm 1 says that the one who is blessed by God delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night.
That’s part of what I love about the Signal Mountain Church of Christ. This church delights in God’s word! That’s one of the things we do all the time. One of our highest priorities is to focus on and do classes and studies on the Bible, and also, try to share God’s word with others. That’s not an accident! It’s a precedent. It’s a core value of our faith and practice. And, to be honest, it’s becoming rare in our world today. You are among the few and the rare who have actually taken it upon yourself to read through the entire Bible, purposefully seeking God’s voice and will. And not just one time in one year, but over and over!
I was listening to John Piper’s series on “Fighting for Joy” recently and he shared that he has been reading the Bible through every year for over 25 years. Why? Because it is God’s word to us and the more we read it, the greater our hunger for God, and the better we understand His will for our lives so we can DO His will and enjoy His blessings. Not just to say we’ve read it, but also to DO what it says. That’s the purpose for going through the Bible together. We are purposefully prioritizing His kingdom and righteousness.
I am thankful to be part of this great adventurous focus, thankful that God has given our leadership this vision and mission and that they are leading us to do this together. There is an amazing and awesome shaping power from God when God’s people encounter the message of this book. God speaks through its words to us. The seed of truth is sown in our hearts. His word will not return void.
May the soil of our hearts humbly receive this word and follow God’s instruction and bear much fruit for His kingdom.
Is it any wonder then, that Satan works so hard to silence God’s word in so many places? He works to to diminish it, to mock it and displace it, getting us to fill our schedules so full we don’t think we have time to read it, to discourage us from ANY devotion to memorizing it’s words? Satan whispers excuse after excuse for why it’s ok to put off reading God’s word. He seeks to deceitfully form his own values into our hearts and minds. His message screams at us from all sides, does it not? How shall we deal with this?
Maybe we need to shout back! Maybe we need to joyfully sound out God’s glorious praise, using God’s own words from God’s own inspired book! Maybe we should invite everyone else to join us! Psalm 100:1
Would you all say it with me? And say it loudly, with joy!
I wonder what you think of this Psalm? It’s a noisy one, is it not? Shouting with joy, worshipping with gladness, coming to God with joyful singing. What’s going on here? This is like Old Testament VBS. Children seem to be less inhibited from shouting. Have you noticed? Isn’t that great? Not everyone thinks so.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the Sunday before His resurrection, it was in triumphal celebration. In the temple courts people were coming to Jesus, and Matthew 21:15-16 tells us:
“When the chief priests and teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. Do you hear what these children are saying, they asked him. Jesus answered, “Have you never read, out of the mouths of infants and babes I have ordained praise?” Luke 19:37-40 tells us that children were not the only ones shouting praise to Christ, and Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus said, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the rocks will cry out!”
There’s a song that goes, “Ain’t no rock, gonna cry in my place, as long as I’m alive I’ll glorify His holy name. Well, well, well, praise His Holy Name, as long as I’m alive I’ll glorify His Holy Name.”
There are many things to shout about. We hear shouts of anger, shouts cheering on our sports team, and shouts to someone at a distance so they can hear us. But when do Christians shout praises to God? And where is it appropriate to do so? There is a joke about a visitor coming to church and when the preacher made a particular point, the visitor shouted, “Amen! Praise the Lord!” Everyone was quiet, and the preacher stalled a moment, but then went on. Again, hearing another truth that hit home, the visitor stood to his feet and shouted, “Amen! Praise the Lord!” much to the discomfort of the crowd. So an usher quietly went over to the man and whispered, “Why are you shouting?” The visitor replied, “I was just praising God.” And the usher said, “We don’t do that here.”
I remember one time when our kids were very young and we lived next to a busy highway in New Hampshire. Jen and Tim were outside standing by the road and whenever a car passed they would yell out: “Repent!” That’s not quite the same as shouting praises, but it’s in the same Bible.
1 Peter 2:9-10 shows us what God has done for us and why. 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 marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy but now you HAVE received mercy. God makes us His chosen people, His royal priests, His holy nation, His own possession. We are purchased with the blood of Christ, bought and paid for, redeemed from sin, delivered from darkness and death, saved and justified by His amazing grace. We are adopted into God’s own family, sealed with God’s own Holy Spirit, sanctified for God’s own purposes. We are commissioned by God’s own Son to make disciples of all nations. How? What do we do to win others to Christ? How do we start the process for making disciples of others?
I believe it starts right here. Declaring His praises. Satan whispers shut up, and we simply shout out His praise.
It’s the praise of God that will begin the process of winning the lost and making disciples. Praise is not the only thing, but it is the first thing! Certainly there is the need to confront sin and call for repentance, but that needs to come afterward. Why should anyone stop sinning and repent? Because there is a holy God who created this world and everything in it for His glory! This One true and living God created you and me in His image and for His glory! Everyone is created by Him and for Him! In Him we live and move and have our very being! This is God! Let God’s people declare Him and who He is and what He has done! Let us begin with praise before we expose the darkness. Praise shines the light into the darkness! O taste and see that the Lord is GOOD! People who truly believe in God and love God will praise God. If we are afraid or embarrassed to praise Him, how an you convince anyone in sin turn from their thrills to Him? Why should anyone follow a Savior no one is excited enough about to praise? Declaring His praise is the very purpose for why God has made us His. We see that in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Is this true? Am I making this up?
I wonder how many of us here today think we should learn to shout God’s praises like it says here in Psalm 100, or declare His praises like it says in 1 Peter 2:10. What hinders us from doing that and what might help us?
1. Maybe our hearts need to be more filled with praises. Jesus told us that what’s in our hearts comes out of our mouths, Matthew 15:18. Maybe if we fill our hearts with praises to God they will come out of our mouths more often. And then, maybe, when we do shout, perhaps praise will come of our mouths out instead of other things.
2. Perhaps we’ve heard God’s praises abused and don’t want to be misunderstood. We’ve seen or heard of those who say, “Praise the Lord!” loudly and openly, but then their lives spoke differently. Someone once said, “I can’t hear your words because your life is speaking so loudly.” It’s important that we praise God not just with our words but also with our deeds, amen?
3. Maybe some of us are just embarrassed and don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. That’s not the purpose of praise. Praise is declared to draw attention to God. Praise points to God, not ourselves. Now it’s true that when you shout God’s praise there may be some who misunderstand you and think you are just looking for attention. The Pharisees weren’t happy with those who were praising Jesus either. The point is, instead of worrying about what others think, focus on what God thinks. Jesus knew this and defended those who shouted His praises, God knows why you do what you do. Pray He will give you a heart so full of praise that it pours out of the words you speak.