Praise: Inner Health Made Audible
To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6
Throughout Ephesians 1, there is a goal. Three times, in verses 6, 12, and 14, is a call to praise God for his grace. I wonder what you think of that. I wonder if it sounds a strange goal to you? It certainly did to C.S. Lewis. He couldn’t understand why God would save people to praise him. I mean, who wants to be around someone who always wants praise? But as he thought through the problem in the Psalms, he realized something.
“The most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.”
Christians are on the path toward inner health made audible, to complete fulfillment and enjoyment of the one person whom our heart longs for the most. We are racing toward the presence of God, and one day we will get there. And our response will be praise.
I wonder if this sounds as good to us as it should. I think to really get it, we need to back up and consider two words in verse 4 that we kind of raced over before. God chose us that we should be holy and blameless before him.
If we want to understand why the goal is the praise of God, we must understand the weight of it means to be before him. God is and will forever be the most glorious person. Our enjoyment of him will be complete as we praise him. Our deepest desires will find their fullest satisfaction. Just as you had to contain your heart from exploding on your wedding day, standing before God in holiness and blamelessness will be a complete inability to keep your mouth shut. All your greatest desires will pour out in praise, your greatest joys will find their end, your deepest longings will be totally satisfied before him. You will have no further wants, no further needs. You will be whole in a way you can barely imagine right now. You will wonder how your heart can take it all in, but it can, because God will give you an even greater heart to bear it—a heart holy and blameless. In this world, we constantly encounter cheap imitations of the real thing. But one day, we will be brought to ultimate reality himself.
So, what will that day be like? The Bible tells us a little about it.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
You might have noticed how many times wiping the tears from our eyes appeared in these verses. Why is that? Because our unholiness and blame created our tears. With every sin we commit and is committed against us, we die a little more inside. But when we are before him, we will behold Life itself. We will no longer have any reason to cry over our little death because the pierced hands of Jesus will remind us of the life we have in him. He will wipe away every tear every sin ever made us cry and we will be reminded that he was the one who took them all upon himself for us. He will give us our life back, we will feel finally at home, and his love will place a smile on our face. We will be made white in the Lamb’s blood. The injustices committed against us will be made right. Every single thing our heart truly longs for will be ours for eternity in him, and the increase of that joy will never end. Every day will be better than last. You were chosen and predestined in Christ for that future! And everything God is doing right now in your life is to get you ready for that day when he will present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. And when we finally arrive, we will explode with praise for eternity.
So we can endure with hope, can’t we? Our life is absolutely massive because we’re on our way to the massive presence of God. And in his glorious wisdom, God calls us to share this journey with others. He calls us to invite others in. That person you’re thinking of right now who doesn’t know him and doesn’t want him might join us on the journey one day. Why not tell them where you’re going and see if they’ll come along?
This is an excerpt from my latest sermon on Ephesians 1:4-6. You can read or listen to the whole thing here.