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He wants our praise

March 24, 2013

Palm SundayPraising

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me”.

John 17:1-8

Palm Sunday is a festivity. It is a celebration in praise of God where we express our joy in God because he is shown himself as our king, our sovereign, our God. All those who believed his message during the three years of his ministry were now praising Jesus as the Son of God, the King and the Messiah. With the day that we call Palm Sunday, as we read in chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, a period ends in the ministry of Jesus and another begins in the life of humanity.

Jesus was a human being and came to us as a mere man in order to reach us in a more understandable way. However, while he was incarnate in a human body, his was the Spirit of God. He lived as a man physically, but inside he was God. His mission was to tell the world that he had been sent by God to bring a message of hope, happiness and salvation. This was the message: All those who accept that God sent his Son into the world and choose to believe in God through him and accept that he came to sacrifice his life to give us salvation, will be considered saved and God’s flock.

This statement is very simple to understand, if indeed we accept it by faith or it can be very difficult and intricate if we see it with critical human eyes. This is not something we’re going to understand humanly, so you are free to accept it or not. It is only up to you and your faith in the gospel message.

The church is not an association or club, nor a civil organization or a company, nor a charity or aid organization. The church is not a philanthropic society; the church is not an ethnic entity or secular society. The church is a building itself, where those who profess faith in Jesus Christ come together to worship and praise His name. They meet to share His Word that is only registered in the book we call the Bible and it is our supreme authority. We come to church to seek His help. This help is not human. We come to seek divine help, that is, God’s help. When we pray, we are showing that we believe in Him. People who do not pray still do not believe in God. People who cannot pray have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is impossible to say that I am a Christian if I cannot pray to God. That’s a good sign to know if I am a Christian: Am I praying to God? Do I have a prayer life, a daily communication with God? If not, then there is a problem in my ‘Christian life’. There is something that is not working in our spiritual life.

We can say that Palm Sunday brings to an end the time of preaching on earth for Christ. Jesus begins to appear as king, as God, as Messiah, the one sent by God. People no longer refer to him as a man, prophet or teacher. People praise him and pray to him and regard him as God. During this Holy Week there is the suffering, which we also call ‘passion’. For Christ suffers. Here begins Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed for us. This is somewhat difficult to understand: why would he sacrifice himself? What for? These are difficult questions to answer. Even the greatest theologians could not answer them correctly. But there is something we can do with our human nature: believe in it. God does not ask us weird things. God does not ask you to become a theology professor or wise and all-knowing. All God asks for is your faith and devotion to him. That is the first step of faith.

This Easter I want to bring a simple, yet challenging, message. It is the same message Christ delivered throughout his ministry:

How is your life? Do you believe in Christ as the Son of God? Or do you still have doubts? How is your life? Do you believe that God died on the cross for you? How is your life? Do you agree that God is a loving God who only wants to fill your life with love and forgiveness? How is your life? Do you put your faith and trust in Christ, as he is God? How is your life? Do you pray to God daily or are you not able to pray and or do not know what that is? Could you answer these questions in a positive and clear way? If you truly want to be a Christian, you have to put your life in order. God wants to change you. And the change that you need to make begins with your own spirit.

In this Holy Week, there may be a unique opportunity for you to see that you’re here today, in this building, not because of custom, even though you may have come here for many years. You’re in this building because it is a church. And here is when we invoke God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God himself is present and wants to be praised, wants to be glorified, wants us to sing to him, wants us to read His word and, above all, wants us to believe in him and have a life of prayer. Surely he is awaiting an answer from you in this season.

If your life is full of faith and reverence for him, surely you have a Bible in your house and open it every day, though you often do not understand much. But that’s obedience and faith. Surely, you are placing your life in God’s hands with confidence. That’s obedience and faith. Surely you pray in your own simple words daily. That’s obedience and faith. Surely you love your church and try to put it in the first place and take part in all services as possible. That’s obedience and faith. If you are living that way and those things happen in your life then rejoice because you are sincerely praising God in the same manner as those people who praised him on Palm Sunday, even though you have not lived with Him and you could not wave palm branches before Him. But if you are waving branches with your heart, he will love you and bless you for that every day of your life.

Being a Christian is about other things too. When the second part of Great Commandment tells us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are saying that we should love and help specifically and materially with work, money, help, love, affection and solidarity. We should do all of these works of love but we must remember to not overlook the fact that, first of all, all this must come after having praised, worshiped and glorified Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as our king. For deeds done for God are worthless if they are not done firstly out of our gratitude and worship of him. That is the mystery of the gift of salvation, of the priority of our faith and worship to him.

God needs our worship. For that he is the very first thing. The church that does not have the ability to praise God is not obeying him. As human beings we are not very used to praising each other. That is also a mistake. It should not be so among Christians. But we must pay special attention to praise God so that he may bless our lives and our church.

Praising God means expressing worship through our own spontaneous prayer to God, with our joy, for he is our God and we come to a church for worshiping. When we worship we are allowing him to come into our lives. If we can understand that and do it, God will begin to answer those things we still are not seeing answered in our lives.

And finally I’d like to tell a nice, real story about the true meaning of putting our worship and trust in God first:

The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn’t know what to do. Napoleon’s massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which was situated on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church.

The pastor rose and said, “Friends, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord’s resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us.”

The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the enemy broke camp and left.

More than ever on Palm Sunday, God comes to ask us to remember that he expects from us praise, worship and glory as part of our obedience to him. Amen.

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