Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Praise the Lord!

The word “blessing” has a twofold meaning in Greek. It is both the act of bestowing a gift and also the act of thanksgiving and praise, so God is to be praised for all the gifts he has showered on mankind.
The most important one being the gift of being his adopted children in Jesus Christ. Paul writes that we have been chosen. Now the term “chosen people” was very emotive and powerful – it had galvanised the Jewish people for centuries and was written to galvanise the young Christian churches and by extension to strengthen us. We are chosen. We are privileged. We have been given firsthand insight into the character and nature and wisdom of God, an insight denied to everyone born before the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We have redemption, forgiveness, and an insight into the will of God that is cosmic in its scope. We have this inheritance of faith and the first and proper response and responsibility is that we should praise God for everything that he has given us.
For Western Christians like us, reading an Eastern text there are two things that run counter to our deeply held cultural values.  
First of all, passages like this insist over and over again that we are utterly dependent on God. God creates, God destines, God wills, God reveals, God accomplishes. Human beings in and of themselves achieve nothing, except in cooperation with God. This is a direct assault on our Western sense of independence and autonomy. In our culture we have almost totally lost that sense of dependence and need to re-learn it.
The second thing that cuts against the grain of so much modern Christianity is the insistence that our first obligation is praise and thanksgiving. You will notice of course that this is dependent on our first problem – our sense of independence.
We are modern pragmatic people who have our emotions under control and our first response is to ask “What should we do?” in a practical sense.
Paul says, your first response is gratitude and your responsibility to praise God. Think about doing things afterwards.
To most modern people that seems like so very little response at all but on such a response everything else that we associate with Christianity rests.
Let me end with a bit of history.....
In 1647 there was a meeting in London between English and Scottish theologians and lay people who wanted a shared document that would bring the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. What came out of that process was the Westminster catechism.
Catechism is a way af teaching the faith in a question and answer style and the first question is;  What is the chief and highest end of man?

The answer is;   The chief and highest end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

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