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The best advice I know

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topical Scripture: Revelation 7:9-17

A friend recently sent me some good advice from kids:

  • Never trust a dog to watch your food (Patrick, age 10).
  • When your dad is mad and asks you, “Do I look stupid?” don’t answer him (Michael, 14).
  • Never tell your mom her diet’s not working (Michael, 14).
  • Stay away from prunes (Randy, 9).
  • When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair (Taylia, 11).
  • Never allow your three-year-old brother in the same room as your school assignment (Traci, 14).
  • Don’t sneeze in front of mom when you’re eating crackers (Mitchell, 12).
  • Puppies still have bad breath even after eating a tic tac (Andrew, 9).
  • If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse (Naomi, 15). Never try to baptize a cat (Eileen, 8).
  • Don’t pick on your sister when she’s holding a baseball bat (Joel, 10).
  • Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time (Kyoyo, 9).

This morning I am going to give you the greatest single piece of advice I have ever received. This advice will explain why you are here, and what your life’s most fulfilling purpose is. It will tell you how to find God, every day; how to defeat your enemies and opponents in life; how to respond to discouragement and frustration, and how to experience the power of God in your life and soul.

You might be thinking that one piece of advice could never do all this. But it can. It has in my life, whenever I’ve followed it. It will for you as well.

Let me show you why it’s so, and how it works.

Why should we praise God?

When Jesus was asked, “What is the most important thing God has ever told us, in all his creation and revelation?” you remember his answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength” (Matthew 22:37). According to the Master of the Universe, worshiping God is the most important activity in life. This is the best advice I know.

Why? Why is it this important? Why worship God? John’s revelation of heaven answers our question. Consider these facts:

Praise thanks God for all he does for us. The people of heaven, this vast multitude beyond counting, wear “white robes” (v. 9). These refer to priestly robes like those the pope wears today, but even more to robes of victory such the Roman generals wore. What makes them white? “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14). Blood on a garment is one of the hardest stains to remove, but not this blood. Jesus’ blood bleaches out all the stains of sin in our lives. His forgiveness removes them forever.

So we all wear white robes of victory. Not Baptist robes and Presbyterian robes and Catholic robes. Not just robes for the choir, but for all of us. Robes of victory.

And we hold “palm branches” as well (v. 9). These were used by the Greeks and Romans as victory signs at the Games, like our gold medals today. We are dressed in white robes and hold palm branches of eternal victory, in Jesus.

Then look at our future with him (vs. 15-17): never again will we hunger or thirst or feel the scorching heat of the sun. Jesus himself will be our pastor, leading us to springs of eternal water; and God himself will dry our every tear.

No wonder they praise God! Has God saved your soul? Has he given you victory? Is this your future? Then how can you not thank and praise him?

Praise frames the universe. From beginning to end, all that is worships God. When God was busy creating all that is, “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). When time comes to its final end, the great multitude in heaven shouts “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Revelations 19:1).

And between beginning and end, this is why we exist: God says that we are “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise” (Isaiah 43:21). We exist to praise God. If we don’t, Jesus said that the rocks would cry out for us (Luke 19:40).

Praise leads to God. Where is God located? What’s his address? Psalm 22:3 declares that God inhabits the praises of his people. Psalm 100:4 teaches that we enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Wherever people are praising God, God is there. No matter the circumstances of their lives, they have found God.

A little girl came home from church to discover that her bedridden, depressed father had written over his bed the words, GODISNOWHERE. She smiled and exclaimed, “God is now here!” When we praise him, he is.

Praise leads to the blessing and power of God. Are you afflicted by others? Listen to Psalm 149:6-9: “May the praise of God be in [his people’s] mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the Lord.”

Do you have enemies? Listen to Psalm 8:2: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

Are you discouraged? Listen to Isaiah 61:3: God will bestow on you “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Are you in the belly of a fish, physically or emotionally? Remember what Jonah did: “I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). And God’s response? “The Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (v. 10).

Are you going into battle? As Israel was about to fight for their very lives, “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever'” (2 Chronicles 20:21). The result? “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against [their enemies] and they were defeated” (v. 22).

Are you in prison today, physically or emotionally? Remember Acts 16:25: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” The result? “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (v. 26). And the jailer and his family were converted.

Listen to Psalm 30:11-12: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”

No wonder Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” Do you see why?

How do we praise God?

First, be clean before him. These in heaven have already washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (vs. 9, 14). In other words, they have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation. That’s where praise begins. This is a daily necessity. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Ask his forgiveness. Be clean before him.

Second, remember all God does for you (vs. 9-10, 14, 15-17). He has purchased your eternal life, where you will never again hunger, thirst, or hurt. He is your shepherd; he wipes away your tears. God loves you as you are, where you are, unconditionally.

Remember all he has done and will do for you, and you will want to worship him with gratitude and praise.

Third, respond intentionally to God (10). They “cried out in a loud voice.” They were engaged fully, with all their emotions, thoughts, and life (Matthew 22:37). Their worship was intentional and committed. And they centered their worship on God. Not on themselves, or their surroundings, or John, or anyone else who might be watching them.

Worship doesn’t “happen.” We choose to worship God, we make it happen. And we make it happen when we center our attention and lives on God himself, and no one else.

Fourth, respond physically to God (11). There are many ways to worship God physically. The angels “fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God” (v. 11; cf. 2 Chronicles 20:18). The multitude was “standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (v. 9). Daniel, on the other hand, did it still differently: “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10).

The important thing is to get into the presence of God physically. Get a place, a time, an appointment with God. Involve your body. Worship him with your “heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Matthew 22:37). Respond physically to God.

Fifth, respond verbally to God (12). Here is the angels’ praise: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (v. 12). There are many ways to praise God verbally. Read a psalm out loud, or a hymn, or a chorus. Sing to God. Shout to him. Whisper to him.

We have available today a booklet of praise, to help you. Take one, and respond verbally to God.

Last, respond constantly to God. Those in heaven “serve him day and night in his temple” (v. 15). The Psalmist said, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:164). He also said, happy is the man who meditates on the law of God day and night (Psalm 1:2; cf. Joshua 1:8).

When you and I worship God daily, constantly, then what we do here on Sundays will be just a recap and a celebration of how we have praised God all through our lives. And he will be pleased, indeed.

Conclusion

Are you too busy to praise God? I read this week about PrayerWheel, a new Web site which will provide personalized prayers in any of seven major religions. You can pay anything from $12.97 a year for three Catholic prayers a day, to $29.95 for twelve Islamic prayers daily. But the web site issues this disclaimer: “We make no warranties or guarantees or implied guarantees that the prayers said will be heard or granted by God.”

If church is your PrayerWheel, the place where you come once a week to meet God, then you’re missing so much. If you’ve decided you’re too busy to worship God every day, then you’ve chosen to miss his power, his blessing, and his personal presence in your life. Don’t make that mistake.

Worshiping God is the most important activity in life. That’s the best advice I can give you today.

Professor James Stewart of the University of Edinburgh told the story of one of his colleagues, a brilliant scholar in Hebrew and Aramaic. One day some students began joking among themselves wondering what language this renowned genius used in his prayers. Knowing his meticulous daily schedule, they made their way to his rooms in the nearby college and knelt quietly outside his door—where to their surprise they could barely hear him whisper the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn:

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,Look upon a little child,Pity my simplicity,Suffer me to come to thee.

He needed to worship God. Would you offer his words from your heart to God, right now?