By THE REV. LOU TISCIONE
The definition of praise is to declare the works and character of God. But my purpose in this article is not about defining praise. It is when personal investment in a church and praise are connected.
First, examine how the object of praise, God, has revealed Himself. Isaiah 6:1: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord (Adoni) sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
The one whom Isaiah saw was full of majesty. He was declared to be “holy, holy, holy” by the Seraphim. He revealed Himself to be totally self-sufficient. He doesn’t need anything from His creatures. He commands all creation to worship and praise Him.
Isaiah saw the Lord. The English transliteration of the Hebrew word is Adoni which means Master. He saw the sovereign master of all Creation. It matters not what you may or may not believe. God, the Lord is the Master of everything and everyone. That includes me and you!
God has revealed who He is. The word He chose to reveal His sovereign majesty is Lord. In other words, God has revealed Himself as the only object of praise and worship. He is the God of sovereign majesty.
Having just experienced the joy of celebrating the Incarnation with my church family and church visitors, I started to think about the blessing of being part of a church.
When someone decides to become a member of our church, he or she is required to fill out our membership application. Our application for membership has three parts. The first concerns personal background information. The second is focused on one’s conversion story. The third is called the Five Covenantal Questions.
The first three Covenantal questions refer to one’s repentance, faith and trust in Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel. The final two concern commitments a member makes to our church. One makes a commitment to submit to the discipline and government of our church and to pray for the peace and purity of our congregation.
There are some Christians who do not recognize God’s blessing afforded through investing in a local congregation. In order to justify keeping a “safe distance” from their fellow worshipers, they say that there isn’t a biblical mandate for church membership. Also, in light of the truth of Scripture, they wrongly use the fact that every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit to avoid church membership.
I believe that both members of churches and those who bypass a commitment to church membership are sincere. Polls and surveys consider both groups to represent American Christianity. I am not suggesting that one can’t be a Christian unless he or she is a member of a local congregation. I am suggesting that the Bible is silent on singular Christians. Our rugged individualism has led us to ignore the magnitude of God’s blessing through praising Him as part of a local church to which we have made a public commitment. Staying aloof from membership in a Bible-believing church is symptomatic of our individualism.
Since God commands His people to praise Him, it is important to consider what He has said about the place of praise and membership in the body. God chooses the place of worship, Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Psalm 49:1, and God adopts those whom He chooses, Galatians 4:4-5. God’s spiritual adoption is worked out through the local congregation, Ephesians 4:11-16.
God’s people, those who are part of His adopted family in Christ, also have the privilege of praising Him wherever they are, Psalm 34:1; 119:164, but supremely as part of a church family through which God grows them up in Christ!
The most important part of genuine praise is what follows it. That is, are we living in the light of the God whom we praise? I suppose that we might say that praise is not only an act or event it is a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is learned as one invests himself in a local, Bible-believing congregation.
May you be blessed by our sovereign God as you praise Him as part of your church family!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).