The entire Bible was given under the direct inspiration of God. It returns a profit unto us in the area of doctrine -- so we know what teaching is from God and which is not. The profit continues in the areas of reproof and correction -- to guide us back when we stray. The profit concludes in the area of instruction in righteousness -- so we understand how we are supposed to live. The sad truth today is that too often we base our teaching and counsel on human wisdom and not the Word of God. I have heard some of the most carnal excuse making coming from Christians -- even pastors. I have heard the most ridiculous abuses of Scripture from pastors who are trying to justify their own carnality. God wants good healthy horizontal relationships within the church. There are plenty of verses about the importance of unity. But the unifying principle has to be the Bible, not the church. The practical application for us here is that God gives us all the same access to His wisdom beloved. Some choose to embrace that wisdom and explore it daily. Others choose to treat it casually and live within the wisdom of the world. Some entire church movements are based wholly on secular wisdom and carnal logic. That is not how God wanted it beloved. He wanted us to develop good healthy peripheral Christian relationships based entirely on the wisdom He has given us in His Word.
The third area of practical application is living a life bowed in thanksgiving to the one who created us and saved us. Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. I find the fact that Paul differentiates between these three as very telling. First of all we should be singing Psalms. We should be singing the Word of God itself! Our fundamental level of thanksgiving before God always starts with His Word. Why is this so important? Because it reminds us what God has already said. It reminds us of what He has already promised. What are we thankful for today? What promises are we thankful for? Are we thankful that He has promised us eternal life through Jesus Christ? That we have overcome through the world through Him? That God is working all things for our good? How much power is there in the promises of God that we casually throw away because we simply do not know them?
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. -- 2Corinthians 1: 20 (NIV)
There is no doubt in what God has said. I view hymns as songs attesting to what God has already done. They may be partially based on the Word too, but singing How Great Thou Art serves to remind us of the great things He has already done in this world and in our lives. As Christians we fall for the lies of the devil way too quickly because we forget what God has already done. David remembered how God delivered him from the bear and the lion, so when he saw Goliath he still had an overcoming faith. We see the giants in our lives and we may want to cower in fear like the fighting men of Israel. We need to remember all that God has done. When Elijah heard Jezebel wanted his head he despaired. He despaired so much he told God to take his life! How many of us can relate to the lies Elijah must have bought from the enemy to lead him to such a place? This despite the fact that God had just slew the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This despite the fact that God had ensured the oil would never run out during the famine. This despite the fact that God used Elijah to raise a child from the dead! What dead things has God raised in our lives? Can He do it again? Do we have faith that He can do what He has done before? Do we remember? Does our praise unto God every day take into consideration all He has already done? Or have we fallen for the modern "worship" landscape which seeks an emotional experience over a spiritual one? For petulant songs demanding blessings from a God that has already blessed us bountifully. In the continuing application lessons, we need to live lives that praise God for what He has already promised and what He has already done.
This leaves the "spiritual songs" from the key verses. While Psalms deal with what God has said and hymns deal with what God has done, I view spiritual songs as what God is doing right now. Right now, in each believer the Holy Spirit is at work. Everything is not in the past tense. God is constantly working inside of us. We need to be more cognizant of the Spirit of God inside of us and learn how to tap into that power and His presence. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells inside of us! Are we actively thankful for that? Are we actively deferring to that Spirit? We are raising up a generation of spiritually illiterate Christians. People who do not understand the war they are in because it is not properly taught to them. People who the enemy has a field day with because they constantly try to fight spiritual battles with carnal weapons. When we try to sing spiritual songs unto the Lord we are tapping into the spirit in the here and now. We become more aware of what He is trying to do in our day to day-moment to moment lives. We have the Spirit of He who spoke the entire universe into existence inside of us! We need to be singing songs unto God from out of that Spirit!
The caveat for these three modes of praise is that they need to be done with a thankful heart. While that sounds simple enough, far too often praise is not understood or taught anymore in the church. God inhabits the praises of His people -- not the preaching of His people. A thankful heart protects us from the number one weapon the enemy uses -- pride. A thankful heart recognizes who deserves the glory for everything. A thankful heart understands all that God has said. All that God has done. All that God is currently doing. The practical application for us is to develop and cultivate that thankful heart inside of us. We can avoid the despair of Elijah and the fear of the fighting men of Israel if we would grow that thankful heart. Lastly from the key verses, we must remember our new occupation:
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. -- 2Corinthians 5: 20 (NIV)
The dictionary defines an ambassador as an authorized messenger or representative. Whatever we do or say, we are to do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus! We are an ambassador for Christ! For some people beloved -- you might be their only chance to see Christ! It has been disappointing at times to see the behavior of Christians outside and inside of church. Inside, gossiping about the brethren, causing division, sowing strife. Displaying little forgiveness, excessive bitterness, or jealous envy. While some do manage to play the part well in church, the mask quickly comes off in the world. You cannot wear Christ on your sleeve if you have no compassion for people. It damages the witness for Jesus. The Bible teaches us that three things are required of us by God. To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God. I have seen some unjust, unmerciful and proud Christians in the marketplace. As ambassadors, we are supposed to represent Christ in everything we do.