Authentic Sacrificial Praise: Obedience, Submission, & Love
Authentic Sacrificial Praise:
Obedience, Submission, & Love
Last week we looked at what is meant by, “…let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God.” We examined just what true praise and worship are. We saw that when relationships are broken, when we look to our own interests while neglecting the poor, when we oppress our workers, let people sit alone in hospitals and prisons and don’t do anything to give them comfort then come and try to offer praise and worship to God He turns a deaf ear. We found that God isn’t looking for us to drag our tired selves out of bed and to the church on Sundays to sing songs and listen to a message and call that worship. God looks for lives lived for Him. Lives living out the two greatest commandments: Love of God and Love of everybody else, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This is the sacrificial praise God is wanting from us, praise that is pleasing to Him: to put away self and love others. To, as Paul says, to humble ourselves and think more highly of others than ourselves.
Further we examined how love is used to mean different things throughout the Bible, but despite all of the different meanings and contexts that there is a core meaning that links all of these diverse meanings and that has been proposed by Tom Oord and is: Love is to act intentionally in response to God and others to promote overall well being. When we respond to the love that God offers in any moment with love we have achieved perfection in that moment. We also explored how this love response is the core notion of holiness/entire sanctification. Just a reminder that it is LOVE that is the sacrificial praise which God finds pleasing and acceptable.
Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to get up and gather together to offer songs of praise, to listen to inspired sermons, and He wants us to gather for fellowship. But, I believe that He wants us to gather as the culmination of going into the world to demonstrate His love to everyone. When we come together it should be with a right heart, a heart that offered authentic sacrificial praise all week in all aspects of our lives.
But there is another aspect of Sacrificial Praise that we find in verse 17 of Hebrews chapter 13. Here we read: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.
Let me qualify; the “leaders” spoken of in this passage are our spiritual leaders and not political leaders.
Who are leaders? How do we know who they are? Does a title make a leader? No! I do not believe so. I think that there are many people who fancy themselves leaders and have the title who are nothing more than managers.
You are probably sitting there asking, “Is there a difference?” I suggest that there is a very big difference. I have read that managers control, maintain the status quo, but that leaders blaze new ground.
In the very first sermon ever given in the Church of the Nazarene Dr. J. P. Widney said, “Notice that Christ does not say: “Accept the creed which I frame; observe the church forms or rituals I devise; join the church which I have found.” He only said, “Follow Me.” It is as though he had said, “Come, live my life with me.”
“Come follow me,” the words of a leader. “Come join my life!” These are words that inspire people to follow. They are not controlling, not demanding, not subjugating.
Let us look at some Biblical instances. In Matthew: 4:18-22 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus gently taps us on the shoulder and softly beckons, “Come, follow me.” And we can do as these apostles did immediately drop everything and go with Him. Or we can go as I did for so very long, ignore him.
This is not how the Pharisees, scribes, or the Roman governors got people to listen to them. No they were managers. They succeeded by inspiring fear. The eventually killed Jesus, the stoned and imprisoned Paul. The demand subjugation, demand, demand, demand. Could you imagine how it would’ve gone over with them to decline their requests? I would imagine none too well, they Killed Jesus for less, stoned Paul for less. Whereas Jesus inspires. Inspires love and respect: still in Matthew 7:28-29 “ Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Jesus led and taught NOT as the religious authorities of his day. He inspired people.
We find crowds flocking to Jesus. A leader is only a leader when people are inspired to follow. And follow Jesus they did. Matthew 8:18, “Jesus saw great crowds around him….”
Let’s look at a couple people who were inspired to follow Jesus. In Matthew 8:19-22 we read of one, “19A scribe then approached and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ 20And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’” Jesus answer is kind of cryptic. Roger Hahn of Nazarene Theological Seminary says, ” Jesus’ reply points out that foxes have lairs and birds of the air have nests, but there is no promise of a place to stay if we follow Christ.”
Jesus allows this man to make an informed choice as to whether or not to follow. His decision is not recorded. Did he follow Jesus or walk away like the next example.
Matthew 19:16-26, “Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ 17And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ 18He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 20The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these;* what do I still lack?’ 21Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
We know that this rich man chose his riches over following, entering into the Life of Jesus. In none of these examples did Jesus demand anyone follow Him. He offered the disciples, so inspired were they that they dropped what they were doing and left with Him. The others we read about were so inspired by this leader that they asked if they could follow. One we know walked away, walked away sad (however, I believe Jesus tapped on his shoulder and beckoned, “Follow me,” to this man again and again. I can only hope that he eventually began to follow.) In these last two cases Jesus fully informs them so that they can make a choice. There is not control, no manipulation. Jesus seems less interested in followers than He is in loving people and inspiring them.
Jesus is the model for leadership. Does He sometimes manage? Of course, at times management is necessary if only to provide food and shelter. But we don’t see Jesus managing/controlling people. Yes, He instructs them, even tells them what they need to do. In John 6:54 He tells Jewish followers that they need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Down in verse 66 we see that many of His disciples turned away. Does Jesus get mad? Does He chase after them? No, He doesn’t. What He does is ask the 12 if they want to go too, He offers them the choice again.
We have all known people who we thought were leaders but in reality were mere managers. Many is the manager who believes she is a leader. We need to look to Jesus to understand what true leadership looks like. Our leaders style should resemble Jesus’ leadership and be well grounded in love of God and love of others.
To be obedient and submissive we must first humble ourselves, put away self. If we don’t can we truly obey? Truly submit?
I think we need to look at what these words mean. Merriam-Webster defines Obey as 1) To follow the commands or guidance of, 2) To conform to or comply with. I think that the general meaning that most of us think of is to Do as you are told. The sort of thing that you are subjected to and comply with out of fear of some sort. We obey the laws because we fear the consequences if we do not. We obey our bosses because he can fire us if we do not. When I hear that I am to obey it brings up images of not having control over my decisions. That someone else is in control of my life and decisions. Someone exercising control over me. I am not fond of that.
Are these the kind of images that should be arising when we read this passage? I think that here is a good place to look to the original language. Keep in mind that I am no Greek scholar, nor am I fluent in Greek or know anything of its inflected forms. But the word translated here as obey is the Greek word is peitho. This is a word that means:
a) to persuade, i.e. to induce one by words to believe
b) to make friends of, to win one’s favour, gain one’s good will, or to seek to win one, strive to please one
c) to tranquillise
d) to persuade unto i.e. move or induce one to persuasion to do something
2) be persuaded
a) to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe: to have faith: in a thing
1) to believe
2) to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person
b) to listen to, obey, yield to, comply with
3) to trust, have confidence, be confident
In its usage in this passage, its inflected for it takes on the meaning be persuaded by or believe in. Kind of like respect. Therefore, we are being instructed to believe in our leaders. We are to be persuaded by our leaders.
Why? Malichi 4:7 tells us, 7For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
Our leaders speak God’s word into our lives.
And the author of our passage tells us, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. The phrase “Keeping Watch” may well have translated better as keep awake. As in our spiritual leaders stay awake worrying about us. They love us and care about us so much they are unable to sleep so they can guard our souls. The people we are to believe in, to be persuaded by are speaking God’s word into our lives, they are taking responsibilities for our souls. They are called of God and ordained by Him to lead. All we are asked is to believe.
The second thing we are instructed to do in Hebrews 13:7 is to submit to our leaders. I have heard many, far too many stories from people who have left churches because their leaders misread this instruction. Far too many pastors and lay people believe that this passage give the leaders rights over people. Well, I really do not thing that that is what is really being said here. I do not think that this is an instruction for church leaders to subject subjugate their congregants, I don’t think that kind of interpretation fits the Biblical narrative, especially the New Testament narrative. Let us first turn to the Greek. The work rendered, “submit to them”, is the single word hupeiko.
Hupeiko means to resist no longer. There is an element of volunteering in the true meaning of this word. This is not something another forces you to do. It is something you do voluntarily. Here we are being asked to no longer rebel against our leaders, not to try to control them. We are being asked to submit to their leadership without fighting them at every turn. Accept the direction God has them taking our churches. Do not add to their burden. In short to love them.
So in the context of the passage about putting aside self in order to offer sacrificial praise I do not think it is an improper interpretation to say that we are being asked to put aside self, humble ourselves, place our spiritual selves into the hands of the leaders God has sent to us. We are to believe in them, be persuaded by them.
So, we are to obey, believe in and be persuaded by our leaders. To voluntarily put ourselves under their leadership, to follow where they lead without trying to wrench the wheel away from them so that they can lead with joy and not stress and heartache.
In John Jesus says, “21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
14:23-24 23Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
We find here the equating of obedience and submitting oneself, following with LOVE, his love for us and our love for Him, our love for one another. When we obey our leaders we are showing the love, the love of Jesus, we are showing God our love for Him as well.
In this obedience of love we are offering our Authentic Sacrificial Praise.