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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Live a Doxological Life!
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Worship
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-08-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 96:1,2,4                                                                                    

Ps 146:1,3  [after Apostles’ Creed]

Reading – 1 Chronicles 29:1-20

Ps 115:1,2,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 52, part 2 (Q&As 128-129)

Hy 8

Hy 7:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, the purpose of our life, the whole aim of our existence, is to glorify God. Think of the Reformation slogan, Soli Deo Gloria. It’s Latin, but it rings true in every time and place: to God alone be the glory! We have a mission to bring the Lord praise and honour by the way we think, and how we talk, and what we do each day.

So if that’s the way we live, then it should also be the way we pray. The prayers we offer to God from day to day, and hour to hour, need to be words of humble worship. Remember that this is how Jesus taught us to begin our prayers, with the petition: “Hallowed be your Name.” This is our leading thought, “Father, may you be glorified and honoured in my life: honoured by my choices, and glorified in my relationships, and through the music I listen to, and what I think about.”

That’s how the model prayer begins, and strikingly, that’s also how it ends. Jesus teaches us to conclude our prayers on the same theme, with the beautiful declaration called the doxology: “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” The whole framework of the Christian life is praise and adoration for the living God, our Saviour.

Yes, we finish with doxology. That’s a word which means literally, “a speaking of glory.” Check a dictionary, and you’ll see that a doxology is a statement of praise, an ascription of glory to God—especially in worship. Our Hymn 8 is a classic example of doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow/ Praise him all creatures here below/ Praise him above, ye heavenly host/ Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Scripture abounds with doxologies. We come across a few in Ephesians, like the one right in the opening verses: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1:3). Paul breaks out with praise, because God is so good! For it’s not just an activity for personal prayer or congregational singing—it’s for all the time. Our whole life is to have the character of doxology. Here’s a nice word for you: our life is to be doxological—full of praise for God, devoted to worship, abounding in thanksgiving. This is our theme from the second half of Lord’s Day 52,

Live a doxological life!

  1. the glorious object of our doxology
  2. the daily practice of our doxology
  3. the rich blessing on our doxology

 

1) the glorious object of our doxology: You probably know that the Lord’s Prayer has a two-part structure. The first three petitions might be called “Thy” petitions; the next three are “My” petitions. We start with a focus on the holy things of the LORD: the LORD’s name, the LORD’s kingdom, the LORD’s will. But then we ask about our food, and our sins, and our temptations. For these things are important too, and the Father knows that we need them.

But after the second group of three, it’s time for a change of pace. Time to be reminded again about what prayer—and life—is all about: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” God isn’t mentioned by name here, but it’s clear where we’re looking with these words: “It’s all yours, O God. It all belongs to you, as Creator and King and Father.” He is the glorious object of our doxology.

That’s such an apt way to end our prayers. Christ teaches us to let all our attention and expectation be directed again to God our Father. This is good to do for a number of reasons, but I’ll just mention one: because it happens that our prayers get weighed down by the bulk of all our petitions. There is so much to pray about, there are so many concerns to mention, and a multitude of people to remember before the LORD. And it can all begin to overwhelm us, and our prayer can feel like it’s floundering and even sinking under a hundred requests.

Of course, God wants us to present our many petitions and cares—this is the great gift of prayer, that we can cast our burdens on him! But for our own good, and for God’s glory, it’s right that we keep the spotlight of our prayer shining on the right person, that we often take a moment to re-set the destination of our thoughts. The doxology teaches us that in a wonderful way. At the end we say, “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.”

First, take notice of the connecting word “for.” It’s one of those small words, but it tells us something essential. It tells us we’re not just tacking on a compliment because we have to. The doxology is not a bit of flattery, offered to get what we want—“Oh, did I mention that you’re really great?” For the child of God, praise should never be an after-thought, but it’s close to the beating heart of our prayer. Our words of worship have everything to do with all those things we’ve just brought before the Lord.

The Catechism explains the doxology, “All this we ask of you because, as our King, [you have] power over all things” (Q&A 128). In other words: “Father, I know that you can answer me.” We’re acknowledging that with all our troubles and plans and worries and sins, we’ve come to the right address.

Our eyes are open to the reality of his greatness, his glory, his utter ability to do the things we ask of him. He’s got this! In some ways, it’s beyond us: God’s love in Christ surpasses knowledge, and the fullness of his divine power exceeds comprehension. But we still aim to know it, and to grasp a little more of it.

For when we better know God, we can pray that doxology more sincerely—like the first part: “Father, yours is the kingdom.” That’s only a few words, but it’s a shorthand way of saying to God, “Father, you are King. From your glorious throne in the heavens, you govern all things in this universe, including my own little life. It’s all yours, and under your command. And whatever you decree as King is always right, always good.”

This is concluding our prayers with the awareness that this world—and our life—isn’t running by some random plan, bumping along from moment to moment, slave to circumstance and fate. For the King, our Father, is directing everything in ways that we might not understand but we trust are good: “All this we ask, for yours is the kingdom.”

“And yours is the power,” we pray, humbly praising God in his total strength and perfect might. We might be feeling weak and feeble—completely unable to do anything to improve or redirect our present situation—yet we can end our prayers on a note of strength: “Father in heaven, you alone have all the power. I confess that you control everything from today's summer/winter weather, to the movement of the stock markets, to our nation’s government.”

God can do grand and amazing things—which means He can also help his little children. Because his is the power, He can provide us with our daily bread. Because his is the power, He can lift us out of our guilt. Because his is the power, He can give us courage against our three sworn enemies. “Father,” we pray, “Help me to stand. Help me be holy. Help my unbelief. All this we pray, for yours is the power.”

“And yours is the glory.” We need to make the confession that all the credit for everything in our life that is worthwhile, and all the praise for everything in this world that is good, ought to be reserved for the Lord. “Yours is the glory”—that’s not a throw-away phrase, but something we need to confess truly.

For aren’t we inclined to take the credit? We might even have prayed for it sincerely—asking God at the beginning of the day for wisdom or endurance or strength—we prayed for it, but later we applaud ourselves: “It was a good day, thanks to my hard work, thanks to my brains…” God might get mentioned in the footnote, but we’re the main character.

The same proud tendency means we don’t mind receiving compliments, and we like collecting some recognition. Someone congratulates our good efforts, praises our ability—they drop a few “likes” and send us some positive emojis.

In that moment, do we give God the glory? Do we remember to be doxological? No wonder Proverbs has this wisdom, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised” (27:21). We’re tested by praise—what does it reveal about us? Pride or humility? Gratitude or vanity?

This is why Jesus tells us to end our prayers by praising the Father, “In all things, yours is the glory. However you choose to answer this prayer—whether with blessing or something harder to receive—I confess that you are God and ought to be acknowledged and acclaimed by me.” In the words of the Catechism, “Not we but your holy Name should receive all glory forever” (Q&A 128). Which is, in turn, a clear echo of Psalm 115:1, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” For God is the object of our doxology, the only worthy recipient of our praise.

So is there a way that we can avoid being overburdened with petitions, drowning our prayers with so many requests that they start to feel mindless or demanding? One way that we can is by spreading out the doxology. Don’t just leave it along the edges, but let doxology colour and shape your petitions too.

For instance, when we’re praying for someone in the congregation who is sick, we could begin with a confession of God’s greatness: “Lord God, you are the great Healer. You are the one in whom each of us lives and moves and has our being. And so we pray to you for our sick brother—we know you can make him well. And even if you don’t, we know you’ll be with him.”

Or as we pray for the church, for our congregation and the church in other places, start with praise for God as the Shepherd and Defender of his people, “LORD, how good it is that you are on our side, for you are strong and good and faithful. And so we ask you to protect your church from those who hate us…”

Or when we’re praying for wisdom and guidance, we could begin with a confession of God’s perfect knowledge: “Father, your wisdom and knowledge have an amazing depth of riches. You always know the best way for your people to go, and you know every outcome, and so I ask you to faithfully lead me …”

Even as we make our requests, and confess our sins, and intercede for our loved ones and our church and our country, let’s learn to keep at the forefront of prayer the glorious object of our doxology: the Triune God, eternal, almighty, loving, and holy. 

 

2) the daily practice of our doxology: When Christ taught us to pray, He drew on a long tradition of God’s covenant people communing with their God. He used the Psalms, and He used the old prayers of the saints. So also for the prayer’s conclusion. In particular, Jesus seems to have linked himself closely with David, and the prayer he prays in 1 Chronicles 29.

Keep in mind that this prayer is offered up shortly after David has been told by the LORD that he’s not allowed to build the temple at Jerusalem. After all his wars inside and outside Israel, he has too much blood on his hands, so God’s house will be built by his son. Instead, David can gather materials for the temple project: collecting the gold, silver, bronze, wood and stone, and getting it all ready for Solomon.

You might think David would be down about the whole thing. Who wants to be in charge of stockpiling the building supplies, when there’s a temple to be constructed? Surely this was a second-rate job, a disappointing deferral.

But what do we hear? We hear doxology! David is a man of God’s Spirit, so he sees the wisdom and rightness of the Lord in this decision. And David chooses to focus on the amazing grace of God who is willing to dwell among a sinful people. So David praises.

We could spend time on each part of his prayer, but we focus on verses 10 and 11. Listen carefully for connections to the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer, “Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: ‘Blessed are you, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head over all.’”

Did you notice the same themes from the Lord’s Prayer? They are obvious and striking. Here David celebrates God’s kingdom, his power, and his glory, “forever and ever.” His eyes are wide open to the LORD’s majesty, and he can’t say it enough, that God is so gracious as to enter into covenant with his people.

Jesus takes the prayer of his grandfather David and teaches it to us. Jesus was a man who lived in close communion with the LORD, so He had intimate knowledge of how great God is. Not only from his prayers, but also from his life, we know that Jesus sought no fame for himself—He wanted all praise to be given to his heavenly Father. At the end of his life He prayed this, “Father, I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the word which you have given me to do” (John 17:4).

That’s what the practice of doxology is all about, and we hear it throughout Scripture. You might say it’s the sanctified habit of believers, it’s the natural response to almost any circumstance: to lift up the name of the LORD and to exalt him.

Open the book of the Psalms, and you’ll see the practice of doxology in fine form. Psalm 96 is but one example, “The LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods… Honour and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (vv 4,6). We sometimes imagine that the daily services at the temple were little more than a stream of bloody sacrifices and well-worn rituals. But the temple courts were filled with joyful praise, with the singing of the Psalms, filled with doxology. “The LORD is great and greatly to be praised!”

And today, knowing Christ, our occasions for doxology should be more frequent, not less. This is why we hear the apostles regularly offering them in their letters. Particularly Paul is known for becoming doxological at the drop of a hat. He’ll be giving some deep theological lesson, when he interrupts himself to offer praise to the Triune God.

Consider Romans 11:36, just after speaking of God’s purposes in election, when Paul declares, “For of him and through him and to him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” That’s a doxology!

Or 1 Timothy 1:17, right in the middle of some comments about how God saved him, the worst of sinners, Paul shouts out, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Another doxology.

There’s another beautiful example in Ephesians 3. After praying for the Ephesians’ fullness in faith, Paul offers this praise, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (vv 20-21).

We could bring forward dozens of doxologies, but the point is, we’re in great company whenever we speak and pray and sing and meditate in the language of doxology. It’s the joyous privilege that God has given us, the holy calling He has placed on us!

Finding words of praise can be hard. We need to learn the language of doxology, and so should read the Psalms, and pray the Psalms. Study the doxologies in the book of Revelation, or in the letters of Paul. We can learn these doxologies, imitate them, and use them.

Then think of your own reasons to praise God. Remember his many blessings to you. Recount his faithfulness over the years of your life. Celebrate his gifts, and take notice when God answers your prayers. And then let all this move you to praise.

And then, we said, we should be doxological not just in our personal or family prayers or in our congregational singing. But all the time! As Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 10, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (v 31). That should be a daily activity, our natural reaction, a holy instinct—thinking of what will bring glory to the LORD.

Would the heavenly God be honoured by this choice? Am I doing this for the Father? Or with these words I’m about to say, would I be proclaiming his greatness, saying something that reflects his glory? Do I show by my life that I am satisfied in the Lord? That my greatest delight is Christ? That my purpose is doing his will? That’s the practice of doxology, a life that leads to rich blessing.

 

3) the rich blessing on our doxology: The LORD desires our worship; He is so worthy of our praise; He is to be thanked in all situations; and He commands us to exalt him. By themselves, all this should be reason enough to lead a doxological life.

But there’s more, and it’s amazing: God promises to bless our doxologies. God says that when we live in adoration of him, there’s going to be a great reward for us, a blessing for his believers. Because along that road of constantly praising God, we find great comfort and strength. We do, because of the great God we’re praying to!

If praying is just talking to yourself, we might as well give it up. If praying is just throwing some wishes up into the empty sky, we should prepare to be disappointed. But we pray to the living God who receives constant praise, honour and worship—and for that reason, our prayers are powerful and effective. Remember the truth that informs our prayers: “All this we ask of you because, as our King, having power over all things, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good” (Q&A 128).

When our prayers are saturated with praise, when we always return to that theme of God’s glory, we’re being constantly reminded: God can do it! And for the sake of Christ his Son, He will do it. Our Father desires good things for us, and He delights to bless us. The God whom we worship will give us even more reasons for worship!

That comes out in Paul’s doxology in Ephesians 3, where he says, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (v 20). He reminds us that we’re addressing the God with whom all things are possible, even new life, even redemption from sin and the healing of all of this life’s brokenness. When we pray, this is who we’re talking to! We’re coming into the presence of him who can do all things!

When we’re worried, or when we’re guilty, or when we’re hungry, or when we’re confused, what a blessed assurance, a powerful affirmation: “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!”

For this we give him the glory—and at once, God gives us the blessing of doxology. Because our hearts are put at rest in him! We can be confident, and we can say “Amen,” because we know we’re at the right address. We know that we’ve brought our burdens and sins and joy to the right place. For his is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever!  Amen.   




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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