What Is the Object of Your Praise?

“For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 NLT)

One of the clearest pictures of a person who loves Jesus more than they love themselves, is their reaction to praise. That’s something with which I’ve wrestled for many years, and still do on some levels. For example, when I was preaching regularly and someone would compliment me, it was hard for me to know how to respond.

Michael Horton wrote: “Vagueness about the object of our praise inevitably leads to making our own praise the object.”

There’s a story in Acts 12 about a time when King Herod Agrippa began to persecute the church, killing the Apostle James, John’s brother. Then he had Peter arrested, but God miraculously released him from the jail. Later in the chapter Herod is upset with the people of Tyre and Sidon, so they send a delegation to make peace with him

So, Herod gives a speech and the people, who obviously want to get on his good side, gave a great ovation, shouting: “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” Then the Bible says: “Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.”  

Who and why we praise is important, but so is how and why we accept recognition and praise. And please don’t read too much into this, I’m not suggesting that if we get it wrong, the Lord’s going to strike us down. What I’m saying is, to take credit for something that God is doing for, on our behalf, or through us, is treading on very dangerous ground, especially if we’re doing it knowingly.

When someone who is gifted speaks, sings, plays an instrument, launches a successful business, raises children who love and serve Jesus, or anything else that is clearly the work of God in and through them, all credit belongs ultimately to God. But how do we convey that meaningfully without going over the top and sounding like a Pharisee?

Is there a balance that recognizes that we obviously had an important role in the fulfillment of God’s purposes, but that God deserves the credit? I think of Lazarus’ sister Mary who knelt behind Jesus, anointing His feet with expensive perfume, and drying them with her hair (John 12). How do you spell A W K W A R D? Yet, Jesus didn’t seem one bit shaken. Neither did He scold her or try to deny the fact that it was in no way inappropriate for her to be doing what she was doing. Which was?

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Worshipping Him as God! Mary recognized that Jesus alone was the One who delivered her heart, mind, body, and soul from destruction. She clearly understood that He alone DESERVED worship, adoration, and praise. What God prompted her to do for Jesus is amazing and stirs my heart, and many others across the centuries, to praise Him.

Yes, of course, there were those present who were critical, not only of her, but of Jesus. But why? Because they didn’t understand who the object of their praise and worship should be. Notice neither Jesus, nor Mary, saw any reason or rationale to apologize for their behavior. Why not? Because it was appropriate and right.

The weight of the influence of our lives should be all the explanation that anyone needs, to declare we’re slaves of the Most High God, doing what He has gifted and equipped us to do. The attitude of our whole being should exude our full confidence in and dependence upon the Spirit’s leadership in our lives, pointing all praise to Jesus, who is alone deserving.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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