"The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever'. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him." --C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms
I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms and while I don’t entirely agree with Lewis’ take on the Psalms, especially his approach to the imprecatory Psalms and the Psalms of judgment, overall this book has been incredibly illuminating and inspiring. Reflections on The Psalms has especially expanded my view and knowledge of praise and worship to God in the Psalms. Lewis has a way of summarizing what is so obviously true that he makes me pause and wonder why I never realized it before.
One of my favorite chapters in this book is Lewis’ chapter on praise. It never occurred to me before that praise is one of the most natural responses in humans. We praise the people we love and the things we enjoy and appreciate. Praise differs from our petty compliments and admiration. It is a spontaneous reaction that results from an inherent delight in someone or something. Similarly, God does not need or desire compliments and flattery in the way that we might crave them. I always knew that we should praise God since God clearly commands us to praise Him. But I never made the connection that God’s command to praise Him is as much an invitation to delight in Him and enjoy Him in the way that we might witness a beautiful sunset and then exclaim to our neighbor, “Isn’t that sunset so beautiful?”
In his reflection on praise, Lewis also points out that sharing our delight in something with others isn’t simply an expression of our delight, it’s a completion of our delight. "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation" (Lewis, 95). It’s not enough to simply internalize our joy. We have to proclaim it. We have to share it. And by share I don’t think Lewis means post it on Facebook or Twitter. There's a genuine face-to-face interaction that has to take place. The first thing that comes to my mind is the very real and tangible sense of fulfillment and wholeness I experience when worshiping on the Lord’s Day with fellow saints. When we sing the Psalms with one another, we are not simply singing to God together. We are proclaiming the praises of God to one another and in so doing our joy in Jesus is completed.
Since praising God goes hand-in-hand with proclaiming the works of God then praising God and sharing the Gospel with others are closely related if not one and the same. Telling others of Jesus doesn’t take as much deliberation and preparation as we tend to think it does. It often feels so unnatural to me when someone asks me, “So, what do you believe?” and I clear my throat and launch into an awkward, broken explanation that sounds oddly mechanic. I realized recently that there’s a huge difference between sharing something I know and sharing something I delight in and my feeble attempts at sharing the Gospel with others are frequently merely the result of facts in my brain.
If you asked me about tea and whether I liked it or not, I would tell you that I love it. I drink it every morning and evening, that's how much I enjoy it. I don’t have to know everything there is to know about tea to know that it is good and I like partaking of it every day. But if you asked me about Jesus, I would dust off some ill-used knowledge that I have stored away in my brain and do my best to give you the right answer.
Knowledge of Jesus and of the Bible is good and necessary. I think we must always pursue to further our knowledge of the people and things we love most. It is only natural. But knowledge is no substitute for the kind of childlike spontaneous praise and delight that comes from true joy. It’s easy for me to slip into an apathetic state because I already know the truth, so I’m safe, right? But knowing the truth isn’t the same as loving the truth. I've come to the conclusion that I need to start loving the truth, not just knowing it, or else forever be a hypocrite.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).