The Life of Praise and Thanksgiving
September 18th, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
THE LIFE OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING:
THE CHRISTIAN EXTRA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-18-83 10:50 a.m.
And welcome, the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled: A Life of Praise and Thanksgiving, or a better name for it would be: The Christian Extra.
This is the seventh and the last in the series of messages on economology, on our offering, our giving, to the work of our Lord. In the long, long series of about three years, preaching on the “Great Doctrines of the Bible,” this is the closing section of seven sermons on giving to the Lord. The next time that I pick up the section, it will be on angelology; and the following seven sermons will be on the angels of God—this sermon on economology—our offerings before the Lord.
Our background text is in Psalm 96, Psalm 96:
O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless His name; show forth His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all people.
For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised…
Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:—
fear before Him, all the earth.
That’s partly what the choir sang and our instrumentalists played. Israel was taught to glorify God in all of their life and living. And the response of the people to the great victories and national events was ever one of thanksgiving and gratitude and song. It came out of their souls and out of their hearts.
For example, we see it in the response of Israel to their mighty, national events of victory or dedication. In Exodus, after the deliverance at the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21-31], we are presented with the song of Moses [Exodus 15:1-21]. In the fifteenth chapter of the Revelation—we’re going to sing in heaven that song of Moses and the Lamb! [Revelation 15:3-4]. And it was an antiphonal praise to God; it was answered by Miriam and all of her women [Exodus 15:20-21].
You see that marvelous response in the Book of Judges, in the song of Deborah and Barak [Judges 5:1-31], in the triumph of the people of God over Sisera and the Canaanitish army [Judges 4:4-24]. You see it in the response of the people in the dedication of the temple recorded for us in the Book of Kings and Chronicles—all of the people glorifying God [1 Kings 8:66; 2 Chronicles 7:3]. The response of the people in those great national events was one of thanksgiving and gratitude.
You see it in the Psalms, all of these psalms, and especially the latter part of the Psalms—the response of Israel to God, one of praise and thanksgiving and gratitude.
Psalm 145: “I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name forever and ever” [Psalm 145:1].
Psalm 146: “Praise ye the Lord.” Remember, that’s the translation of the Hebrew word, hallelujah. “Praise the Lord, O my soul” [Psalm 146:1].
Psalm 147: “Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; it is pleasant; and praise is comely” [Psalm 147:1].
Psalm 148: “Praise ye the Lord: Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the heights” [Psalm 148:1].
Psalm 149: “Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of the saints” [Psalm 149:1].
And Psalm 150, closing the Psaltery, that’s all it is: “Praise the Lord . . . Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord, Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord” [Psalm 150:1, 6].
That’s the response of the people of God to the blessings of the Lord: one of overflowing gratitude and thanksgiving. You see that same response in the Levitical offerings. They were five in number [Leviticus 1:3-7:7]. Two of them were commanded: they were commanded to bring an offering because of the sin against God, the sin offering [Leviticus 4:1-5:13, 6:24-30]. They were commanded to bring an offering because of trespass against neighbors, the trespass offering [Leviticus 5:14-6:7, 7:1-7]. Those two were commanded. But the other three were called sweet-savor offerings. They were voluntary; they were not commanded. They arose out of the heart and spirit of praise on the part of the people: the burnt offering [Leviticus 1:3-17, 6:8-13], the peace offering [Leviticus 3:1-17, 7:11-21, 28-34], the meal offering [Leviticus 2:1-16, 6:14-18, 7:12-13].
The word “peace,” the peace offering refers to the praise offering, the thanksgiving offering. It was called a sweet-savor offering because it was uncommanded, undemanded, uncoerced. It arose out of the voluntary love and gratitude of the people for God—and the Lord called it a sweet-savor offering [Leviticus 3:5, 17:6]. It was fragrant in His eyes, and ears, and nose, and heart, and life, and response, and sight—it pleased God! It was called a sweet-savor offering [Numbers 29:2].
You see it in the feasts of Israel—their abounding gratitude to God. There were nine of those feasts: eight of them, like Purim, Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Trumpets, Hanukkah, [Unleaved Bread], [First Fruits]—eight of them were feasts of praise and gladness. Just one of them, Yom Kippur, “the Day of Atonement,” was a day of fast [Leviticus 16:1-34, 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11].
You see it also, the response of Israel, in glory and praise before God; you see it in their worship. Solomon, before the temple, built two great, large ornamental pillars. And the one on the right, on the north, was called [Jachin]; and the one on the left was called [Boaz]—the one on the south [2 Chronicles 3:17]. And when the priests, representing the people, and the high priest with the names of the twelve tribes on his breast [Exodus 28:21]; when they worshiped God, they walked through those tremendous pillars of praise and glory called Boaz and Jachin [1 Kings 7:21].
Now there are so many different translations of those words, “Boaz” and “Jachin,” but they mean “glory” and “strength,” “honor” and “majesty.” And you have it here in the psalm: “Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” [Psalm 96:6]. Let us come before the Lord—give the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts [Psalm 96:8]—that was out of the soul and the heart and the spirit of the people of Israel; a sweet-savor offering voluntarily given to God out of the deepest soul.
Oh, you’ve heard me say so many times I wish I could have listened to the services, the worship in the temple. Think of listening to four thousand Levites singing [1 Chronicles 23:5]. We have a choir up here—there are about two hundred up here in the choir. Think of what four thousand of them would sound like—and hundreds of instrumentalists [2 Chronicles 5:12]. It was glorious singing these psalms. The psaltery, the Psalms, is just a hymnbook of the people of God.
Well, that was the response of Israel to the Lord—out of their souls—just overflowed—it was glorious. Thus our response to God, one out of our hearts just overflowing with thanksgiving and gratitude, uncoerced, uncommanded, just voluntarily offered, a sweet-savor to the Lord, a sweet-savor offering brought to the Lord; not commanded, not demanded, just out of the love of our souls, out of gratitude, out of thanksgiving; a sweet-savor offering, a voluntarily given offering [2 Corinthians 9:7].
I think of that sometimes with regard to the pastor. I’ve been a pastor so long—and started when I was just a teenager—and with a little church—a little larger church—and so on—and I think of those dear people. If somebody gives me a gift because I need it; they bake a cake for me and give it to me because I’m hungry, or they make a jar of pickles and bring it to me as a gift because I am starving: now, what you ought to do in that kind of a case is to see the deacons, and to see the chairman of the budget, and say, “Look-a-here, you are starving our pastor. He doesn’t have enough to eat.” That’s what you ought to do if the gift is a gift of necessity.
It says in the Bible, “The laborer is worthy of his hire” [Luke 10:7]. It says in the Bible, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn” [1 Corinthians 9:9]. It says in the Bible, “They that preach the gospel shall live by the gospel” [1 Corinthians 9:14]. The church ought to support the pastor. He ought not to go hungry or naked. When somebody gives me a gift, I would love to think that they do it as a sweet-savor offering; they do it because they love me, not because I need it.
Now, when I was a youth, I began pastoring, when I was a teenager, when I was a youth, poor people, poor people would give me things; and I would refuse to take them because they were so poor. Oh, you learn, in the actual ministry before the Lord that was a colossal mistake. I learned when poor of the poor gave me a gift, I just went out of myself in a love and appreciation, thanking them for it, loving them for it; and, then later on, I’d try to return something nice to them. But the gift that they brought to me, I doubly appreciated it if it was out of their poverty.
Don’t make the gift to the pastor because he needs it—you talk to the deacons about that. If you ever give a gift to the pastor, let it be, “Pastor, this is just because I love you.” Oh, how meaningful and dear it is!
The same thing about your wife—when you give a gift to your wife, don’t do it out of need or out of necessity. For example, when the anniversary comes and you make a gift to your wife, an anniversary gift, don’t make it a scrub board, or a tub, or an ironing board, or a washing machine, or an ax with which to cut the firewood. If you make a gift to your wife, let it be in something not of necessity; let it be a beautiful new dress, or a new outfit, or a necklace, or a ring, or an earring, or a dinner engagement, or a vacation just out of the love of your heart—uncoerced. “I love you!” It’s a thousand times more meaningful; it is dearer and more precious if it is a sweet-savor offering, not of necessity, not of commandment.
Now, the Bible says we’re like God; we’re made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. Well, I can turn that around: then God is like us. If we’re made in the image of God, then we are like God, and God is like that!
There are things commanded us of the Lord, and when we obey and are obedient to the commandments of the Lord, our Lord is delighted, and He is pleased. We are commanded, for example, we are in debt to the Lord for a tenth of all of our increase. Abraham gave it to Melchizedek, the priest of El Elyon—of the “Most High God” [Genesis 14:18-20]. Israel, Jacob, said to the Lord, “Of everything You give me, one tenth will I return unto Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22].
In the last chapter of the Book of Leviticus, “The tithe is holy unto the Lord” [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. It belongs to God. I don’t own it, it is His. In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew, verse 23, Jesus, speaking of the Pharisees who minutely and zealously tithed everything little they possessed, our Lord said, “This ye ought to have done” [Matthew 23:23]. In Hebrews 7:8, “Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.”
The Lord is pleased when we pay our debt—we pay a tithe—that belongs to God. In Malachi 3:10, it says if you do that, “I will open you the windows of heaven that there will not be room enough to receive it.” God blesses us when we are true to the faith; when we obey the commandment; when we lay aside a tenth and give it to Him—”this I owe to God”—the Lord never fails in that blessing. Job, righteous Job, in the forty-second closing chapter of the Book of Job; it says twice that God blessed Job with twice as much as he ever had [Job 42:10, 12].
Now that is pleasing to God; and under commandment, I owe that to the Lord [Malachi 3:10]. But what is more pleasing and more wonderful to God is when I give Him something voluntarily, not under commandment, no coercion, a sweet-savor offering [2 Corinthians 9:7]; just out of the love and gratitude of my heart: “Lord, I dedicate, I give, I bring this to Thee—just out of the fullness of my soul.”
The Lord spoke of that like this one time; in the fifth chapter of Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said, “If a man compels you to go with him a mile, go with him twain” [Matthew 5:41]; two miles. Well, what is He referring to? He is referring to a law in the Roman Empire that gave a Roman soldier the right—when he marched anywhere, when he went anywhere—to coerce a citizen into carrying his weapons and to carrying his gear a Roman mile. Down the road in, say, Judea is a Roman soldier, and he sees a Jew out in the field working. And he says to that man, “Come here!” And, by law, that man had to come and to carry the burden of the Roman soldier for one mile, coercively, by law.
Now the Lord said—when that coercion comes, and the Roman soldier passing by calls you out of the field to walk with him a mile, to carry his weapons or his gear or his pack for a mile—the Lord says, “Do not walk behind him cursing him every step of the way, contemptuously hating him for everything that he stands for—do not do that.” Walk up there by his side, and tell him your name, where you’re from—ask him his name and where he’s from: “Do you have any children?” And talk to him; maybe tell him about the Lord.
Then when you come to the end of the Roman mile, by law, you have the right to lay the burden down and to leave it. But the Lord said, “When you come to the end of the Roman mile, turn to the soldier and say, ‘Would it be all right if I walked by your side and carried the burden for a second mile?’“ Can you imagine what that would do to that Roman soldier? He’d never forget it! And he’d never forget the Lord that you presented to him—God is in that.
May I, out of a multitude of others, mention another thing of the Lord? In the Book of Luke, it says the Lord met ten lepers—ten of them [Luke 17:11-19]. And healing ten of them, by law, obeying the law, the Lord said to them, “You go and show yourself to the priests” [Luke 17:14]. And according to the Levitical law, there were certain things that they were to do, cleansed, having been healed. Then the Bible says that of those ten who by commandment were going to the priests, one of them turned around, and came back and fell at the feet of our Lord, and glorified God, thanking Him for the gift of healing [Luke 17:15-16]. He didn’t have to do that. By law and by commandment, he had to go to the priest [Leviticus 14:2]. But out of the fullness of his heart, he offered a sweet-savor offering to Jesus [2 Corinthians 9:7]; he came back and just thanked Jesus for what He had done; uncoerced, uncommanded, voluntarily, out of the fullness of his heart [Luke 17:15-16].
Now God is pleased when we’re that way. Certain things I am to do under commandment, under the coercive power of God; who has all power—I am to do certain things. But as pleased as the Lord may be in my obedience to what is commanded, it is fragrant in His presence, it is precious in His sight, when I voluntarily, out of the gratitude and love of my heart, when I do over and beyond—the Christian extra [2 Corinthians 9:7].
I read something this week in preparing this message. One of the most unusual things I ever read in my life. The pastor of a church was looking for a sexton, a janitor, and couldn’t find anybody. Finally, he came to his men and said, “That fellow Anderson over there, let’s ask him, let’s hire him to be the janitor of the church.” And the men demurred: “That’s the sorriest, no-accountest, good-for-nothingest fellow in this town. We’re not going to have him, even for the janitor of the church.”
So the days passed, and the weeks passed—they couldn’t find anybody. So the pastor said again, “I say, let’s hire that young fellow Anderson to be the sexton and the janitor, of the church.” Because they couldn’t get anybody else, they finally acquiesced—the men did—and they hired him.
Well, after the fellow hired at the church, cleaning up the church, he began to clean up himself. They noticed a great change in him. He himself looked so much nicer and so much more pleasant and agreeable. It was just wonderful what happened to him.
Then, as the days passed, he began to attend the services, and he’d sit on the back row and listen. And as the days passed, he went to the pastor and said, “Pastor, I’d like to give my heart to the Lord publicly, and I’d like to be baptized, and I’d like to be a member of the church.” So they accepted him, and they baptized the janitor Anderson.
Well, as the days passed, the young fellow grew in grace. He went to see the pastor again and said, “Could I be entrusted with a class of little boys; teaching Sunday school?” And they said yes. So he began to teach the Sunday school class.
The pastor went away, called to another church. And after the years, the pastor came back to visit the church on an anniversary. And the chairman of the deacons met him. And taking him to the home in which he was to be the guest, the eyes of the chairman of the fellowship of deacons twinkled and said, “You’d never guess in the world where I’m taking you. I’m taking you to Mr. Anderson’s home.”
And the pastor said, “Mr. Anderson? Mr. Anderson? The only Anderson I ever knew of here was the janitor, the sexton.” And the chairman of the deacons said, “That’s right! I’m taking you to the janitor who is now the president of the First National Bank.”
Well, when they got to the house, he was not there. He was attending a board meeting of the First National Bank. And then the pastor was told that that janitor, that sexton in the church, because of the marvelous change in his life, the wonderful, glorious, new creation—an uncle was amazed at the transformation in the young fellow’s life and left him a large sum of money. And the young fellow took the money, and, blessed of God, he became very affluent and was president of the bank—the First National Bank.
Now, that part of it was just so-and-so, but this is the part that just astonished me. As president of the First National Bank, he asked the pastor if he could continue teaching the class of little boys, and they said yes. And, as president of the First National Bank, he asked if he could continue being janitor of the church! And his reason was: “God did something great for me! He cleaned up my soul, cleaned up my life, and saved me, and regenerated me. And out of gratitude to God, I’d like to continue to clean the church and to make it shine for Jesus.”
That is a sweet-savor offering. You don’t need to do it. It’s not commanded. It’s not even expected. But it’s voluntarily given over and above, out of gratitude and thanksgiving. I just never heard of a thing like that—the president of the First National Bank, the most loved and respected man in all of that area of the earth. “May I continue to be the janitor of the church?” That’s great—that magnifies the Lord.
Dear people, when I was a youth, when I was in the seminary, at that time the greatest violinist in the world came to the city to play. Well, I had heard about him. His name was Fritz Kreisler. He was born in Vienna and reared in Vienna and became a world-famous violinist.
Well, when he came to the city, I went down to hear him play, and I was enthralled. Oh, dear! You kids who play the violin—that’s just the most marvelous thing in the world—outside of the trombone—that’s the most marvelous thing in the world. Oh! Oh!
Well, I went to hear Fritz Kreisler play; and I was just blessed—I just loved him. They encored him again and again. And every encore he played a piece that he himself had written. And they were just beautiful—just beautiful! Well, I just clapped and clapped and clapped, and I applauded.
And, in later years, I read something about him and from him. And you know what? If I had read this before I went to hear him play, I would have stood up and applauded, had I been the only one in that vast throng—I’d have stood up and applauded. This is what I read from Fritz Kreisler, quote:
I was born with music in my soul. I knew musical scores instinctively before I knew my ABCs. It was a gift of God. I did not acquire it, so I do not even deserve thanks for music. It comes from God. Music is too sacred to be sold. I never look upon money that I earn as my own. It is only a fund entrusted to my care for proper distribution. I am constantly endeavoring to reduce my needs to the minimum. I feel morally guilty in ordering a costly meal, for it deprives someone else of a little slice of bread—some child, perhaps, of a bottle of milk. You know what I eat? You know what I wear? In all these years of my so-called success in music, we have not built a home for ourselves—between it and us stand all the homeless in the world.
Can you imagine that? “Any money that comes to me from my music, I don’t use it for myself. There are too many poor. And I never order an expensive dinner. There are too many who are hungry. And anything placed in my hands, I give it to the poor. It belongs to God.” A sweet-savor offering, not commanded, not demanded, not expected, but just out of the gratitude and thanksgiving and love of our souls [2 Corinthians 9:7].
O Lord! Grateful to God that we have food and others starve; grateful to God we have clothing and others are naked; grateful to God that we have shelter and others are exposed? No! Grateful to God we have food that we can share with somebody else. Grateful to God we have clothing that we can share with somebody else.
One of these fellows seated right here in front of me, when I came in here today, said, “Pastor, look at this.” That’s my suit; he’s wearing it. How many have I given you? Three I know of. It does my soul good to do it. When I make a trip around the world—done it many times—I pack my case with clothing, just jam it, and I give it to the missionaries and to the people all the way around the world. Most blessed thing, thankful I’ve got clothing that I can share with somebody else.
Thankful, Lord, that I have an income that I can dedicate to Thee. Every dime and every nickel and every stick of furniture and everything we have, we’ve already dedicated it and willed it to God’s work in this dear church—sweetest thing in the world, un-coerced, un-commanded, un-demanded, unexpected; but a sweet-savor offering to our Lord.
A fellow was asked, “What did you do yesterday?” And he said, “Yesterday? Well, yesterday I taught a class in the Center of Biblical Studies. And on Tuesday I was down in the Rio Grande Valley working in Vacation Bible School. And on Wednesday I was operating in our Baptist hospital in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. And on Friday I was teaching the Word of God in the Amazon jungle. And on Saturday I was building a church house in the Philippines. And on Sunday I was preaching on the streets in the Japanese capital of Tokyo. And the next day I was distributing Bibles in South Korea.
And the fellow listening to him said, “Man, even in a jet age you can’t do that.” And the fellow says, “But I do it every day. I dedicate to the Lord a gift in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and it goes all over the earth doing good for Jesus.”
That’s marvelous! Commanded, this belongs to God; but a sweet-savor offering, the Christian extra, over and beside and beyond, just out of the love of God [2 Corinthians 9:7]. “This, Lord, because I love You.” It’s a great way to live. It’s a great way to work.
I don’t want to weary you with it, but I can tell you this: when a man feels that he’s working for God and the kingdom of the Lord—not only for myself, but for God—it puts something in his soul that is precious beyond description. It’s a marvelous way to do, a marvelous way to go, a marvelous way to toil, a marvelous way to labor, a marvelous way to work. It’s a marvelous way to live. It’s a marvelous way to die! And I think it will be a marvelous way, sometime, to stand before the Lord and [hear Him] say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” [Matthew 25:21]. God bless us—we’re going to stand and pray now.
Our wonderful, wonderful Savior, all of us share in that dedicated spirit and heart of wanting to do a good thing, a beautiful thing, a precious thing for Jesus. And our Savior, in every step of the way, may what we do arise out of love for Jesus. What we do commanded, we are glad to do, but, O Lord, above and beyond anything commanded, anything expected beyond that, Lord, it is such a sweet privilege to do something just because we love Thee. And sanctify and hallow that commitment in all of our souls.
While our people wait just for you, a family, “Pastor, today we are placing our life in this wonderful church. We are coming.” A couple, you and your husband, or you and a friend, or just you, “God has spoken to my heart, and, pastor, we are on the way.” In the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, we are waiting for you, expecting you. God speed you in the way. And thank You wonderful Savior for the precious harvest You give us, in Thy dear, dear name, amen. Welcome as you come, while we sing our song of appeal.