Hebrews 13:15 “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
These words are taken from the letter to the Hebrews, and these Jewish believers would have been familiar with the bloody sacrifice of animals in the regular worship life at the temple. Those sacrifices did not benefit the Lord in any way. He didn’t need these animals for himself. They didn’t serve the neighbors of the worshipers, except for the meat that was given to the priests to support their families. The sacrifices themselves didn’t even pay for sin, though they did preach the message that sin deserved death, and that God would accept a substitute and grant his forgiveness.
Those sacrifices all came to an end with Jesus. He gave himself as the ultimate sacrifice, the one that really did dispose of our sins. Through him, then, we offer God a different kind of sacrifice–one that isn’t a payment, but a free and thankful response. Hebrews describes it as a “sacrifice of praise.” It is a sacrifice that magnifies God’s name, that proclaims his unparalleled love for us and honors him for his saving work.
What does that mean? What will we do? Offering God a sacrifice of praise is more than what we say with our lips. We bring God praise when we live in a way that shows our hearts have been transformed by his love. That’s not the generic “niceness” and politically correct tolerance our world celebrates. This is the life of love that responds to insults and hatred with gentleness, kindness, even generosity. Solomon said it this way: “If your enemy hungers, feed him. If he thirsts, give him something to drink.”
Hearts transformed by God do not speak the rhetoric of a society that gives lip service to equality, but in reality thinks, “I’m just a little better than everyone else.” It treats everyone with dignity. It adopts Paul’s exhortation, “In humility consider others better than yourself.”
Hearts transformed by God aren’t stuck on the world’s concept of freedom, the freedom to gratify all my urges. They embrace the Spirit’s idea of freedom: “The fruit of the Spirit is…self control.”
So offering God a sacrifice of praise is more than what we say with our lips. But it is not less. Here it’s called, “the fruit of lips that confess his name.” There is nothing more foundational for offering God a sacrifice of praise than meeting with his people each week to worship him. There is nothing that so distinguishes the disciple of Jesus from the rest of the world. I have personally known atheists who were kind, humble, and self-controlled. There are unbelievers who pray–probably billions of them. But only Jesus’ disciples gather together each week to sing his praises and talk about his love for them.
And what we say about him when we are gathered for worship will spill over into what we say about him in the world. For many, talking about Jesus’ grace seems forced and unnatural if it is part of a church program aimed at visiting people we have never met before. But if we are aware of how far we have fallen in our sin, and we see how temporary and disappointing all our earthly things are, and we know how dearly our Savior loves us, and we are sure of the perfect life that awaits us, how “natural” to praise him to the people we know, but who don’t know him.
It’s as natural as fruit growing on a fruit tree, “the fruit of lips that confess his name.”