There we sat in the movie theater, with about 200 other people, just in time to see the opening of Crazy Stupid Love. With this being in the genre of a romantic comedy, it is safe to say that the female gender took the majority count in the room, ha. Midway through the movie we finally approached the imminent flirtatious scene between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (my future wife). What happened next turned out to be hilarious – Ryan Gosling takes off his shirt… and on the 32-foot tall, 75-foot wide movie theater scene, 200 people received a full HD view of his 8-pack abs. I kid you not, every girl in the theater automatically gave some type of audible reaction. 70 girls gave a deep gasp, 70 other girls giggled, and 30 other girls clapped. The 30 guys in the movie theater just smacked their teeth in a jealously retorted gesture. However, the reactions from the girls were priceless. There was a warm delight that triggered in their eyes and bubbled up into a spontaneously audible reaction. An external praise.
Now, let us ask ourselves a question: Why is it that there was such outward expression givien off by those girls? Why did they not just feel the delight and keep that feeling to themselves? We know that their reactions to Ryan’s abs were not forced out but, on the other hand, were naturally performed. That action is slightly weird when you think about it, is it not?
Another example – In the church that I attend we have experienced this “baby boom” over the past 10 months. Literally, there are babies everywhere. I am scared. (I have a prophetic theory that the babies are going to take over the church and turn us into their slaves… but that is neither here nor there). One established fact is that the babies are awfully adorable. I mean my goodness they are precious. They turn heads like it’s their jobs. People are continuously complementing the babies, continuously gathering around them, and continuously telling other people about a new baby that they must see. What is it that causes us to react like this? It is not as if we haven’t seen a baby before.
The answer happens to be the exact same reason that God asks us to praise him. All throughout the Bible we see numerous instances where God says to give him joyful praises. C.S. Lewis, who used to be a staunch atheist until his conversion, used to hate Christianity for this reason. He felt as if God was this old beggar-woman asking for praises all the time. After his conversion, he realized the truth behind why God demands that we praise him:
C.S. Lewis –
“Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’…
…“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”
What Lewis is saying is that the reason girls in a movie theater naturally give an external reaction to Ryan Gosling’s gorgeous abs is because their joy in those abs does not feel complete until they let it out. The reason we tell people about cute babies is because we have to share this news in order to complete the feeling. The initial joy is fuel that leads us into some form of obedience to achieve the full joy. We see this with Instagram and Facebook as well. We post pictures of the coffee we’re sipping or the delicious meal we’re eating because we must tell someone. Weird, huh? We do it all the time. We are by design worshipers and want people to join us in that feeling of gratification. God wired us for this. God’s demand to praise him is not meant for Himself. God does not need our approval. He tells us to praise him because in the act of praising we walk into a fulfillment of the eternal-like joy that we were created for. If God loves you he would want what is best for you. What is best for you is Himself. In order for your joy to be naturally completed, it must be expressed. The scriptures are hinting to us, “do you want fullness of joy…do you want everlasting peace and freedom…then praise God in all things with all your heart.” Isaiah 25:1, Psalm 150:2, James 5:13, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc.
The Lord wants us to understand that anything we praise that does not end in praise of the triune God will be fleeting (Job 7:6-7, Psalm 144:4, James 4:14). Ryan’s abs will not last forever, babies eventually reach the terrible twos, delicious sandwiches will quickly disappear, and Tom Brady will eventually grow too old for the game. Unless our everyday pleasures end in ultimate praise in Jesus Christ then those pleasures are restricted. Everything that is seen is transient. Our hope lies in focusing more on what is unseen. Jesus takes our sins, dies on the cross in our place for our sins, then rises from death. He gives us his righteousness. He gives us his heart. The more our affections are stirred for Christ, that joy will fuel our obedience to worship, to evangelize, and to naturally give off fruits of the spirit…freely. Not as a job or obligation but because we already feel his affections for us. Continually sitting underneath this Gospel story causes us to continually remember, which in turn, naturally triggers that “joy of eternal significance”. That joy that creation yearns for.
Let us adore Him. Let us praise Him.
Reflections on the Psalms. C.S. Lewis. 1958.