In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul gives a command to the church—“rejoice always.” This order is quite impossible to achieve in our own strength. But if we are filled with the Spirit (as Paul commands us to be in Ephesians 5:18), our constant rejoicing is natural and is the way every Christian should live. In fact, it is a high form of praise to God—the halal of Praise. In this praise (as Ephesians 5:19 describes) we speak to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with our hearts to the Lord. This praise is not so much a verbal praise but an attitude of the heart. It is the joy of the Lord springing forth from His Spirit within us.
As we are filled with the Spirit and our life is shaped by praise, it will be marked by a noticeable freedom, peace and confidence. This freedom of course is the freedom we feel in Christ because we have been set free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1-2). The peace and confidence comes because our mind is set on the Spirit (Rom. 8:6), and the Holy Spirit reveals to us and assures us that we have eternal life and that we can do all things through Christ.
To some, this new freedom and confidence may appear to take the form of “dropping out” of the ordinary responsibilities of life. And so, as Christians choose feasting instead of dieting, resting instead of jogging, playing instead of working, and as this new freedom takes the form of a sense of humor or a general sense of well being, some outsiders may label this attitude as an irresponsibility.
But I have a feeling that deep inside they are envious and angry. They can’t understand our peace and freedom, so they lash out at us and sometimes even want to harm us. Our response, of course, should always be to love them. In fact, a lifestyle shaped by praise is embodied in the unconditional welcome of all others, friends or enemies, as our neighbors—for friends and enemies alike are neighbors because they are God’s creations and His gifts of love to us. By our neighbors, God comes to us and invades our isolation, rescuing us from loneliness. Let us praise Him for our neighbors.
Last, I can’t emphasize strongly enough that God is honored not so much by our words but by our daily obedient service. As Romans 12:2 instructs us, let us present our bodies, everyday, a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. Such surrender of our lives to Him is the highest form of praise.