How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.
Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’
All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb; but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot.
You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people.” (Isaiah 14-12-20)
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (The Revelation 12:7-9)
We are in a war, but believers in America are only vaguely aware of that fact. They are like the Londoner’s in WWII.
“The first German attack on London actually occurred by accident. On the night of August 24, 1940, Luftwaffe bombers aiming for military targets on the outskirts of London drifted off course and instead dropped their bombs on the center of London destroying several homes and killing civilians.”
“Beginning on September 7, 1940, and for a total of 57 consecutive nights, London was bombed. The decision to wage a massive bombing campaign against London and other English cities would prove to be one of the most fateful of the war.” “During the nightly bombing raids on London, people took shelter in warehouse basements and underground (subway) stations where they slept on makeshift beds amid primitive conditions with no privacy and poor sanitation facilities.”
“Hitler’s intention was to break the morale of the British people so that they would pressure Churchill into negotiating. However, the bombing had the opposite effect, bringing the English people together to face a common enemy. Encouraged by Churchill’s frequent public appearances and radio speeches, the people became determined to hold out indefinitely against the Nazi onslaught. “Business as usual,” could be seen everywhere written in chalk on boarded-up shop windows.” (World War II in Europe: The Blitz, The History Place)
Yes, brothers and sisters we are under attack. It is usually a sneak attack, but never a mistake. It is always intentional. Our enemy’s purpose is to disrupt, to dissuade and to discourage.
Hal Lindsey wrote the book Satan Is Alive and Well, and Dwelling on Planet Earth. He pointed out that in modern, scientific America, the educated and sophisticated laugh at belief in a real devil. They couldn’t be more wrong. It has been a very successful ploy of the enemy of our souls to convince us that he is not real, that “the Devil made me do it,’ is a bogus excuse for heinous behavior.
As Christian believers, we believe what the Bible teaches. That evil one has a negative place throughout the Bible. He appears in Genesis 3 as the tempting, lying serpent and in The Revelation as the great dragon, the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.
Make no mistake! That evil spirit is ever with us – unbelievers and believers alike.
But GOD! I love that phrase! The evil one, the enemy of our souls is a very powerful being. Far more powerful than any one of us, and even more than all of us. We must take his power seriously,
But GOD! Jeshuah ha Mashiach proved the method to defend against his temptations – “It is written!”
But GOD! Our Savior not only gives us defense, but He, our Lord God, has utterly defeated the enemy of our souls when He died for us, the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and then in his Resurrection utterly destroyed the hold of death upon believers! He gave us authority over the enemy and all his demons.
God made Adam’s and Eve’s life simple.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
The enemy did not make Adam angry with Eve. He did not tempt the two of them to lie or cheat one another. He sowed a little doubt,
“Has God said …?” “You will not die if you eat it, the fruit is not poison!”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field that the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat of any tree in the garden?'” (Genesis 3:2)
He was right, and Eve in surrendering to his temptation did not die … physically; but she, and later Adam, died spiritually!
There were three temptations:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)
John defined them in his first epistle (1 John 2:16)
Temptations the enemy laid on Jesus (Luke 4:3-13)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
It is true that our enemies are not people; but they are the forces and the demons that are operating in the flesh and blood that we must confront.
In our own lives we wrestle against the World, the Flesh and the Devil!
First, we look at the enemy of our souls – the Devil.
“as the great dragon, the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”. (The Revelation 12:9)
Actually, he is the easiest to defeat. He has no power against Jeshua (Jesus), nor against believers, who are living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jeshua said, He is sending the Holy Spirit to us.
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:6-8)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Authoritative command in the name of Jeshua (Jesus) sends the enemy of our souls packing.
Second, we live in the World. The world persistently pressures us to conform to the lowest common denominator. Those worldly ones do not like non-conformists. They like those who are worse than they are, so they can assuage their consciences with, “See, I’m not as bad as she (or he) is!”
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:5)
The world, is not us, so we have that advantage. Further, we have been redeemed. That puts a separation between us and the world. We can always come back to Jeshua, “I belong to You, my Lord. I do not belong to the world.
Third, the hardest battle is with our own flesh. It is material, but not spiritual. It has appetites that must be satisfied, but not indulged. It takes both willpower and “WON’T POWER”.
Paul put up a fierce struggle against both what his flesh insisted on doing and what his flesh fiercely resisted doing.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15-24)
The flesh belongs to us, so, in this life, there can be no actual separation. The flesh must be disciplined into submission to our born-again spirits. When our flesh is undisciplined it leads to all manner of evil.
The Children of Israel submitted to fleshly fears put upon them time after time by the enemy.
If your spirits are surrendered to Jeshua, they are built up and become strong, both to keep our flesh under control, and to stand fast against the influence of the evil one and his demons.
Saul the Benjaminite was God’s choice to be the king of Israel. The prophet-priest Samuel anointed him and by lot the People chose him. He began to reign under God’s favor. Tragically, he allowed his flesh to dictate. First when Saul was preparing for battle, he called Samuel to make a propitiating sacrifice to seek God’s favor in the battle. When Samuel was delayed, Saul usurped the priest’s role and sacrificed the lamb.
Later when God pronounced a ban on the Amalekites consigning every man, woman and child and all their animals to be killed off, king Saul disobeyed, He saved alive their king and the choicest animals. These sins opened a passage for the enemy of our souls to insert a demon who plagued Saul.
David’s music soothed Saul, because David played his music, not to entertain the king, but to glorify God. David’s godly influence was enough to keep Saul from wholly surrendering to the demon, until Saul, motivated by the demon sought to kill David.
David, a man after God’s heart, also opened a passage for the enemy by his sin with Bathsheba, which began with adultery, and proceeded through deceit, and conspiracy, to murder.
But GOD! David’s heart was so tender toward God that when he was confronted by Nathan, he immediately acknowledged his sin and sought forgiveness.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalms 51:3-4)
His turning to God in repentance blessed God and by grace He covered David’s sin and sealed the passage that sin had opened. That excluded any demonic influence.
These two examples, one negative and one positive, speak to us today. Brothers and sisters, Isaiah in the Song of the Suffering Servant declared the tragic truth,
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Yes, Jeshua has borne our transgressions, but the tragic point is that we, each one of us has violated God’s will in our lives. Each one of us has in one way or others, sinned against the righteousness of our Righteous Father, burdened His Son, and offended the Holy Spirit.
Yes, we have the blood of Christ to cleanse us. Nevertheless, Paul that great Old Testament scholar, has this to say to us today,
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2).
Yes, God forbid that we in our respectability and our Christian maturity countenance sin in our lives, because we know Jesus blood cleanses us. That is a subterfuge of the enemy of our souls. Look in the mirror of Jeshua! See how your life stands up to His reflection. Be not kind to yourselves. Do not be a Saul who decides that some of these are too good to sacrifice.
Let me remind you of another of Paul’s teachings,
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:20-32)
My sisters and my brothers I adjure you (and Myself!) to pray these appeals of David, the man after God’s own heart:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139:23-24)
In this way you will keep honest before God and you will close up those passageways of sin to prevent the enemy of your souls from making inroads into your soul.
Stand fast in the liberty where with God has made you free.
My Lord and my God I appeal to you on behalf of these, your wonderful children. Have mercy on them for any besetting sins that have become so common they seem to be natural. Holy Spirit convince us all of the sins we have harbored because they are so much a part of our nature. Give us the awareness of anything in our lives that makes You uncomfortable, since You have taken up Your abode in our spirits.
Jeshuah ha Meshach, You have made us victors in this life, because You have won the victory over sin, death and Satan, and have turned that victory over to us. Grant us grace to live in that victory and to reflect Your Shekinah to all we contact, sharing the love and joy You have given us through Your dwelling in us.
The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:
That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers. (1 Kings 8:57-58)
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:
Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,”
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 6:8 – 7:2 & 7:51-60)
Pastor James Corban was called to a small-town church. After the first several Sundays, he noticed that one man, an Elder, who sat in the back would get up and leave about two-thirds of the way through the sermon. Just when, in his sermon, he would get to applying the teaching to their lives, the Elder would walk out.
Pastor James met him on the street one day. “Hello, Mr. Smithers, do you have time for a cup of coffee and a visit to get acquainted?’
The conversed for several minutes, until Pastor James thought it appropriate to ask, “I have noticed that you leave the church every Sunday before I finish my sermon. Do you have to get home to do chores?”
“Naw, Preacher. I jist leave when yah stop preachin’ ‘n’ start meddlin’.”
There was a controversy in the early months of the newly constituted Christian Church. The Gentile widows were not receiving a just share out of the contributions. To resolve the concern the Disciples, prompted by Peter, chose seven men to administer the contributions. Their credentials were “honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom”.
The Holy Spirit was not content to leave these men “serving tables”. Luke details two who were especially active in broader ministries. The Holy Spirit led Phillip to Samaria, where his preaching of Jesus created such a spiritual awakening that Peter and John went up to investigate. They found Phillip’s ministry was genuine, but not complete. He had not introduced the Samaritans to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The two Disciples completed the ministry by laying their hands on the Samaritans and praying for the release of the Holy Spirit. They encouraged the Samaritans to completely surrender to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to have free reign in their hearts.
After Phillip’s successful ministry in Samaria, the Holy Spirit sent him to the Ethiopian Eunuch near Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. There Phillip to delivered the truth of Christ to him more completely. Next, the Holy Spirit sent Phillip to evangelize each town, north along the coast to Caesarea.
Stephen, another of the Deacons, was going about Jerusalem doing the works of God. He was blessing the people with the good news of the Gospel and healing the sick. As people expressed to him their gratitude, I suppose Stephen had said things like, “In the name of Jesus, get up and walk,” or “Don’t thank me. It was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, who did this for you.”
You never know who is watching and listening. It was several years ago, that I was up in my, large, front yard fir tree stringing Christmas lights. Our neighbor teen stopped at the corner of our property with her friend. Their conversation was within earshot, so I could easily hear all they said. So, from out of the branches, I said, “Be careful what you say. You never know who is listening.” They jumped and searched around but saw no one. I greeted her again. Only then she saw me up in the branches.
In Stephen’s case it was members of the Synagogue of the Libertines that were listening. Stephen was offending no one. He was blessing many. Nevertheless, he was violently set upon by the Synagogue of the Libertines. They were a gathering of Greek-speaking Gentiles, formerly slaves from foreign lands, who had adopted Judaism. Because they were Gentiles, they could not go to a local synagogue, so a synagogue had been established for them alone.
Often proselytes are more zealous for the faith they have just adopted, than those raised in the faith. These fiercely held onto the Law and Jewish practices.
Hearing in Stephen’s preaching something that differed from the doctrine they were learning, they argued sharply with Stephen. The Libertines accosted Stephen and accused him of teaching false doctrine. The proselytes heard Stephen preaching “another Gospel”, testifying that Jesus was the Messiah and more, He was God. The libertines came unglued. They could not best Stephen’s arguments, and that frustrated them! They became infuriated!
Stephen, however, was raised as a Jew and had a thorough grasp of the Scriptures. More importantly, he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Stephen was able to thwart all their arguments. The Libertines could not win by their understanding of Scripture, so they cheated. They turned to deceit and perjury. Those frustrated proselytes spread false accusations against Stephen of blasphemy.
When they realized he continued to best them out of Scripture, they hauled Stephen before the authorities and testified falsely to convince the Elders that Stephen was a heretic and should be stoned. Suddenly, without any preparation, Stephen was standing before the Council and the High Priest. “Are these charges true?” the High Priest demanded of Stephen.
Jesus taught us,
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. (Luke 21:12-15)
As Stephen was thrust into the council chamber, he felt the power of the Holy Spirit come upon him. Luke records what the council members saw,
“And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15)
The light in his face was the Shekinah of Almighty God. Every word he said was prompted by the Holy Spirit.
“And the high priest said, “Are these things so?”
Stephen did not have to meditate. He did not have to grab a scroll to read the passages of holy writ. The Holy Spirit drew upon the resources that Stephen had stored up over the years of his Bar Mitzvah studies and study since salvation.
When asked to defend himself, Stephen began a thumbnail history of the Jews, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. He touched the burning bush and the exodus. Then Stephen emphasized that Moses prophesied of a mighty prophet, the Messiah that would arise in the latter days. Then he moved on to David and Solomon’s construction of the Temple.
Finally, he editorialized. Then he “stopped preachin’ and started meddlin’,”
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
Those were not words of a peeved Stephen. They were the Judgment of the righteous God, the Holy Spirit.
That did it! Those unsaved Jews were convicted, but in rebellion against their own consciences they refused to hear any more. “They stopped their ears”! In mob fury they seized Stephen, dragged him out and stoned him.
We are entering – have entered – a new social environment. When we grew up, an atheist was a rare thing. Most everyone went to church, but those who didn’t had no resentment toward those who did study the Bible and sought to live by their Christian principles.
Not so much, today. Christians all over our nation are being sued for living out their Christianity. The vociferous unbelievers are attacking Christians for refusing to adopt the mores of the culture. More and more we are living in an environment hostile to Christian morality and Christians.
But it is not only in government confrontations that we are challenged for our faith. Even in otherwise normal conversations, as we allow our faith to show, non-believers will ask for the reason for our stance of faith, which in this culture, appears to be aberrant.
Peter teaches us,
… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)
We are all getting older. Sickness is the lot of the aged. Despite limitations and pain and sickness, we need to keep our faith. We need to be able to cheerfully live out our faith in the presence of unbelieving caretakers. Evidencing the reason for our hope in the face of belying circumstances.
Peter makes several points here
How to prepare:
“Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lordsaid to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:6-9)
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
God of our fathers, You brought forth this land conceived in liberty that comes from You. Father, You raised up men who believed in Jesus as God, LORD and Savior. They set this nation on a godly track. We are their heirs, so we need Your Spirit to be active in our lives so we can do our part in preserving America as a godly nation. Give us holy boldness to speak the name of Jesus aloud before the world. Give us grace to declare Your warm truths to a nation grown spiritually cold.
We honor You by depending completely upon Your Spirit both in times when we are confronted by a hostile world, and in times of peace in the normal humdrum of life when a question of faith comes out of the blue. Do not allow our love to be suppressed by either retaliatory anger or complacency. Keep us humbly dependent upon our Savior for peace in the midst of chaotic fury, as well as, an active spirit in the doldrums of life.
Most of all, never allow us to grow cold in our adoration of You, our Majestic, Gracious and Loving Father.
May God …
“grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
A Christian radio station in our area advertises that it is the source for classic Christian music. Then it raises the question of veracity by playing the recent upbeat gospel music (unknown by us ‘ol’ fogies) and the 7/11 gospel, i.e. seven words repeated eleven times.
I hasten to state that I am not dismissing all the modern Christian music. There is much that leads me (us) to rejoice in Christ. Much is a fresh sound that has an emotional appeal.
But I still prefer the traditional hymns of the Church. They are time-tested and have a clear statement of the Gospel. We can zero in on the words and be led to the “Throne of Grace”.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Many are statements of our position in Christ. Many are clear glorification of our Masterful and Majestic Lord and God.
Jesus admonished the Church at Ephesus:
But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. (The Revelation 2:4-5)
The Hymns that have been written over the last several centuries were written by those who understood the truth of the human condition and the Truth of the Gospel, variously expressed in creative poetry. Their words have been matched with grand music. The vast majority are set so they are easily sung by congregations. This makes for body worship, with each person offering her or his heart in the music to our Lord.
For the believer, praise of God is a natural outcome of the truth of what He has done in, to and through us. First in this hymn we acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all Creation. We acknowledge that it is from the loving God that our salvation comes. Implicitly we are witnessing to the sacrificial death of the Son of God so that we can live eternally. We affirm that in Jesus is the source of our health and continuing life. Then, we reach out in evangelism to invite all within the sound of our voices to adore the One true God with us.
Next in song, we affirm His eternal loving care – physically while we are in this life; and then throughout eternity in His glorious Presence. The third verse declares God’s omnipresence; living and working in and with us. It affirms the magnificent promise of His friendship. The closing verse exhorts all people (and animals) to join in the glad chorus of praise, because we all ought to adore Him.
This Hymn is addressed to the Holy Spirit, calling for His presence. We know that we are weak and fickle and easily led astray, so we call upon God’s mighty Spirit to make us love God properly. We acknowledge the Old Testament affirmation that we are to love God with all our heart, mind and strength.
We affirm that we are not seeking some mighty miracle, but only to see Jesus more clearly in the midst of a hectic, fallen world.
Then we address the Holy Spirit directly to appeal to Him to make Himself known to us in the midst of the hurly-burly of this material life, thus keeping us from temptation, impatience and discouragement.
The final plea is to teach us to love God with a heavenly mindset; to be single-minded in our devotion. We cry out for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit to empower our faith so that we can love our Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with a sacrificial love that is all consuming, like the flame that consumes the sacrificial victim on the altar.
In this hymn we express out faithful love for Jesus throughout our lives, from the moment of salvation, when we first become aware that our sin is displeasing to our Farther. The result for the righteous is to seek to eliminate sin from our lives. The reason is in the second stanza – Jesus first loved us and sacrificed everything for us in His accepting the nails, the thorns, and death for us and for our salvation.
We assert that our love will be faithful throughout our lives and even when we face that dread last enemy – death. Even then, we will love our Savior.
We look forward to our translation into God’s eternal glory where, standing before His throne we will have been completely cleansed and rid of sin and have received our unmerited rewards. In that eternal moment we will love our God unrestrained, completely.
Here is unrestrained music to glorify God. Angels announced the birth of King Jesus; the heavens rang with the song, “Glory to God in the Highest!” Jesus is not only the King of the Jews and of redeemed believers from all ethnicity, but, in fact, he was slated to reign over the fallen world, as well. So, joy indeed to the world! This being true, the admonition is that every heart of man should prepare to receive the King of kings.
He is also the Savior. He has come to redeem mankind from sin. He has also come to remake the world in the process of God’s time. It will be perfect as it was before the Fall of Man corrupted God’s Creation. Therefore, all the animals, plants and minerals join in the resounding joy.
King and Savior means that sins and sorrows can cease. We can enter into His creative work in the world, setting aside our sin, because of Christ’s redemption; we can throw off sorrow, knowing that this is but a temporary affliction, because Jesus is triumphant over all!
His rule will establish truth as the outstanding element of our lives. His grace will overflow the governments of the world and they will operate to prove that His righteousness will be predominant and universal.
“Music has charms to sooth a savage breast,” (Poet William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697: ACT I. SCENE I.)
King David established courses of musicians and choirs to ensure that the House of God (first the Tabernacle of David and then in the Temple when it was completed). They played in their courses on a rotating plan that had music on the sanctuary 24 hours a day.
“And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren the singers, with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding aloud and lifting up the voice with joy.” (1 Chronicles 15:16)
“So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed, with cymbals of brass to sound aloud; and Zechariah, and Aziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, and Eliab, and Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with psalteries set to Alamoth; and Mattithiah, and Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and Obed-edom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps set to the Sheminith, to lead. And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was over the song: he instructed about the song, because he was skilful.” (1 Chronicles 15:19-22)
“And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: and David had upon him an ephod of linen. Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of Jehovah with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, sounding aloud with psalteries and harps.” (1 Chronicles 15: 27-28).
Apparently, God enjoys music. He enjoys it soft and sweet. He also enjoys it loud and brash. What He does not enjoy is self-serving music that is performance for the sake of glorifying the performer. Unhappily that is much of the modern church music.
The role of all in the worship service is to glorify God, and then to be open for God to edify each one worshiping. If the music enhances those two purposes, then it is truly a worthy worship experience. If instead, the music is to gin up emotion so that the performer has a gratifying time and the people have an emotionally good time, but without the heart connection with Jesus, then it is an idolatrous performance.
I have been in churches where the music group was “cookin’’”, but the people in the congregation were only singing the words with no indication that they were in touch with Jesus. I have been worshiping in churches where I had to worship in spite of the music. I have struggled under the performance artists who have no sense of being an accompanist to the worship of the congregation. Instead they were the professional performer, expecting the congregation to follow along.
Music in worship is a blessing to God. His desire is to have all His children in unity and glorifying Him. That is where the sacred hymns have a decided advantage. Their words and music are uplifting and they are food to our spirits. There are numerous new songs that are enhancing to worship as well. Those old composers were reliably mature in the spirit as well as gifted. They capture the truths of God’s Word and our lives in Christ. When all who have come to worship our Great God sing those kinds of hymns and songs, we are ministering and being ministered to in the sense of.
And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)
It is an old truth, and I do not believe it becomes trite by often repeating it: God loves us and wants the best for us. He said via Jeremiah,
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
He gives us the best music to worship Him. That is why Christianity has such a plethora of beautiful, spiritually uplifting music. No other religion has such a developed theology sung regularly by congregations gathering to worship.
May I suggest that you open the hymn books you have at home and include singing a hymn or two in your regular family worship (even the choruses to hymns can enhance family and personal worship.).
Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) It is not a corruption to say “worship without ceasing”. You can incorporate singing of hymns in your worship, while walking through this fallen world. God loves to have you close to Him. He loves to have you holding Him central, as you deal with the vicissitudes of life. Worshipping with the family of God is vital, but living daily in the Presence of God by worshiping and praying as an ongoing practice becomes an undergirding foundation that carries you through the attacks, failures, griefs that occur to all of us. We find, in Christ’ Presence, great joy that cannot be diminished.
I will sing unto Jehovah as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have any being.” (Psalms 104:33)
God loves His children. He demonstrated great love in giving us His Son to save us. He truly wants to spend time with us. So, He is with us every minute. To make life fully satisfying, we need to be with him. That is what our Father longs for,too. He has placed that reality in our future. We don’t have to wait until we enter His Presence through death’s door. We can enjoy His Presence every Day! Sing to His glory the Hymns of faith.
This is a recurring feature. I pose a question in one issue. You have the opportunity to send me answers. I publish the best ones in the next issue. Please cite Biblical authority, and keep you answer within 250 words.
ANSWER: We tell little children to ask Jesus to come into their hearts. One of the questions they ask is, “How can a big, grownup man fit inside me?” They do not have the concept of immaterial spirit. The Holy Spirit, being Spirit, easily “fits” in the hearts of believers. Jesus breathed on His Disciples the evening of the first day of the week and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
As God breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7), just so Jesus breathed the living Spirit into the Disciples (and us). That was (and is) not only the regeneration of the dead spirits within us, but it was (and is) the imparting of the Holy Spirit to believers.
That is how the Holy Spirit “gets here”. That raises another question, “What makes the Holy Spirit stay?” We are sinners. When we are born again, we are regenerated. Our sins are forgiven, but we do, in fact, continue to sin. Why is not the Holy Spirit revolted by each sin we commit after our salvation? Why does He not fly away? We give Him many reasons each day to abandon us. Why does He stay?
Because the Holy Spirit is God’s guaranty that we are saved. Paul taught,
… to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ: in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 5:12-14).
In God’s economy, Christ’s blood covers our sin and Jesus has clothed us in His righteousness; therefore, we are an acceptable home for the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is omnipresent. He is everywhere all at once, all the time. He is actively present and available to every believer
Those who acknowledge His presence and defer to Him, are constantly in communication with God the Father. Any believer can open her or his heart for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as John the Baptist taught and Jesus taught:
John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not [a]worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you [b]in the Holy Spirit and in fire:” (Luke 3:16)
“But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Holy Spirit’s power transformed the Disciples from frightened believers in Jesus to courageous proclaimers of God’s truths in Christ. That same power is available to each believer who is willing to receive.
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
Holy Spirit, God divine, reveal to me Who and what You are. Teach me about Jesus and reveal to me truths that I have not seen in times past. You are the Wisdom of God. Grant me to know what is profitable for me.
I come to You with empty hands. I raise them in surrender to Your Majesty. Fill my mouth with Praise of Your splendor. Fill my heart with songs that will glorify You and edify my spirit.
You are the glory of all anointed servants of God. You give them power to conquer, wisdom to adjudicate, love to embrace and help, and mercy to forgive.
I praise You for Your work in my life. You have taught me about my Savior. You have introduced me to the riches in Your Word. You have guided me in my decisions. Thank You for your manifold ministries in my life.
I behold in Your Word the glories of the throne room of God. I have an inkling of the Glory of our Father on His throne and of the wonders around His Presence. We have an image of our Savior, the Lamb of God. Help me to see Your Presence with the Father and the Son. Show my dull mind how You are depicted in Your vision given to brother John.
As the author of the Book, You are not seen, just as the one who takes a photo is not in the picture. It is Your efforts in John’s heart that allowed him to reveal those images to us. Your magnificent humility holds You back from the center stage. And as the director is never on stage in a play, You are in obscurity while glorifying the Father and the Son.
In Your self-effacing stance, You teach us to be brothers and sisters, always lifting up others into the spotlight, while quietly working the works of our Father. Give me the shelter of obscurity to concentrate on God’s purposes and to accomplish great things that give glory only to Him. Stifle my yearning for recognition. Give me the satisfaction of my Father’s quiet approval. Let me find deep pleasure in worldly shunning, while my Father takes pleasure in my efforts on His behalf. Keep me under the shadow of Your wings in intimate relationship with You and separate from worldliness and applause.
Blessed Holy Spirit, speak to me in that still, small voice that is for me alone. Allow me the courage and the privilege of proclaiming Your Name, so that others will begin praising Your Majesty, glory and dominion over their lives! Hallelujah most magnificent God, Almighty. Hallelujah!