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!