DiM | Music in Worship

trebleclefToday, we’ll be watching a video of various ministers discussing the role of Music in Worship. I came by this link via WWUTT Facebook status update. This video is the final part of a 5-part series entitled “The Family that Worships Together”. The series is made freely available online at the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) here.

The Family that Worships Together | Music in Worship

I’m providing a link to a version of this film uploaded to YouTube because it works better in this blogging format; however, the individual who uploaded the video attributed the work to Paul Washer, when it is actually produced by Scott T. Brown, the Director of NCFIC and an elder at Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forrest, NC. Paul Washer is in this video.

[youtube https://youtu.be/XeDQ58OXle8]

Intro: 0:00 – 11:50
Vain Repetition: 11:50 – 17:30
Mind and Emotion in Worship: 17:30 – 33:30

Scott T. Brown closes the video out by posing 8 questions we should ask ourselves when considering music in our worship service.

8 Questions to ask

  1. Is the music emphasizing the teaching, or does the music become most prominent? Col 3:16-17
  2. Does the music deliver accurate instructions?
  3. Does the music come from a wrong motive? 1 Kings 1:26
  4. Does the music worship the right God in the wrong way? (Nadab and Abihu?)
  5. Does the music foster reverence? Malachi lame/blind sacrifices
  6. Does the music foster holiness or sensuality? (style of the music, how it is lead, etc.)
  7. Does the music foster orderliness? (1 Cor 14)
  8. Does the music foster love? (summary of the Law)

Closing Thoughts

Some of the individuals in the video were pushing hard for the older hymns as a means for connecting to the church of yesteryear. We’ve addressed that notion here in a couple of posts. While I fully acknowledge the doctrinal focus of the older hymnals, there is still a need to modernize the accompaniment and even the language of the older hymns. When a church has to devote time to teaching what a song meant for those who spoke archaic forms of English, the time has come to either update the language of the song, or rewrite the song. If we can rightly move to Scriptures written in modern English (ESV, NASB, CEV, etc.) then we can certainly update the language of a song or a hymn. On all other points, I found myself in full agreement with this video presentation.

Psalm 150  (ESV) | Let Everything Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | And Whatever You Do…

trebleclefOur Discernment in Music (DiM) posts are the most read blogs on our website. While we are exceedingly grateful that people come here (based on Search Terms that lead them here) to find the lyrics of popular songs on Christian radio, or in hopes of finding out the intended  meaning a particular song, some might leave this site thinking we have a dim view of music or singing in general. Today, I’d like to address a couple of concerns and then I’d like to take a look at the role of songs and music in Worship.

Concerns

I’d like to quickly address some of the more common concerns related to me either in-person, in email, on social media, or in comments here. These points are categories of complaints/comments and none of them have been conveyed verbatim.

You just want us to go back to Hymnals? No. Well, yes and no. Yes, I’d like to return to the lyrical emphasis of teaching sound doctrine accompanied by music, even if it means we have to write 4 verses and a bridge to get there. I’d also like to see churches treat their music selections as if they were composing a Hymnal. Those hymnals were taken as seriously as their catechisms. A music leader shouldn’t have full authority to simply whip out a new song on Sunday morning and expect the Elders to “go along”. Musically… no, I do not want to go back to the Hymnals as the only form of music in the church. I don’t like monotonous speech or music, and I really don’t like having to explain the archaic English grammar or idioms found in some hymns just to sing a song that might otherwise convey an aberrant meaning.

You just want to go back to an organ and a choir? No, and I really mean that this time. Listen, there is nothing sanctified about the organ. I’ve heard the Hammond B3 used to accentuate false teachers like TD Jakes and I’ve heard them in popular pagan music, too. Nothing sacred about that musical instrument, or any other. As for having a choir, I’m ambivalent. If you do have a choir, I prefer the old setups where the choir was actually above and behind the congregation rather than in front (only a personal preference, not Law). I dislike operatic singing, though… because I cannot sing along if I cannot make out the words. I struggle truly appreciating traditional choir performances because of the archaic English and the operatic enunciation (or lack thereof) of words.  Regardless of musical genre, if I cannot make out the words I just check out of the worship. I struggle as it is to not slide into critique/analysis of the audio mix coming from the sound booth.

You are limiting Creativity to only a finite list of topics. No. When we point out a song that lacks a Gospel message or a law-heavy, works-based, or man-centric theology we are not saying that every song needs to be a rewording of Eph 2:1-10 (though I’d love to hear a modern song doing that). We are also not saying that songs can only be written from the Psalms, Proverbs, or Song of songs. They don’t have to have “Bible quotes” in them. When they do, the scriptures need to be quoted faithfully and in context. No, the corrective measure we are pushing for here is that whatever the topic, whatever the goal, whomever the intended target… the emphasis of the lyric should convey both Law and Gospel faithfully to the listener. The Law convicts us of sin so that we might repent and be forgiven by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Those citing “limitations” are only being limited by their refusal to submit their music and their lyrics to the Authority of Scripture.

Music is Fitting for Christian Worship Today

While we have the Psalms and several other Old Testament songs, we needed always look to King David and the Tabernacle to justify the inclusion of music in our Worship today. I’d like to take a look at 2 encouragements from the Apostle Paul.

Ephesians 5:1-21 (ESV) | Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

We’ve looked at this passage a number of times in the past, with a particular focus in how we are to walk the Christian walk. This passage is also directly applicable to how we conduct ourselves Worship. We are called to be living sacrifices, living forms of Worship to God. Naturally, how we worship should be a part of how we walk. Notice here that we are to put away from among us all sexual immorality and all impurity, foolish talk, filthiness, and crude joking. We should not only do this in speech, but in our songs and music as well. Before you brush that thought aside, think about what plays in your car’s radio during the week, what streams in your headphones while you exercise, and what “specials” might be playing in the megachurch you visited recently (C3 Church Leaders & Staff Video). Getting back to the passage, we see Paul encouraging us to sing songs to one another and making melody to the Lord in our hearts. The mention of getting drunk doesn’t make this a passage for how we are to act outside of the assembly, but inside, too. Remember Paul rebuked the Corinthians for using the Lord’s Supper as an occasion to get drunk! Do you think Paul would allow room for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that proclaimed a different/false gospel? No, that isn’t even remotely within the realm of possibility. We are to encourage one another in Truth, putting away all falsehood.

Colossians 3:1-17 (ESV) | Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Again, we see Paul addressing these matters within the context of living godly lives of Worship and Thanksgiving. We are to put to death the fleshly, worldly things and to put on Heavenly qualities listed above, by faith through the Grace of our Lord and Savior. I come from a Puerto Rican background, so the big question from my culture is whether or not we can bring salsa or merengue music into the church as a form of proper Worship to God. These musical forms accompany a very sensual form of dancing out in the world, but does that mean the music itself is sensual? I submit to you that for some it would be perfectly acceptable and even fun to include in Worship to the God of Creation with hearts full of thanksgiving and praise. For others, on the other hand, the struggle of separating the music from the sensual form of dance, or the lustful thoughts of the heart might be too strong to bear. Pastors and elders, as the steward shepherds over Christ’s flock, needs to know His sheep. If the congregation is still fleshly and immature in the Faith, including such music would be ill-advised. I think the same holds true for Reggae, Rock-n-Roll, Electronica, and Hip Hop/R&B. That “Gospel” has become its own genre of music always leaves me shaking my head in disgust. There is so little Gospel in “Gospel Music” today my heart aches.

My point is that the music style is not the standard, the character of the Worship is. Not just the character of the individual worshipers, but the Worship itself. For if hints of earthliness creep into our corporate Worship (regardless of genre, denomination, or creed) the Worship is defiled. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. While I’ve only seen it done handful of times, it is proper for an Elder to call attention to sinful behavior in Corporate Worship. It’s indeed quite unpleasant, but necessary when rebuke is appropriate. God is not a God of confusion but of peace, and all things should be done decently and in order.

Purpose of DiM

Our goal isn’t to present a dean’s list of solid biblical Christian Music. Our goal is to equip you with the tools necessary for practicing Biblical Discernment in Music that you hear on a daily basis, including what you sing on Sunday Mornings. We only look at a small slice of the Christian Music scene, the most popular or popularized (by aggressive marketing and promotion) songs. There is a lot more out there. If you’d like us to review a song that isn’t on the top20 charts, shoot us an email and we will try to work them into DiM posts on Thursdays.

Until next time, it is our prayer that you continue growing in the Knowledge of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scriptures and that in so doing you might abound in Faith.

Colossians 4:2-6(ESV) Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Praise, Worship, and Music

CTTAs we start to focus more and more on Discernment in Music posts, the need to clearly define some of our terminology becomes clear. There is a tendency in modern evangelicalism of treating Praise and Worship as interchangeable terms. I believe that to be an error in theology. Worse, there is a tendency to treat both Praise and Worship as pertaining only to music and singing. If you asked today’s evangelical youth to define Praise and Worship, you’d probably get a breakdown along the lines of “praise is when you’re rockin’ out for God, and worship is the slower music before the sermon”. Worship and Praise are not the same thing, and neither is defined by music, singing, or dancing.

Worship ≠ Praise ≠ Music

Today’s post will not be an exhaustive treatment of this thesis; rather, it might be considered more of an introduction. It will not be a short post. The visible church has been overwhelmed by this music-centric understanding of Praise and Worship for decades… Hillsong, Vineyard, and Jesus Culture have built empires on this error of theology, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t take my word on this, but take what I’m presenting here to the Word of God to see if it is True.

For the empiricist reader, I fully recognize that you “feel something” whenever you are engaged in “corporate worship” of a certain sound, a certain vibe, and many of you attribute that sensation to the Holy Spirit’s approval of the music, singing, and other inclusions of art in the “worship service”. There is often the argument of, “there is power in praise and worship music”… and to that I will agree. However, let me urge you to suspend that thought for just a second, and consider that while there is clearly emotive power in music, that doesn’t necessarily constitute God’s approval. The thought, “I really enjoyed that” shouldn’t morph into “the Presence of God was there”… but it does in evangelical speak. The world can manipulate the emotions and the senses through the arts better than any of today’s mega-church corporations… and we see this when they constantly copy the world’s techniques. The world has perfected the art of staging a concert down to scientific and engineering detail. Emotional manipulation through the arts is a multi-billion dollar industry (Movies, Music, TV, and Internet).

Music

I’m a big fan of music. I find enjoyment in a wide array of musical styles and genres. I have played in Church worship teams, sung background and the occasional lead, and ran a small mobile DJ business that I handed over to my little brother when I enlisted in the US Army. I love music. Is it possible to incorporate music and the arts into our proper Praise of God? Absolutely.

Psalm 150 (ESV) | Let Everything Praise the Lord
1 Praise the Lord!Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Throughout Chronicles whenever King David directed the people of Israel to Praise the Lord he assigned musicians and singers to mark the event. He had instruments made and he wrote many songs and hymns. He also had chief musicians who wrote Psalms. You’ll find hundreds of songs and references to songs throughout the Bible… but you won’t find the arrangements. You’ll find the lyrics, but not the melody. Music can add emotion to lyrics, but it cannot sanctify them. When God ensured His Word was recorded and preserved throughout the generations unto this day, He preserved His Word, but not the musical arrangement. Why is that? Because in Christ we have musical freedom, but we dare not neglect or abuse His Word. Praise doesn’t require music. Music is a gift to us from God that can be used to heighten our emotional engagement with the substance of our Praise (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), but music is in no way required for praise. The music doesn’t make the praise, it is the Praise that makes the music pleasing to God. Praise Him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise

What is praise? In a secular sense, praise is the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/praise). The focus of the definition isn’t on the act; rather, on the substance of what is being sung/spoken. There are cases where the praise might purely contextually based, such that an outsider may find the praise ambiguous. For example, if a group of people are gathered in the living room to watch a team sporting event on TV… everyone might cheer a great play without articulating what was assumed to be witnessed by all. Everyone might simply yell, “YEAH!” or “WOOHOO” while throwing their hands up in the air. That is praise. It isn’t very clear praise for someone who didn’t witness the play, or has no knowledge of what is taking place on the television. However, if the outsider were to ask any one of them what they were praising, we’d expect them all to articulate the object of their praise (e.g. the great play). Before we abandon this analogy, please note that as the crowd grows larger, the likelihood of one of the “praisers” not understanding what they were praising or why grows. What becomes of that individual? They are either labeled a “false fan” of the game, or a fan of being a fan, or a praiser of praise irrespective of the object of said praise… they just like seeing folks “happy”. Sadly, many a modern church congregation fits this sports fan analogy better than what is prescribed of a Church in the New Testament.

Turning to the Scriptures, I’m going to stick with a solid English interpretation of the Bible and will not be diving into the Ancient Hebrew or the Koine Greek. For those of you who have faithfully studied the Biblical languages, feel free to search these things out in the original texts. We’ll start by a rough examination of the use of the word “praise” in the ESV, beginning in Genesis.
The first time we see this word is in Genesis 12. God called Abrahm to leave his country and his father’s house and go to the land that He would show Abram. Abram believed the Word of the Lord and obeyed. He took his wife, Sarai, and followed as the Lord led him. Let us pick up in verse 10.

Genesis 12:10-15 (ESV) | Abram and Sarai in Egypt
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

So, in this historical narrative, we find out that Sarai is indeed beautiful in appearance, so much so that Abram fears for his life and opts to lie about her. The Egyptians praised her to Pharaoh. What does that mean? They communicated to Pharaoh what they saw and knew about Sarai. They had esteemed her greatly and were praising her as one in whom the Pharaoh should take interest. They had been given wrong information regarding her, but their praise of her beauty was not wrong. They were praising what they had witnessed.

Skip ahead to Genesis chapter 29, we find Isaac’s son, Jacob, and his two wives Leah and Rachel. Jacob had entered into an agreement with Laban to marry Rachel, but Laban tricked Jacob into first marrying Leah, Rachel’s olders sister, so Jacob then had to promise to work longer for Laban to finally marry Rachel. Now Jacob has 2 wives but loved Rachel and hated (“loved less” in this sense) Leah. Let’s pick up in verse 31.

Genesis 29:31-35 (ESV) | Jacob’s Children
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” 33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.

Our first introduction to the concept of praise reflects an expression of witness of the beauty of Sarai. Here, we see praise as an expression of thanksgiving for what God has done for Leah. It is expressed in his name, Judah. It is fitting, then, that the Promise of the Messiah is given to the tribe of Judah.

Genesis 49:8-12 (ESV) | Jacob Blesses His Sons
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.

Judah will be praised for what God will do through his generations. In Revelation 5, Jesus Christ is identified as the Lion of Judah.

Revelation 5:1-5 (ESV) | The Scroll and the Lamb
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Praise begins and ends in God the Father and God the Son. We offer praises to God for who He Is and what He has Done. As we close out Genesis and move into Exodus, we find our next occurrence of the word “praise” in the Song of Moses, Exodus 15.

Exodus 15:1-3 (ESV) | The Song of Moses
1 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.

God is being praised in this moment (and forevermore) for who He is (our strength, our song, and our salvation) and for what He has done. The remainder of this song is confession of what the Lord has done by His Mighty Hand. Miriam led the singing with tambourines. This song is revisited and expanded in Psalm 106, and was likely accompanied by a greater complement of instruments. Psalm 106 extends this theme of thanksgiving for God’s grace and mercy and mighty works for a sinful and forgetful people, Israel.

I’ve heard it said in multivarious ways by various people that they just couldn’t get into the Praise at a given church due to its music. It is one thing to be distracted by technological problems, painful volume levels, or having music that is very poorly played, but to cite a musical style as inhibitive of Praising God is folly. Sometimes the phrasing comes out, “it doesn’t feel like the Holy Spirit is free to move in their worship service”. I think that the vast majority simply haven’t been taught what Praise really is. If you are finding it hard to Praise God (with or without music), I submit to you that it is due to not having an understanding of who God is, what He has done, who you are, or you have an unhealthy fixation on your own senses.

Worship

Worship isn’t a subset of music. It isn’t the “slow songs”, though it is possible for a slow song to be sung in worship. Praise is a subset of Worship. Music can be used to enhance our worship, so long as it doesn’t become the object of our worship. Let’s start with the basics, but I want to begin with something Jesus told the Samaritan at the well.

John 4:19-26 (ESV)
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

What is the context of the Samaritan’s reference to worship? If you think it’s singing slow songs, you’ve missed the greater meaning of worship. She is contrasting the Samaritan worship up in the mountain, but the Jews declared the only place of worship was in Jerusalem. She is referring to the Temple. Worship, in the Mosaic Covenant, encapsulated all that took place in the Temple of God (first the tabernacle). If we look back through Genesis as we did with Praise, we’ll see that the first forms of worship mentioned are the sacrifices to God.

Genesis 22:1-8 (ESV) | The Sacrifice of Isaac
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

In its purest sense, Worship is the act of serving God. The sacrifices of the Law, the bowing of the head in reverence to God, the prayers, and also the songs of praise are all forms of Worship. The Law articulated what it was for Israel to worship God, and it also set limits as to what forms of worship were strictly forbidden. This is what is being discussed at the well in Samaria. The Samaritans were guilty of mixing Jewish worship with the worship of false gods. They kept the old “high places” built to false gods and incorporated the Asherim and other gods of the Assyrians in their religion. This is why the Jews despised them so, they were not merely a people of mixed bloodlines, but of mixed religion. Jesus’s answer to her isn’t to pick a side between Samaritans and Jews; rather, it is to declare that He had come to reconcile all men unto God through Himself. This Samaritan, was waiting for the Messiah, the Promised One… and He presented Himself to her.

The New Testament clearly demonstrates what it means to be a true worshiper of God, that it is only done by faith, and that faith is the gift of God. In the New Covenant we still have prayer, the Psalms, the public reading of the Word (Law and Gospel), and Christ instituted communion. What do we do about the sacrifices? Our giving is still an act of worship, if our hearts are right (Sermon on the mount). The book of Hebrews does an excellent job of teaching worship in the context of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV) | A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 13:1-21 (ESV) | Sacrifices Pleasing to God
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Amen. Let us clean up our understanding of Worship that is pleasing to God, and then let us strive to correct the language. Corporate Worship is everything you do as a gathered assembly of believers. We may sing songs of Praise, but everything we do in service of our God and Saviour is to be worship offered by faith, in spirit and in truth. Your giving, your prayer, your speech, your attire, your embraces, and your kisses, do all as an act of Worship to the Glory of God, whom you serve (Worship).

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | Modernity and Tradition are Irrelevant

Presentation1Today is “Discernment in Music” day here at Faithful Stewardship. As this is a new feature here at Faithful Stewardship, I wanted to make clear that this is an exercise in Biblical Discernment, not in favoritism or piety. Traditional Hymns do not “get a pass”; modern music isn’t preemptively condemned. To demonstrate this, we’ll be looking at a Hymn that seems a bit confused and a modern hymn that is absolutely phenomenal in my view.

I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that there is plenty of room to agree/disagree on issues of taste or flavor. Personally, I find the sound of an organ to be most unpleasant, especially if it is front and center in the music. That’s a matter of taste. I’m not here to tell you what you should like or dislike. My purpose here is strictly to look at the lyrical content of these songs and to determine their Biblical soundness. Whether or not you still “like” a song that has been demonstrated to bear little-to-no Biblical value, remains between you and the Holy Spirit. There are secular songs that I enjoy hearing, but I know full well the lyrics are not in any way Biblically sound. One such song I have mentioned before is “I’m feelin’ good” by Michael Bublé. However, that I like to listen to that song is a far cry from me considering “Christian” and would in no way serve as an endorsement of that song being played in a Praise and Worship setting. Similarly, songs labeled “Christian” need to be tested for conveying a Biblical Message. A “Christian” song being elevated to “Praise/Worship” status most definitely be tested/scrutinized according to the Scriptures. We dare not engage in public confession of false doctrine/teaching or misguided praise and worship.

Hymn 1: Christ, or Else I Die

Link: http://hopehymns.bandcamp.com/track/christ-or-else-i-die
Words: William Hammond, 1745
Music: Drew Holcomb
Arr: Tim Johnson and Matt Patrick

Lyrics
Gracious Lord, incline Thine ear;
My request vouchsafe to hear;
Hear my never-ceasing cry;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

Wealth and honor I disdain,
Earthly comforts, Lord, are vain;
These can never satisfy:
Give me Christ, or else I die.

All unholy and unclean,
I am weighted by my sin;
On thy mercy I rely;
Give me Christ, or else I die

Thou dost freely save the lost;
In Thy grace alone I trust.
With my earnest plea comply;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

All unholy and unclean,
I am weighted by my sin;
On thy mercy I rely;
Give me Christ, or else I die

Thou hast promised to forgive
All who in thy Son believe;
Lord, I know Thou cannot lie;
Give me Christ, or else I die

All unholy and unclean,
I am weighted by my sin;
On thy mercy I rely;
Give me Christ, or else I die

The problem with this Hymn, is one of confusion. Beginning with the Title and the closing line of very stanza, “Give me Christ, or else I die“, we have an odd declaration that sort of rings of a “give me liberty or give me death” vibe (though that famous quote dates back to 1775, while this hymn was written in 1745). If the statement being made her is “Without Christ I will die”, we have a doctrinal problem with this statement. If we are speaking of physical death… all die, with or without Christ.

Hebrews 9:24-28 (ESV) 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

If we are speaking of spiritual death, then we are speaking of it in the wrong order. Without Christ, we are already dead.

Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV) 2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

One might argue “artistic license” to keep it “singable”, but I give no license for changing truth for the sake of a melody. Now, the audience of this song is God the Father. So, the entire song is an appeal to God, “give me Christ, or else I die”. Well, then… so is this the song of a believer or an unbeliever? I matters not, really… since God has already given us Christ. We saw in the Hebrews verse already that Christ died once… was given to us once. He declared, “It is finished“. But let’s look also in John 3

John 3:16-21 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Christ was already given, all that remains is that we believe in Him. Now, if we took the first sentence (first to lines) of every stanza, we’d have a solid hymn (thought it wouldn’t have the same ring). However, with the inclusion of the closing phrase, what remains of the hymn is total confusion. It is an old hymn, but it wasn’t always an old hymn. At one time, it was cutting edge. When we exercise discernment in the lyrical content of modern songs, understand that the same method holds true and should be exercised regardless of when the song was written.

Now, the folks over at TGC (The Gospel Coalition) launched a project a while back to write Gospel-centered Praise and Worship. I do not simply accept that every song they write is sound, but I applaud the Gospel focus in the endeavor. After hearing the hymn above, I then heard the following hymn (modern hymn written in an older style), “Not in Me”.

Not In Me

Words and Music by Eric Schumacher and David L. Ward, “Not In Me” Songs for the Book of Luke by The Gospel Coalition. ©ThousandTongues.org
Source: http://www.wogmagazine.com/2013/06/not-in-me-by-the-gospel-coalition/

No list of sins I have not done, no list of virtues I pursue,
No list of those I am not like can earn myself a place with you.
O God! Be merciful to me. I am a sinner through and through.
My only hope of righteousness is not in me, but only you.

No humble dress, no fervent prayer, no lifted hands no tearful song,
No recitation of the truth can justify a single wrong.
My righteousness is Jesus’ life. My debt was paid by Jesus death.
My weary load was borne by Him And He alone can give me rest.

No separation from the world, no work I do, no gift I give
Can cleanse my conscience, cleanse my hands,
I cannot cause my soul to live.
But Jesus died and rose again. The pow’r of death is overthrown!

My God is merciful to me and merciful in Christ alone.
My righteousness is Jesus’ life. My debt was paid by Jesus death.
My weary load was borne by him, and He alone can give me rest,
And He alone can give me rest.

Great song. The first verse echos Ephesians 2:1-9. We were all dead in sin. Our salvation is by Grace through Faith, not by works so that no one can boast. Solid verse. The second verse addresses piety and good works as not being our assurance of Salvation. Our assurance is in the Righteousness of Jesus Christ, not in our own which echoes Romans 3:21-31 well. The next verse echoes the previous verses, but I’d like to include Romans 8:1-11. The final verse echoes the same truths throughout, but also notice the references to rest. There is much to be said of entering God’s rest, but a good place to see it condensed a bit would be Hebrews 4:1-10. For the sake of this song, let us look at the concluding verses:

Hebrews 4:9-10 (ESV) 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.

Conclusion

I absolutely loved the second song (Not In Me), lyrically. I’d love to hear it performed in every popular musical style imaginable (provided the music doesn’t drown out the lyric). Wonderful song. The first song, is confused. I think the writer sacrificed accuracy for poetry, and I’d rather not sing it. It isn’t so wrong that I’d levy a formal complaint with the pastors or elders, but if asked, “what do you think about this song” my reply would be simply, “I think it’s a confused song”.

Today, I wanted to refute the notion that I simply rejected all things new and grant preferential treatment for “sacred” hymns. There are good hymns that sound great, there are good hymns that sound awful (to my ears at least) and there are confused hymns and other hymns that are just biblically unsound. I will not actively seek those out, because I’m not trying to create lyrical punching bags here. The goal of these posts is to practice Biblical discernment in music. From here on out, my focus will be on what is currently “popular” within Christendom, because that is what we are consuming in large quantities. Let us make sure it is spiritually healthy food.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,
Jorge