Worship Music

By Denise Baum

Cameron Buettel and Jeremiah Johnson have an article out on John MacArthur's site Grace to You called "Hillsong & Worship: The Gospel according to Hillsong." In it, they lament the shallowness of the praise and worship songs published and performed by Hillsong — songs that could just as easilly describe a middle school crush as our relationship with Christ. The role of music in worship and appropriate styles used are important discussions in the church today. There are so many kinds of music. Some of it is badly written, some poorly performed. Some of it is worldly and carnal, some of it like pure echoes from heaven. Some of it may teach bad doctrine, while others contain wonderful messages of truth and grace. The decision of what to sing and listen to is ultimately the decision of every believer. The Bible has the counsel needed to make wise music choices, but it takes some digging and the aid of the Holy Spirit to understand its message.

We begin by asking for wisdom, a habit believers must develop in every puzzle of life. We know that God is the authority on every single issue we face. The wonder of it is that he doesn't put us on guilt trips; that is something we do very competently ourselves. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5)." When it comes to Christian music, so many have opinions which conflict, and confusion is the result. All the more reason to keep seeking for the ultimate opinion.

Music is the language of the heart. The amazing variety of music styles proves that hearts speak in many languages. Preference plays a role here, of course, but let's start with the heart. Jesus affirmed that the greatest commandment in the Law is to love God "with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind" (Matthew 22:37). The sequence here, from heart to soul to mind, reveals that the process of life starts from deep within. This birthplace of our motivation and values, the core of our personality, is to be governed by our love for God. Nothing should have a more serious influence on what we think and say and do.

This love that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 22:37, in the Greek, is agape. It is the love of God our Father in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world." Sadly, it is also the love which mankind has for darkness in John 3:19. The sober truth is that we have the capacity to love passionately. Too often it is ourselves that we love so passionately. The energy to love must be stripped of self. This glorious ability to mirror God's selfless love must be directed to God himself. This we can safely do with total abandonment and unshakeable trust. Jesus chose this as the most important commandment because he knew that his people would be in a sanctified place when their first focus was on Father God. When we love God with our deepest passions, it is like taking a bath. It washes away the darkness and makes all things full of light. All of our worship then becomes holy.

Liken the process to the transformation of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C. S. Lewis). Eustace seemed unconscious of his nasty personality until he suffered the loss of his freedom. He was imprisoned in the body of a dragon for an unforgettable time, until he met Aslan. His desperation made him willing to obey the bizarre instructions Aslan laid out for his deliverance. As the dragon's skin stripped away, he learned humility and therefore, hope. The symbolism here is powerful. Obedience to and love for Aslan were the keys to Eustace's cleansing. The "undragoned" Eustace was at boy at peace, with a purified heart full of gratitude, kindness, and courage. In the same way, the process of sanctification after salvation requires an often-painful renunciation of self. This self is so hard to let go of, but the result is so shatteringly freeing, so joyful and pure, it is a wonder that we resist the process.

The following verses take on fresh meaning for life and worship when we embrace obedient agape love. "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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" (Colossians 3:14-16). Do you see how singing is the fruit of agape love?

It isn't really about music, is it? It is about falling deeply in love with Jesus. When you are so full of him, so in tune to what pleases him, you may find that music will just bubble out of you. And, when he is pleased, it will be the right kind of music.

Image Credit: MIH83; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | God-Father

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Published on 11-28-16