There’s always something to sing about

Sister Act

Sister Act 3?

With the busyness and jubilation of Easter now behind us, we are inclined to ask ourselves, “What next?”

Easter, in all its glory and splendor, draws the attention of a watching world, brings relatives and non-attendees to the house of God, and throws churches into a frenzy in order to prepare for a time of harvest (John 4:35).

This is certainly justifiable. After all, Resurrection Sunday happens to be the day where Jesus…you know…rose from the grave. That’s kind of a big deal for the church, seeing as a dead savior would have not done anyone much good (Romans 4:25; Revelation 1:18).

But what happens now?

The reality is that this special day brings about the clearest presentation of the gospel message all year round, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is the only reason that anything we talk about on a given Sunday matters—much more being the reason that Christians even gather—having been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

What should be guarded against now is a slothfulness concerning the truth of this claim. There are many things that vie for our attention in this busy world, as individual disciples and as a corporate body. We should not, however, let ourselves become distracted and see the glory of God’s gospel diminished, and I believe the bible has a remedy.

Psalm 118:14-15a reads, “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous.”

There seems to be an intrinsic connection between praise and deliverance when looking at Scripture. From the songs of Moses and Miriam after miraculously crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 15, to David’s song in 2 Samuel 22 when “when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (v. 1), to even the heavenly songs sung to the Lamb of God in Revelation 5, we see that a heart impressed upon by the reality of God’s salvation yields songs of praise.

Oh, how we should long for this reality to come to bear in the church of God; it is, after all, God’s will that the “redeemed of the LORD say so” (Psalm 107:2).

Ephesians 5:18-21 gives us a snapshot of what this looks like, stating:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The preceding passage unpacks a few things in regards to our singing.

Spirit-filled

The apostle Paul, who pens this letter, exhorts every believer to be filled (literally keep being filled) with the Spirit, after which he denotes the type of communication such a one will yield. “Psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit” are a product of this divine transaction.

In Acts 2, we are told that disciples gathered on Pentecost were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (v. 4). We are given insight into what exactly was being said several verses later, when the on-looking crowd of “devout men from every nation under heaven” (v. 5) disclosed, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (v. 11).

A life that is lived yielded to the Spirit is one that will truly produce such thanksgiving and praise. Jesus did say, to this effect, that those who believe on him would experience rivers of living water flowing from their hearts (John 7:38), because it is “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Public

Though charismatic in form, Paul also warns us regarding extremes, as these songs are sung in the context of public assembly. In “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,” they should be intelligible and lead to the mutual edification of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul writes:

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. (1 Corinthians 14:12-17)

Because public meetings are open to…well…the public, we should make sure that the reason why we sing (Jesus) and the lyrics actually being sung (the truth about Jesus) are clearly communicated. It is the Spirit’s job to glorify Jesus (16:14) while also ensuring that our gatherings are mutually beneficial and orderly (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:26-33). Singing produced by the Spirit will honor both of these functions.

Personal

The fact that singing songs of salvation to God should be personal could be painfully obvious, but because it is one of the facets Paul mentions, we should not neglect its discussion.

He says, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is very possible that one could be in an assembly where the Spirit is moving, and not experience it on a personal level. This is likely the type of audience that the writer of Hebrews is addressing.

Though in the midst of a congregation where they had “tasted the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4), some of the Jews who were exposed to the truth of Christ were not willing to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).

It is apparent that songs of salvation are reserved for those who have actually been redeemed, but there lies also a lack of spiritual fervor in which we can honor Jesus with our mouths and have our hearts be somewhere else (Matthew 15:8). These are the times in worship were we are simply reading the words to the song displayed on the screen, rather than singing with our hearts. David’s plea, on the other hand, was, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

While God wants songs that express thanksgiving to him for what he has done in Christ, they are of no value to him if they are not offered in sincerity from our hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, John 4:23-24).

Supplemental

As somewhat of an addendum, Paul says to, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” One may ask, though, “What does this have to do with singing?”

In short, it has everything to do with it.

To sing about a salvation in Christ and not evidence it in our actions would not only be hypocritical, but tragic. Making our songs the means of loving Jesus rather than obeying his basic command to love one another (John 13:34; 15:12-14) would place us in dangerous territory. Moreover, “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

Our songs are not the sum total of our faith, but a vibrant reality of a redeemed people. Jesus gave himself up for a church (Eph. 5:25), not just you or me or any other individual. As followers of Christ, then, we are to mimic his example of humility and submission, while celebrating his triumph and exaltation in anticipation of our own.

In a nutshell: sing redeemed, live redeemed.

Advertisements

~ by christianballenger on April 27, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: