We must be committed to growth! Yet surely God does hold us equally responsible for unintentional ignorance as for knowledgeable defiance. Surely he is pleased with our best efforts, even when those efforts are so small and so weak. Surely he is proud of us when we live according to the light we have and serve with hearts of love, hearts of joy, hearts that long to magnify his name.
Let’s suppose that for just one day the Lord chose to make a documentary about you—“A Day in the Life of an Ordinary Christian.” For a single day your every move was recorded and your every word transcribed. For a single day even your thoughts were externalized and written down. A camera crew was beside your bed when you awoke, they sat with you at breakfast, and stayed at your side through your duties at work and at home. They held boom mics above your head as you led your family in devotions, trailed along behind when you went to your midweek service or small group, watched you sing your children to sleep, and bid farewell only when you had returned to bed, turned out the lights, and fallen into a deep slumber.
You would, of course, be on your best behavior and make it one of the best and godliest days you had ever lived. Even without fakery or hypocrisy, you would put your best foot forward and attempt to display your life at its purest. You would guard your thoughts and measure your words; you would take your duties seriously and do your utmost to display the heights of Christian character. You would be the best spouse you could be, the best parent you could be, the best friend and employee. You would attempt to model distinctly godly living.
And let’s suppose that somewhere in the distant reaches of time God chose to show you the results of that documentary. You had long since died and gone to heaven and begun to live in eternal bliss. And now God said, “Let’s show you that day in your life.”
You Might also like
By Vern Poythress — 2 years ago
The teaching takes place not only by hearing the message that people around us sing, but by singing the message ourselves. This benefit is confirmed by modern observations about how people learn. People learn more effectively and more deeply if they not only hear, but try to re-express what they learn. Getting one’s voice involved deepens one’s participation. Singing engages our emotions, and may help to make the message more memorable. People remember songs that they have sung repeatedly, and embrace them more deeply. Their active participation reinforces their memory.
For decades now, Christian congregations have had to deal with differences in musical styles in Christian worship. Some prefer “contemporary music.” Others prefer “traditional music.” The differences become a source of contention. Sadly, we now have the term “worship wars,” as a label to describe the extent to which music in worship has become a battleground.
We should not want more wars, especially within the bounds of the church. Therefore, a discussion of music and singing in the church must begin by recalling Christ’s command: Christians should love one another as Christ has loved us (John 15:12 ESV; see 13:34; 1 John 4:19). Loving one another is a central principle in the life of the people of God. We need not only to teach the principle, but to practice it. Any disagreement or tension in the body of Christ should be seen as an occasion to practice Christian love.
My purpose here is not to talk about Christian love, important as that is. My focus is rather on one specific element: congregational singing. I wish not to create tension, but to ask both pastors and musicians, both leaders and followers in the Christian faith, to approach the issue of congregational singing with wisdom and with balance. For the sake of the health of the church, we want congregational singing to contribute to that health.
How do we best do that? In this four-part series, I briefly set forth my own thoughts. Even if other brothers and sisters may not agree, I hope this may help lead the conversation in a positive direction.
As we have observed, one prime factor is love, and with love, patience. We should bear with other people in the congregation, and bear with decisions about singing with which we disagree. But now what else should go into the decision-making and practice of a Christian congregation?
Mind the Goal
What should be the long-range goal in congregational singing? Everything that we do in Christian worship and in all of life, we should do for sake of honoring God, that is, for sake of promoting the glory of God: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The glory of God is primary and essential.
In addition, the Bible indicates that church meetings should have the aim of building up the church: “Let all things [that take place when the people assemble] be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26). The goal is that the people should grow in spiritual maturity, not only individually but as a body, as a community. Nearly the whole of 1 Cor. 14 is about the importance of building up the church, and how this goal regulates and guides the details of what happens during a congregational assembly. Likewise Eph. 4:1-16 has a focus on building up the church. According to Eph. 4, the goal is “the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). We are “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (verse 15).
We have two goals before us: the glory of God and the building up of the church. These two goals are not two diverse goals that pull in opposite directions. Rather, each implies the other. Building up the church takes place properly only when we are serving God and seeking to please him. So we need to seek the glory of God in Christian worship.
We can also reason the other way, starting with the glory of God. Seeking God’s glory includes seeking to honor his commandment to love one another. This means we cannot seek God’s glory properly without attending to the goal of building up the church. Seeking the glory of God and seeking to build up the church are two sides of the same coin. The two aspects, oriented toward God and toward fellow Christians, are intended by God to work together harmoniously.
How do we build up the church? Much is involved. We need the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and among us.
By Pakman — 1 year ago
Hymns are Dominantly God-Centered. Most hymns that have lasted the test of time are God-centered hymns. Even songs about personal sanctification often have the intention to draw your eyes to Christ in the midst of your trials. This is the ultimate point isn’t it? A life experiencing hardship tests the saint’s commitment to resolutely keep God at the center, if it be to our personal pain or sorrow. Hymns wonderfully point me back to Christ.
There is nothing like a great summer BBQ with your friends and family. The laughter, the sun, the conversation, and, of course, the food. Many like me tend to gravitate around the grill in anticipation for the coals to turn white hot in order to perfectly cook their patties, hotdogs, and my personal favorite: a ribeye steak. But it’s not just any ribeye steak, it has to be perfectly seasoned. Whether it’s a store bought seasoning or homemade blend, every steak needs a good seasoning.
Seasoning brings out flavor, it should enhance the experience. Not enough robs you of enjoying the full potential of your steak. Too much seasoning, it detracts and whets the appetite for water and the imbalance of flavor ruins the experience.
In the same way seasoning impacts steak so too does music impact theology. I love it when theology is rich, deep, thorough—meaty. Still, there are temptations in doctrinally rich circles to dwindle down into cold orthodoxy, blandness. That’s why I believe music plays an important role in keeping theology palatable for the saint.
To be clear, music doesn’t change the theology in the same way seasoning doesn’t change the makeup of a steak. It will or can enhance it and draw out its beauty, but it doesn’t change it. Steak is steak with or without seasoning. Similarly, theology is theology with or without music. My point is that there’s a reason why Christians are commanded to sing (Eph 5:18). There’s a reason why God gave a hymnbook in His Word (the Psalms). It’s because music does something.
Personally, I’ve had some dark days in my recent history; not because of the pandemic or political/social unrest, but due to God’s sanctifying hand in bringing me through trials. In the past year or so, I’ve felt a wide range of emotions including doubt, fear, grief, sadness, hopeless, and anxiety. In all of this, I strongly believed in the rich doctrine of the preservation of the saint. I knew that God could not let me, would not let me go, and would lead me through the valley—and He has so far and I anticipate He will till the end. He has taught me a lot during this season.
One of the important things He has taught me is how He preserves His saints. I believe one of those ways has been through the rich seasoning of Christian lyrics and music that draw us back to Him and His word.
By Daniel Huilt — 9 months ago
Why do the Gospels emphasize faith in so many of Christ’s miracles? If all of His miracles were to prove His divinity and usher in His Kingdom, it naturally follows that the prominence of faith surrounding these miracles demonstrates its centrality in His Kingdom. In this new Kingdom of God, faith would be the primary distinguishing factor of its citizens—not heredity, gender, social status, upbringing, good works, or any other human factor. Faith is so important that it is impossible to please God without it (Hebrews 11:6) and any thought, motive, word, or deed that is not rooted in faith is actually sinful, no matter how good it may appear (Romans 14:23).
When we read of the various miracles in Scripture, the faith of the people involved is at the forefront of the narrative in many cases, which can lead us to think that not only miracles but all of the blessings of God are somehow dependent on the faith of the recipient. This has led to some gross misapplications of these miracles to say that if we exhibit enough faith, God is somehow compelled to bless us. The obvious counterpart to this would be to say that if God does not bless us, it can only be because we lack the appropriate level of faith. This distortion is most clearly seen in the prosperity gospel that exhorts people to display their faith by “planting seeds” in the form of monetary donations, thus compelling God to bless them with health, wealth, and happiness. However, it is not only the false teachers of the prosperity gospel that hold this view. In a more subtle form, it dwells in many American Christians, particularly in how they approach suffering. This view is so prevalent in large part because the miracles of Jesus seem to support it. However, as we examine a few of His miracles, we will see folly of this view.
Faith as the Key (But Not Magical) Ingredient
Jesus healed many people, drove out many demons, and even raised three people from the dead. These people were both male and female of various ages and from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. But a common trait is seen in many of them: faith. When He healed a woman while enroute to raise the daughter of Jairus, He told her that her faith had healed her (Matthew 9:22). He said the same to blind Bartimaeus as He restored his sight (Mark 10:52) and to ten lepers as He healed them (Luke 17:19). At other times, faith seemed to move Jesus to heal people, such as when the paralytic was lowered into the room through a hole in the roof that his faithful friends had made (Luke 5:20). Similarly, Paul observed that the crippled man in Lystra “had the faith to be made well” before healing him (Acts 14:9). These incidents seem to suggest that the faith of these people caused them to be healed, especially since Jesus told His disciples that if they prayed in faith, they would receive what they asked for (Matthew 21:22). But is faith really the stimulus to which Jesus responded by healing these people? Is it our faith that causes God to answer our prayers and work on our behalf?
To answer this, let’s look at a couple of Christ’s more spectacular healings. Of all of the people Jesus healed, only three were healed without interacting with Him at all. Interestingly, two of these three involved Gentiles. A centurion’s slave, a Gentile woman’s daughter, and a Capernaum official’s son were all healed by Jesus without ever meeting Him. We will look at the first two in some detail and contrast the third with the first to see the role faith played in these incidents.
The Centurion’s Faith
The first of these involved the Roman centurion in Capernaum. Not long after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus entered Capernaum and had a remarkable encounter with the centurion there that resulted in Jesus healing the centurion’s slave, recorded in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. A centurion was an officer in charge of one hundred Roman soldiers. At one point, I was an officer in charge of about one hundred enlisted personnel, so I can relate. This particular centurion also has the distinction of causing Jesus to marvel at him. When we consider that Jesus, being fully divine, was omniscient, it is remarkable that anything or anyone could cause Him to marvel, but one thing did: faith (both its abundance and its lack). Jesus was astonished at the incredible faith of this centurion, but was equally astonished by the lack of faith in His own hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:6). In contrast to Christ’s friends and relatives who should have known who He really was, this centurion had remarkable insight into His true identity that no one else had at the time. But he was also remarkable in his character and reputation. Despite being a Gentile in general and a Roman occupier in particular, he was highly regarded by the Jews in Capernaum. Local Jewish leaders described him to Jesus as one who loved their nation and who had built their synagogue. Therefore, when his slave was seriously ill, he did not hesitate to ask the local Jewish leaders to go to Jesus on his behalf and ask him to heal his slave, and those leaders emphatically and wholeheartedly fulfilled that request. They even went as far as to say that this centurion deserved Jesus to heal his slave because of his righteousness in their eyes. You would he hard pressed to find a Roman official in all of Judea or Galilee at the time with such a reputation among the Jews.
But it was not this centurion’s upstanding reputation that amazed Jesus. Instead it was his faith, both understanding who Jesus is and who he was. This began with a proper understanding of who Jesus is. While Jesus was on His way, the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus that he was unworthy of Jesus even coming into his house. This stands in stark contrast to the Jews telling Jesus that he was worthy of not only a visit from Jesus but also a miracle. He knew that regardless of how righteous and upstanding he was, he did not deserve for Jesus to do anything for him, especially not for Jesus to make Himself ceremonially unclean by entering a Gentile’s house. So the centurion asks Jesus to heal his slave without entering the house but merely speaking the words. This reveals his unparalleled understanding of who Jesus was. The Jews debated over who Jesus was, with many seeing Him as some form of prophet. As such, they would have had certain expectations as to what Jesus could and could not do as a prophet. There were various stories of prophets healing people in the Old Testament, but in all of them the prophet was present with the person either before or during the healing. Instead, this centurion realized that such proximity was not required because Jesus had authority, which is something he as a military officer understood well regardless of his knowledge of Israel’s past prophets. To him, it was incredibly simple for Jesus to heal his slave. He was used to both giving and receiving orders, knowing that the power of any order comes from the authority behind it rather than in the manner in which it is given. He therefore heard about the previous miracles of Jesus and deduced that Jesus had authority to command nature just as he had authority to command his soldiers. Therefore, Jesus didn’t need to by physically present to heal his slave but merely had to give the order and nature would obey just as his soldiers obeyed him. When I was in charge of a hundred personnel, they obeyed my orders because I had the appropriate authority from my rank and position, just as I obeyed my commander I because he had been appointed over me and thus had the appropriate authority. He could be on the other side of the country or the world, but if he gave me an order, it was just as valid as if he gave it to me personally. That is how this centurion understood the authority of Jesus over nature. So to him, healing his slave was as simple as Jesus giving the order, regardless of His location.
Contrast this with the account of Jesus healing the official’s son in John 4:46-54, in which the official asked for Jesus to travel with him from Cana to Capernaum and heal his son there, leading Jesus to lament the general lack of faith of the Jews who required signs in order to believe. Conversely, this centurion believed before witnessing a miracle, realizing that Jesus had authority over nature and was therefore divine. Not even His disciples understood this yet, as evidenced by their bewilderment when He calmed the storm later in His ministry (Matthew 8:27, Luke 8:25). That was something no prophet was able to do. The closest was Elijah who prayed for a drought and then prayed for it to cease.