Tag Archive | Christ

Selecting Music For Worship (Part 2): Know Theology

by Ken Puls

How well do you know the music your church sings in worship? Can you think, for example, of a song that teaches that sin corrupts and deceives the heart? Or a song that unfolds the work of the Trinity in our salvation? If you were to measure the depth of doctrine and the breadth of truth in your church’s music for worship, what would you find?

In my last post we began considering ways that worship leaders can best prepare for the task of selecting music for worship. My first encouragement was know the Word. The first and best way to prepare for the task is to be regularly and diligently in God’s Word.

But second, and closely tied to the first, those who lead music in the church must know theology. Music is tied to theology—our songs instruct us. Music gives us voice to rehearse and remember the truth. It helps us rightly respond and rejoice in the truth.

Except for the preaching of the Word, no other ministry in the church has such a profound impact on shaping our understanding of truth than music. The music we sing helps us declare what is true about God, ourselves, and the world around us. And it embeds that truth in our thinking and in our lives. Paul makes the connection between music and truth in Colossians 3:16. He instructs us:

“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 3:16, ESV).

We want to sing and celebrate what is true. We want our music to support and undergird the teaching and preaching ministry of the church. For this to happen we must be wise and discerning in what we choose to sing. We must know the truth and be able to recognize lyrics that are rich in truth, lyrics that are light on truth, and lyrics that stray from the truth.

So commit yourself to study theology. Read sound, theological books. Learn to think theologically about your church’s music. Peruse and evaluate the lyrics of music you are using or considering for use in worship. Along with looking for quotes, allusions, and connections to specific Scripture references in each song, ask yourself: What theological truths does this song teach?

One of the methods I have used to help me think theologically about music is to compile a Theological Index of Church Music. I started the index twenty years ago as a project for one of my PhD seminars in seminary. I created both an outline of theological topics and a list of song titles (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs) that we were singing at the church where I was leading worship. Then I created the index by working through the lyrics of each song, line by line, listing the song title under each entry in the outline that was stated or affirmed in the song. The resulting index provided a valuable resource, not just for selecting songs by theological topic, but for evaluating the scope and content of our church’s music.

You can find the Theological Outline here along with a list of some of the books I used to compile the outline.

I have resisted  (for now) posting my full Theological Index of Church Music. I recognize that each church will have its own compilation of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that it knows and sings well. I have also discovered that much of the benefit in having the list is the time spent creating it—thinking through lyrics and evaluating strengths and weaknesses.

Here, however, are a few entries from my opening questions:

Songs that teach that sin corrupts and deceives the heart

  • All I Have Is Christ (Jordan Kauflin – Sovereign Grace Music)
  • And Can It Be (Charles Wesley / Thomas Campbell – PD)
  • No, Not Despairingly, Come I to Thee (Horatius Bonar – PD)

Songs that unfold the work of the Trinity in our salvation

  • Heavenly Father, Beautiful Son (by Mark Altrogge – Sovereign Grace Music)
  • Come Praise and Glorify (by Bob Kauflin / Tim Chester – Sovereign Grace Music)
  • Wonderful, Merciful Savior (by Dawn Rodgers and Eric Wyse – Word Music)
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The Holy Spirit and Ethics… Part I

by R. Keith Whitt

INTRODUCTION

Can the Holy Spirit make a difference in a person’s life? Of course He can. But that really isn’t the question most of us should be asking. If you are a believer or have been associated with a Bible-believing church for any period of time, you know the answer is “yes.”

Will I yield to the Holy Spirit so He will enable me to make ethical decisions? This is the right question! The central truth of this lesson is “The Holy Spirit influences Christians to live ethically.” One of the Holy Spirit’s roles here on earth is to lead us in truth. Truth enables us to make right ethical choices, regardless of how difficult some of the choices may be. Although Scripture doesn’t always provide a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” statement for each of the situations we encounter, the principles are there. We then must have the wisdom and strength to make the right choice, regardless of the economic or positional impact.

The desires of our flesh are often at war with spiritual truth. In those situations we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to forge ahead and do what is right. No one is exempt from these settings; however, some believers may face more of them due to the nature of their work and their personality. For example, if you are a person who greatly desires the approval of others, you might be prone to make decisions that make you “look good” and receiving the acclaim of others. Or, perhaps your income is determined by sales and commissions. Will you “stretch the truth” to make the sale?

When believers allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lifestyle and decisions, there will be no ethical conflicts or compromises. We will do what is right, even if it hurts. However, doing right always brings the blessing of God’s favor despite the discomfort of our choice.

Making ethical decisions enables a believer to “sleep soundly” at night, knowing truth based on the Word of God and the guidance of Holy Spirit has prevailed.

I. SPIRIT-TRANSFORMED LIFE (John 16:8; Titus 3:3-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20)

A. Freed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Titus 3:3-8)

John 16:8. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

Titus 3:3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

4. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

6. Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

7. That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

One aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is clearly stated in the initial verse of our lesson (John 16:8). He is here to repress the actions of sin. One dimension of that occurs within the life of believers. If believers cannot live ethically and eradicate sinful tendencies in their lives, how can they expect sinners in their fallen moral state to follow paths of righteousness?

Usually we see the role of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter – the One who stands alongside to defend. However, here we see the Spirit on the other side of the legal fence. He stands as the prosecutor bringing attention to people’s sins. The purpose isn’t just to cause people to feel guilty, but to bring them to righteousness.

The Holy Spirit’s convicting work in a person’s life is what causes her or him to realize their pitiful condition. As Paul writes to Titus, he lists specifics of unbelievers’ sinfulness. We understand not all unbelievers are involved in every type of sinful activity. However, the unbeliever is heavily influenced by personal passions and the desire for pleasure which may be immoral and/or illegal (3:3). This leads to foolish and disobedient actions which may result in ongoing consequences.

Paul emphasizes how sin deceives. It may cause us to assume we are having “the time of our life” or on the road to great happiness when in reality this is a major deception. Instead of being on the road of freedom we are enslaved. This enslavement could be to drugs, sex, greed, or frivolity. All of them speak of being in bondage to the enemy of our soul who seeks to destroy us.

Rescue from this state of bondage cannot occur by our own attempts to do good. No number of positive deeds will change our sinfulness into righteousness; only “the kindness and love of God our Saviour” (v. 4) can save us. Verse 5 emphasizes the process of spiritual renewal being the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, which makes us “heirs having the hope of eternal life” (v. 7 NIV).

The freedom we experience through the work of the Holy Spirit isn’t totally separated from our own actions. We cooperate and maintain what has been done in our lives by daily following a lifestyle of holiness which is in accord with God’s Word (v. 8), but even that is made possible through God’s grace.

B. Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

19. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Though we are freed by the Spirit and enjoy Christian liberty, there still are rules of conduct which govern how we live. Here at the end of a definitive statement on sexual immorality (vv. 12-20), Paul presents the biblical view of the believer’s human body.

He clearly underscores the unity of the spiritual and the physical. Our physical body isn’t an entity separate from our spiritual nature. Unlike those who say the actions of the body have no connection with the spiritual relationship with God, Paul points to our body being “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19 NIV). His indwelling and covering of us places us at the service of God. We are not being independent self-serving agents. At the price of Christ’s sacrificial death, we can be free from the bondage of sin. Once we accept this offering, a transfer of ownership occurs. Now we are Christ’s! The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work places us in the privileged position of glorifying God (v. 20). This is to take place in the words of our mouth and the actions of our bodies.

The Light of Faith

Focus Verse of the Week

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16)

Classic Commentary

[The believers were called to] unity of spirit by grace, and a walk according to God, so that they may be as heavenly lights amid the moral darkness of this world. [They were] to always carry, and thus hold forth, the word of life: such was Paul’s desire. Thus, they would give proof by the constancy and practical effect of their faith, that the apostle had not run or labored in vain; and they would themselves be his glory in the day of Christ. (Oh, if the church had continued that way! Be that as it may, Christ will be glorified.)

The apostle unites his work and the reward in the day of Christ with the blessing of the assembly. He would not be separated from it in his death. This union of heart and faith is very touching. He presents himself as capable of being poured out (that is to say, his life) upon the sacrifice and service of the Philippians’ faith.

(Adapted from the John Darby’s Synopsis of the New Testament.)

A Thought to Keep

Is your faith lived out so consistently that others see you as being a light that shines in a dark world?

Keep Moving

keep going or moving don't stop continue don't give up

“Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”  Exodus 14:15

Moses had brought the whole nation of Israel, approximately 600,000, to a dead end in the desert. The only thing between Israel and Pharaoh’s pursuing army was the Red Sea. This was after ten plagues God had inflicted on Pharaoh to motivate him to free the Israelites. Finally, Pharaoh had freed Moses and the people, and they left Egypt. They thought they were home free.

“Freedom at last,” they said.

But God did a strange thing. He directed Moses to take a route that led to the Red Sea, instead of the northern route around the Red Sea. God explained that He didn’t want them fighting the enemies they would have encountered on this route. But still, there was the issue of the Red Sea.

They finally arrived at the Red Sea, and the people were wondering where they would go from there. News hit the camp: Pharaoh had changed his mind. He was coming after them with his army. Panic set in.

God sometimes brings each of us to a “Red Sea” in our life. It may be a work problem that can’t be solved. It may be a marriage that seems to be failing. It may be a debilitating disease. Whatever your Red Sea, God tells us one thing: “Keep moving.” The Red Sea was before them, yet God was angered at Moses and told him to “Keep moving.”

“But Lord, the Red Sea is before me.”

“Keep moving.”

When we live by sight, we act on what we see. God sets this stage in dramatic fashion. God is into the dramatic. There is no way out without God here. That is just the way He wants it. No one will get glory except God.

A friend once admonished me when I was in the midst of an extremely difficult time in my life, “You must not withdraw from being proactive in your faith just because of this trial that you are in. God’s hand is on your life. There are too many who are depending on you to fulfill the purposes God has in your life. Keep moving! Keep investing yourself in others.”

I didn’t feel like it. I was in too much pain. But I did it anyway.

God met me at the point of my greatest need once I decided simply to be obedient. Getting past myself by investing myself in others helped heal the pain.

There is great healing when we look past our own problems and seek to invest ourselves in others for the sake of Christ. This is when our own Red Seas become parted. We begin to walk to freedom.

But we will never experience the miracle of the Red Sea in our lives if we don’t first “Keep moving.”

–by Os Hillman


Not Just Washed

Focus Verse of the Week

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7) 

Classic Commentary

The apostle gives a grievous summary of the characteristics of man after the flesh—which we once were. Sin was foolishness, was disobedience; the sinner was deceived, was the slave of lusts, filled with malice and envy, hateful, and hating others. Such is man characterized by sin. But the kindness of God, of a Savior-God, His good-will and charity towards men (sweet and precious character of God!) has appeared.

That which has made us different from others is not some merit in ourselves, some personal superiority: we were sometime even as they. It is the tender love and grace of the God of mercy. He has been kind and merciful to us: we have known what it is, and are so to others. It is true that in cleansing and renewing us this mercy has wrought by a principle, and in a sphere of a life, that are entirely new, so that we cannot walk with the world as we did before.

Now when the kindness of a Savior-God appeared, it was not something vague and uncertain; He has saved us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy by washing and renewing us. … He is washed from his former habits, thoughts, desires, in the practical sense. We wash a thing that exists. The man was morally bad and defiled in his inward and outward life. God has saved us by purifying us; He could not do it otherwise. To be in relationship with Himself there must be practical purity.

(Adapted from John Darby’s Synopsis of the New Testament, Titus 3.)

A Thought to Keep

God demands practical purity in our lives, but we can’t accomplish this without the Holy Spirit. Are you living the reality of a sinner saved by grace, relying on the Holy Spirit’s help?

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[Source: Beyond Sunday, Tropical Bible Study .] 

 

Here Is Your Mother

Focus Verse of the Week

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)

Commentary

Joseph being deceased, and Jesus now dying, there were no heirs, and probably no goods or estate, for the support and maintenance of his mother Mary. This, Christ at his last breath takes particular care of—and probably had made provision before. It is hardly conceivable that this was the first overture he had with John in this matter, but that he had obtained a promise from him, on his mother’s behalf, some time before this. And hence perhaps that peculiar love he bore to him beyond all the rest.

Those words, “Woman, here is your son,” and on the other side to him, “Here is your mother,” seem no other than as if he had said, “This man, from the time that you are now deprived of your son, shall be like a son to your, and shall cherish and provide for him”: and so, vice versa, to his disciple John.

(Adapted from John Lightfoot’s A Commentary on the New Testament From the Talmud and Hebraica.)

A Thought to Keep

Jesus calls us to love other Christians as our own family because we are a family in Him. Let His love guide your relationships.

 

Make It a Priority

by

Preparing for worship means making time and making choices. Worship, especially corporate worship, takes time. It takes commitment. We must set aside time to come. We need to guard our schedules and consider times of corporate worship a priority.

Listen to what the Word of God tells us about gathering together:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24–25).

Here the writer of Hebrews highlights the importance of regularly meeting together with the church. He also acknowledges that “neglecting to meet together” was a problem in the early church, and had even become a habit of some. The word used here in the Greek for meeting is episunagogen. We are not to neglect the “coming together,” “assembly,” or “gathering” [synagogue].

Though we should daily encourage and pray for one another as we have opportunity to invest in each other’s lives, there is a measure of encouragement, participation, and life in the church that cannot be attained or replicated apart from the regular assembly of God’s people in corporate worship. We need to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed together. We need to pray and sing God’s praise together. Listening to sermon recordings or broadcasts can’t replicate it. Singing worship songs along with your iPod can’t match it. We need to see and hear and know and feel the testimony of lives changed by the power of the Gospel, covenanted, unified and gathered together all in one place, in the same room, for His glory.

We live in a sad day when for many the church and worship have been pushed to the periphery. It is a sad day when people are willing to profess Christ, but unwilling to identify with His body. It is a sad day when making time to gather for worship is more a matter of senseless habit or convenience than spiritual hunger or conviction. It is a sad day when, awaking to a beautiful day outside, the idea of skipping church to go to the beach or a golf course is even an option that Christians would entertain.

The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were constant and committed to worship: being under the preached Word, breaking bread, and praying. And their worship was together, fellowshipping—encouraging and strengthening one another by being together as God’s people.

As you prepare for gathered worship, make worshipping God together with your church family a priority. Remove hindrances that might keep you away and apart from worship. Set aside one day in seven for rest, as God commands. Cherish that day. Regard it as special. Make it clear to family and friends that gathering with your church family is the priority of that day. If you are providentially hindered by illness or circumstances beyond your control, or by a work schedule that requires you to miss the gathered worship of your church, then make it a priority of prayer.

And don’t stop making worship a priority when you arrive for a worship service. We live in a day when it is a simple thing to bring our distractions along with us. We open our Bibles on our phones and iPads, where Facebook, Twitter, email, and messaging all reside alluringly close by. Tune out the world and enjoy the rest of adoring Christ and delighting in His Word with your brothers and sisters in gathered worship.

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He obtained it “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The church was a priority to Jesus. And it should be for us as well, not just in theory or theology, but in practice and attendance. Make it a priority to worship God regularly and faithfully together in the church.

 

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