Friday, October 31, 2008

Semper Reformanda

Some mind-provoking thoughts:

The Reformation is actually a proper noun. It denotes a movement of the past. However, I’m arguing that those who are "truly Reformed"…should not consider their reformation as a noun as much as we should think of it actually as a verb. Namely, a call to further action. A call to constantly, constantly, uncomfortably, realign our lives, our churches, with the Word of God. I truly, genuinely feel that for some the concept of being Reformed is that outwardly, and even creedily, it is sufficient to adopt the values and the doctrines of the Reformation or the Reformers. And once those things are in place, then there’s no need to think ever again about changing, and any change proposed would naturally be the beginnings of apostasy, or decline at the least. In the faith, the Reformers were not men who looked back to a point in history and found a time from the past that they sought to duplicate. That wasn’t what the Reformers were about…They could appreciate and love the doctrine that those men set forth, but they did not seek in any way to duplicate what was done in the days before. Instead, they looked to the Word of God, and they wrestled with how they could be men who lived out and who represented God and His truth in their day. One of the underlying burdens of the Reformers was to ensure the Gospel and the truth of God was communicated to the people of their age…It would not therefore be in the spirit of the Reformers to look at them and to want to mimic them today. That’s not what reformation’s about. That’s not what they did. They didn’t look to previous reformers. They didn’t look into history and try to mimic. They went to the Bible, and they wrestled through the issues that they were facing in their day from the Bible, and they sought to address the people of their age from the Scriptures. Rather, it’s in the best spirit of those faithful men to search the Scriptures and then for us to seek to bring its message to the people of our day without changing the message…But change is a reality. It might be uncomfortable, but change is a reality… Should the church, should we, refuse to interact with cultural shifts, claiming that they must all be bad, we’re in great danger of confusing preferences for inspiration. We’re in great danger of failing to fulfill the Great Commission, which we have as going to the world with the Gospel, and I am sure that that means more than simply the globe, the geographical world. Rather, it means take the Gospel to the peoples, the different peoples who populate different parts of the world, who live in different ages. Our job is not to lift culture by ensuring that we confront them with the riches of the past. We should not be on a cultural crusade… We are the church, and the church is commissioned to live in our culture and face our culture with the Gospel. When our distinctive is counter-cultural in the sense that we are insisting a culture of the 17th century or the 19th century or whatever is “better,” we’ve lost our way…But we are counter-cultural in the sense that we get alongside the lost and tell them of their sin and tell them of the Savior.

- from a sermon by Robert Elliott

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Gospel, No Strings Attached!

So I'm sitting at my computer, thinking about blog topics, when I get this phone call. Right off, I knew what kind of call this might be because my caller ID said "unknown," and there was no immediate voice on the other end when I picked up. A voice-recording urged me "Don't hang up!" and then happily announced that I was the "first-place winner of a free luxury cruise" and that I should press 9 on my phone to receive my prize!

Now, obviously, this was some company trying to sell a cruise to a gullible consumer (I hope I spelled gullible right, since it's not in my dictionary!) But it got me thinking...there are many who view the Gospel this way! They think that God's offer of salvation is too good to be true or that it has some sort of strings attached. Then I thought, what would I say to someone who viewed the Gospel in this way? How should I give a ready answer to the hope within me, done of course with gentleness and reverence? Here is what I came up with:

1. The Gospel is authoritative. The reason I doubted this call from the start was the lack of phone number on my caller ID. There was not even a name listed! The Gospel, on the other hand, is a promise made by the Creator of the universe, the One who has all power and all authority. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Acts 3:22-23 says, "For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'"

2. The Gospel is accessible. Without a name or phone number, I had no way of reaching the callers should I desire to speak with them further. The caller did not reveal the name of their company nor where they were located. But Acts 17:27 says God's revelation is "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being." Jeremiah 29:13 says, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Romans 10:17-21 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.' But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: 'I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.' But Isaiah is very bold and says: 'I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.' But to Israel he says: 'All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.'"

3. The Gospel is personal. The caller on the phone was not a real person but an automatic voice message. I was also not addressed by my own name. But the Gospel is different. John 1:14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 20:21 says, "So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'" Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

4. The Gospel is well-meant. I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but this is a true difference. I got the feeling that the company calling was not hoping that I would have a wonderful time on a cruise. More than likely, they knew that there were gullible folks out there who would bring them some cash. But Ezekiel 33:11 says, "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'" 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God."

5. The Gospel is straight-forward. The prospect of a free cruise often has strings attached. It is a way to scam people out of their money. They claim it is free, but it really isn't. But the Gospel comes from Christ, who Himself is the Truth (John 14:6). Jesus says in John 8:32, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Those who preach the Gospel are to be upfront about it: yes, it is by grace through faith and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). And yet the Christian life is one of taking up our cross daily and denial of self (Luke 9:23).

6. The Gospel is simple. If I had listened to the whole spiel, I imagine there would have been much talk of service charges and mandatory fees and travel regulations and various other stipulations. But thankfully, the Gospel is simple. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." The answer given to the Philippian jailer as to how he could be saved was "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31).

7. The Gospel is gracious. The caller probably had a long list of do's and don'ts for me to follow, and I would have to sign a bunch of forms and do a lot of work for the company to be pleased enough to give me my "free" vacation. But what about the Gospel? As mentioned before, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). Romans 3:21-26, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

8. The Gospel is exclusive. There are many places I could go to buy a cruise. I don't need to risk falling prey to a scam. I could always go somewhere else, to one of many travel agencies or to an online site like Expedia. But not so with Jesus! This has already been alluded to in several passages. John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" Acts 3:23, "'And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'" Acts 4:12, "'Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'"

9. The Gospel is satisfying. Whether through phone or television or email, people are trying to sell you the thing that will bring you happiness or comfort or satisfaction. Whether it is a fitter body or longer life or a fuller wallet, there are promises galore. But how many of these promises prove to be genuine? On one website, I saw that one company's "free cruise" was a one-day trip from one Florida port to another. Even if the cruise was a nice one, it only lasts so long and then all you gain is some pictures, mementos, memories that will fade away, and a few more pounds. But Jesus promises in John 6:35, "'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'" He says in Matthew 11:28, "'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'" And Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us."

10. The Gospel is life-changing. As fun as a cruise would be, I doubt it would be life-changing. The type of cruise this company wanted to give me in and of itself would have no consequences for me spiritually and probably not even here in this life. But the Gospel has consequences for both our life here and throughout eternity! Titus 2:11-14 says, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." John 11:25 says, "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.'"

11. The Gospel is reputable. In my Google search of phone calls pertaining to free cruises, I have yet to find one satisfied customer. Where are the testimonies of people having a great time on a cruise set up by the company that called me? And yet the Gospel has ample testimony! In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul says that "He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." Not only this, but the Old Testament prophets testify to Christ as well: "'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me'" (Luke 24:44); "Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days" (Acts 3:24).

12. The Gospel is indestructible. I highly doubt that the people who own and work at these companies would risk their lives for what they do. If someone threatened them with monetary fines or prison or death, I think they'd close up shop pretty quickly. But those who love and declare the Gospel are eager, yes compelled and even required, to count their lives as nothing for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. Acts 4:18-20 says, "So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'" 1 Corinthians 9:16, "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" Matthew 16:18, "and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Revelation 12:10-11 says, "Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.'"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Love Lustres at Calvary

My Father,
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,
Supply words that proclaim "Love lustres at Calvary."
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on Thy Son,
made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of Thy justice smote the man, Thy fellow;
There Thy infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
and infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell's worst
that I might attain heaven's best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I mighted be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed His head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed His eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might for ever live.

O Father, who spared not Thine only Son
that Thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer Thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore Thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
my every step buoyant with delight, as I see
my enemies crushed,
Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
hell's gates closed, heaven's portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross,
mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 42-43.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two Sermons on the Power of the Word

Wow...has it really been a full week since my last blog post??? Where has the time gone? Resolved: Never let that happen again (Lord willing, of course)!

Here is a link to an excellent sermon I heard in chapel several weeks ago on not emptying the cross of its power by relying on our own power instead of God's Word:

"Power in Preaching: Decide"- Dr. Raymond Ortlund, Jr.

1 Cor. 2:1-5 "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

I was reminded of this sermon when my own pastor cited these verses last Lord's Day. A great reminder from Acts 4:1-4 that God's Word does not return void, that it accomplishes what it was sent to do, and that whenever it is preached, everyone who hears does indeed respond, either with rejection or reception!

"Christ, Rejected and Received!"- Jim Savastio

Acts 4:1-4 "Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great is Thy Faithfulness

As Christians, we often talk about having a "life verse." A "life verse" is some Scripture that God tends to use over and over as we face trials, learn new lessons, and grow in our Christian walks. Like many Christians, I have more than one life verse, and it is rather hard for me to single it down to one.

In my first year of following Christ, I remember that God used the words of Luke 12:11-12 "'Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.'" I knew that, if Christ promised the Holy Spirit's help to the disciples when they went before magistrates and were tortured, surely I did not need to fear telling my classmates and family about Christ! Another verse God has used was John 14:6- "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" I spent a few years of my Christian life in a Disciples of Christ church, and I was having to take a stand before my family as I explained why I could not stay in a church that did not hold to the exclusivity of Christ. When I come across those verses today, my mind invariably runs back to how God used these verses practically in my life.

I also know that many of us have "life hymns." There is one hymn in particular that God has used over and over in various situations and trials, and that hymn is "Great is Thy Faithfulness":

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Words: Thomas O. Chisholm
Music: William M. Runyan
Words & Music © 1923, Ren. 1951 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.

God has used this hymn, and every time I sing it or hear it, I remember specific trials God has brought me through. I remember, while in college and grad-school, desiring to work at the Southern Seminary library full-time but wondering how God would work out my living situation and transportation. I would sing this hymn every day, and I trusted that if God wanted me to work at the Seminary, God would work out everything I needed. The evening I was offered my current job, I sang that hymn to God with great joy in my heart! It turns out that I was able to buy a condo on the street I considered the best place for me to live. It was for a reasonable price, right on the bus routes, and, right before I bought it, it was announced that a grocery was to be built on my street, the lack of which was the only drawback I saw.

Earlier, while a freshman in college, I had a liberal religion professor who was telling my class that the Bible was not completely inerrant because the Gospels contradicted one another. This actually caused a time of doubt in my mind, which greatly troubled me because I did not know how to respond to these accusations. At church that Sunday, we sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and, as I prayed through the texts in question, I was either able to see the professor's misunderstandings right away or I found some commentary that cleared up the issues.

This past summer, my wallet was stolen from my purse as I got off the bus. Guess what we song we sang the next Lord's Day? And then there was late last year, when God ripped what had become an idol out of my hands. Yes, we sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" both in church that week and in Seminary chapel! Then there was the recent Wednesday night that we sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at prayer meeting, and the next morning was one of those "everything is going wrong that can go wrong" mornings. Not only did this song keep my focus on things above and keep things in proper perspective, but providentially this post was posted over on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog that very morning. Then there are times when I start to complain inwardly about something in God's providence, and immediately after I hear this song. It is used not only to encourage me but to humble and convict me as well!

As Pastor Jim said in a sermon recently, we need to focus on the "Who" and not the "why" (or the "how.") This song reminds me of that very truth!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jesus, With Thy Church Abide

Jesus, with thy church abide,
Be her Saviour, Lord and Guide,
While on earth her faith is tried:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Keep her life and doctrine pure;
Grant her patience to endure,
Trusting in thy promise sure:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she one in doctrine be,
One in truth and charity,
Winning all to faith in thee:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she guide the poor and blind,
Seek the lost until she find,
And the brokenhearted bind:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Save her love from growing cold,
Make her watchmen strong and bold,
Fence her round, thy peaceful fold:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May her lamp of truth be bright,
Bid her bear aloft its light
Through the realms of heathen night:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Arm her soldiers with the cross,
Brave to suffer toil or loss,
Counting earthly gain but dross:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she holy triumphs win,
Overthrow the hosts of sin,
Gather all the nations in:
We beseech thee, hear us.

- Thomas Pollock, 1871

I was meditating upon the words of this hymn, and one truth really stuck out to me, one I know I can stand to focus on more when I sing it! When I sing this song, I am not merely praying for the church at large, a particular group of like-minded congregations, or even my local congregation in general. I am praying for individuals! I am praying for my brothers and sisters in my church, whom I care for and love dearly! It is like I am singing, "Jesus, with Pam abide" or "grant Betty patience to endure." When I ask for the Lord to make her watchmen strong and bold, I am not merely talking about the elders of churches in general, but I am asking Jesus to keep Jim, James, Bob, Charlie, and John strong and bold. And when I sing the words "may her lamp of truth be bright," I am asking, among other things, that Bryan be a good witness to his dad and that Donna will reflect Christ to her sister. When I sing, "winning all to faith in Thee," I am thinking not only of those in the utmost ends of the earth but those who are unsaved in my own Jerusalem! When I pray that she may "one in doctrine be, one in truth and charity," I envision the faces of those in my local church, and it adds an earnestness and concern that just doesn't come with envisioning churches "somewhere out there." It isn't just praying for Christ to reconcile differences between Presbyterians and Baptists. It's asking Christ that there be nothing that will break the unity of the congregation of which I am a part! And the phrase "while her faith on earth is tried" becomes much more poignant when I think of the struggles that my own congregation has been going through, particularly lately: anxiety, depression, finances, health issues, lost loved ones, to name a few.

Of course, I should also take this song one step further because I am in no way exempt from needing to pray this for myself! I need this wisdom, guidance, and sanctification in the truth as much as my brethren do! While I know how much of a footnote my own life and my local church is in church history, it does not negate the fact that church history is made up of individual names who bore responsibility to love one another and serve one another in truth! Last Sunday afternoon, some of my sisters, who are part of the "younger crop" that God has reaped this year, were singing "The Power of the Cross," and I couldn't help but meditate on how good God has been to my church! Now, I know that things like this will touch me even more when I am middle-aged...they are only 15 years younger than I am...but still, it was very touching! It reminded me how I see the power of the cross not in the abstract but personally, in my own life and in the lives of those that I know and love.

I remember one of my Christian Education teachers in high-school saying that the church is always one generation away from extinction. Although I know that Jesus promised this will not ultimately happen, it makes me watch and pray and speak the truth in love all the more because a church falls when individual members aren't watching and praying and proclaiming the Gospel!

"The Power of the Cross"
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God— slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tempooraily alive, pre-viable life?

Read this article on "The Obama Debate Every American Should See"

Then read this more recent article on the aftermath of the Rick Warren interview.

Scary stuff! Especially when you realize that we *all* are, resurrection notwithstanding, "temporarily alive"...

HT: Tom Ascol (does a post on Facebook merit a hyperlink?)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing?

This message by Bob Kauflin was just posted to my church fellowship list, and I wanted to post it to my blog:

Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing?-



If for nothing else, listen to hear Bob Kauflin sing Come Thou Fount to various (and in varying degrees of effectiveness) melodies. :-) Or "Joy" to the World" to a dirge :-(


- the Bible contains over 400 references to singing, and 50 of these are direct commands
- the longest book of the Bible is the book of Psalms
- in the NT, we're commanded twice to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs whenever we meet
- God exults over His people with loud singing (Zeph. 3:17)
- Jesus sang hymns with His disciples, and Jesus sings in the midst of His congregation (Heb. 2:12; Psa. 2:22)
- one of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit is singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another(Eph. 5)
- we worship a Triune God who sings!

2 extremes
- some think that music supersedes the words in both significance and effect; for them, words are not only helped by the music but dependent on it
- others think that music undermines the words because they fear the power it has over the people, so they restrict its use

How does music serve the words?

1. Singing can help us remember words.
- We should use melodies that are effective- it works like a mnemonic device; thus it should not be complicated and instead easy to remember
- We should sing words God wants us to remember- Gordon Fee said, "Show me a church's songs, and I'll show you a church's theology"
- It is the Word of Christ that dwells in us richly when we sing, not musical experiences or emotional highs (Col. 3:16)
- The lyrics that we sing should represent the broad range of themes in the Scriptures
- We should seek to memorize songs- we tend to suffer from SDD (Screen Dependency Disorder) or HDD (Hymnal Dependency Disorder); Kauflin, even when using a hymnal, will look at a few lines and look up and sing it and repeat

It works! I am motivated by Carolyn Truitt, a sister at church who is blind and who plays the piano on Wednesday night. If she can remember the notes for a song, surely I can remember the words! Of course, the shorter ones are easier, but we have sung "How Sweet and Awful is the Place" so many times I have it memorized now!

Also, I encourage you that, if you haven't, click on the link on the right of my blog to buy Jim Orrick's CDs, particularly the Psalms CDs. Every time we read through those psalms in church, without fail the melodies are going through my head. Especially since the CDs are in the NKJV, which we use at church.

2. Singing can help us engage emotionally with words.
- Music can come alongside words and heighten their emotional impact in a way we may not have perceived with words alone.
- Singing can help us take more time to reflect on the meaning of words.
- We need a broad emotional range in our songs: reverence, awe, repentance, grief, joy, celebration, freedom, confidence.
- We must differentiate between being emotionally moved and spiritually enlightened; music can move our emotions, but it can't speak propositional truth
- Singing should be an emotional event- Jonathan Edwards explained that the affections we feel are religious affections, more than emotional highs but a response from the center of our being and from our entire being; and we won't always be moved the same way o to the same degree every time we sing
- Passionless singing is an oxymoron- as John Wesley wrote, "Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep. But lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice nor more ashamed of its being heard than when you sung the songs of Satan."
- The problem is not emotions; it's emotionalism; emotionalism pursues feelings as ends in and of themselves; it's wanting to feel something with no regard to how it is produced or its ultimate purpose; emotionalism can also assume that heightened emotions are the infallible sign that God is present
- Emotions in singing are supposed to be a response to the truths we are learning about God and the feelings we have toward God- doctrine and devotion
- But, we can also sing praise to Christ and by our lives contradict what we say

3. Singing can help us demonstrate and express our unity.
- Singing together tends to bind us together
- Singing enables us to spend periods of time communicating the same thoughts, the same passions, and the same intentions
- The predominant place of singing of Scripture involves the congregation of believers expressing their convictions together
- "Revelation reveals that Jesus didn't die to redeem individual soloists. He died to redeem a universal choir."
- "The question isn't, do you have a voice? The question is, do you have a song? Do you have a song? And if you're a Christian, if you've turned from your sins and trusted in the finished work of Christ, been forgiven and reconciled to God, you have a song! It's a song of the redeemed, of those who have been rescued from the righteous wrath of God through the cross of Jesus Christ and are now called His friends. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God and our singing together, every voice contributing, is one way we express it!"
- We should sing songs that unite rather than divide the church; we can appreciate the different styles and generations and genres God has given, but the church is not to be "something for everybody"; there should be a unifying musical center that speaks to most of the individuals in the church while occasionally introducing new songs
- "The purpose of instruments is to support Gospel-centered, faith-filled, passionate singing"- it is human voices that unite the church, not a particular style
- Musical creativity in the church has functional limits- "God did not assign us the task of singing the most radical, cutting edge creative music possible"
- We need creativity that unites the church around Gospel-centered truth rather than dividing the church over musical innovation
- We must be clear that it is the Gospel and not the music that unites the church; the church divides and tarnishes her witness when we gather around musical preferences and not Christ
- Eph. 2:14 "For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility."
- Rev. 5:9-10 "And they sang a new song saying, 'Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God. And they shall reign on the earth.'"
- "The Bible didn't come with a sound-track!"
- We can act as if God accepts our offerings of music because of skill, our efforts, practice, or sincerity. Harold Best- "All of our offerings are at once humbled and exalted through the one offering of Jesus Christ." We join in on Christ's glorious, perfect song of praise, and God receives our singing as though Christ Himself were singing instead of us!
- Our singing should more and more resemble the singing we see in Revelation 5:9-10
- Allen Ross- "If we even begin to comprehend the risen Christ in all His glory, or faintly hear the Heavenly choir that surrounds the throne with their anthems of praise, or imagine what life in the presence of the Lord will be like, then we can never again be satisfied with worship as usual"
- When we sing, we are anticipating the New Heavens and the New Earth, which is what singing was made for; there, it will be perfectly glorious, perfectly passionate, perfectly clear, no more sin, no more distractions
- The mystery is that, as we focus on the glory of the Lord, the Spirit changes us from on degree of glory to another so that our singing becomes more than simply a musical event; potentially, it is life-changing (2 Cor. 3)