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)


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