Do Our Songs Matter? (Songs for Teaching, Fellowship, Suffering)

Worship Music

Up to this point we have talked about music in general, but now I kind of want to zero in on certain benefits of worshiping God together in song. Why sing together?

TEACHING

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual sons, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. – Collossians 3:16 ESV

Here the apostle calls for believers to let the word of God dwell in them richly and part of the way to do that is through spiritual songs. Hymns, choruses and special music that are written in response to Gods’ character or actions all teach us something about God or how we should respond to God. They remind us of his characteristics like faithfulness. They remind us that God desires that we would trust him. They remind us that we come to him just as we are. They remind us that God is interested in our hearts, not just our words. They remind us that God is a refuge and a fortress in a time of trouble. They remind us that though we may face financial trouble, marital discord, a prodigal child, depression, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, disease, or even the consequences of our own sin, that God transcends all of that. We can come to him in worship while living in a world that is being destroyed by sin and he gives us a taste of heaven. He shows us just a glimpse of what is to come. Songs give rise to what words alone can not express and in doing so we learn our God and know our God deeper.

We use songs to teach our children. We teach them “Jesus Loves Me,” and in doing so we teach them:

  • God’s heart for children
  • the Bible is our standard for knowing God
  • God is a strong God able to take care of the weak and needy.

Some of my favorite songs are children’s songs.

FELLOWSHIP

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives 

– Matthew 26:30, ESV

Part of singing together is to remind ourselves that we are not the only ones following hard after God. The disciples had just celebrated the Passover Meal and Lord’s Supper with Jesus and note that before they left,  they sang a hymn. The hymn that they probably sung was one that was made up of six Psalms that when put together were called the Hillel. This hymn was chosen for the occasion because the selected Psalms all represented the salvation of Israel. Think of the disciples gathered around Christ. They were worshiping together, because he called them together. They had fellowship with one another, because Christ was their Lord.  Gathered around him singing praise to God was a former tax collector, a zealot, a few fisherman, and others all gathered in fellowship.

There is something about singing with other believers that elevates into not just fellowship but worship.  I love going to student camp where I am surrounded by our students and we all sing songs of praise to God. I can not help but smile and think how wonderful it will be, to be in the presence of God in heaven with these precious ones singing praise.

SUFFERING

About Midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God , and the prisoners were listening to them – Acts 16:25, ESV

Do not be confused about this verse. Paul and Silas did not have a prison ministry where they simply came and sang a good gospel song to the inmates. They were in prison themselves for preaching the gospel. They were in chains  and still they found the strength to praise their God! The height of music in worship is music born out of suffering. It is the music that is born out of a heart that has suffered yet still finds strength to praise the Lord.

In North Korea during the 1950’s there was a group of Christians who were meeting in tunnels dug underground. As the Communist were building a road through the area they discovered the tunnels and the Christians.  They were brought to be tried and executed in the middle of the town with  30,000 people gathered around to watch.  First the communist officer ordered four of the children to be hanged, if they would not recant their faith. The parents looked at their children and encouraged them, “be strong, we will see you in Heaven!” The children died quietly. Then the officer had a steamroller brought in and lined the congregation up on the ground. As the steam roller crushed the believers they were singing in unison:

More Love to the, O Christ, More love to Thee
Thee Alone I Seek, More Love to Thee
Let sorrow do its work, more love to Thee
Then shall my latest breath whisper thy praise
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
More love, O Christ, to Thee.

(I found this story in D.C. Talk’s first Volume of “Jesus Freaks” page 124-125.)

Did you like this post? Feel free to like it, share it on social media, comment below, and be sure to sign up to get new posts sent to you via e-mail (on the top right of this page).

Prayer Involves Community

We are not alone. We do not get to call God, “My” Father as if we had an exclusive relationship. He has saved many sons and daughters. Those who have come to him in faith, belong to him in community. There are no lone-ranger Christians. We are compelled even when we pray to recognize that we belong to God…together.
The “our” here is a large collection of folks. In the context of this prayer it encompasses people from every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev. 5:9, 7:9). It includes men and women (Gal. 3:28). It includes those who have been outcast (Lk 16:19-31). Those who were sexually immoral, those who worshiped idols, those who have committed adultery, those who were homosexuals, those who were thieves, those who were alcoholics, and former con-artists… anyone who has died to self and picked up to follow Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
This is precisely the point where Christianity and radical Hinduism are extremely different. We say there is no karma, just sin. Repent and be saved. They say there is karma and what you’ve done in a previous life has set you up for whatever suffering you get in this life. So the high cast and the low cast people are not equal. Within Christianity everyone is equal. We were all sinners. We all come by the blood of the lamb.
Realizing this we acknowledge that we do not act in isolation. Our actions have consequences that affect the greater body of Christ. We will give an account to our Father about how we have treated our spiritual siblings and others. Earlier in this larger section of scripture known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mat. 5:23-24).

When we pray, we are to recognize that we are not in isolation, our actions for and against our spiritual siblings count. Some of you have hindered prayers because you have grievously sinned against your brothers. It doesn’t matter how great your speech is, or how eloquently you can present your requests to God. When your fellowship is broken with your brother/sister in Christ then you will have difficulty in real prayer… I’m sure you could still get out a bunch of words, but authentic prayer comes from the heart. The Apostle Peter writing in first Peter pleads with husbands to honor their wives so that their prayers won’t be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7). There is no us vs them in the family of God…just us.

Philippians 1:3-6 (Devotional Thought)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6 ESV)

When I was twelve I belonged to a BB gun club that met in the basement of a bank. We met each week, shot our targets, talked about BB gun safety, and compared the guns we had. It was cool. I really liked hanging out with my BB gun club friends.

Over 20 years have passed since I participated in the bb gun club and truth be told, I don’t know those guys anymore. I’ve forgotten their names. In these verse we see a picture of a stronger bond than BB guns, sports teams, chess, or stuff like that. He writes about fellowship (it’s the word translated at partnership in the passage above).

Fellowship rightly translated as partnership here is more than getting together and hanging out. It’s a deep bond where both parties are committed to a common goal or agenda. Fellowship requires a commitment of time, energy and even finances.

If you haven’t already, look back at Acts 16 and read about the first three converts to Christianity at Philippi. They hardly had anything in common: a wealthy business women, a formerly demon possessed slave girl, and a suicidal jailer. They were from three different economic classes. They probably didn’t move in the same social circles. They were probably different ages. If they had facebook, twitter or Instagram back in those days they wouldn’t have even crossed lines on social media… but something drew them together! It was the power of the gospel! This rough group of people had a common experience with Jesus Christ that so changed their lives that they partnered together so that other people might experience the same relationship with God that they had.

From the very start the people of this church were dedicated to seeing the gospel not only transform their lives, but transform the lives of others as well! They worked to help establish the church at Philippi, they gave money to help take the good news of Jesus to those who hadn’t heard yet, they are faithful in prayer for the Apostle Paul. This is why Paul can say “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Paul knew that the gospel had truly impacted their lives because this church was partnering together in various ways to spread the gospel all over the world.

How has the gospel changed your life? If you don’t see how the gospel has changed your life, spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal this to you.

Did you enjoy this post? Did you consider it helpful? Subscribe by e-mail on the top right of this page and get fresh articles like this one and more sent straight to your e-mail inbox. Don’t for get to share on Facebook or Twitter.

Are you frustrated with Christian Fellowship?

I ran across this convicting Bonhoeffer quote this week and thought I’d pass it along here.

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty;  if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations.  A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not go God.  A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.  When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.  But if not, let him guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God.  Let him rather accuse himself  for his unbelief.  Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren.  Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.  Let him do what he is committed to do and thank God.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together