Liturgy – Sing the Word

Liturgy – Title Slide

If you happened to have been with us last week, we revisited our church’s mission and focus which was all centered around 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here at Mt. Roberts Baptist Church, we believe in the power and authority of God’s Word in the life of the believer, and we believe that it is God’s Word that should shape every aspect of what we do here as a body of believers.

With that said, I’m excited this morning to begin a new series on liturgy. That may sound like a fancy or antiquated word, but basically it refers to the form or formulary of corporate worship. And the question that I would like to propose to you this morning is this: if all that we do as a body of believers is founded and anchored upon God’s Word, how should it transform our time together in this moment of corporate worship? How does God’s Word manifest itself within the worship service?

To start off this morning, I’d like to begin with a message from Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

  And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

speaking to one another
in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing and making music
from your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for everything
to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Ephesians 5:18-20

Our passage starts off with a pretty simple statement (we’ll be looking at that in more depth later), but you’ll see immediately following it a statement making mention of worship – the use of songs, hymns, spiritual songs, and making music. It should really come as no surprise. After all, music dominates our culture to a degree that it never has before. With all the advancements in technology, our exposure to music would be unimaginable by those living just over a century ago. Where once we had to be trained musicians or be in the presence of a performer, people now listen endlessly to music. It’s hard to imagine a world without music, and while it is a gift from God, it can also be a powerful emotional stimulator.

Why is music so important to us? It meets a human need and has found a place in the heart of people. In the sixth chapter of Daniel, the king cannot sleep because there is no one to play him music. In first Samuel, Saul had a similar problem, and it was David that came to play. But music is not just associated with the need of comfort or peace – it is associated with every other part of our lives. Music can be uplifting and elevating, or it can be low and degrading – even ugly. Music has an amazing ability to literally tamper with all ranges of human experience and emotion.

If we were to look at the history of music, it’s easy to see that it rides the back of the culture at the time in whatever direction it may be heading. It’s not a stretch to say that today’s music is following the degeneration of our society. While music can certainly be an aid, in riding the back of the culture it can also ride on corruption. To get to music that seems to have more heart, meaning, beauty, or magnificence, one must go backwards in time – something we would refer to as classical music.

There’s even been a decline in musicianship. Shortly after hurricane Katrina, I visited New Orleans and played in a second line from a wedding ceremony to the reception. As soon as we arrived, there were two individuals wanting to act as agents to help book us for similar events. In an area that was once dominated by jazz and creole tunes, many musicians had abandoned the area. But there are less and less individuals who commit themselves to musical or instrumental training. The music industry today is filled with people playing music with no talent and with little to no meaning.

But the music of the saved is different. We live in a different world and are citizens of a different kind of kingdom. Our music is alien to the music of the rest of the world. It reflects that of which should be the most exalted, namely the truth of God that never changes. Our music doesn’t ride the culture, but rather reveals this truth. And, since the Bible is true and timeless, so is our music – or so it should be. Sometimes I’m amazed at how eager churches are to adapt the music of the culture, attempting to sanitize it and force it to fit within the boundaries of our faith.

There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to music and worship – the first being that music is worship. The two are not synonymous. But, most often, when someone speaks of worship, they are referring to the music. Music is a means to express worship while worship is the heart going to God in gratitude and thanksgiving for all that He’s done. Worship is acknowledging who God is, what He’s done, that He’s saved us, and expressing gratitude to God. There are certainly plenty of ways to do that, and music is but one of them.

Another misconception is that music motivates or encourages worship. While it can give expression to the love and adoration that we are lifting to God, our motivation must come from somewhere else. Music should only enhance or enrich our worship. Our motivation shouldn’t come from sound, but rather the truth that we hold to and preach.

Along the same vein, yet another misconception is that music creates a mood or prepares people for worship. But worship is not a mood or experience. We’ve all seen the churches that, during their worship times, come together in a dim or dark room with sensual music and sophisticated lighting. None of these things in and of themselves have anything to do with worship, but they can create a false substitute for true worship.

True worship is a permanent attitude. That is a truth that we should really key in on as it seems there is a growing disconnect between the God we worship on Sunday and the one we seem to follow during the week.

  Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Philippians 3:12-20

We worship in Christ Jesus. And our way of life should be lived in gratitude to God. We don’t need a mood created by music, but rather a realization of the glories of the person and work of Jesus Christ. How do we achieve that realization? How do we “create” worship? It’s done through the reading and preaching of God’s Word. It is our source for truth, and when we know the truth, our heart reaches forward to God to express praise and gratitude.

A fourth misconception, but these by far are not the only ones: Non-Christians won’t come unless we appeal to their musical tastes. There are plenty of people who believe we must change our music to appeal to non-believers. The Christian music industry is filled with groups who attempt to do this. There is a temptation to take the music of the world and, in a sense, baptize it to reach out evangelistically. But if you look to Scripture, music is never stated to be uses as an evangelistic technique in a direct sense. It may do that indirectly as we’re singing of our Savior and of salvation, but we’re singing to God. We’re not singing to the world. We’re not singing to the unbeliever.

So how should music and worship fit together? First, I think we need to understand that music is a gift of God through common grace to all the world to express our emotions. Again, for believers, it is a gift of God to give expression to God for who He is and what He’s done. Saved people sing. Music reaches its greatest potential amongst Christians. Worship is far beyond secular, worldly music. It doesn’t focus on emotions, but rather focuses on God.

Scripture tells us to sing a new song, and it is only believers who can. In fact, the word “new” appears in the psalms more often with song than any other term. Anytime you see the word “new,” it is almost immediately followed by the word “song.” Our music and our singing should be distinct from all old or worldly music – distinct because it proclaims what God has done for us.

  I waited patiently for the Lord,
and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40:1-3

And here lies another great benefit of our worship: as we sing the new song of redemption, many will see and through our worship be drawn to trust the Lord. It’s not that music is designed to accommodate the world, but the expression of the song of the redeemed most certainly will draw other people to its focus.

Out music is that of joy, praise and thanks for our salvation. It’s been that way even before the times of the New Testament:

  Hezekiah stationed the Levites in the Lord’s temple with cymbals, harps, and lyres according to the command of David, Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet. For the command was from the Lord through His prophets. The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.

Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. When the burnt offerings began, the song of the Lord and the trumpets began, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly was worshiping, singing the song, and blowing the trumpets—all of this continued until the burnt offering was completed. When the burnt offerings were completed, the king and all those present with him bowed down and worshiped. Then King Hezekiah and the officials told the Levites to sing praise to the Lord in the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with rejoicing and bowed down and worshiped.

2 Chronicles 29:25-30

Why else is our music so important? We see it here. In the Lord’s command to restore the temple, there was a command of music. Again, worship is more than just singing and prayer, but this massive celebration in the Old Testament still held music as integral to what they were doing. If you read onward, you’d see that the temple had 38,000 people serving within it, with 4,000 of those individuals in the music “department.” Prophets made an all-male chorus and were accompanied by instruments.

  David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before God with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.

1 Chronicles 13:8

The New Testament is filled with music as well. When the disciples gathered to meet in the upper room, they sang together. When Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, they still sang. In the fourth chapter of Corinthians we’re told to sing with spirit and mind. Revelation chapters 5, 14, and 15 tell us of the music that will be in heaven. Music has and always will – even in heaven – be a part of our worship.

But getting back to our main passage, let’s look at the contrast that we started with:

  And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

Ephesians 5:18-20

Ancient pagan culture was marked by drunkenness. There were many in this time that believe that becoming drunk would elevate us and exalt us in order to have communion with the gods. It was their belief that consuming alcohol to the point of drunkenness would alter their state of mind so that they could commune with the spiritual realm. That may sound ridiculous, and we may think that things like that could not possibly exist today, but here in Campbellsville we only have to look about 15 miles away. We have a church where people from all over the country come to take ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drug that they believe is to be used “in a quest for spiritual enlightenment.” But going back to the era in which Paul is writing, not only was there the consumption of alcohol, but also sexual immorality and all other sorts of corruption. Certainly, music was a part of this as well.

But, again, Paul tells us not to get drunk with wine. We should not corrupt our worship in an attempt to induce an experience. Rather, he tells us to be filled with the Spirit. That is what leads to our kind of music, our kind of worship. We can see the worst of verse 18 in today’s drug culture. It seems that the more severe drug users are found within the music industry than that of any other profession. And again, it has always been a part of pagan culture.

We should have nothing to do with that. So much of the world’s music is obsessed with drugs, alcohol and sex, so why would we want to even try to use it and think we can sanitize it? We’re not motivated by those things, but rather are to be filled with the Spirit. The pagans were controlled from the inside by what they consumed. We are controlled from the inside by the Holy Spirit.

But even that basic truth has been abused, especially within the charismatic movement. There are those who believe that the Holy Spirit is supposed to induce some sort of ecstatic experience, much of which is ungodly itself. We are called to be filled with the Spirit. Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit. Actually, it is the Holy Spirit that possesses us. When you come to Christ, He came to you. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in every believer, and we are found as a temple for the very Spirit of God.

Never in Scripture is there a command for a Christian to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We already are! There are those that speak of a “second” baptism by the Holy Spirit. Seven times in Scripture we can find reference to baptism by the Spirit, but each of those seven instances do not come as a form of a command, but as a statement of fact – we have been immersed into the Spirit and into communion with the body of Christ. In the opening chapter of Ephesians, we’re told that we’re sealed by the Spirit. Not only have we been immersed into union with the body of Christ, but we’re sealed, secured for eternal life.

None of this is some sort of emotion and it doesn’t have to be a mystery to us. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It’s not to mean to be filled as if we’re a cup being filled with water. It’s more like the wind that fills a sail, causing it to move. It is a powerful feeling. We can be filled with sorrow, fear, or of Satan. Being filled means to be literally under the control of those things. Being filled with the Spirit simply means that we have yielded everything about our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to control us.

So, what is the connection here? How does being filled with the Spirit control our music and how we worship? Our main passage speaks of being filled with the Spirit and immediately moves on to psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. The connection is paralleled in Colossians 3:16:

  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16

We sing, and we worship because the message, or the Word of God dwells richly within us. To get to the point this morning, to be filled with the Spirit as we worship is to allow the Word of God to dwell within us. The Holy Spirit is not someone that we seek in the emptying of our minds, but in the Bible, and it is the Holy Spirit that controls us by the Word of God. So, to be filled by the Spirit is to be controlled by the Word of God. The more we know God through His word, the more genuine our worship will be. There is no authentic worship of God without a right knowledge of God.

And what is the first result of a life under control by Biblical truth?

  And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

speaking to one another
in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing and making music
from your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for everything
to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Ephesians 5:18-20

The first result we see in our passage this morning is music and singing. There are certainly other results too, but all of those things fall under the positive experience of being under the power of the Holy Spirit. But the top of our list here is found speaking, singing, and making music. In view of the truth of God we make sounds to express our joy. The worship and the music we engage in each week comes because we know the truth.

Notice that we’re told to speak and sing to one another. Remembering what we said about music and evangelism, our music should not be of entertainment either, but rather a collective expression of joy and gratitude.

If you study the history of the church, there was almost 1,000 years that it was robbed of music. It wasn’t until the Reformation that music made its way back into the worship of the church. Another interesting thing to note is that our faith is the only one with music. Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus may chant, but Christians sing.

So, our worship is to be done both in our individual lives and collectively. Our worship comes from a mind that grasps the truth of Scripture. And it is our worship that is to be directed to God.

  giving thanks always for everything
to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Ephesians 5:18-20

God is the audience. We’re not here to entertain each other or unbelievers – we’re here to offer worship to God. Our music, our worship, is directed to God and leads us into the presence of God.

  Now all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves regardless of their divisions. When the priests came out of the holy place, the Levitical singers dressed in fine linen and carrying cymbals, harps, and lyres were standing east of the altar, and with them were 120 priests blowing trumpets. The Levitical singers were descendants of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun and their sons and relatives. The trumpeters and singers joined together to praise and thank the Lordwith one voice. They raised their voices, accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and musical instruments, in praise to the Lord:

For He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.

The temple, the Lord’s temple, was filled with a cloud. And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the Lord filled God’s temple.

2 Chronicles 5:11-14