Friday, December 12, 2014

Does the Old Testament Make the Bible Irrelevant?

It is an unfortunate joy for some people to bring up the lifestyles of the Hebrews in the Ancient Near East and attribute them with ridiculous ways of life and thought, while decrying God as unjust, harsh, and—now—irrelevant. The most common quips are sarcastically spoken of in regards to the dealing of sin.

For instance, Exodus 21:17 says that “anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” Someone would say, “Well then, how should my sister die because I heard her curse my mom?” Similarly, Leviticus 20:10 says that anyone who commits adultery should be put to death. “That’s ridiculous. That would then wipe out quite a few of my own friends and family if that were still true,” one might think with skepticism.

On and on it goes. Granted, there are many verses that list sin after sin after sin and many of the consequences are that the sinners are to simply be put to death. The modern reader of the Bible looks at this in light of his current circumstances within a nation or maybe even a church where the death penalty is not upheld for sins like adultery and juvenile disobedience, which may tempt us to think that the Bible really is outlandish, outdated, and irrelevant, when in reality, the Bible is as consistent as it has always been.

People can be quick to judge the Bible as out of date and entirely ridiculous upon reading the first few books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch (five books) also known as the Torah—the Law of Moses. What they usually fail to see is the consistent abhorrence that God has with sin from the very beginning of Genesis even to the end of Revelation. Though the present day sees less swift judgment of sin in our understanding of “swift”, does this mean God has in fact changed, or that the Bible is theologically antiquated?

Upon a careful consideration of the sacrificial laws that were integrated into the Israelite culture by God Himself, the modern reader would quickly realize that the reality of sin was always something that had to be dealt with.

For instance, if a common person in the Israelite community committed a sin unintentionally, he or she would have to bring a female goat or lamb without blemish to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, or the Tabernacle, as a sin offering.

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering . . . and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven” (Lev 4:29–31).

There was a prescription for the atonement of sin that required the shedding of blood. God established these regulations in order for the people to see the seriousness of their sin and to keep them holy.

It is important to realize the theological implications of sin and holiness and the shadow of these sacrifices that preempted Christ’s own sacrifice for us as the substitutionary atonement for our own sin. He was the unblemished Lamb of God for us! While God established the way of atonement for sin, it was the obedience of the people to flesh out the sacrificial system that God recognized. One could not simply go through the motions of sacrifice while hating and despising God, or by remaining unrepentant.

Isaiah prophesied, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats” (1:11).

Even the prophet Samuel said earlier, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).

The writer of Hebrews helps us understand the Old Testament sacrificial law in light of the death and resurrection of Christ when he says quite pointedly that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4). He explains in the previous chapter that the Old Testament system consisted of “copies of the heavenly things” (9:23) and that “if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ” (9:13–14).

God has always hated sin and has always had a way of dealing with it. Some crimes were indeed called to be dealt with by way of capital punishment including some of the following: killing someone (Ex 21:12), striking your mother or father (21:15), kidnapping (21:16), adultery (Lev 20:10), incest (20:11–12), homosexuality (20:13), bestiality (20:15–16), divination (20:27), and blasphemy (24:16).

God is rightly exercising his justice on rebellion and blatant sin when He decides to kill the sinner. As people within the New Testament age, we remember the oft quoted verse: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), yet sometimes fail to grasp the full implication of that.

Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul reiterated to the Romans that the sins of the world are evident in acts of maliciousness, disobedient children, murder, envy, and the like (1:28–32) and then goes on to ask, “Do you suppose, O man . . . that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed” (2:3–5).

Let’s not forget the example that God made out of Ananias and Saphira when they lied to God about their financial donation. He killed them on the spot, in front of the whole church (Acts 5). This was not an Old Testament event.

Make no mistake friends, the expectation of God still stands. His justice has not slipped. His common grace and mercy is being given to all who aren’t killed the moment they sin. It is—as Paul put it—His kindness, forbearance, and patience that is meant to lead us to repentance. He gives some of us more time than others, but He will still execute justice on the whole earth nonetheless—either judgment with mercy, or judgment without—depending on whether or not we have been justified by God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ cleanses the sinner of their sin and takes away the penalty of the sin—eternal death in Hell. The Gospel (good news) is only appreciated when the bad news is understood. Christ’s death covered even the previous sins of those Old Testament saints who had faith in God—evident in their repentant and obedient lives (Rom 3:25).

While the speedy and seemingly harsh reality of the Old Testament history in its dealing with sin is something that may seem inconsistent today—it is not because God has become indifferent to sin, rather He is extending more and more opportunity for those who do not yet believe, to confess their sin to God and call upon the Name of the Lord for forgiveness (Rom 10:13).

God’s sovereign nature is simultaneously just and merciful. Praise God for that!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

Friends, the Bible is not now irrelevant just because God is patient with us and has sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to act as both the High Priest and sacrifice once and for all. This very event of the virgin-born Christ fulfilled numerous prophecies from over the centuries for the sake of taking away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and made a way for us to be reconciled to God, in spite of what we deserved.

Don’t presume on His patience. Rather, in repentance, believe and call upon the Name of the Lord in faith and you will be saved.

We are encouraged by God’s patience for the sake of evangelism and we are encouraged by God’s patience for the sake of justice. As the Apostle Peter put it:

“Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:8–9).

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

Monday, December 8, 2014

Loving the Son of Man at the Expense of the Son of God


In our world today—sadly, within evangelicalism itself—there is rampant confusion on what it means to know Jesus Christ, to love Jesus Christ, and to live like Jesus Christ. I cringe when people use His Name so lightly, showing little reverence when talking about Him and having no concern for how they preface the Name itself. Those of us within the church are constantly bombarded with programs and best-selling books that claim to help us know, love, and live like Jesus, but the predominant focus is on the temporal aspects of Jesus the Son of Man, showing little regard for the fact that He was also Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God who commanded our reverence and obedience.

When Peter rightly declared that Jesus was not merely a prophet or good teacher, but “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (emphasis mine) (Matt 16:16) it was through that confession that Jesus said He would build His church. Peter was the example of what every true Christian in history would always confess—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It was not enough to be satisfied with Jesus the Son of Man—that is half of the picture. Everyone wanted free food from Him, free healings, free advice, but many of these same people turned away from our Lord Jesus Christ when He actually spoke to them about Himself and what the cost was to follow Him.

After Jesus fed the 5,000 (only counting the men) the people—eager to see more miracles—followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee all the way to Capernaum saying, “’Rabbi, when did you come here?’ His response is pretty clear: ‘You are seeking me. . . because you ate your fill of the loaves’” (Jn 6:25–26). They weren’t seeking salvation from Jesus the Son of God, they were more interested in the temporal benefits coming from the Son of Man—free food.

Jesus continued in delineating the difference for the people in verse 27, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” He effectively declared that He was not only good for temporal bread, but for the bread that satisfies the eternal need of being reconciled to God.

“Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (28–29). We must believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. The people here loved Jesus, the Son of Man, but not Jesus the Son of God. They did not, then, believe unto salvation as is revealed in their response: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (42)?

Today, sadly, we typically hear the most well-known evangelicals, or falsely so-called, speak about Jesus as if He were simply the guy to imitate for His good deeds as if that is the height of fulfilling the greatest commandment—to love the Lord Your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt 22:37) and your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). In fact we are hearing that even if someone of any religion has similar values, then they most certainly must be among God’s people even though they have different ways of fleshing out their religion. Perhaps the various differences between Islam, Mormonism, and Roman Catholicism, for instance, have just been misunderstood over the centuries? After all, they all have a place for Jesus in their system. Most claim to love Jesus. Most claim to hold to the moral necessity of loving their neighbor. Is that all that matters? Is loving Jesus the only means of determining one’s salvation?

Friends, no. Saying that we love Jesus is not specific enough. Do we “love” Jesus the Son of Man at the exclusion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? It must be understood that he was the God-Man, fully human and fully God. They cannot be separated without upending the entire prophetic history that started in Genesis 3 and wove throughout the millennia. Do we “love” Jesus only for temporal things, or do we love Jesus Christ, the Son of God because He saved us from our sin that was at one point taking us to Hell?

When God gives us the gift of faith to believe and confess our sins in repentance, then we fall in love with Him. “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

The way that our love is then reciprocated and fleshed out is in obedience to Him and His Word—“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). It is also fleshed out in how we love each other (1 Jn 4:11). Since the Bible was written to a Christian audience it must be recognized that a non-believer cannot read verses like, “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7) and think that they are good with God because they have some kind of loving feeling for people. No, these pertain only to the Christian reader—someone who has, by grace, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, for the only way to be justified before God.

The growing popularity among professing evangelical leaders now is to lump together all people who profess to love Jesus, regardless of their religion. Careful theological understanding of faith, salvation, the nature and implications of the triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are effectively dismissed as “little details”. Major false religious systems are then looked at as simply being a type of denomination of the larger Christian world.

Rick Warren, in a recent video interview that aired on the Catholic News Service, called for evangelical Christians to unite with Roman Catholics for the sake of social justice, stating that “we have far more in common than what divides us. When you talk about Pentecostals, Charismatics, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and on and on. . . They would all say, ‘We believe in the Trinity; we believe in the Bible; we believe in the resurrection; we believe in salvation through Jesus Christ.’ These are the big issues.”

The fundamental problem is in all of the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that Warren completely glosses over. The RC Church believes in the Bible and its additional traditional writings, including the doctrinal assertions that the Pope makes, as being infallible. The RC Church believes in salvation through Jesus Christ and meritorious work.

The Council of Trent (1545–1563) was the Roman Catholic Church’s definitive response to the Protestant Reformation and the writings that were coming from men like Martin Luther and John Calvin. In it they defined what still remains as the bedrock of Roman Catholicism today.

In Section 6, Chapter 11, it reads: “No one ought to flatter himself up with faith alone, fancying that by faith alone he is made an heir [of Christ].”

In this same Section 6 are a number of Canons that further define the Catholic position on justification. Canon IX states: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” (emphasis mine)

“Let him be anathema” simply means “let him be accursed”. The Apostle Paul, however—under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit—wrote to the Galatians: “If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (1:8) (emphasis mine). What was that Gospel that Paul preached?

A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16).

“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9).

According to Rick Warren—on the question of differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism—he states, “There’s still real differences—no doubt about that, but the most important thing is, if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team.”

Sweeping all fundamental doctrine and biblical theology aside, Warren simply states that unification of religion can be defined in whether or not someone "loves Jesus". Again, friends, this sounds good on the surface, but it doesn’t say anything about repentance of sin, faith in the Son of God for forgiveness of sin, or even that this Jesus that someone loves is the Jesus of the Bible, the Son of God. We cannot blur the lines about God—Father, Son, or Spirit—for it is the very belief of who exactly Jesus is and what work He did on the cross and the implications thereof on faith, that determines true salvation, or a false assurance of one.

Similarly, on Fox News, Joel Osteen was once asked ‘Is a Mormon a true Christian?’ in light of Mitt Romney’s run for the Presidency. He answered, “Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his Savior and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it, so I believe they are. . .to me that’s a common bond.”

Strangely, most evangelicals are quick to dismiss Joel Osteen as a false-teacher for his prosperity gospel and other false teachings that continue to surface over the years, yet men like Rick Warren are still defended as being misunderstood, or not actually denying the faith in spite of his ecumenical agenda. For Warren, uniting under the pretense that people “love Jesus” does not stop at Roman Catholic theology.

In 2007, an open letter titled A Common Word Between Us and You was written and signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars and intellectuals to the Christian community calling for unity on the grounds that they both worship the one true God and that they are both called to love God with their whole self and love their neighbor as themselves. The introduction states:

“The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”

Countless signatories from the professing Christian community reciprocated their favor and acceptance of the Muslim outreach by responding with their own letter titled "A Common Word" Christian Response . In it, the signers concur with the common bond based on the love of the one true God and the love of each other’s neighbor. They even go so far as to “ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world” for the grievances that may have been caused by Christians in the past.

The letter goes on to effectively equate Allah with the God of the Bible:

“We applaud that “A Common Word Between Us and You” stresses so insistently the unique devotion to one God, indeed the love of God, as the primary duty of every believer. God alone rightly commands our ultimate allegiance. . . We find it equally heartening that the God whom we should love above all things is described as being Love. In the Muslim tradition, God, “the Lord of the worlds,” is “The Infinitely Good and All-Merciful.” And the New Testament states clearly that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

The people claiming to represent Christianity on this letter were some of the most recognizable faces and institutions within the evangelical world, including, but not limited to: Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Robert E. Cooley, President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as the Fuller Theological Seminary itself. Additionally, other recognizable names from the Emergent/Emerging Church movement were (not-surprisingly) listed as well, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones.

Friends: claiming to love God, or love Jesus, does not define your faith unless you can say who God is and who He is not. He is the sovereign Creator—the triune God. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. The Holy Spirit is equally God.

To call our love of the one true God as something that is equal to the Muslim’s love, or Mormon’s love, of the one true God is blasphemous. This may promote peace on earth, but only at the expense of the exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ. This may successfully bring about peaceful relations on earth, but it will not bring about the eternal peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7). It may successfully bring about the eradication of poverty, thirst, and hunger, but only at the expense of the “bread of life” and the “living water” that Jesus Christ alone can provide for eternal life (Jn 4:14; 6:35, 48, 51).

The only way anyone can possibly fulfill the Law of God that is summarized in the commandments to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, is to have been credited with the work of Christ on your behalf who in fact did fulfill the Law of God perfectly.

Take note, that this requires an act of the Holy Spirit in spiritual regeneration that is brought about by the gift of faith. This is something God first does in us because He loved us first. We love because He first loved us. If we love God then we will keep His commandments. If God has indeed saved someone, then they will love God for God is love and God is in us. Love is necessarily the natural fruit that is revealed in a regenerated soul.

Love, then, is defined by God because God is love. We do not determine our own definition of love and then act it out and call ourselves, or others, true believers based on that definition.

We recognize that only Christ in us will actually allow us to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).

Christ’s righteousness has been imputed, or credited, to us in such a way that we are treated as one who has kept the entire law perfectly. We know that whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it,” (Js 2:10) but that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). The work of Jesus Christ has credited us with keeping the entire law—the very law that is summed up in loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

We cannot put the cart before the horse and say that our own loving deeds are fulfilling the entire law. No, friends. Only someone with the Law-fulfiller inside of them has such confidence. Therefore, it is of absolute necessity that the Gospel is what unites people together as children of God. This requires understanding its exclusive claims that no other religion on planet earth would approve:

“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn 5:20). “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Our Political Views Reveal About Our Love of God and Biblical Conviction

In our world today, especially in the United States of America, we are a part of a democratic system that allows an incredible amount of freedom compared to most other countries. Indeed, this was the one thing that filled the sails of the first pilgrims and settlers as they traveled here and tried to carve out a living in a completely raw land.

For some pilgrims they only wanted freedom to build their own houses wherever they wanted. For many others, they sought religious freedom from persecution back home. No matter the case, the people wanted freedom from oppression.

Only a handful of centuries and 44 Presidents later, we are growing up in a culture that has only ever known this freedom and has become groomed to think in such a context all of the time. The way in which we cast ballots and vote for whomever we want to fill a political office reveals that the people determine what goes on in this country. The people vote themselves freedoms and restrictions. They vote themselves money and taxes. They vote themselves leaders that think like them or that will do what they want. They vote in a way that is informed by their own views on morality and what is “right” to them.

This is the rule of American life. The United States of America is deemed sovereign. The Constitution is deemed as authoritative. The citizens of America are deemed a free people and each century has revealed the growing yearning for more and more freedoms. With the demand for certain freedoms, comes arguments from all sides on what freedoms are necessary and what Constitutional amendments should still apply to modern times.

God, who’s throne is the heavens and the Earth His footstool, has given us governmental institutions to protect us from enemies outside and keep us in control from within. Romans 13 makes very clear that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (13:1).

Whether a government is Godly or not does not matter. We are still under their authority and expected to be subject to them, no matter the freedoms they allow or disallow us, so long as we are not commanded to sin. If the government took our guns away, we can be upset about it, but in our anger we should not sin and retaliate, though a controllable appeals process could be completely acceptable. If we really understood and rested in the sovereignty of God, then gun control would be the least of our worries.

Some of the Godliest people we read about in our historical accounts lived in the most oppressive governmental situations, under regimes of anti-Christian moralism. Just think back to the medieval ages and into the Reformation period when persecution started coming from the government and even the very church that purported to represent God. John Huss, Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, John Calvin, to name a few…were not exactly free men like we consider ourselves today in America. Their dedication to sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) got many of them killed.

Let’s go back further. Think about Joseph and Daniel for instance. They served at the highest levels of governments that did not honor God, but they still did individually, even if it potentially meant their life.

If Daniel or Joseph were given an opportunity to vote for their civilization’s establishment of moral law, how do you think they would make their decisions? Would they vote for laws that allowed gay marriage, or obliterated the lines between men and women in their unique roles? Would they vote for the freedom of killing children in the womb? Would they vote for no-fault divorce? Would they vote for leaders who campaigned on legalizing these rights by calling them “good”?

Put another way, would Daniel or Joseph allow “freedom” to dethrone God and His law?

To our deep shame, I think many professing Christians today do just that. In the name of freedom we have separated our conviction of Scripture from the checkbox on the ballot. In the secrecy of the local school gymnasium voting booth, we are abandoning God’s clear commandments and working against His call for us to be holy and to go out and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will save people from the penalty of the very sins we are voting to make legal.

As Christians, we can’t have it both ways.

The freedom we have in America is an amazing gift in itself! Why would we then take that gift and use it to rebel against God? We have political parties in this country that campaign on legalizing the very things that Scripture has condemned since the beginning of time and we are arrogant about it!

The Democratic Party today prides itself on tolerance of just about everything. Abortion is approved. Homosexuality and gay marriage is approved. Light drug use is approved. These are at federal and state levels. Every Christian that votes for someone with these beliefs and the intention of applying them to governmental rule is sinning against God. I cannot understate this enough. The Bible makes this crystal clear.

In Romans 1, Paul talks about how people rebel against God and suppress the truth by their unrighteousness and, although God is known to them, they exchange the glory of Him for idols. For these reasons we are told that “God gave them up” over and over.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…” (1:24).

 

God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (1:26-27).

 

God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (1:28-31).

What we see here is a condemnation of all kinds of specific sin, but it is also generalized in the final list to cover nearly all sin in itself, i.e. “Haters of God”. Hating God means you do not love God and we know that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Even the phrase “inventors of sin” implies that you don’t need to have the Bible list every specific sin in order to know it is sin. The fruit of the Spirit of God makes abundantly clear what is good and acceptable, the final characteristic (fruit) in that list being self-control!

The verse you have been waiting for follows our Romans passage. Again, I want to be clear that voting for people who uphold flagrant unrighteousness is a sin:

“Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (1:32).

Here, Scripture shows us that the sinner is not only the one fleshing out the sins as outlined above, but it is also the person approving the practice of it. This verse literally reveals the fact that few Christians run in liberal circles at the governmental level because the policy of their liberality is grounded in their being liberated from any outside source placing a limit on their lifestyle.

Furthermore, this verse also reveals the sin involved for any individual approving the practice of it, which means the voters of such politicians and/or policies. God has said this, not me. While we may be tempted to get mad that someone would make such a statement, think again about Joseph and Daniel. Too far removed to be relevant? If someone were to think that, it would just prove the extent to which the Bible is authoritative for their life, which reveals the real problem.

Remember that to God, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). This means that Daniel and Joseph would have had the chance to vote just 3 or four days ago! Do you really think that time has softened God’s wrath on unrighteousness? Has His holiness slipped? Has His hatred of sin waned? Friends, no.

Christians are people who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and now walk according to the Spirit by the grace of God. The Spirit of God would not contradict Himself and His eternal decrees by actually moving someone to vote in favor of legalizing sexual immorality, child murder, and a loss of self-control in drug use.

Is this a politically charged blog post? Yes. For the sake of a political party? No! Even the Republican Party is starting to slip into the same moral dilemma. In fact, some are already there. There is going to come a time when the best vote will be a fill-in-the-blank because you cannot in good conscience use your wonderful right to vote for approvers of iniquity.

Is this silly? How could that ever be useful? Why vote at all? Perhaps there are times when we don’t vote, but the main question is whether or not we are honoring God in the voter’s box, or hating God? We must be thinking bigger than us. We must be humbled and recognize who God is and what He has said.

To be specific yet again, I believe one of the worst and most flagrantly sinful platforms someone could possibly campaign on is the Libertarian platform. Again, the term liberty is being used because it is becoming a term that means liberated from moral restrictions. The only way to think about this kind of freedom is to completely ignore God.

The Libertarian agenda would decrease or completely eradicate laws against prostitution, sodomy, gambling, drug use, etc. They don’t consider these crimes. Why? They do not involve hurting other people or their property. They are consensual acts. This is right off of the Libertarian Party website.

What many politicians end up doing is redefining what sin is. They are the recipients of Isaiah’s warning:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (5:20).

Our country believes that we are mainly good people who are and should be free to do what we want because that is where the true principle of freedom lays. Moral boundaries have become intrusive and offensive in a culture that rejects God and His authoritative Word.

The Feminist movement has never been happier as the world continues to ridicule actual roles of men and women inside and outside the home. All Biblical counsel is even questioned by professing Christians who grow up with the plan of having two incomes and putting the kids in daycare. While some parents may be forced to do such in the event of abandonment, or what have you, the heart’s desire of every mother should be to stay at home (Titus 2:4) and raise the children in a Godly way that produces more Godly offspring. That’s what God seeks in Christian families (Mal. 2:15). If we don’t operate our families in this way, we actually revile the word of God (Titus 2:5)! May we never be guilty of such wrong.

Men are to provide for the home (1 Tim. 5:8) and also give spiritual leadership and set an example for all in the home. Men and women are not equal in function; they are equal in their spiritual state before God be it as unrighteous or righteous. Regenerated or under condemnation. There is no distinction as far as that goes (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:28).

When Christian men and women realize that they are each equipped with different abilities – mentally, hormonally, physically, etc. – they will realize that they are not lesser due to the fact that one works at a building and one works at home and raises the kids. Whoever decided that staying at home to raise children was lesser in importance and consequently a sexist problem? It is of utmost importance! It still blows my mind that women are told it is a substandard role. Only the most ignorant fool would espouse such a belief. If that’s not important, then sure, anyone can raise your kids.

I am writing to Christian parents to consider who your Lord is and to really consider why He told us how the best way to live is. The practical benefits are a blessing. The spiritual and potential eternal benefits are priceless. For us to call good (being a stay at home mom, for instance) – evil (sexism), is wrong and it flies in the face of the God who created us.

It should come as no surprise that there is less concern in the world for who raises the children since there is less conviction in what is right and wrong. Parents aren’t on the hook anymore for teaching their children Godliness since the parents don’t believe there are moral absolutes. They tell their kids the choice is theirs when they get older. Take it or leave it. There is no urgency of being right with God because God Himself has been replaced with Self. No God = No Judgment = No Worries.

In reality, the only freedom we have as sinners, before we are redeemed by God’s grace, is found in our being free of righteousness – but we are enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:20). This is the reality of the state of fallen man. When sinners create laws to allow the freedom to sin, they are really reveling in their slavery to it.

The Apostle Paul goes on in this passage as he speaks to those Roman Christians who gave up their sin and turned to Christ:

What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:21-23).

Where is freedom? It is in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus! Will Christians ever vote America to a perfectly moral state? No! However, we must not aid in its decline. Even if we did see a completely moral country…that doesn’t make anyone a Christian, so our concern for the eternal outcome of even our “moral” friends should be much.

Where is freedom? The Christian should know this more than anyone else. We should not approve and vote for sin to be legal. Voting for the freedom to sin is antithetical to the holiness of God. We will be held accountable/culpable for the people we vote into power.

Where is freedom? It is only found where there is no sin. That is true freedom.

“When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:16).


The Democratic or Republican or Libertarian party may have the best plan for the middle class, or tax reform, or crime, but if they can’t get the definition of life, marriage, familial matters and sexuality, right, then they should not have our vote as it would be an offense to God. Not only that, if you can’t get those basic fundamental definitions right, do you really think they will be able to handle the vast complexities of financial reform anyway? Not a chance.

Don’t selfishly prioritize the middle class and financial reform over the preservation of babies and familial constructs. Don’t dethrone God for the sake of our self-perceived notion of freedom. Let us vote and act like people who are indwelled with the Holy Spirit of God, the testimony of the Word and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:5).

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).



Just a final note:  This post is not meant to make anyone mad, but it is written with the believer in mind as an encouragement not to say one thing about belief and faith in God and then act and even vote in a way that God would never approve of. My hope is that I have shown from Scripture why our political leanings are a testimony in themselves and a revealing factor of our own convictions and whether they are based on God’s Word or our own. Oftentimes, Scripture will smooth us out, even if by using the low-grit sandpaper of His Word. Correction and discipline seem painful at the time, but it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

Monday, June 16, 2014

When Christians Take God's Name in Vain

I have sensed an interesting trend. It seemed good at first, but now I am left with a sense of grief. Have you ever wondered why it is that Jesus’ name is somehow becoming “easier” to say and use? I mean, really easy. Too easy. Casual, even! Here is what I mean…the context in which people speak of our Lord Jesus Christ seems too often to drop the Lord and the Christ while throwing his first name around for every silly fancy that comes to mind. As a family member recently put it, too many people treat our Lord as if He is just the guy next door that we can talk to however we like. Reverence and awe seem to be a scarce disposition among the saints nowadays.

The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is sacred. Jesus is, after all, God Himself in the flesh. How, and in what context, we utter it ought to be done with the highest regard for Him and His glory. The truth of the matter is…the way we use the Name(s) of God is a direct representation of how high or low we actually view God.

The context in which people speak of our Lord Jesus Christ seems too often to drop the ‘Lord’ and the ‘Christ’.

When you say His Name, does it reveal your reverence and awe of Him? Respect? Adoration? Love? Fear? The highest regard? The recognition of your depravity which has been regenerated to a new creation by grace and mercy, which you should have never received? Does it?

Or, when we say His Name, is it in jest? Casual? Light-hearted? Silly? Irreverent? Meaningless? Worthless? In vain? With no regard to His sovereignty? No regard to His worthiness? Is it?

Dear Christian, this is serious. The way that we speak of God reveals what we really think of God.

Some of the most painful things for me to hear in this world are not necessarily the vulgar words from the mouths of unbelievers, but the way that the Name of our holy and almighty God is misused. The worst case scenario, though, is when someone who is a professing believer in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – uses His name in vain.

A.W. Tozer once said something to the effect that anyone who uses God’s name in vain is revealing their lack of the fear of God. You do not fear God if you misuse His Name. Plain and simple.

The most recent article I wrote was on the subject of the words in our worship music and how vital it is that they are theologically sound and God-exalting. Words are important. It is by the very Word of God that we live (Matt. 4:4). It is with words that we understand meaning and ultimately, understand truth.

The Apostle Paul said, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? […] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:14-15,17).

God has purposed words to convey meaning.

Additionally, we will actually give an account for every single careless word that we speak (Matt. 12:36). If we cannot bridle our tongue, then our religion is deemed worthless (Js. 1:26). It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, whether good or evil (Lk. 6:45)!

If our day to day words are so important to God and so necessary for communicating meaning, worth, value, or understanding, then why do we ever utter the Name of our Almighty God with anything but careful fear?

The word “fear” is a word with joint meanings, essentially: reverence & awe. It comes from the Greek word phobos.

The command to “fear God” is found all throughout Scripture.

King Solomon said that the whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc. 12:13).

The Apostle Peter: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God” (1 Pet. 2:17a).

The angel in Revelation 14:7 said, “Fear God and give Him glory.”

It is this disposition that marks the true believer. It is this disposition of reverence and awe that will naturally manifest itself in our words, especially in the way that we speak His holy Name.

When the earthquake took place right after Christ yielded up His spirit on the cross and died, Matthew 27:54, in the ESV, says that the centurion was filled with awe (phobos). The NAS says that he was filled with fear (phobos)!

When we are told to fear God, we are told to stand in awe of Him. When we utter His Name, how do we sound doing it? What is the intent of our comment? Are we making a passing comedic comment to someone, or are we elevating one’s gaze to Him in awe? Are we dropping His Name in our anger, or are we praising His Name in reverence?

The kicker is this: Many people don’t understand the extent to which taking God’s name in vain can go. Put another way, there are countless ways that we can use His Name in vain, without ever prefacing it with “Oh my”.

For one thing, when rightly and reverently stated, one can say, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for my iniquity has risen higher than my head, and my guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (Ez. 9:6).

Or consider David: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). Or, “O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me” (Ps. 25:2).

In every instance the writers are crying out to God. They are actually talking to Him. They are not talking to someone else; they are not joking about something; they are not mad at something. They are praying directly to God, so they are addressing God directly.

The definition of “vain” is this: without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless; ineffectual or unsuccessful.

Now let’s have the heart-breaking moment of recalling anytime we said God’s name that wasn’t expressing real value, worth, reverence, or importance.

Friends, I think many more of us are guilty of this than we think. We should never say His Name unless we have an intent to talk to Him in prayer; teach about Him; or speak reverently of Him in general. Otherwise, don’t waste His Name in worthless, unimportant talk. Don’t speak His name in vain.

God has spoken very clearly on this issue. If He has something to say about His own name, then we need to take it to heart:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7).

Deuteronomy 5:11 reiterates the same thing.

Think about how else the term “in vain” is used in Scripture. It always means unsuccessful, pointless, worthless:

“A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding” (Prov. 14:6).

In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

Now let’s use this last verse as a spring-board to understanding something better: On the flip side, nothing that God does is in vain. Since He is all-powerful and sovereign and ordains blessing and calamity, He guarantees the outcome of what He decrees all by Himself. He never says anything in vain because everything He says is of immense value, importance, significance and worth. Everything that He says is going to happen…will indeed happen! It will be effectual and successful.

I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them” (Ez. 6:10).

“[God’s] grace toward [Paul] was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must seek to be more like our God who has called us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23) and in reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28). Only God’s enemies take His Name in vain (Ps. 139:20). May we not align ourselves with them!

Here’s an interesting fact about the saints of God. By definition, we are a reverent people. The Greek word for “saint” is hagios, but it is almost always translated as holy, although it is also used to describe the people of God. No wonder as we are called by God to be what…? Holy as He is (1 Pet. 1:15).

The word hagios is similar to the Greek word hagnos, which means: exciting reverence; pure. When we read the letters from the apostles we see the word hagios used for the saints as well as the Holy (hagios) Spirit to indicate that we are indwelled by Him and made holy by Him. The saints are the holy priesthood, the holy nation chosen by God (1 Pet. 2:5,9). They are the holy people who revere God in word and deed!

Do we act like it? If the Holy Spirit has truly regenerated us, then we will.

The reality is this: the way we use God’s name reveals a very deep truth about us. It reveals if we are people of conviction and maturity, or scant beliefs and immaturity. It could be the difference between being a true Christian or not.

A person who continually meditates on God’s Word day and night; who knows that it is by His Word that they live; and that the only way to really know God and His heart is through His revelation; then they will not be prone to speak of God casually, or indifferently. They will be very careful not to take His Name in vain. This person will speak with tenderness in their voice and with a humble disposition because they know who it is they are speaking about and they know that the holy God of Heaven demands reverence in our utterance at all times.

A person who doesn’t take the Bible serious enough to study it deeply, let alone read semi-regularly, will be much more prone to taking God’s name in vain because they have much less information to go off of when speaking of God. If you speak about God in an inaccurate way, you are taking His Name in vain. If you speak about God in a deceptive way, then you are taking His Name in vain.

When churches across the globe promise health, wealth, prosperity, power, healings, visions, new revelation, salvation by works, etc…they are all taking God’s Name in vain (Matt. 15:9). They are using His Name in a false, unworthy and irreverent manner. They are using His Name in a way that is ineffectual and powerless.

In many churches today, I fear that the man Jesus is only respected as the Son of Man and that’s it. The way that many Christians speak of our Lord Jesus Christ is in a way that a Mormon or Muslim would be comfortable…a good guy who can show us practical ways to live a good life!

I fear that we are insufficiently addressing our Lord and Savior when we don’t address Him as our Lord and Savior and as God Himself. We must be much more careful in how we teach about God and how we talk about Him in our day to day conversations. If the unbelieving world doesn’t notice a sense of reverence and seriousness in us when talking about God, then what message is that sending?

“From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3)!

Let us not be casual or indifferent about the living God. Let us not be arrogant or presumptuous in how we speak of the one, true, holy God. Let us not ever say His Name unless it is in praise, in teaching, or in pointing people to Scripture, or to know Him better. Don’t forget, we’re talking about the holiness of God in all of His manifestations – Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Don’t misuse any of His Names.

If we ever say God’s name in a way that is not meant for praise or reverence or exaltation, then we are taking His Name in vain and we must confess this sin and repent of it (turn away from it) and cease doing it.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Worship Leaders, Step Back and Remember: Lyrics Are Paramount


The statement is true that the lyrics of our music used within God’s Church are of utmost importance. This cannot be understated, yet it seems that too often it is overlooked as a secondary issue. Why? Usually, it is because we lean towards our gut feeling and emotional impulse that the music itself solicits instead. When we hear a song that has been composed with thoughtful dynamics and builds, accentuating the right beats, pulling back at the right time for reflection and then pushing forward with energy, we are left thinking that the song was powerful, captivating, epic, etc. Then if we really want to be philosophical and dogmatic, we can listen to the lyrics.

This shouldn’t be the case.

It is true that music, in and of itself, is emotional. If you were to sit down and listen to well composed thematic songs then you would instantly be brought to think about things that the music helps to conjure up in our minds. Some songs can only leave us feeling like we are sailing on the high seas, or standing in an elevator, or running away from a bear, or about to be run over by a train until someone pulls you out at the last minute, or falling in love. With no screen and no words, our minds can feel these emotions. This is the beauty of music, but this is also the danger of it, especially within the Church.

When Jesus told the woman at the well, in John 4, that true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth, it is important to remember that the truth He is speaking of is the truth of the Word of God. Truth is never subjective. It is always objective. Meaning, it is what it is. What it says and reveals has an objective purpose that is not to be translated in different ways based on the subject receiving it.

He told the woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (Jn. 4:22)

How is it he can make a statement like that?

First off, the Israelite tribe had always been God’s chosen people and through them God would raise up the Messiah to save them from their sin. Jesus was that Jewish Messiah, so salvation quite literally came from the Jews. Even before Christ, true salvation was found only in those who's faith was in the promised Messiah (to come!).

Another testament to this is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Of the Israelites, Paul said, “To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ…” (Rom. 9:4-5).

They worshiped what they knew to be true because it was God Himself who revealed the truth to them through the giving of the law, the ministry of the prophets and then through Christ Himself.

We are under no different expectation to worship what we know. This is to be contrasted to worshiping how or what we feel.

Paul speaks to this exact issue and we see it clearly addressed in 1 Corinthians 14. He is telling this church in Corinth that they need to get their priorities right in their worship services so that everybody is edified and that God is honored.

Starting in verse 14, he has just finished telling them that they should only speak in tongues (languages) when someone can interpret them. Otherwise, no one knows what they are really saying and it is a fruitless exercise. Paul’s thrust throughout this whole passage is that the congregation is to understand and comprehend everything, so that they are edified with the truth, which happens through clear prophesying (preaching) of words.

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing praise with my mind also” (14:14-15).

Make no mistake that while the various un-interpreted tongues were a big part of their problem at Corinth, the big takeaway that Paul wanted them to get out of his corrective letter was to have a service where the mind was fully engaged and not given to mindless emotion. He wanted them edified, not confused.

By being aware of what was being taught and able to sing comprehensible songs, they were being built up (edified!), which is the entire point of the local assemblies of the Church in the first place, even today…to be built up in the most holy faith, always giving glory to God.

All throughout the Psalms we see that we are to ascribe to the Lord the glory that is due His name as well as ascribing attributes to Him that we know are true, based on His Word (Ps. 96:8). We should worship and praise Him for who He is and what He has done. When we do this, we glorify Him and we also edify each other with this truth exultation.

If we are to worship in truth, as our Lord Jesus Christ said in John 4, then we should take note of what David said in Psalm 119:160: “The sum of your Word is truth.”

What else do the words of Scripture say about our God and about the praise and worship of him?

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 106:1)!

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord” (Ps. 117)!

In Psalm 18, David illustrates beautifully how awesome, mighty and merciful God is to him for His provisions in David’s life. He starts out with, “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…”

For about the next 44 verses, we see reason after reason for why David knows that God is worthy to be praised. He says things like, “the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry” (vs. 7); and then, “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me” (vs. 19).

He marvels after God: “For who is God, but the Lord” (vs. 31)? “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” (vs. 46).”

Then he ends with, “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name” (vs. 49).

Even Moses and all the Israelites sang a song about their rescue from the Egyptians through the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 15).

Friends, this is why we still sing about God, to God. Too often we are caught up with the subjective feeling of a song and how the tempo is too slow, or too fast. Why would we ever care about the tempo of a song as long as the song accurately expresses praise and worship based on the revelatory truth of God Himself? This is not to downplay the practicality of choosing an appropriate, predictable, tempo, but it is important that we are not demanding the surface at the expense of the deep.

How many churches would do themselves a favor by shaping their congregation’s theology of worship, rather than changing the superficial elements of the music based on who gets annoyed the most?

It is important, again, that you don’t drag your music so much that it is distracting. If people are barely getting through a word when they need another breath, then you could be dragging a song down and playing at a sub-excellent level. This takes discernment and the careful, constructive criticism of gracious people who have the same desire for theological accuracy and doxological excellence as you do. I have had such help and it is necessary to consider and helpful to hear.

I will be dealing with the styles and genres of music in a future post to help think biblically along that vein. Make no mistake, though, our first priority in our music should always be on the words. Start there. Every time. That is what reveals the spirit and truth behind your music; not sixteen measures of synth.

Let’s take this a step further for the sake of practicality.

Instrumental Worship leaders, if someone sends you a song asking you to consider playing it in church as a worship song, then read the lyrics first before you even listen to the song. Let your doxology be informed by proper theology. If it doesn’t pass that test, then who cares what it sounds like?

Consider what passage your pastor is preaching on in order to bring a song in behind it that will drive that truth home. This is something I have been trying to get better at myself. Sure, any appropriate song could be sung after a sermon, but why not sing “In Christ Alone” by Keith & Kristyn Getty after hearing a sermon on Acts 4:12: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Why not sing the gripping hymn “It Is Well” by Horatio Spafford after the pastor preaches on 2 Corinthians 12:10: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.”

Why not sing “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin after having Communion and hearing a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Or Philippians 2:8: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

It’s not just that the titles to the songs have a topical match. No, we must be better than that. We must be more theologically informed than that.

From “In Christ Alone”: “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.” And: “In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe!” The Getty’s were writing about the exclusivity of God incarnate (in the flesh), our Lord Jesus Christ! This distinguishes the Christianity of the Bible from all other religions. Let’s sing that in God’s Church.

From “It Is Well”: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way; When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: “It is well, it is well with my soul.”” Horatio, after losing all four of his children in a sea-faring journey, as well as all of his wealth in the Great Chicago Fire, could still say “it is well with my soul” because he trusted the sovereignty of God and knew he would see his children in Heaven again.

From “Jesus Messiah”: “He became sin who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness. He humbled Himself and carried the cross. Love so amazing! His body the bread, His blood the wine; Broken and poured out all for love. The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn. Love so amazing!” Chris Tomlin pulls this right out of Scripture and puts it to music, singing about the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

If anyone has heard Keith Getty talk about writing songs for the Church, there is no doubt you have heard him say: “We are what we sing”. This is not to mean we can sing ourselves into salvation, but the words we put in people’s mouths are words that they will start believing, just like a pastor who is preaching. We need to be careful and thoughtful with what we are having people sing.

When I attended one of Keith’s workshops in Annapolis, he recounted how his grandfather, though losing some of his memory, could still sing the hymns he grew up with, without missing a beat. Those of us who lead the songs in our churches are responsible for putting solid theology in the mouths and minds of the people in the pews. Let’s not forget that. We are really a musical type of preacher.

Keith wrote a great article for The Gospel Coalition a number of months ago on What Makes "In Christ Alone" Accepted and Contested? In it, he says:

“Truth put to music remains with us. It's why we still sing the powerful lyrics of hymns written centuries ago. Speculation and questioning about theology will come and go, but truth remains.”

He also said:

“We must sing wholeheartedly about concepts such as penal substitution, as well as the many other attributes of God that unfortunately go ignored in some churches today. The songs we sing have a powerful way of shaping our soul and becoming grafted into our being.”

Remember, the whole reason God had Moses put the Law (essentially, the book of Deuteronomy) into the form of a song was for remembrance of the truth. He told Moses, “Write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel” (Deut. 31:19).

Scripture also tells us that we will give an account for every careless word we have spoken (Matt. 12:36). This includes lyrics sung. I certainly don’t want to stand before God confessing I picked songs that were musically energetic even though I knew they were theologically shallow and insufficiently articulate of His majesty. The word of Christ ought to dwell in us richly as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16).
 
If we are living with an expectation of worshiping God who sits on the Great White Throne and that we will be joining the elders and creatures of Heaven by singing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” then let’s start now.

Let us lead with God’s glory in mind. Let us lead with a conviction that we are helping people to remember the truths of Scripture. Let us lead with an overflow of our own study of Scripture, so that our doxology is truly informed by proper theology. Let us sing to God about who He is and what He has done and is doing and will do…

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:2-4).

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben