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Soli Deo Gloria: The Gospel in Song

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Introduction

For the next few weeks, we are going to be looking at various aspects of worship. While in many other sermons we’ve gone from place to place, this morning we will be almost entirely in one verse. This morning we will be in . As you are turning to , let me continue the trend of recommending books. This isn’t a book per se, but more of a document. As many know, I have seen the beauty and benefit of holding to a historic confession. So today I recommend reading the 1689 London Baptist Confession. I think it’s great. I literally have the T-Shirt! Highland View Baptist Church officially subscribes to two different confessions of faith, one longer and more historic, and that’s the 1689, and the other much shorter but the same theology, called the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. If you haven’t read the 1689, I highly recommend it. Now, let’s read Colossians 3:16:
Colossians 3:16 HCSB
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.

A Gospel-Saturated Life

Let’s look at the first section of the verse: “Let the message about the the Messiah dwell richly among you”. Two applications flow from this: Know the Gospel, and surround yourself with the Gospel.

Know the Gospel

First, know the Gospel. So many things in this world are peddled as the gospel. So many little trinkets, so many little ideas.

False Gospels

Happiness is not the Gospel.
Abstract, unqualified Love is not the Gospel.
Money is not the Gospel.
Possessions are not the Gospel.
Personal Fulfillment is not the Gospel.
Career status is not the Gospel.
Popularity is not the Gospel.
Doctrine is not the Gospel.
Morality is not the Gospel.
Doctrine is not the Gospel.
Spirituality is not the Gospel.
Long life is not the Gospel.
Education is not the Gospel.
Environmentalism is not the Gospel.
Government is not the Gospel.
Peace is not the Gospel.

The True Gospel

The Gospel, pure and simple, is that despite the fact that we deserve nothing less than to rot in Hell, The Son of God paid an incredible price, and redeemed for Himself a people, a Church. We, who could never truthfully worship God, can now draw to the Almighty King and offer acceptable worship. It is not a message about us. It is the message about the Messiah. That is the Gospel.

Surround Yourself with the Gospel

So what are we to do with this Gospel? Paul tells us: Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you. We are to surround ourselves with the Gospel. We are to live Gospel-saturated lives, lives that only make sense if Christ is risen for us.

Christian Sermons/Podcasts

Chris advised us to listen to good Christian sermons and podcasts. I think that is wise. Now, not everyone’s schedule or responsibilities allows them to pay attention to a 45 minute sermon or podcast throughout the week. That’s one of the reasons why preaching is so essential to the corporate worship meeting. But if you can make it work to listen to sermons, I highly recommend it.

Christian Books

Beyond that, read good Christian books. Not everyone likes to read, and in today’s day reading is less and less valued. But there is so many wonderful books to read. Deep theology, deep practicality, there are great books for every step of the Christian walk. We live in a world where one can have thousands of books available on a device less than half an inch thick. My New Testament professor spent $10,000 transferring his library from Texas to Hannibal, MO. I carry most of my library in my pocket. And for those who just really don’t like to read, there are audiobooks available. Take advantage of them. Soak yourself in Gospel reading.
Now before we move on, there is one other book to talk about. I love deep theological tomes. I love books like Calvin’s Institutes. I love the ancient creeds, as well as wonderful confessions of faith like the 1689 London Baptist Confession. But you put all of that on one side of the scale, and the Bible on the other side, and it is clear who wins. The Bible, the Word of God, is not just the Message about the Messiah, it is the Message from the Messiah! The Pastor and I have gotten into a habit of recommending books. There are so many books I recommend. I today recommended the 1689 confession. But most importantly, immerse yourself in Holy Scripture. Read God’s Word. If you can read it every day, do so. It is so wonderful to get into the Bible, and even if you walk away from it feeling like it was a waste of time, it was not. It is a means of grace. As you read Scripture, God changes you and makes you more like Christ.

Christian Music

In addition to all that, I recommend listening to great Christian music, in all its various genres. Now, we’ll be dealing a lot with this today. But for right now, let me just encourage you to be wise in what you choose to listen to. You become that which you consume.

Christian Company

Lastly, if you’re going to surround yourself with Gospel books, Gospel Music, Gospel Sermons, then surround yourself with Gospel people! God did not institute His Church for no reason. We, as a church, are to spur one another on to godliness. How does this happen? Well, let’s add in the next phrase of our verse this morning.

Reciprocal Teaching and Admonishing

“Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom”. A major aspect of letting the Gospel dwell among us is through teaching and admonishment. But look at what it says. It doesn’t say “the Elders teaching and admonishing you in all wisdom.” Of course, the church leadership should, and there is a kind of teaching that is not for everyone, which is why James says this:
James 3:1 HCSB
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment,
But what does it say? “Teaching and admonishing one another” While not everyone is a primary teacher, everyone is to teach. We are to admonish one another, spurring one another on to greater godliness.

Teach One Another

So what are we to teach? We are to teach the Gospel! Remind your brothers and sisters of what God has done for you in Christ. Tell them about the things you are learning in your own reading and listening.

Admonish One Another

Beyond that, we are to admonish one another. The New American Commentary explains the difference between teaching and admonishing. It says, “Admonishing differs from teaching. Admonishing has the element of strong encouragement. It is generally practical and moral, rather than abstract or theological. It is the way teaching is reinforced in the lives of the hearers.” It sometimes is translated as warn. We are to warn our brothers and sisters as they take wrong turns, which we all do. Isn’t that what we see in ?
2 Timothy 3:16–17 HCSB
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16 HCSB
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
This is the job we are all given to do. Everyone in here who is a baptized believer, a member of Highland View Baptist Church, is given the charge by the Apostle Paul to teach and admonish one another. But this is not to be done rudely, or recklessly. It is to be done in wisdom. “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom”.
One other thing. Paul has not told the Colossians to do something they have never seen before. Paul describes his ministry to the Colossians in the very beginning of the letter, starting from :
Colossians 1:25–28 HCSB
I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
The Scriptures, The Gospel, it is able to mature the believer. Teach one another. Be teachable. Admonish one another. Be admonishable. Paul then gives a vehicle for this teaching and admonition, and it is one that we really wouldn’t think of at first.

Singing the Gospel

Here I think the HCSB didn’t well translate the verb connecting these pieces, but the NIV, ESV, NASB, and CSB all do a good job, so let me quote from the Christian Standard Bible:
“Let the word of Christ dwell richly richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”.
Our teaching and admonition comes through singing. We are to sing songs, and through them to teach others. Doesn’t this sound odd?

Singing in Disuse

Especially in a 21st century context, this just sounds strange. In many ways, singing has fallen into disuse. There are probably multiple reasons for it, but I would guess the main reason is technology. In years past, when the family came together at night, or during holidays, there was no TV to watch. There was nothing to buy on Amazon and have it shipped via drone. There was no iPhone, iPod, MP3 Player, CD player, Cassette player, 8-Track player, or even radio! If you wanted to hear music, you had to make it yourself. We humans thrive on music. But in today’s world, we don’t have to sing in order to hear music. We can just tell Siri to play our custom playlist, and listen to professionally recorded versions of songs sung by the writers themselves! If we can do that, why sing at all? And so we as a culture have really put singing on the backseat. If people sing, it is usually in the shower, because they don’t want anyone to hear them. Or it is to sing Christmas carols, like one night a year. And even then it’s kinda awkward. It is an issue where there are different expectations as well. If a child sings, it’s cute. If a 20-something young lady sings, its a little out of the ordinary but not that big of a deal. If a burly 45 year old man breaks out in song, people are … concerned.
Things were not always this way. It used to be not just that singing was a common form of entertainment, but actually a matter of importance! Who has seen The Lord of the Rings? For those of you who have seen it, remember at the end of Return of the King, where Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor. One of the first things he does is sing a song to his kingdom. Songs are important, and carry weight. We see this in King Saul in , which says:
1 Samuel 18:6–9 HCSB
As the troops were coming back, when David was returning from killing the Philistine, the women came out from all the cities of Israel to meet King Saul, singing and dancing with tambourines, with shouts of joy, and with three-stringed instruments. As they celebrated, the women sang: Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands. Saul was furious and resented this song. “They credited tens of thousands to David,” he complained, “but they only credited me with thousands. What more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul watched David jealously from that day forward.
Saul wasn’t paranoid. Ok, he was paranoid, but he wasn’t paranoid about this. Saul realized that the way they are singing about David now was a great indicator of Saul’s legacy. If he is playing second fiddle while he is still the reigning king, then what will people think of him hundreds of years later? Music was important. Andrew Fletcher, an 18th century Scottish politician, famously wrote, “Allow me to write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” And yet, in a personal context, we don’t sing. Oftentimes, even in Church we don’t sing!
Let me tell you my story.
I’ve never liked my singing. I’ve always felt that as a singer, I shine brightest when surrounded by louder and better singers. I never liked singing when I was in youth group, and once I was in Chapel service in College, I didn’t really have to sing. I could just stand there as everyone else sang. I despised singing, and so I didn’t sing. One of my closest friends loved to sing. After my freshman year of college, I married her. Eventually Samantha and I joined Fifth Street Baptist Church. She sang; I did not. I hated singing, and so I didn’t. My rationale was that I was singing in my mind, and God can read minds, which means that its enough. I didn’t realize it, but Samantha began to sing quieter and quieter, until she stopped singing entirely. My refusal to obey the command of Christ led my wife into disobedience. Years passed where we silently worshiped in disobedience. I am so glad that God grabbed my heart and brought me low and caused me to walk in His ways. I was convicted of my sin, apologized, and I began to sing again. I discovered that when I worshiped in vocal singing, I was actually moved by the songs. I began to enjoy all the different genres of music that we will soon talk about. And then last year, a group of us went to Louisville at Together for the Gospel, and we worshiped God in song alongside 10,000 believers. That was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever heard. So with that said, I don’t think there is anyone in here who physically can’t sing because of some injury. So if there is anyone here who does not sing in corporate worship, repent of your sin and sing with us. It does not only damage you, it damages your family, and the church as a whole.

Teaching Music

Alright. As the Bible says, we are to sing as teaching and admonishing one another. There are multiple different genres of Christian music, and they each have ability to teach and admonish. What I’m going to do is go through three different genres, and read a piece or part of a piece. I want you to listen to the theology.

Hymns

First let’s look at one of the most beloved types of music among us, the hymn. There are so many wonderful hymns. Some of them are not particularly rich in theology, but others are quite deep. Pastor Chris recommended to me “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place”. Now, when it says aweful, it means “full of awe”, not bad. So let me read the lyrics to this hymn, and listen to the theology. Listen to the richness. This is Gospel music that teaches and admonishes.
How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?
"Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"
'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.

Contemporary

Hymns are great. Over the last year or two I have just fallen in love with hymns. But there is good Christian music outside of hymns as well. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of garbage out there. But gems are definitely to be found. Let me give you some of the lyrics to A song called “Oh Great Love of God” by David Crowder Band:
Victim of our sacrifice
Gift of love a perfect life
All for a wayward bride
All for a wayward bride
See the lion and the lamb
How he sits at your right hand
Waiting to come again
Waiting to come again
Oh great love of God
Who takes away the sin of all of us
Gone forever
Heaven open wide in a resurrection
You won't be denied bringing life to the dead and dying

Hip-Hop

Lastly, and perhaps most controversial, is hip-hop. Now, I know err’body in here be down with some fresh beats, but a lot of people take issue with hip-hop, as though the very nature of the genre is wicked. But the benefit of hip-hop is that it allows for long exposition of biblical truth, and as I’ve given quotes from hymns and contemporary songs, I’m going to quote a few portions from a hip-hop song called The Hypostatic Union by Shai Linne. I’m not going to intentionally rap it, but every time I say it to myself it sounds like rap. So here we go.
Our topic of discussion is beyond human comprehension
The infinite God has made a super condescension
The kind of entrance nobody could have anticipated
Precipitated by the evil we participated
In- through Adam and Eve our first kin
Cursed when they committed the first sin
Only if you have the Holy Spirit's antennas
Can you truly understand fallen man's dilemma
See, only a human can substitute for human lives
But only God can take the wrath of God and survive
See the humanly unsolvable obstacle?
With God all is plausible, nothing's impossible
True haters'll fight it but the story is certain
Two natures united in one glorious person
Jesus, the God-Man, official soul reaper
The hypostatic union- it gets no deeper
...
And nothing can escape Jesus' sovereign rule
From the farthest galaxy to the smallest molecule
So who deserves to gain fame?
By the word of His power the universe is maintained
In other words, put the cosmos back on the shelf
Without Christ, reality would collapse on itself
Jesus, the marvelous Author of all consciousness
Beyond what the sharpest biologist acknowledges
He needs no archeologists or smart apologists
He sees all hearts: Omnipresent Cardiologist
Master of Logic, Macrocosmic Novelist
Following any other god is just preposterous!
...
The subject of the gospels, praise of Apostles
Armed with eye sockets, arm pits and nostrils?
Who is this Jesus? God clothed in human weakness
Super sweetness and peace for the true believers
See the One who never tires knocked out sleeping
See the Source of eternal joy weeping
Which one can explain how the Son abundant with fame
Who made thunder and rain now has hunger pains?
See the Creator of water become thirsty
On the cross when He saves from the slaughter the unworthy
My awe should be sky high and I ought to just cry, "Why?"
with water in my eyes when the Author of Life dies
You think that’s not deep? That’ll preach. That’ll teach. That’ll admonish. That is the Gospel.

Personal Music

I love theologically deep songs. But not every song has to be a systematic theology. There isn’t just teaching music, there is what I would call ‘personal music’. It is music that brings the theology revealed in life. All three of these genres have songs that personal, not just doctrinal. But there is a fourth genre I want to talk about here: the biblical Psalms.

Psalms

We frequently neglect the Psalms. Some of the stuff we’ve heard is theologically more dense, but density doesn’t equal quality. There are some who go the complete opposite track, and say that only Psalms should be sung in worship. I disagree. There is too much beauty to ignore the great songs of the church. But at the same time, there is far too much beauty in the Psalms to ignore them, and we would do well, at least privately, to sing from the Book of Psalms. Let me give you a Psalm, , to remind you of the deepness found in its pages.
Psalm 42 HCSB
For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?” I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night— a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Where to Sing

Alright, so to recap, we are to sing songs, teaching and admonishing one another. Where are we to sing them? What is the context of our singing? From the text it is in worship, specifically the third form of worship. But the other two forms benefit from singing as well. Now, you are probably looking at me and wondering, “Three Forms of Worship? I’ve never heard that phrase before.” I know you’re thinking it because I just made that phrase up. But there are three different contexts of worship, and I like to call them the Three Forms of Worship. These are Private Worship, Family Worship, and Corporate Worship.

Private Worship

The first form is private worship. We are to worship privately. This is when we find time in our busy schedules to get alone with God, and read His Word. I believe it is beneficial for us to sing in private worship. This is when I’m in the car and listening to music, which happens sometimes. It is good for us to bring our private praises to God in song.

Family Worship

The second form is family worship. Trust me, I could preach a whole sermon on Family Worship, so I’m not going to go in depth at all. But let me say this: Fathers, lead your family in worship. Strive to lead family worship daily. I definitely don’t always succeed, but even if all we get done is reading the Bible, singing a song and praying, it is still definitely beneficial. Family worship is something that builds on private worship. If only one parent in the home is a believer, it is a daily witness to the rest of the family about the importance of God. If both parents are believers, it is an outflow of each person’s private worship, spurring one another on and becoming a wonderful display for their children.

Corporate Worship

The third form of worship, the particular context of our verse this morning, is corporate worship. Corporate worship is not a drudgery, rather it is individuals who have privately worshiped God, motivated by family worship, all coming together in one room at the same time, and unleashing a unified offering of praise to our King. In our corporate worship, we are to sing.

Do Everything for God’s Glory

The center of our worship is Christ. We proclaim Christ and His message, His Gospel. We are to let it dwell among us richly. We are to teach and admonish one another in the Gospel, through Psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit. The last piece of the puzzle is “Why?” What is the motivation of these things? Let’s read the whole verse of .
Colossians 3:16 HCSB
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.
All these things are to be done with gratitude in our hearts to God. It is to be done to the glory of God. He doesn’t say “with gratitude in your hearts to God and to Paul.” The glory is to God and God alone. Soli Deo Gloria.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, all too often this doesn’t happen. What does it look like to not give the glory to God?

Gospel-Saturated Lives Not to God’s Glory

It is possible to read of Christ without knowing Christ. It’s hard to beat the Prince of Preachers, so let me quote from Charles Spurgeon:
but all this may be done, and yet “the word of Christ” may never have entered into the reader. You know how children sometimes learn their lessons. I am afraid that, at a great many schools, there is no true instruction; but the scholars have simply to repeat their lessons, without ever getting at the sense and meaning of them; and, a week or two after, they have forgotten all that they were supposed to have learnt. Do not let it be so with our knowledge of Scripture; let us not merely know it so as to be able to turn to its different chapters, or to be familiar with certain passages in it, or even to repeat all its words. This is but to let “the word of Christ” pass by your door, or look in at your window; but Paul says, “Let it dwell in you.”

Teaching and Admonition Not to God’s Glory

When you teach someone and admonish someone for reasons that are not to glorify God, it is not long before it becomes bullying. “You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?” “What do you mean you don’t know what the Hypostatic Union is? Are you a fool?” We teach with gratitude in our hearts to God. We admonish out of love, and a desire to make clean a mirror reflecting God’s grace.

Singing Not to God’s Glory

When you sing, are you more interested in focusing on God as you give praise to Him, or making sure everybody hears you sing? Or that nobody hears you sing? Sing to God’s glory, church. Teach one another through song. Admonish one another through song. We are one body, we sing as one body. We partake of the Lord’s Supper as one body, even as it is broken. Let’s pray.

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