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Preaching Through the Pastor’s Favorite Hymns - Why We Sing

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About music the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, wrote: “Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” In the history of all the world’s religions, only two have developed the art of music to any degree of proficiency. Those two world faiths are Judaism and Christianity. Only these two have developed music as an integral part of their worship. In other religions you’ll find the dirge and the chant, but little — if any — of the height of sound you will find among those of us who worship Jehovah. The nations which have given the world its greatest sacred music are those which have embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Whether it's a praise chorus or cantata; a hymn, an anthem or a doxology, whenever Christians gather together to worship God, you'll find them singing. We know that singing must matter to God, because He talks so much about it. The Bible contains more than 500 references to singing, including 50 direct commands to sing to God. But why? What's the purpose of singing?

The general answer is that singing is for God's glory and our good. But Scripture gives us much more to say.

I. WHY DO WE SING? GOD HAS PUT A NEW SONG IN OUR HEART

    • Psalm 28:7 "The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him." NASB95
          1. Christians are a new creation in Christ
              1. the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:1-5 that we were once dead in trespasses and sin, but because God is rich in mercy He has made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Him
              2. in one great, supernatural act on God’s part, we have been regenerated by God the Spirit, atonement has been made for our sins by the sacrifice of God the Son, which has justified us in the sight of God the Father
                • ILLUS. In the early 1920, Albert Ketchum wrote a popular song entitled, “Why Do I Sing About Jesus.” Listen to the first stanza: Deep in my heart there’s a gladness; Jesus has saved me from sin! Praise to His name, what a Savior! Cleansing without and within! Why do I sing about Jesus? Why is He precious to me? He is my Lord and my Savior; Dying, He set me free!
                • Proverbs 29:6 ". . . the righteous sings and rejoices." NASB95
                • Isaiah 12:5 "Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth." NASB95
          2. the real question is not Why do we sing, but rather, How can we keep from singing?
            • ILLUS. In his book, Psalms of the Heart, George Sweeting illustrated a great truth from the experience of two Moody Bible Institute graduates, John and Elaine Beekman. God called them to missionary work among the Chol Indians of southern Mexico. Sweeting reports that they rode mules and traveled by dugout canoes to reach this tribe. They labored 25 years with other missionaries to translate the New Testament into the language of the Chol Indians. Today the Chol Church is thriving. More than 12,000 Christians make up the Chol Christian community. What's interesting is that when the missionaries came, the Chol Indians didn't know how to sing. With the coming of the gospel, however, the believers in the tribe became known as "the singers". Sweeting writes: "They love to sing now, because now they have something to sing about."
          3. we sing because God has put a new song in our heart
          4. Why Do We Sing? God Has Put a New Song in Our Heart

II. WHY DO WE SING? IT CONFUSES THE ENEMY AND PUTS THEM TO FLIGHT

    • 2 Chronicles 20:14-22
          1. this has to be the strangest council of war in that annals of history
              1. Judah was faced with the formidable hosts of Ammon and Moab and their allies
          2. it would seem that a death struggle for Judah was about to take place
              1. what would Jehoshaphat, Judah’s king do?
                  1. what great strategic maneuver would evolve from his council of war?
                  2. all of Judah is awaiting his plan of battle
                  3. you can almost hear all the arm-chair strategists in Israel debating over what the king’s orders would be
          3. that order came as one of the strangest commands ever given in military history
              1. Jehoshaphat orders that the Temple Choir lead the army singing a psalm of praise
                • 2 Chronicles 20:21 "When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” NASB95
                  1. in that day, it was normal for musicians to lead the army in a victory parade upon their return from a great triumph
                  2. for the musicians to lead the army into battle is not the usual practice
              2. today, we might call Jehoshaphat’s battle plan psychological warfare
                  1. the move bolsters the courage of his own army while showing contempt for the armies of Moab and Ammon
                  2. the result is a great victory that the Lord had promised
                    • 2 Chronicles 20:22 "When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed." NASB95
          4. music in the church today should serve as a call and a reinforcement for the people of God to go forth and battle life, confident of victory
              1. in the hands of a Christian, melody and harmony – mixed with words of truth – become powerful spiritual weapons
                  1. music is a weapon that can melt the most hardened, sinful heart
                  2. music is a weapon that can ease grief, dull pain, and lesson difficulties
                  3. music is a weapon that arms the believer to do spiritual battle
              2. our greatest foe, is none other than the devil
                • Ephesians 6:11-12 "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." NASB95
                • ILLUS. Martin Luther, the 16th century Reformer, wrote: "The Devil takes flight at the sound of music, just as he does at the words of theology, and for this reason the prophets always combined theology and music, teaching of truth and the chanting of Psalms and hymns. After theology, I give the highest place and greatest honor to music.”
          5. 2 Chronicles 20:14-22 could be God’s way of telling us that the singing church is the conquering church
          6. Why Do We Sing? It Confuses the Enemy and Puts Them to Flight

III. WHY DO WE SING? IT EMPOWERS US WITH THE WORD

    • Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." NASB95
          1. according to the Apostle Paul, one of the ways we get the Word of Christ in us is by admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
              1. music in the church is not just about worship
              2. music in the church is not just about putting people in the right frame of mind to receive the sermon
              3. music in the church is not just about making us feel good or entertaining us
                • ILLUS. After the London debut of George Frederic Handel’s glorious Messiah, the Lord Kinnoull remarked to the composer that it was an “Entertaining piece.” Handel responded, “I should be sorry, my lord, if I have only succeeded in entertaining them; I wished to make them better.” #.
          2. music – rightly used – can be one of our most effective means of religious education
              1. every preschool and children’s teacher here this morning knows this
                • ILLUS. Many of the Church’s greatest theologians, were also hymn writers. They wrote their hymns for the express purpose of teaching their religious beliefs. In 1523 two teenage boys were burned at the stake because they rejected Catholicism and embraced the reformed faith that would later be called Lutheranism. This tragedy impelled Martin Luther to write, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Soon people throughout Germany were singing the hymn. It fanned the flames of religious freedom and became an effective instrument in the advancement of the Reformation.
          3. so much of what we know of Christian truth has been ingrained in our hearts and minds and souls because of what we sing
              1. let me give you some examples . . .
                  1. Jesus loves me, this I know . . . for the Bible tells me so
                  2. Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children . . . God is love, God is love
                  3. What can wash away my sin? . . . Nothing but the blood of Jesus
                  4. Soon and very soon . . . we are going to see the King
                  5. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound . . . that saved a wretch like me
                  6. Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! . . . Thou art the potter, I am the clay!
                  7. My hope is built on nothing less . . . then Jesus’ blood and righteousness
                  8. 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
                  9. We have heard the joyful sound . . . Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
          4. the Apostle Paul recognized the effectiveness of songs and music in teaching truth
              1. people like to sing
                  1. there is something about the marriage of lyrics and melody that brands words into our brains
                  2. by repetition, many of us here this morning have committed to memory a surprisingly large collection of the great hymns of the faith
                  3. by doing so, we’ve committed to memory some of the great truths of the faith
              2. singing helps the word of Christ dwell in us richly by helping us to remember it
          5. next to the Bible, a good hymnal is the church’s best theological textbook
          6. Why Do We Sing? It Empowers Us with the Word

IV. WHAT DO WE SING? PSALMS, HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS

          1. for many years not, churches have been debating and struggling with the issue of hymns verse praise choruses
              1. which is better for the church to use?
                  1. typically, the older generation believes the church is missing the foundation of the faith by neglecting the hymns
                  2. nearly everyone else believes the church will lose the young generation unless we change with the times and sing the more upbeat praise choruses
              2. both have an element of truth to what they say
          2. so, what’s the answer?
              1. well, ya know something? the answer is been in the Bible all along
          3. the Apostle Paul says that our worship must include, Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

A. WE NEED TO SING PSALMS

          1. in both Colossians and Ephesians, Psalms refers to the Old Testament poems put to music
              1. the Psalms of David were musical compositions that frequently praised God and petitioned God
          2. they are sacred music accompanied by the harp or other stringed instruments
              1. you might say that it’s high church music
          3. there’s a place for that kind of music in church and Paul tells us that we ought to perform it and sing it
              1. we need to sing Psalms, because they stir our hearts
                  1. singing Psalms draw us into the presence of God

B. WE NEED TO SING HYMNS

          1. hymns are best described as Songs about Him!
              1. while psalms are praises to God, hymns remind us of God’s attributes, what God has done for us, and who God is
              2. they basically teach us doctrine
          2. read the words to some of the great hymns of the faith and you’ll see what I mean
          3. there’s a place for hymns in the church, and Paul says that we ought to sing them, but they are not the only kind of music we should sing
              1. we need to sing Hymns, because they stir our minds
                  1. singing Hymns teach the fundamentals doctrines of the faith

C. WE NEED TO SING SPIRITUAL SONGS

          1. of all the descriptions used by the Apostle Paul, this one is perhaps the most difficult
          2. the phrase spiritual songs in the Greek is ode pneumatikos and means songs of the breath of God
              1. the central idea is that these are Holy Spirit inspired tunes
              2. they are also songs that deal with life from a biblical perspective
              3. they are sung in order to bring edification, exhortation and comfort to the church
              4. they urge us to respond to God in some way
          3. obviously, a lot of contemporary Christian music – including praise choruses – fall into this category
              1. some people derisively refer to spiritual songs as 7-11 music – meaning the tune has one stanza with seven words that you sing repetitiously eleven times
              2. and Paul says that we ought to sing them!
              3. we need to sing Spiritual Songs, because they stir our wills
                  1. singing Spiritual Songs express our deepest thoughts to God and link our belief and emotions to a desire to act righteously
          4. What Do We Sing? Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

The Scriptures make it clear that we need psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in our Christian lives. What we so often struggle with, is the best way to incorporate each into our worship. The result has been what is now referred to as the Worship Wars. The solution for many congregations has been to segregate the youth church from the adult church or to have two completely different worship services; one traditional, and one contemporary.

As always, the Scriptures offer a better solution. With his Psalms-Hymns-and-Spiritual Songs paradigm, the Apostle Paul tells us that the contemporary and the traditional can stand side-by-side. We don’t have to choose between reverent or celebrative, the structured or the spontaneous, the testimonial or te theological. We don’t have to choose because the Bible tells us to incorporate all into our worship.

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