Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why we sing in corporate worship

'St Ebbes 11:45 Service' photo (c) 2011, Jimmy and Sasha Reade - license: is an excerpt from a 2012 post on the church's singing in corporate worship.)

Christianity is a singing faith, and for that -- I think -- we should all be thankful. The Bible -- which governs how we worship -- calls for singing by God's people corporately in both the Old and New Testaments.

While more could be listed, here are some reasons Scripture indicates we should sing as a church:

(1) We should sing to give God glory.

"Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious" (Ps. 66:2). These commands from the psalmist are to all the earth, so it certainly applies to those who belong to God as His redeemed children. We give him glory in song by declaring how glorious He is and by making our praise of Him glorious.

(2) We should sing to declare God's attributes.

The same verse, Ps. 66:2, conveys this message by speaking of "the glory of His name." God's "name" in Scripture refers to who He is -- in other words, what His nature is, what His attributes are. The psalmist says God's people should make His attributes known in their singing.

(3) We should sing to proclaim the atoning death of Christ.

"And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10) The apostle John's vision showed those around the throne singing about the blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God and its far-reaching impact. We will sing as one great choir about the cross-work of Jesus one day in Heaven, and we can do it now corporately on earth as the church.

(4) We should sing to instruct and encourage one another.

"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" (Col. 3:17). Singing, as the apostle Paul explains, has a discipleship function during corporate worship. As we sing, we act as teachers and encouragers to those with whom we are worshiping. We should recognize our singing is for the building up of our fellow saints, and their singing is for our building up.

(5) We should sing to express our heartfelt affection to God.

In this same verse from Col. 3, Paul says Christians in worship should sing "with thankfulness in your hearts to God." In Eph. 5:19, he says believers are to be "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Singing is a means of expressing ourselves to God. As we sing together corporately, we tell Him of our gratitude for what He has accomplished on our behalf and express to Him joyful affection for who He is and what He has done.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The resurrection and this perilous cultural moment

'Easter Morning 23' photo (c) 2011, Waiting For The Word - license: – the church of Christ – celebrated the resurrection of our Lord the Sunday after I last wrote for this blog. That previous post focused on a discussion some of the Covenant Community Church family participated in the prior Sunday evening regarding the cultural moment we find ourselves in. It is a time of growing intolerance for the biblical view of marriage and for the freedom to express that view.

In the days since that post and Easter, I have thought about what the resurrection of Jesus has to do with how we approach the issue of society’s redefinition of marriage. My conclusion? It has a lot to do with it.

By God’s providence, I reached on Easter in my preaching series through I Corinthians that great chapter on the Resurrection, Chapter 15. I preached on the first 19 verses of that chapter on Easter Sunday. I plan to cover the remainder of the chapter this Sunday.

In I Cor. 15, the apostle Paul explains the indispensability of the resurrection. There is no gospel and there is no salvation without Jesus rising from the grave, he says. Paul continues through 58 verses informing the believers in Corinth about the significance and details of Christ’s resurrection and theirs. He points to the Lordship of Jesus over all things, including death.

Paul closes this magnificent and encouraging chapter by saying in the final verse: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Those are encouraging words for those who trust in a resurrected Lord and believe in the future resurrection of the body. In fact, we might call them “marching orders.”

After providing the most extensive biblical teaching on the resurrection, Paul urges his readers – saints whom he dearly loves – to not back down. Based on what he has written in the first 57 verses, he tells them to continue doing what they are doing. He exhorts them to remain faithful in doing what Christ has ordained for them to do.

How can Paul say this to those who were in a perilous cultural moment in the First Century and those who are in a perilous cultural moment in the 21st Century? He can say this because the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth actually happened and our resurrection will actually happen. The resurrection of Christ changes everything for us. We no longer need fear anything, including persecution from a culture that opposes our beliefs. He also can say this because our work in His behalf – not to gain God’s acceptance but to live out the acceptance He has already granted us through the righteousness of His Son – will not be “in vain.”

To say our “toil is not in vain” is not to say we will see the fruit of those labors quickly or even in our lifetimes. But God’s words promise our labor will not be "in vain." For all who are in Christ, we can live with this assurance: Our toil on behalf of Christ and His gospel – a gospel that necessarily includes the resurrection – will be worthwhile. May we stand strong in this cultural moment with that certainty.