Sunday, June 24, 2007
But I say, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh sets it’s desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness carousing, and things like these of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)
God is very specific as to what a Spirit-filled life looks like versus the sinful nature, and because of His “specific-ness”, we can test our lives, our motives and I believe even our music to determine what list it falls under. If one is led by the Spirit, abiding with God, the Spirit checks the heart and one’s walk when it is not Spirit led and producing fruit. Does this apply to worship? It absolutely applies, although music is only part of worship. Worship is about our daily lives and whether we are presenting ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice, which is our reasonable service of worship (Romans 12:1-2). Evaluating ourselves under the textual microscope of Galatians, can help us determine if our lives are Spirit led and fruitful or inheriting something other than the kingdom. I believe we can and should evaluate our music through this lens as well. C. S. Lewis says in his book The Weight of Glory, “All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest, and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not (54).” So no matter what form our worship takes, done for God in humility it is acceptable.
A musician, skillfully trained and knowledgeable in musical theory, might wrestle with what God deems as “Good” music, “His Music”. Here is a scenario: Joe lives in a backwater town. He has played the guitar for 6 months and his buddy plays the jimba. They are the worship team for church. They play, “Let it Rise” and “More Love, More Power”, it’s what they know. The congregation joins in worship. They aren’t worried about how they sound; they come as children of God, doing their best. This is their offering. Is it not acceptable? Wrong rhythm? Show me a verse. Wrong words? Maybe? A heart broken in worship before God = a pleasing aroma.Joe is off key, he plays to the best of his 6 month ability, but God is honored because his life and therefore music represent a Spirit-filled life, an offering of praise. Does it sound good to a musically trained ear? Maybe not. Does it sound good to God? His ear is trained to hear the heart, not necessarily the sounds of the music. I believe that God takes the sounds that we make for Him, purifies them with fire and it becomes music that even the angels enjoy.
The Bible says we are to play skillfully to the Lord. The skill is what the Lord has given us and we use it, even if it is a drop in the bucket compared to another man’s skill, to glorify Him. God doesn’t quantify the skill, He requires that we do all to glorify Him. Just like the woman with the mite, she gave of what she had. Ultimately she gave back to God what He had given her, and we are to do the same. We are to give, to play, to teach, or to sing skillfully with what God has entrusted to us. God is very descriptive and detailed oriented. His Word lays out in precise detail how the Old Testament temple was to be crafted and how the New Testament church is to be orderly. He tells us how sin is to be dealt with and how salvation must be received. Even our bodies give evidence of the amazing detail God has ordained. However, nowhere do I see, in either the Old or New Testament a detailed description of the genre or style of music that is to be played. And if one could go and find the music of Israel, 3000 years ago, and learn to play the songs and sounds of this chosen nation, they still wouldn’t necessarily be God’s favorites. Why? They were still written by sinful men. David was filled with the Spirit and inspired when he wrote so many of Psalms, but the melody for these God inspired verses are lost in antiquity. Is it because God desires that we find a new song in our hearts? It is the heart of the song, the life giving words that bring a person to reflect on the beauty of the Lord, the music itself is only the gift wrapping. We have an advantage in that we always have the Spirit, if we are a child of God. He is our Counselor, our Spirit of Truth, our Comforter and our “Conviction” (John14:17 & 26, Hebrews 4:12). The music of ancient Israel, though beautiful, came from feeble men, like you and me. Although they were a chosen people, that didn’t keep them from repeatedly sinning against the Lord, like you and me. Our heritage, chosen and washed by the blood and sealed with the Holy Spirit can help us make music that is godly and holy, because it is generally written during times of devotion and prayer and study with God. We also can take a song written by a child of God, even an ancient Jewish hymn and make it a clanging symbol, if we are playing and singing it with a divided heart.One must follow God’s lead and prayerfully seek Him in the matter of correct musical style, because no where is it described in the Word. To dictate a style by justifying it with the traditions of the rabbi’s, is to add (like the rabbi’s, Pharisee’s and teachers of the law) something that is not part of the true worship of God. John 4:24 says that, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” This is the requirement God demands of our music, it must line up with this and it should produce the fruit of the Spirit as well. This is a good furnace to test our worship music and our motives. To much is given….much is required. As a Christian musician, one must desire to know God and His heart.
One must recognize the Creator, and create music to bring honor and glory to His Name alone.Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel all had gifts that were at times used for God’s glory. The music they crafted is “high music” and I believe that all generations would benefit from listening well and appreciating their music. It is a well rounded person who can enjoy many forms of art. There is music however, that in comparison is barely music. By most standards, today’s music falls very short of this standard of “high music”. However, if played by a willing and humble servant of God, it is majestic to Him because He hears tones we can not, the tone’s of a worshipping heart (1 Sam. 16:7) and the Spirit that dwells within the individual communes with the Father (Romans 8:26-27). Music is highly important to God. He created it. He wrote an entire hymnal in His Word in the book of Psalms. Our responsibility is to come before His presence with singing and praise as a result of what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is ultimately the only reason we can praise Him. There is freedom in knowing that I come through the blood, my heart is cleansed by the blood, the reason I sing is because of the blood and my offering of love is not to the law but to the law giver and the only One who fulfilled the law. We sing and worship and live and breathe in the grace that He provided, and not under the law. Praise God, because I know that I would never have anything worthwhile musically or otherwise if I was still under the Law. We have much to praise the Lord about! To much is given….much is required.