MSG: Choose Music Wisely for Our Lord

This message was presented on April 14, 2013 as the second of four messages on Music and Worship as we celebrate our new Pastor of Worship and Arts to the team at Grace.

Choose Music Wisely for Our Lord
John 4:19-24 

            Let us consider five comments. People often come to our church and like the messages, but leave because the music was not just what they wanted. There are people who stay out of the beginning of the service and come in when they think the singing is about done. For some, music is either irrelevant or just something we do because it is what “I as an individual like.”  Some churches have seven musical venues, so people can hear the kind of music they like and still get the same sermon. Some people might see the purpose of music as, “expressing truth with what I enjoy so that it will be memorable and it stimulates me.”   What is the common thread of these comments? The common thread is “the individual.” Is the individual the reason for having music in worship?

            Does music matter? It matters to God.  Do we only need to be concerned about lyrics and the actual music or the poetic form of the lyrics doesn’t matter?  IF the words are all that matters, then we can use whatever musical form we desire.  Music becomes purely personal preference, because the only concern is the content of the words.

Let’s first step back and look at what worship is and then consider how music affects worship.  What is worship and how does music affect worship? Let’s start out with this underlying motivation, And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. (Col. 3:23)  What is worship?  

1)      Worship is declaring God’s worth  John 4:19-24 

In John 4:19-24 in His discussion with the woman at the well, Jesus describes worship for us. Jesus says two things. First, God seeks those who will worship Him and secondly, those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth. How we worship declares how we view God, our value of God, or His “worthship.”  How do I worship?

Jesus meets a woman of the city who draws her water at noon, because that is when no one else is at the well.  Everyone else goes in the morning or the evening when it is cool. She has been living a lifestyle whereby she wants to avoid people. Jesus asks her for water and in the discussion He offers her living water.  Living water?  She wants the living water, so she doesn’t have to go to the well. When Jesus discusses her life of being married five times and the sixth man she is connected to is outside of marriage, she gets uncomfortable and changes the discussion.

                   19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
              20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place
             where one ought to worship.”
              21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this
              mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
             22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the
             23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in
             spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
 24“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24)

The Samaritans said worship was to be done on Mt. Gerizim and the Jews said worship was to be done on Mt. Zion. In both cases, the emphasis was: what is the right way? What is the right form? Both the Jews and Samaritans were preoccupied with the overt form of worship.   God did, after all, in Exodus and Leviticus, establish a precisely prescribed procedure of how to worship. Later, He directed it to be done in Jerusalem.  But Jesus draws her to the heart of the issue – worship is done by Spirit and Truth.

            Many argue whether this refers to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit.  People have no trouble defining truth as the truth of God’s Word. But what does “spirit” refer to, since it is not capitalized in most translations?

            It is helpful to understand the three ingredients for spiritual growth. The ingredients are listed in Romans 15:13-14, where Paul writes, “13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.   
            Our God of hope wants us to abound in hope.  How will that happen? We will abound when we put three ingredients into our spiritual life practice. The first ingredient for spiritual growth is our responsibility of faith as the text says  “in believing.” Notice, the second ingredient for spiritual growth is what God provides as it says, “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” And the third ingredient for growth is God’s Word, or as the text says, “filled with all knowledge, able to admonish…” referring back to Romans 15:4, “4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  So, we have first, believing or faith; secondly, the Spirit and thirdly, God’s Word or Truth.  These are the three ingredients for spiritual growth.  They also are the three ingredients for worship. Let me explain.

             First, we worship in Truth.  I cannot worship God in whatever way I please.  Do you remember what happened to Cain when he offered a sacrifice to God?  He brought what he thought was a good offering of the ground, but God did not respect or accept it. Additionally, Jesus said it well in John 4:22, “”You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. Jesus was not hesitant to distinguish that the God of the Jews was the true God.  He was not hesitant to say the Jews were worshiping correctly, because they worshiped the true God. After all, the Samaritans had taken some ideas from the Jews and incorporated their ownideas for their god. They decided who their God was and how they would worship Him.  That is exactly what Cain did.

            So what should be included in worship according to Truth? Truth teaches we worship God alone.  The first commandment states, “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:2-3)  God spoke through Isaiah the prophet, “I am the Lord, there is no other.” (Is. 45:18)   Jesus Christ is the One to whom every knee will bow (Phil. 2:9-11). 

            Truth also teaches God has given us examples of the elements in our corporate worship. These include Scripture reading (1 Tim. 4:13); preaching (2 Tim. 4:2-4); singing (Eph. 5:19-20; Col.. 3:16); prayer 1 Tim. 2:1, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:41-42) and giving (2 Cor. 16:2).  So we worship God according to His Word, that is, by means of truth from God.  In fact, Paul tells Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (1 Tim. 4:13)  The elements of worship are important, because they are based on Truth.  Truth declares God’s worth, His value.  

            Secondly, we worship in Spirit.  John 4:24 records that we worship in Spirit and truth.  There is one preposition for both nouns.  The words are united as one thought.  Both go together for true worship. So, is it the human spirit or the Holy Spirit? 

           The woman was seeking a form of worship.  Jesus wanted her to get to the relationship of worship.  Jesus says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)  That is our entire being, in fact, our spirit.  

           We should recognize, however, Jesus did nothing on earth apart from the Holy Spirit. He was led into testing by the Spirit and led out of it by the Spirit  (Luke 4:1, 14). He verified his public ministry was anointed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18).  His miracles were done by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 5:17; 6:19; 8:46; Acts 10:38).  And He was sustained on the cross by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14).  If that were true of Jesus, how could we worship God apart from the Holy Spirit? In 1 John 5:6, we read about  the connection of the Holy Spirit to Truth, “The Spirit is truth.”

            Now, if you choose not to interpret pneumahere as Holy Spirit, that’s okay, because you still have to be filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit to worship God. And when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will worship through singing as Paul writes,

            …be filled with the Spirit,
            19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making
             melody in your heart to the Lord,
            20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
             (Eph. 5:18-20)

So, when Jesus says to worship in Spirit and Truth, He is referring to worship from the inner being of the human spirit by means of the Holy Spirit.  Finally, the third ingredient of worship.

          Thirdly, we worship the Lord.  Our act of worship is the third ingredient of worship.  Worship is a form of dependence on God.  It expresses upon whom we are dependent.   Just as faith and prayer are both dependence on the Lord, worship says I trust only in the Lord.

          Worship is declaring God’s worth.  So, how does music affect worship? 

2)      Music will rightly or wrongly move me – is it worship?  

          Let us understand again the three ingredients related to worship. How do you worship the Lord?  “In truth” is easy, because you measure worship by the Word. The second ingredient “worship” is your dependence on God.  How do you worship “in Spirit”?  Is it your feelings? Is it your affections? Is it your passion?  Is the affection expressed in worshiping God the same as the emotional response of a team winning a championship?  Is the affection I have for God the same as the affection I have for Papa Murphy’s pizza?  How do I distinguish the affections a young girl has for a rock star singer and affections I have for Jesus Christ?  

          We have to be careful not to equate the human spirit with physical feelings.  Physical feelings can be stimulated without any thought or spiritual affection.  Let’s say that you tickle your granddaughter and she laughs till she almost wets her pants.  OR, if you tell her a joke, she may also laugh.  Are they the same? When tickling her, she’s stimulated without any kind of thought, but in the joke, she laughs because she intellectually understood the punch line and the laughter, the emotional expression, came because she understood the joke.  By tickling her, the tickling is driving her to laugh and is not a thought process. By telling her a joke, she laughs because she thought about it. One is an emotional response driven from something outside and the other is an emotional response because of something inside.

           Is music driving my feelings and I call it worship in the Spirit or is music a mechanism the Spirit uses to help me worship?   When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, music is a mechanism the Holy Spirit uses to enhance your worship. 

          Music provides a means to express your affections to the Lord.  Music is designed to help you.  We believe in a mighty God, and we put that truth to music in “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  We believe in the shed blood of Jesus and it’s put into many hymns like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” or “Before the Throne.”  Now, we’re not seeking emotions or feelings, yet they may be a strong response in worship. 

          Are there some emotions that would be inappropriate in worshiping God?  For example the emotion associated with uncontrollable rage? Or out of control frightful screaming? Or emotions associated with dreadful depression? Would you think it appropriate to worship a holy God with those emotions?

          We need to teach our spirits in the Word by means of the Holy Spirit.  Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Col. 3:16).  David used music to lift Saul (1 Sam. 16:23).  Paul and Silas sang hymns to lift their spirits while in prison (Acts 16:25).  

          Scripture identifies at least five kinds of songs: a work song  (Num. 21:17-18);  a war song  (Ex. 15:20);  a love song  (Sol. 2:12); an entertainment song  (Job 21:12); a lament song (Job 30:31); and praise songs (Ps. 150).

          Music often causes you to respond OR react in certain ways:  Consider the following examples:

          First, what happens when we fill your heart with music that rages? 

[Link removed, because of the inappropriateness of the music and content]

How would that music affect your thinking in worship? 

          Secondly, what happens when you watch a steamy scene in a movie?  Besides being embarrassed if you’re watching with someone else from church, what emotions rise up? 

          If that music was always played, what would be your view of God? How would that affect how you think? Is it any different than some of the sensual ways Christian singers express themselves today?

          Thirdly, if I play sentimental, light and fluffy music, how does that affect your view of God?

          This kind can be okay for kids and fun, but if that’s all you had how would that affect your view of God?  How would that affect how you think about God? Let us summarize how music affects worship.

          Music helps us express the right affections toward the Lord.  Music helps us respond with our affections when we don’t have the right words.  Consider these principles:

          First, music educates and guides our emotions and feelings.  When we have troubling or wrong emotions, good music can draw us to right ways of thinking. Paul and Silas were imprisoned and when they sang hymns, their hearts were lifted as well as the other prisoners (Acts 16:23-25).

          Secondly, music is a part of worship under pastoral leadership. The buck stops with the elders and the pastoral leadership.  Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb. 13:17)

          Thirdly, singing is not optional.  Singing is not if or what I enjoy, but part of worship.  Singing is a God-ordained means for expressing right affections in worship (Eph. 5:18-19).

          Fourthly, use music that expresses appropriate emotions. Music should be done decently and in order to provide stability for emotional health (1 Cor. 14:40).  For example, raging music should not be used in worship.  Another example is using great lyrics in questionable tunes.  Amazing Grace is a great song.  However, I once was at a worship service, where it was sung to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.”  It worked because it was metrically correct, but inappropriate for the meaning of Amazing Grace.  It was “interesting,” but we are not commanded to be interesting. We are commanded to worship God in Spirit and Truth.
          And fifthly, musical choices matter, because music shapes our affections 1 Sam. 16:23


Worship is declaring God’s worth!
Wisely choose your music, because it affects how you worship God! 

Ensure your music declares God’s worth, because it will affect how you worship.

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      What were some of the first religious songs you ever sang?

Digging Deeper:

2)      Read John 8:31-36.  What did Jesus say the truth would do? _____________  Why did the Jews not see their slavery?  Can a person be enslaved to a certain kind of music?  What biblical principles can you think of to help determine what kind of music is edifying? 

3)      Read Gal. 5:1; 3:1-3. According to Paul, what is the contrast between these two passages? _____________________________  What is the purpose of the Law in American?  What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?  How can someone get enslaved to the Mosaic Law?  How can someone get enslaved to laws in worship?

4)      According to Gal. 5:13, what was Paul concerned about with liberty? ________________________________ How should a Christian use liberty?  What does that look like in worship?

Making application of the message to life:

5)      Based on the message, why is music good? How does it help you?

6)      How can you ensure you are worshiping in Spirit and in Truth?

7)      How can you help in corporate worship at Grace?  What specific things can you do?


Resulting Discipline
Proper Dominion
Evidence of Man’s Sin
Chemical Elements
Spoken letters
Bible teaching
Lying, slander
Written letters
Music lyrics
C.S. Lewis, “Messiah”
Moral filth
Gangsta Rap
Sound waves
Refreshing the spirit and body
Stimulating lust Instant ratification

1)      Work song  17Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it– 18 The well the leaders sank, Dug by the nation’s nobles, By the lawgiver, with their staves.” And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah, (Num. 21:17-18)
2)      War song 20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. (Ex. 15:20)
3)      Love song 12 The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. (Sol. 2:12)
4)      Entertainment song 12 They sing to the tambourine and harp, And rejoice to the sound of the flute. (Job 21:12)
5)      Lament song 31 My harp is turned to mourning, And my flute to the voice of those who weep. (Job 30:31)
6)      Praise song (Ps. 150)

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