"When the Church Sings"
For the next five weeks I want to examine aspects of our collective worship. Singing is an expression of a person's soul. It is an offering from the heart to God.
When The Church Sings
A. Collective worship is an essential part of the life of every Christian. Worship by many is simply a time alone with God to receive from God a feeling of closeness with him. It is often experienced in solitude. So why do we come together worship collectively if we experience God’s presence in solitude? Corporate worship, without daily worship is hypocrisy. To come here, go through five actions and leave with no change or motivation to live out what we do is by definition hypocritical. But daily worship without corporate worship is unacceptable to God. For God is the founder of the Assembly. The congregation of Israel would meet to worship collectively. Jesus would say to his Twelve, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” To disfellowship the body of Christ is to disfellowship Christ.
B. Think about worship from the old and new testaments. To help me understand why we worship I turn to Ps. 29:1-2. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. I worship God because it is “due his name.” Psalm 18:3, “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to praise.”
D. In Revelation, John is invited to come up and see what will take place. When the four living creatures come around the throne they cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” When they do the 24 elders worship him saying (Rev. 4:11). As the scene in heaven unfolds, John continues by telling us worship is not limited to living creatures or the 24 elders, and he writes these words in Rev. 5:11-14.
E. Part of our problem is “Our” God is too small. It is not that God is too small, but the god we have created in our mind and heart is too small. Therefore, the idea of praise, holiness, worship is more centered upon self and what we like than it is upon God and who He is. But the truth is, God and only God is worthy of our worship. So all that competes for our worship, our heart, our praise and devotion is are false gods. We don’t desire collective worship as much as we should because we don’t see God as awesome.
I. Worship Then…And Now
A. So we come together on the first day each week to worship God as the family of because we are the living body of Christ. It is who we are not simply what we do. We are made to worship, and in community we can experience something that cannot be experienced when we isolate ourselves.
B. Worship today is probably very different than what we read in the pages of the NT. Yet, from the book of Acts forward we read about churches, their teachings concerning their collective gatherings, and find examples of those early churches did. Over the next few weeks we will examine five aspects of the early church and in some cases, seek to experience what it may have been like. So expect both Sunday morning and evenings to have a little different twist for a few weeks.
C. There is no scripture in the Bible that gives us specifics for what happened in every Jewish and Gentile church in the first century. The pages of the New Testament help us to see areas that these young churches practiced on a regular basis. We read how they came together for public reading of scripture, prayer, communion, giving to help others and singing. It is those areas that have not changed. The methods and styles may have changed, but the need for them collectively has not change. Today, I want to look at singing in the church.
II. Congregational Singing
A. For many people in the world today, Christian worship is more closely connecting to the music of the church than any other aspect of the worship. For many, the style of music determines where they worship. Music has a way of filling the emotion and spiritual connection that allows instant gratification. Music can help define us, motivate us, invoke us to respond in ways that we may not have done otherwise. Music touches the soul in a powerful manner and therefore, in American society, music has become a center point for many collective worship services. It helps people to feel the mountain top experience and can help us to feel the presence of God.
B. Music has moved people in every nation, tribe and people on the earth. Every culture expresses itself in music.
C. Throughout the OT we find the people of Israel in praise to God through music. The battles of old were often started with sound of the ram’s horn being blown. There has probably been no greater hymn writer than King David. Many of his psalms were put to music and song in honor to God. One of those is Ps. 100:1-2.
D. One of the things the early Christians did, no matter what culture we find the church historically, is sing praises to God.
In the NT we find praise in song to continue to be a way to express thanks to God. Heb. 2:12, James 5:13 both help us to see how Christians expressed praise to God in song.
E. The text read to us this morning was Col. 3:16. These words were written to a church. They are very similar to words Paul wrote to another church (Eph. 5:19). I want to just stay in this text for a few minutes.
F. Paul tells this church that we need to let the word of Christ dwell in us. In Eph. 5, Paul says that we need to be “filled with Spirit.” Before we open our mouths in song, let’s first open our hearts in continual connection with God. When the word of the Bible and the Holy Spirit is filling our lives, we see life from a spiritual perspective. So here were are, collectively feeding from one another and singing becomes a part of the way we communicate to each other.
G. Our text says, “Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” That teaching and admonishing is done in part in the words we sing. We sing, not just as an expression of gratitude to God, but also to encourage each other and remind us of what God has done. Part of the reason singing is so powerful are the words of the songs connecting us to deep truths of God’s word. Singing is more than musical notes, yes they can set the emotional tone, but it’s the words that teach and admonish in all wisdom.
A. Thanksgiving to God. That phrase, connect to singing, connects many of the passages together. I gain from hearing your voice in song. I gain from the words of the songs we sing. But collectively, what we do is give thanks to God.
B. It is emotional. It is worship. It evokes that which is in us to express ourselves. Some with hands raised, some with heads covered, and some holding a hymnal. The mechanics of singing – standing, sitting, clapping, raising hands, or anything else is simply ourselves coming before God. David danced. I don’t dance. Many Jews would lift up hands in praise and surrender, or a way of inviting God to enter. Some sing in four part harmony others sing in unison. Those styles ought not to be what we center upon. They neither make our singing holy or destroy holiness, they simply are our physical response to words we sing and the culture in which we live.
C. What I know is that singing is a part of my worship and needs your voice to help me. Congregational singing binds a church family together in a special way. Singing transcends the color of skin, whether you are male or female, or rich or poor. Singing is part of what unites us.
D. I love to worship God. I love our collective worship to God. I love you. Thank you for helping me be a better worshipper. Thank you for the encouragement you give when you sing from your heart. Thank you for seeing the importance of being a part of the family of God. It is good and pleasant to dwell in unity.
E. Ps 96:1-4
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.
F. That salvation is open to all who humbly come before God as God. Who claim Jesus as Lord and surrender to him by repenting of their sin, confessing his name and being baptized into his body. We declare the salvation of God and we sing praise because we have received that salvation. If you are in need of that salvation or have a spiritual need that we can pray for, then come as we stand and sing to the LORD.