You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me…”
Last week’s article focused on the proper mindset to have as we sing praises to God. Mindless ritualism should be avoided, meaning that we are not pleasing God if we do not focus on the message of the lyrics of the song we’re singing. Thus, we should sing with joy and smiles on our faces if we are singing a song of joy like Sing and Be Happy. Focusing on the message of the song would have us consciously heeding the lesson to love one another and control our temper which is taught in the lyrics of Angry Words, and thus participate in the biblical purpose for our singing which is to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16).
In like manner, we should not focus on what entertains and pleases us in the song, such as putting all our attention on getting that alto or tenor part just right. God has never been pleased with those who view worship as entertainment (cf. Ezek. 33:30-32). If we walk away from a worship service saying, “That was a really great worship service” … and our sole or primary basis for giving the worship such a high ranking is because the song leader chose the songs we personally prefer, or we focused more on the preacher’s delivery or how nice the PowerPoint slides looked as opposed to whether his message was purely based on rightly divided Scripture which we needed to hear in order to help us be better servants of the Almighty … then we greatly need to change how we view worship.
Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). One does not accidentally worship in spirit and truth. It takes conscious effort, a deliberate decision to do so. It requires discipline and self-control. Discipline is something prized highly by our Lord. The Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to commend the Olympian athletes who competed in the games of his time because they “exercise self-control in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25). He then moved the apostle to write that “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (v. 27). He also directed the apostle to include “self-control” as part of “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), the evidence that one lives and walks by the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16-25), the proof that one is truly spiritual (cf. Gal. 6:1).
Thus, we must consciously decide to focus on every sentence of each song we sing in worship to God. We must discipline ourselves to ignore our own personal preferences about the choice of song, how fast or slow the tempo is, or getting that bass part exactly right. We must exercise the self-control necessary to consciously give God as much honor and reverence as we know how while we’re singing that song, and carry that same mindset to every other act of worship.
This will benefit us greatly. I know from personal experience. By doing this, I’ve found myself being reminded of passages of Scripture as I sing certain lyrics. I’ve found myself being taught and admonished to do better in certain areas of my life while singing a particular song. With other songs, I’ve found myself filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for all which my Redeemer has done for me. I’ve left that worship assembly truly edified, truly strengthened in my spirit, truly motivated to serve God more faithfully. That’s one of the divine reasons we assemble to worship (Heb. 10:24-25). Let’s all work harder to do this as we worship our heavenly Father this Lord’s Day.
Not having this mindset, and instead having the entertainment view of musical worship, is one of the reasons for the existence of instrumental accompaniment to singing in the worship of many churches. We will study what the Bible says about that next week…