“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord,” (Ps. 40:3).
Everyone has an opinion about church music, and those opinions have led to many arguments with the churches made the battlegrounds. Let me state clearly that there is no such thing as Christian music, or good church music, for the Bible silent on the subject.
We all come from different parts of the country, and came of age in different eras. Therefore, some of us like Country and Western music, Dixie Land, Blues, Midwestern Polka, Nashville Rock and Roll, and Bluegrass. Thus only an elitist would say one style is better than the other.
The controversy over music is not new. The music for Martin Luther’s, A Mighty Fortress is our God, was borrowed from a popular song of the 16th century. Charles Wesley used tunes from taverns for some of his hymns. John Calvin used secular song writers of his day. The Queen of England referred to them as, “Calvin’s jigs.” When Silent Night was first published it was called “Vulgar mischief and void of all religious feelings.” Handel’s Messiah was condemned as “Vulgar Theater.”
Today’s we are taking a break from our normal service to sing some of the old hymns. These hymns were not composed in a vacuum, but came from a story that was behind the song. Thus we conclude that what really makes a hymn sacred is not the style, but the message it brings.
Once when King David was being chased and threatened he asked this question, “Who can show us any good,” (Ps 4:6)? This is a question for all ages, for though there have been great changes in society, they are but surface changes; underneath the same human nature exists. It’s true, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Take three examples: Those who are successful, those in the middle, and those who fail. Successful people who have obtained all the world can offer, in the end can be heard saying, “Who can show us any good?” Then those who always seem to fail; trial after trial, effort after effort, but always they are beaten, until at last heartbroken the say, “Who will show us any good?” Is not the same cry heard from those in the middle? It is worth our attention that people in all circumstances ask the same question. This fact suggest an underlying problem which is independent of circumstances.
The Psalmist answers our question, “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” (6b-8). If you are restless, sleepless, crying out in agony, asking if life is worth living, and who can show us any good? The reason for the question is that you have lost touch with God.
Get back to God,
I read a story this week about a man who was in an art gallery and was overheard criticizing a work by one of the great masters. The story caught my attention for two reasons. First, because my wife is an artist and second, the story’s point: The man thought he was criticizing the painting, but in truth the painting was criticizing the man. I bring the subject up as a springboard to my reply to those who criticize the church for such things as not having any saints, it’s filled with hypocrites, and Christians, are people who are just weak.
Suppose it were true that no holy person could be found in the church, is the presence of imperfection justification for the absence of the critic’s perfection? If there is no holy person in your local church then shouldn’t its critic be the first? Is your argument really because no person has done it, no person can do it. If that was true than no master would ever have painted a masterpiece, no mountain was ever climbed, and no discovery was ever made. All great things in this life were made by those who blazed the trail, and not by those who criticized.
It is said, “Christ is as great as your faith will allow him to be.” Don’t be afraid to be the first, for all of God’s resources are at your disposal. Dare to be the first. Critics are many, but masters are few.
Be the First,
I asked this question last week, “Is there value to the religious life?” I mean the Christian life, for other religions, “They are broken lights of thee, and thou, O Lord, art more than they,” Tennyson. The question is important, for how you answer that question determines the direction of your life, for when you pass out of this world the direction you are heading in right now is the direction you are heading in when you step off this earthly plane; “For as he thinks within himself, so he is,” (Prov. 23:7).
Give yourself a moment of honesty: Is your desire to know God? Then that is the direction of your life, and death does not change it. On the hand is the deepest thing in your life a desire to please yourself? Then that is the direction of your life, and death does not change it. In both cases at death you go out into the vaster environment, and which environment you discover yourself in is based upon the direction of your life right now.
Is there value to the religious life? If you answer yes, then your life is lifted, and ennobled. And when you go out, you go into a vaster environment heading toward God satisfied. If your answer is no, then you live a life of self-service. And when you go out you go out into a vaster environment to discover your inability to satisfy the deepest cries of your life: Hunger without bread, thirst without water, and desire without answer.
What’s Your Direction,