“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God,” (Ps. 40:3).
Music is important to us, and perhaps that is why, when it comes to church music, everyone has an opinion about what the correct music is to play in church. These opinions have led to many arguments within the church. It is obvious there is such a thing as Christian music, but the Bible is silent on what music is good or bad church music.
We all come from different parts of the country, and came of age in different eras. Therefore, some of us like Country, Dixie-Land, Blues, Polka, Rock and Roll, Classical, 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 16th century song. 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 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.
Our hearts are again broken with the news of another shooting; lives ended and lives changed. Our nation gasps in horror, and sheds a collective tear. Rising from the horror come voices saying, “Do something. Do something. Do something!” The politicians see an opportunity to advance themselves, so they propose laws they have not thought out, or know won’t work, but at least they can say they are doing something. How hollow are their words and actions, for we know, in the not too distant future, we again will bear another such evil.
Why are we surprised when this happens? We have bathed our lives in movies of senseless violence. We allow our children to spend endless hours playing computer games that kill fictional people. We send our children to schools that teach there is no such thing as truth. Then we plant them in front of a TV that is absent of any moral character. Marriage has become a swamp of fathers and mothers abandoning their families, both physically and mentally, in the search of personal fulfillment and happiness. We have raised our children in the muck and mire of life, and are surprised that what arises out of that primordial ooze are adults who are brutal, ruthless, and uncaring.
Two-thousand years ago Jesus did do something; He inaugurated a new kingdom of peace, love, and joy. You want to do something about the mass killings? Then let it start with you proclaiming the real answer to the problem – Jesus!
Jesus is the answer,
Many today are of the opinion that God is a jealous, angry king with entirely human judgments. A God who is impulsive, and unpredictable with a stern human heart. He sits above the earthly realm with a furrowed brow waiting to cast punishment down on anyone he finds having a good time. Yes, He is seen as holy, but wrongly seen as a holiness that is in essence a cold morality of some unknowable principle of righteousness.
What is the correct notion of God? A short sentence in the Bible gives us a good explanation, “God is love,” (1John 4:8). This sentence helps us to correct any wrong notion we may have of God, for God is love is the harmonizing theme of the entire biblical story from Genesis to Revelation.
Take an example from Genesis, “God walking in the garden,” (Gen. 3:8). God calls out to Adam, “Where are you,” (9)? Adam does not answer. He was hiding from God because he had sinned. Here is my point, God’s call to Adam was not the call of a policeman looking to punish a sinner. It was the cry of a father’s broken heart! God’s heart was broken for the fellowship between Him and man had been broken by sin. What follows then through the whole of the Divine Library is the story of a God who will do anything to restore the relationship that was lost. It is the story of God’s love bearing all things, enduring all things, and hoping all things with a love that never fails.
One of the religious groups in Jesus day was the Sadducees. They were an interesting group of men who only believed in the first five books of Scripture – the Pentateuch. Because they were selective in their belief on God’s Word, they were selective in how they lived their lives. Jesus found it necessary to censure the Sadducees, and said to them “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God,” (Matt. 22:29).
Jesus pointed out to the Sadducees they did not know, “The Power of God,” (29). Why is it important to know the power of God? It is the power of God that can change lives, make a difference in this world, break the chains of addictions, and enable marriages to last and flourish, and give hope to the sick.
There is no power known to humans that is like the power of God. We can drive cars, propel rockets to the moon, harness energy to light up entire cities, but we cannot raise anyone from the dead. And that’s the power that Jesus offers to us. The power of God can energize our lives on a daily basis. The source of that power is the Holy Spirit, and we receive that power when we accepted Jesus as our resurrected savior. His church receives this power when it rejects the errors of the Sadducees, and demonstrates it relies on the full teaching of the Scriptures, and the full power of God.
Relying on God,
Jesus was teaching in the temple when the Herodians came with a question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar,” (Matt 22:17). It was a question designed to trap Jesus. If He answered one way the people would be against him, and if he answered another way he could be hauled before the Romans. Jesus taking a coined in His hand said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” His answer amazed them.
Jesus did not imply life is to be divided into two compartments, one with obligations to God, and the other to Caesar. Jesus implied the two worlds are separated from each other, but both have rights in their respective areas upon our lives. But we are to remember that Caesar’s kingdom is ordained by God. Thus the way the Christian fulfills their obligation to Caesar’s kingdom is accomplished by first fulfilling their obligation to God.
We as Christian are to remember our first allegiance is always to the kingdom of God. Thus we fight to overcome evil with the power of the gospel, and bring peace, through the blood of Jesus, to situations we find ourselves in. We love our enemies and overcome their evil by yielding to the Holy Spirit. Yes we give to the government, but it is done in a way that glorifies God and adds to His Kingdom. However, any allegiance to a government that infringes on the second half of Jesus’ answer reminds us that ultimately our allegiance must be to God.
Jesus was asked, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar,” (Matt 21:17)? He replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” (21). Those who asked the question were stunned and retreated from him. In their retreat they left a question unasked, “What is God’s?”
Tomorrow we remember 9/11. We remember where we were when we heard the news, remember the pain, remember the sorrow, and remember how we pulled together. The events of that day affected many in the careers they chose going forward. Some joined the military, some became police and firemen, and some became doctors and nurses. Many of those who responded did so out of love and respect for the government and as a way of honoring God.
Tragedies effect our lives, but we must remember to answer that unasked question, “What is God’s?” Christian bare the image of God, and therefore, we us must not forget our first allegiance is always to Him. Thus we fight to overcome evil with the gospel, bringing real peace through the blood of Jesus’ Cross. We love our enemies and overcome their evil through the workings of the Holy Spirit. We love our country and we obey our government, but we do so out of obedience to God and His Kingdom. We must always be aware that our allegiance to a state, political party, or a leader does not infringe on the second half of Jesus’ statement. Since everything belongs to God, ultimately our allegiance must first always be to God.
Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, and it brought joy to the people. However their joy was a complete misunderstanding of His ministry. The crowds thought Jesus would usher in a new era for Israel by breaking the Roman bondage, ending their poverty, and making Israel supreme.
Jesus did have a vision when he entered the city. It was the vision of a redeemed earth, and the peace of God would come upon all men by the way of His Cross. His joy was the certainty that by the way of His Cross and His passion that he could remake men at the center of their being, so that they could be pure, clean, holy, and conformed to the character of God.
There was quite a contrast between the people’s joy, and Jesus’ vison. May I ask, “What is your joy in the presence of this King?” Does it match that of the crowds or that of the King’s? Is it your vision that Jesus will establish a materially perfect world? Such a vision makes you selfish like the crowds, and in the end will cause you to change your singing of, “Hosanna,” into the cry of, “Crucify Him.” Is your joy that of the king’s? If so, then it is a Godly joy. Such a conviction enables you to suffer, enables you to dare all things, gives you the faith to move mountains, and makes you a victor, for you are in fellowship with the triumphant King.
Share His Vision,