How Music Helps Us

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on June 13, 2010

God wants us to use music to worship him in spite of the problems that can arise. Apparently God thinks it's worth the effort. Here are four reasons why.

Music stirs up and expresses God-glorifying emotion. Our deepest, strongest, purest affections should be reserved for God himself, and he gave us singing to help us express them. Halfhearted praise is an oxymoron. It doesn't make any sense. Listen to Jonathan Edwards on this:

The duty of singing praises to God seems to be given wholly to excite and express religious affections. There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose and with music, except that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

Some Christians repress their emotions as they sing. They fear feeling anything too strongly and think maturity means holding back. But the problem is emotionalism, not emotions. Emotionalism pursues feelings as an end in themselves. It's wanting to feel something with no regard for how that feeling is produced or its ultimate purpose. Emotionalism can also view heightened emotions as the infallible sign that God is present.
In contrast, the emotions that singing is meant to evoke are a response to who God is and what he's done. Vibrant singing enables us to combine truth about God seamlessly with passion for God. Doctrine and devotion. Mind and heart.

Music helps us reflect the glory and activity of the triune God. God is a singing God. We read in Zephaniah 3:17 that he will rejoice over us with singing. Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples on the night before he died (Matthew 26:30). And Ephesians 5:18–19 indicates that the Holy Spirit inspires songs in believers' hearts as he fills them. That's one reason we often sense God's presence in a more pronounced way when we gather to sing his praises. The Holy Spirit is in our midst, inspiring our songs.

It's a source of profound encouragement to realize that God gave usmusic to deepen and develop our relationship with him. The Father sings, the Son sings, and the Spirit sings. How can we keep from singing?
Music helps us remember truth about God. A year after we recorded a CDof Scripture songs from Galatians, a man in our church lost his memory due toa stroke. His wife emailed me later to say that though he had no memory ofthe sermon series, he remembered every song on the CD.

God himself used music as a means to help people remember his Word.As the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, God told Moses to teach them a song so that “when many evils and troubles have come up on them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten inthe mouths of their offspring)” (Deuteronomy 31:21).

We remember what we sing, and nothing is more important to remember than God's Word. Music produced feelings will fade, but God's living andactive Word will continue working in our hearts, renewing our minds, andstrengthening our faith.

Finally, music helps us express our unity in the gospel. In Scripture, the overwhelming majority of references to singing are corporate. People aren't singing alone but together. In the New Testament two of the most specific passages on singing refer to “addressing one another” and “teaching and admonishing one another” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). We've become a family, “a chosen race,” “a holy nation,” through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:1; 1 Peter 2:9). Singing glorifies God by expressing the unity we enjoy through the gospel.

Churches can potentially undermine this unity by offering different Sunday meetings based on musical preferences and styles. While it may mean numerical growth for the church in the short run, it also can separate families and tends to cultivate a consumer mind-set in the long run.

There are other options. Diverse music teams can take turns leading on a Sunday morning. Different styles of music can be brought together in one meeting. More importantly, the church can be taught that setting aside their musical preferences for the sake of others is obeying Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests ofothers.” Taking this path will probably require patient instruction, but over time the congregation will begin to see that the determining factor in our unity is not musical styles—it's the gospel.

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