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Sunday, February 12, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Sing!"

“Sing!”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
February 12, 2017 :: Ephesians 5:19-20

Has anybody here ever been to a Sunday morning worship gathering of this church, Lanse Free Church, where there was no congregational singing?

A Sunday morning service where the congregation was not involved in singing?

Can anybody remember even one like that?

Vera, you’ve been going here the longest. When you started at Lanse Free Church, the Sunday morning services were still in Swedish, right? Sunday school for the kids was in English, but the preaching and the singing was in Swedish.

Did they sing every Sunday? Every single Sunday?

I’ll bet they did.

This church was birthed in song, and the tradition continues.

Now, think about this. 125 years, 52 weeks per year. That’s around 6,500 Sundays give or take a few.

Maybe a few Sundays were canceled due to bad weather. But some years have 53 Sundays in them.

So around 6,500 Sundays and every one of them featuring singing.

Here’s the title for our “Gospel Roots” message today, “Sing!”

If someone asks you what was the point of the sermon today, it should be easy for you to tell them. “God wants Christians to sing.”

Sing!

Singing is not optional for Christians. It is actually commanded.

And it has been from the beginning.

Have you found Ephesians chapter 5?  This is Paul’s letter about the gospel that he sent to the Christians in and around Ephesus. The first three chapters of the Ephesians is about the amazing plan of the gospel. How God has planned the entire story of the world around the good news of Jesus Christ.

And how that good news of Jesus Christ is about grace. It’s the gospel of grace.

Dave Catanzaro reminded us of that last week when we looked at chapter 2, verses 8 and 9. It is by grace you are saved. Not by good works but for good works. But by grace.

Paul takes 3 solid chapters to unpack that, and then he gives us 3 solid chapters of application, of “so-what” for that gospel truth. Implications for our lives.

And in chapter 5, he says that one of the applications of the gospel is that we live differently than we used to and differently than the world does. The world lives foolishly, but we (v.17) understand what the Lord’s will is. And the world gets drunk on wine and other spirits which leads to debauchery, but we come under the influence of the Holy Spirit. And that influence leads us to live differently.

Including if and how and when we sing.

Let’s read our two verses in their near context.

I’ll read verses 17 through 21 because it’s all tied together in the Greek, but then we’ll just focus on the commands of verses 19 and 20.

“Therefore [because of the gospel] do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit [Holy Spirit. What does that look like? Here’s our verses:]. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [And lastly.] Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This church has always had singing.

I stole this little book from the display cabinet out there.

The cover is coming off. It’s one of the old Swedish songbooks that they used at the old church. These were in the pews, only the organist had the music. This one has the music.

I can’t read Swedish. So I don’t know what they say. But there are like 700 songs in here. A few in English in the back some of which we do know.

This church has always had singing.

Because the church has always had singing.

Did you hear that in Ephesians 5?

It’s a command. I didn’t hear any loopholes there in those verses.

Only sing if you want to.
Only sing if you like to.
Only sing if you have a good singing voice.

That’s not what it says. It just flat out commands Christians to sing.

My friend Byron Harvey is wont to say, “If God has given you a great singing voice then sing loud and lead people! But if God has not gifted you with a great voice, then sing loud anyways and get even with Him!"

Somebody once told me that the Bible says, “Make a joyful noise!” It doesn’t say that the noise has to be pretty.

Sing!

Christians sing. And they sing together.

These commands are plural and are for the whole church community.

They aren’t just for the “singers” or the “leaders.”

They are for all of us.

One of the commitments that we have in our worship philosophy here at Lanse Free Church is that the most important instrument in our music ministry is the human voice of the congregation raised in song.

I love what our instrumentalists do. Keyboards, guitars, drums when we can get somebody to play them. And that’s biblical. The psalms are full of musical notation for instruments.

But both the Old and New Testament emphasize as a priority–SONG. Christians singing together.

That’s why nearly every Sunday we go acapella or as Blair used to call it, “Acapulco.”

Voices only.

Why? Because it sounds cool?

Sure!  But more than that because it’s what God wants.

He wants us to sing.

You know, that was lost? During the Middle Ages?

There was some music in church during the Middle Ages. Like Gregorian Chant and  that sort of thing.

But it wasn’t until the Reformation that congregational singing was restored to the churches.

Last week, I was at Trinity for our EFCA Theology Conference and we were learning about the legacy of the Reformation in the Free Churches. And one of the things the last speaker talked about was how congregational singing like we do today was one of our Reformational inheritances that came over to the States with the Swedes.

But Martin Luther and John Calvin didn’t come up with that on their own. They were rediscovering it.

They were going back to places like Ephesians 5:19&20 and saying, “Hey! We should be doing that in church. We should be singing!”

And that’s why we do it. Because Christians sing together.

I’ve got four points this morning from these two verses, and they are all about how we should be singing.

Here’s number one:

1. SING TO EACH OTHER AND TO THE LORD.

Did you catch that in verse 19? It’s easy to miss, but there are two different audiences for our singing and both are commanded. V.19

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”

Notice that we are supposed to sing to the Lord but also to each other.

Did you catch that?

I know it says, “speak,” but I don’t think it means like a poetry reading. “Speak those psalms, don’t sing them.”

It means when you are singing together as a church, you are speaking these words to each other.

You are to sing for the benefit of the people around you.

Why?

Because we need to hear this stuff that we’re singing!  That’s why we have to sing good stuff.

You know, I love that our church never fell into the worship wars. A lot of churches have split over whether or not to have hymns or choruses. Whether or not to have drums or no drums. Whether to have instruments or no instruments. Old songs or new songs.

We just do them all.

I know that we don’t always get the balance the way everybody wants. Some of you tell me privately that we don’t sing nearly enough old hymns. And some of you tell me privately that we don’t sing nearly enough new stuff.

Everybody has got their preferences, and we’ll never hit the balance right for everybody every time.

But we just sing everything. But we do insist on is that we sing good lyrics to most of our songs. We need to sing good theology and here’s why.

Because we are singing to each other.

In fact, we are singing the Word. Here’s how Paul put it in the sister verse to this one in Colossians 3:16.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Teach and admonish.

That’s what we are doing when we sing in church!

That’s one of the reasons why we have special music.

How many of you have gotten up here on stage and sung to the rest of the church at some point in your life.

Choir, worship team, Christmas Eve special music, Kids for Christ Recognition Night, offertory, whatever?  Raise your hand.

Yes! And thank you for doing that. You were obeying Ephesians 5:19.

Whatever the style of music.

And that’s why I think he has all three of these here.

“Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”

Those three overlap. Scholars aren’t sure exactly what the differences are between those three.

Psalms is clearly the Old Testament psalms. The Israelite Top Forty. Or Top 150, as the case might be. But the word is also used for other songs outside of the psalter.

Hymns are praise songs probably written beforehand. That’s like the songs about Jesus in Philippians 2, Colossians 1, 1 Timothy 3 and so on.  But we can’t be certain.

And “spiritual songs” might be song made up on the spot. More spontaneous songs  the Christians were creating more extemporaneously. We’re not sure.

I think that all 3 are here to convey to the whole enchilada, the full gamut of worship songs are at our disposal and should be used both old and new.

Don’t get stuck on the old. Don’t forget the old!
Don’t get stuck on the new. But sing a new song!

We don’t sing hardly any of the songs in this old hymnal, but they were wonderful for their time. And some of them we still sing today, and will today!

And we sing them to each other.

When you sing here, sing for the benefit of the people around you.

I really don’t care if it sounds good.

And you shouldn’t either.

Care if what you sing is good and if you mean it.

And care that the people around you hear good things.

About the Love of God, so rich and pure.
About how we are more than conquerors through Christ.
About how we can bless God in the good times and the bad times.
About how great is our God.

Sing!

And, of course, we sing to the Lord, as well.

He is the primary audience of our songs.

So many of our songs are prayers, as well.

We’ll do a whole sermon in this Gospel Roots series on prayer.

Because this church was built on prayer. It’s in our roots.

But one form of prayer is congregational singing.

Not just “How Great Is Our God”

but “How Great Thou Art.”

Sing that with me.

Then Sings My Soul
My Savior, God, to Thee.
How Great Thou Art
How Great Thou Art
Thing Sings My Soul
My Savior, God, to Thee.
How Great Thou Art
How Great Thou Art!

And the most important thing when singing it to God is to mean it.

That’s number two.

#2. SING YOUR HEART OUT.

And by that, I mean, sing from your heart out. Look again at verse 19.

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”

Or that could be translated, “with your heart.”

It’s not saying keep the singing inside. It’s saying that the singing needs to be inside and out.

But not just out.

You know, it’s possible to sing in church every Sunday and disobey verse 19.

The Pharisees did that. Jesus said that they worshiped God with their lips, but their  hearts were far from Him.

It starts in the heart.

It’s got to be in the heart.

Sing your heart out.

The Father is seeking worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth.

God says again and again in His word that outward worship alone is false worship.

Where is your heart?

Now, you might say, “My heart is sad right now. And it’s hard to rejoice.”

I get that.

What’s wonderful is that there are all kinds of songs in our Bibles for Christians to sing when they feel sad or hurt or alone or scared.

Paul is not saying that we have to be happy all the time.

Think about those psalms! He said to speak the psalms to one another.

How about this psalm, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”

That’s the first line of Psalm 13.

It’s really catchy, isn’t it?  Maybe we should sing it next Sunday.

Here’s the first line of Psalm 22. Which we’re going to study around Eastertime.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”

Do you know who else sang that one? On the Cross.

There are lots of songs for Christians to sing when they feel sad, alone, and scared.

We call them the songs of lament, and they are potent stuff.

Heather and I have a friend whose going through a really hard time right now. And she was struggling to pray. And I sent her Psalm 88 a few weeks ago. It’s the one that ends with “Darkness is my closest friend.” And she said, “That’s exactly how I feel.”

I love that the Bible has songs that express exactly how we feel. And they shape our prayers.

Sing from your heart. And sing your heart out.

I think the point that Paul is making is that we sing with our whole selves. We don’t just pretend and fake it. Sundays should not be fake.

We’ve got to mean it. And sing with our whole selves.

Number three:

#3. SING WITH AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. That’s from verse 20.

“...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything...”

Notice it says, “always.” That’s constantly.

And it also says, “for everything” which means that there is always something to be thankful for in every situation, no matter how bad.

Because we know the truth of Romans 8:28 that God is working even the bad stuff to our good.

It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that the bad stuff is actually good stuff.

But it does mean that I can give thanks no matter what.

We give thanks today for 125 years of God’s faithfulness to our church.

6,500 Sundays of God’s faithfulness, week in and week out.

We can’t imagine all of the stories that could be told.

We’re just skimming the surface on a Sunday like this.

Every Sunday our songs should express thankfulness for God’s mercies because they are many.

Sing it with me.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Morning By Morning New Mercies I See
All I Have Needed Thy Hand Hath Provided
Great Is Thy Faithfulness Lord Unto Me.

Unto us.

You know that song isn’t very old. It was written in 1923.

Our church was already 31 years old when it came out.

And God’s mercies are much older than that.

We have every reason to give thanks to God every time we open our mouths to sing.

Especially because of Jesus. And that’s point number four.

#4. SING ABOUT, FOR, AND FROM JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED.

Verse 20. We do all of this singing, “...in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He’s what our singing is ultimately all about.

“In the name.”

That means under the auspices of.
It means authorized by.
It means the driving force behind.

It’s all about Jesus.

You know, you might think that our singing here is a broken record.

Because we keep singing about Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Hallelujah, What A Savior!
Lead Me to Calvary
Beneath the Cross of Jesus
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
The Old Rugged Cross
At the Cross
Calvary Covers It All
There Is Power in the Blood
Nothing But the Blood
There Is a Fountain
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
Grace Greater Than All My Sin
Amazing Grace
In Christ Alone

I could go on and on and on.

If we are a broken record, it’s because we’ve resolved to know “nothing while [we’re together] except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Just like those old Swedes who founded this church 125 years ago tomorrow.

They sang about, for, and from Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross.

They were Trinitarian Christians.

They were filled with the Spirit, so they sang songs giving thanks to the Father in the name of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

And we sing with them.

To each other, to the Lord, from our hearts with an attitude of gratitude, about, for, and from Jesus Christ forever and ever, amen.


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Previous Messages in This Series:

01. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified

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