A Tale of Two Songs

This last Sunday in Church we sang our usual three worship songs. One was the classic 1834 hymn, The Solid Rock, based on Matthew 7:24-27. The other two were more contemporary; Hillsong’s “From the Inside Out,” from their 2006 Album United We Stand, and “In Christ Alone” written in 2001 by Stuart Townend, which has become a worldwide favorite. Here are the lyrics,which are the subject of this post.

“From The Inside Out”

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out

Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out

“In Christ Alone”

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless !
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in —
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

Both songs contain truth.Both songs stir the emotions. At the same time, they seem to be different, lyrically and thematically speaking. – at least it appears that way to at least one old guy.

So I ask you who read this to examine the lyrics of both songs and let us know if you too see differences, and what might the differences be that you notice. If you don’t see much difference between these two songs, tell us that too. If I’m losing my mind, I need to know!

Just Another Question: Who leads worship in your church?

The question came to mind when I saw a Facebook that talked about it’s greAt worship team that really knows how to ‘lead’ people into the presence of God. The graphic could have been any group of attractive young people, dressed casualy and equipped with various musucal instruments, microphones, and great as they animatedly sung ‘something’. In other words, they looked like they were intwntionally entertaining the crowd (unseen innthe,photo).

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against Christian entertainment. Again, my question is “Who leads worship?”, or meybe even more appropriately, “Who ‘should’ be ‘leading’ worship?”

You see, I’m old enough to remember when people entering church didn’t spend the time before the service started catching up on all the chit chat they mssed during the week. Themtime before the services cemwas to start was spent quietly meditating, praying, or maybe bookmarking ahead of time the hyms called out in the morning bulletin. There might be an organ prelude in the air calling us to quiet reflection. By the time the service began many of us were already ‘tuned in’ to the Spirit of God.

If there was prayer and/or corporate confession of any sort, hearts were humbled before God and ‘cleansed’ in preparation for contunued worship. By the time the first hymn was announced, we,were ready to ‘sound off’ in praise to our God and King! There might have been a ‘song leader’, but the real ‘worship’ leader was the 3rd person of the Trinity!

Food for thought. Please share yours, but don’t just tell me I’m old. I know that already. 🙂

What if there’s a power outage at Hillsong?

. . .or any other ‘church’ where the big attraction is the music?

Think about that for a minute. I know Christians who choose a church based on how much they like the ‘worship’ music, and I’m sure you do also. But what if the power went out and there were no more electric instruments, lights, smoke, etc.? All we would have left are lyrics.

If all we have left are the lyrics, would we ‘feel’ the Spirit come down, or is all that excitement generated from the stage and those great ‘worship’ feelings pretty much the same as a good U2 concert (name your band)? Is today’s ‘worship’ more about us than God?

And if all we have are the lyrics, what are they saying and teaching? Something to think about.

Fighting For The Faith discussed that very thing – lyrics – this last week titled “Heresy Hiding in Plain Sight” .

Enjoy, or not. The segment discusses some of the lyrics to specific worship songs from Hillsong. Protect your toes.

Why is the charismatic movement to appealing to so many?

I found an interesting quote below in an article with a political bent at the American Thinker website. The article discussed the success of the Democrats to capitalize on human emotions and a few significant examples of Republicans missing good chances to do the same.

“People vote with hearts not heads. Statistics might make sense; yet, if your pitch has no emotional appeal, it’s a dead letter. Budweiser doesn’t sell adult beverages, beer companies sell tradition, babes, and parties. If your message doesn’t touch an emotional “g” spot, the product will not sell.” – G. Murphy Donovan

At the same time, I’ve finally finished listening to the audio from the Strange fire Conference (online here) at Grace Community Church, and have spent considerable time pondering a period of about five years I spent in a charismatic church and two reasons why I changed my own opinions about some things.

While I don’t really initiate conversations concerning those years, when I am asked about what changed my mind and opinion concerning various charismatic teachings, my first reply has to do with reading the Bible for myself, especially the scripture passages used to support charismatic ‘doctrine’.

Well, this blog post isn’t about why just reading the Bible ought to cause a pro-charismatic person to question some things, although serious Bible study certainly should generate some re-thinking. From what I’ve experienced, using that reasoning just doesn’t work with many die-hard charismatics. I actually tried to use that argument on one Web site and was answered with the old “if I had a nickel for every time someone has said that, I’d be a rich man” mantra. That response to ‘read the Bible’ points to a deeper issue going on here, and I think the ‘political’ quote expresses that issue quite accurately, if not exactly eloquently – “If your message doesn’t touch an emotional “g” spot, the product will not sell.”

In other words, get hold of a person’s emotions and the product DOES sell! I fear that much, if not the majority of ‘rebuttals’ to the Strange Fire Conference point to the Charismatic Movement’s validity based on having connected to human emotions, either through ‘personal’ pleasurable experiences, or appealing to excitement (another emotion) over thousands/millions having come to Christ, wonderful music having been produced by charismatics, some of them having been martyred, and other such appeals.

As I write this, I am listening to a response to John MacArthur by a Dr. Michael Brown in a 2-hour podcast that 1:17 into it has not addressed a single passage of scripture exegeted at the Strange Fire Conference, but has demonstrated everything in the previous paragraph. I am hearing callers, one after another, swearing to the reality of speaking in tongues just because it happened to them accompanied by a ‘feeling’ that confirmed the experience.

I think the personal experiences/emotions arguments are the easiest to refute from a careful study of familiar ‘charismatic’ passages taken out of their natural context(s). The “look at how many have been brought to Christ” argument is a bit more difficult to refute. After all, how CAN you argue against a movement that has brought so many to Christ? Having been in the movement for more than five years, I can begin by asking a single 2-word question: “Which Christ?”

While I am not indicting all charismatics, nor am I denying that many in charismatic circles have been brought to genuine faith in Christ, I ask that question with all seriousness. “Which Christ?” I remember my experience in a ‘conservative’ Pentecostal church (Assembly of God) having been highly focused on experiences, feelings, and the ‘gifts’. I remember reading tracts about how one can live in a state of ‘divine’ health, the alleged ‘words from God’ spoken in tongues, sometimes ‘interpreted’, and the ‘all we need is love’ type of gospel (emotions again).While there was great appeal to human experience/emotion, I don’t remember hearing any powerful sermons that addressed in a significant way the serious nature and problem of human sinfulness in an address from the pulpit.

If the ‘non-extreme’ segments of the Charismatic Movement appeal to experience and emotions above all else, the ‘extremes’ do so exponentially! Not only do they claim all sorts of things like regular conversations with God, Jesus and angels, they do some really weird things. I won.t go into any of the details here; you can listen to the Strange Fire audio for yourself. They claim to be ‘anointed’ apostles and prophets and even tell us we can have the same ‘anointing’. They make much of the ‘glory’ and ecstatic worship in the ‘glory cloud’ while when the manifested glory of God in the Bible put people on their faces, flat on the ground in shame for their sinfulness in it’s light. It’s all about experience and emotions.

Sadly, the calmer, saner charismatic leaders seem very reticent to speak against the Benny Hinns, Rick Joyners, Todd Bentleys, Mike Bickles and Cindy Jacobs (and the list goes on and on) types out there who claim to receive so much direct revelation from Jesus, angels and glory clouds, that one has to wonder if any person in the Trinity has any time for the rest of us regular folk! While they will confess to ‘extremes’ in the movement, they hesitate to expose the heretics in their midst.

The emotional appeal in the Charismatic movement is HUGE, and it works. However, being sinners saved by grace, and although we have a ‘new’ nature, the vestiges of the ‘old’ nature are strong enough and still as sinful as they ever were. The words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah are still true:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)

Having said all that (I hope it was understandable), let me say in all honesty that I once was sold on the charismatic movement and as anti-MacArthur as many are today. It does however escape me, at this point in my spiritual walk, how any thinking, rational, biblically literate Christian can swallow some of the ‘charismatic’ junk that’s not only on the street, but is also all over the airwaves. Unless of course it IS true that “People vote with hearts not heads” and subjective experiences and emotions tend to draw us away from the objective truth of scripture.

Food for serious thought. . .

May God bless you as you try and ‘process’ the Strange Fire Conference and the Charismatic movement for yourselves.

Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

Al Mohler

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Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years, sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A. W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.

Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.

Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place.

Traditional norms of worship are now subordinated to a demand for relevance and creativity. A media-driven culture of images has replaced the word-centered culture that gave birth to the Reformation churches. In some sense, the image-driven culture of modern evangelicalism is an embrace of the very practices rejected by the Reformers in their quest for true biblical worship.

Music fills the space of most evangelical worship, and much of this music comes in the form of contemporary choruses marked by precious little theological content. Beyond the popularity of the chorus as a musical form, many evangelical churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations.

In terms of musical style, the more traditional churches feature large choirs—often with orchestras—and may even sing the established hymns of the faith. Choral contributions are often massive in scale and professional in quality. In any event, music fills the space and drives the energy of the worship service. Intense planning, financial investment, and priority of preparation are focused on the musical dimensions of worship. Professional staff and an army of volunteers spend much of the week in rehearsals and practice sessions.

All this is not lost on the congregation. Some Christians shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God.

Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper and baptism are honored as ordinances by the Lord’s own command, and each finds its place in true worship.

Furthermore, music is one of God’s most precious gifts to his people, and it is a language by which we may worship God in spirit and in truth. The hymns of the faith convey rich confessional and theological content, and many modern choruses recover a sense of doxology formerly lost in many evangelical churches. But music is not the central act of Christian worship, and neither is evangelism nor even the ordinances. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the word of God.

Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and nonnegotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God. John Stott’s simple declaration states the issue boldly: “Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” More specifically, preaching is indispensable to Christian worship—and not only indispensable, but central.

The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8 we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Ezra and his colleagues stand on a raised platform and read from the book. When he opens the book to read, the assembly rises to its feet in honor of the word of God and respond, “Amen, Amen!”

Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him “read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Neh 8:8). This remarkable text presents a portrait of expository preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle—he simply and carefully proclaimed the word of God.

This text is a sobering indictment of much contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals?

In far too many churches, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services, and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music. Many preachers accept this as a necessary concession to the age of entertainment. Some hope to put in a brief message of encouragement or exhortation before the conclusion of the service.

As Michael Green so pointedly put it: “This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes.”

The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.

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The Foolish Worship of Fallen Men

“Sin has made men worship either (1) a false God, which is idolatry; or (2) God falsely, which is superstition. Man has become such a fool that his worship, till enlightened and converted, is either a breach of the First or Second Commandment. He fails as to the object and manner of worship, and both speak man’s folly, that his religion is either idolatry or superstition.”

From The Sinfulness of Sin, first published in 1669 under the title The Plague of Plagues by Ralph Venning (1621 – 1674)

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The Importance and Purpose of God’s Music

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” – Col 3:16

I think this might be a volume of wisdom in a single passage. By the construct, Paul’s teaching point is right up front – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. . .”, followed by the ‘how’ of “. . .teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”.

After a couple of instances this weekend of instruments drowning out the lyrics and messages contained in Christian music, hearing this passage while listening to the latest White Horse Inn broadcast cleared up the agitation I felt during both instances of having been agitated (for lack of a better word) by what I thought was ‘noise’. I felt somehow assaulted by the drums and guitars that overwhelmed the words. I thought maybe it was a hearing issue because other listeners were really enjoying the music.

Hearing that passage this morning set me straight. Feeling ‘agitated’ was not an improper response. The purpose of God in His music is so that ‘the word of Christ may dwell in us richly’. That can’t happen when we can’t hear the ‘word’.