Music That Honors God
by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: In the 1970's I spoke to the incoming freshman every year at a Christian College. The topic was the kind of music that honors God. Although my musical tastes have changed since that time, these principles have not.
The following four biblical truths will help anyone who truly wants a litmus test for music that will appeal to the Spirit and not simply cater to the flesh. In a day when entertainment seems to trump edification (even in worship) it is important to have some kind of objective standard for every area of life - including music.
1. The Man Must Be Right. (3:15-16)
Letting the peace of God rule in your heart means that you allow the "Umpire of the Universe" to make the close calls in your life. When the musical performer is willing to let God call the shots then he is off to a good start. The vertical consideration of honoring God is far more important than the horizontal consideration of pleasing the people.
In the context of worship, the vital question ought to be "what kind of music does God like?", rather than "I wonder how many amens this will garner?" Verse 16 states that the Word of Christ should dwell richly in the person who would make God-honoring decisions.
This is a direct parallel to the concept of being filled with the Spirit found in Ephesians 5:18. In short, being filled with the Spirit of God is synonymous with being controlled by the Word of God. This is a far cry from the modern definition of what it means to be filled with Spirit in modern "churchianity."
2. The Message Must Be Right. (3:16)
The message must conform to the truth of Scripture. Many songs in the hymnal (remember those things) are not even biblical in their content. This does not even include those choruses and songs which mysteriously appear on the wall in houses of worship. Quite frankly, if the average preacher would proclaim the truths found in many "worship songs" he would probably be run out of the pulpit as being a heretic.
However, if you give the lie a good tune and repeat it many times then that makes it acceptable to the non-discerning hearer. The message proclaimed by the "special music" should be just as biblical as the message proclaimed in the sermon.
If I preach that "the darkness shall turn to the dawning, and the dawning to noon day bright, and Christ's great kingdom shall come to earth, a kingdom of love and light" then I will be branded as a post-millennial heretic. But if I sing that with an orchestra at the opening of a missions conference then I don't have to worry about a thing.
If I preach "in the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me" then I maligned both the incarnation and the atonement in one chorus. Yet, turn up the music, add some good percussion and everyone will be singing "His truth is marching on" even if it is not truthful.
The point is that the message of our music is just as much a biblical message as the message of our preaching.
3. The Music Must Be Right. (3:16)
This is an area of controversy and division since there are those who say that music is amoral. I will simply say that the music should complement the message and not contradict it. One of the great oxymoronic word combinations is "Christian rock." That is like saying "Spirit flesh."
Some music is good. Some is bad, and then some is evil. Many do not see this since they do not have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil and they have become dull of hearing. The Psalms were designed to be sung with an instrumental accompaniment.
I am confident that the Hebrew music would probably "violate" many conservative Christian standards - especially those Psalms expressing exuberant joy! In fact some of the music we will experience in heaven will raise a few sanctified eyebrows. The music accompanying our message should have its appeal to the spirit and not the flesh . . .and the beat goes on.
4. The Motive Must Be Right. (3:17)
This may be the most important consideration of all since God alone knows our true motivation. "Do all to the glory of God" means that God is more concerned about us being good Christians than being only good musicians. A good Christian who is a mediocre musician may glorify God more than a fabulous musician who is a poor Christian.
Conclusion: Much of the worship of our day has degenerated into entertainment and not edification. When this happens then the driving motive is to please men and forget about God.