51 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. That would certainly stop alot of the negative comments!

  2. Here’s a short summary of a SS lesson I gave on the subject. The three “musts” of true worship:

    1. John 3:7
    “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again”
    You have to be saved to truly worship.

    2. John 3:14
    “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”
    Worship must be centered on Jesus Christ, and has to point in His direction. It should not draw attention to self.

    3. John 4:24
    “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
    True worship is not appealing to our flesh, or our minds. It exercises the Holy Spirit within us. True worship must be grounded in Biblical truth. This includes manner of worship, and the content of songs and preaching.

    • Brian, summarised you are saying:

      1. Based in/on Truth.
      2. Energised by the Holy Spirit.
      3. Glorifying the person of the Lord Jesus.
      4. Bringing pleasure to the heart of the Father.

      If so, we are then in harmony with the Trinity. A high standard indeed.

  3. In principle, certainly I agree. However, I think that there is no harm in taking pleasure or pride in a job well done.

    And really this applies far beyond music. If I work hard at something worth doing, be it preparing a delicious meal or even running a race, I know that I am doing it for God’s glory, and I know that He is pleased when I do it well. Yet at the end of the day, when I have successfully accomplished my task, I can also legitimately feel a sense of accomplishment at the thought that I set out to do something and did it well. Obviously I can be grateful to God for giving me the strength and ability to do it, but now that I have that strength and that ability, there is a simple pleasure in the act of using them for good.

    If I sit down at the piano and begin to play something, I need not have the name of God or thoughts of God first and foremost in my mind while I play in order to play for His glory. God is glorified by my act of using the gift He has given me to play something beautiful. God is even glorified by the diligent efforts of a small child who is only just beginning to learn how to play. Now of course there can be ways in which we might use our gifts to bring DISpleasure to God, like using our voices to sing a filthy and obscene lyric. But if we are dedicated to beauty and dedicated to the truth, then I think God takes pleasure in what we do BECAUSE he loves to watch US take pleasure in it.

  4. That is exactly what we are studying in our weekly bible study!

  5. Short answer…YES! No debate…
    JEB

    • Actually, even though I have not finished reading all the comments, I rather suspect that my readership would debate anything. I know I have at least one occasional reader who would even debate whether man made it to the moon, and another who contemplates flat-earth claims! 🙂

  6. “If I work hard at something worth doing, be it preparing a delicious meal”

    PREACH IT. JK. 😉

    • Ha! Well, I was trying to encompass a variety of things that were worth doing. 😀

      Seriously, this brought to mind my favorite line from the classic film Chariots of Fire: “I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China. But He also made me FAST. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

  7. Whatever you do.. In word or deed..do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ…

  8. What is the context behind the question?

    • Nothing in particular. Actually, it may have been prompted by something, say a sermon I heard, but it’s probably been six months or more now so I really don’t recall if anything prompted it.

  9. Another thing I would say is that I think we should view our entire lives as an act of worship. I think Rich Mullins said it best:

    “A spiritual thing is folding your clothes at the end of the day. A spiritual thing is making your bed. A spiritual thing is taking cookies to your neighbor that’s shut in, or raking their front lawn because they are too old to do it. That’s spirituality. Getting a warm, oozy feeling about God is an emotional thing.”

    • That reminds me of the GVB song “The Really Big News”.

    • Are we in the realms of “Give It Away” theology hereabouts?

      Charity and spirituality are not even close relatives in many cases!

      • I’ll give you the larger context David. I don’t think that’s the point Rich was trying to make. He’s distinguishing between having an emotional experience and actually LIVING our faith through word and deed:

        “A lot of times we think something spiritual is happening and it is merely aesthetics. That is why it always bugs me at the end of a concert someone will say, “Wow the Spirit really worked,” and I kind of go, ‘How would you even be able to know that? It was so noisy in here tonight. How would you know if the Spirit was working?’ ‘Well, I was really moved.’ Well, that is an emotional thing. That’s not a spiritual thing.”

        And then from the quote I gave above:

        “Getting a warm, oozy feeling about God is an emotional thing. There is nothing wrong with it. I think there is nothing more practical than real spirituality. But nothing more fun than just a good heartfelt emotional experience of God, because I think emotions are good. They are only dangerous when we come away from an experience where we were emotionally manipulated and we confuse that with being convicted. I think conviction — there is an emotion that accompanies that, but it certainly goes deeper than just coming away going, ‘Oh isn’t God neat?’ Two different worlds.”

    • You’re fairly well within Wesleyan grounds. I know he had more to say about it than this, but Google has made me lazy, and this is all it turns up in Plain Account. “Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things. In souls filled with love the desire to please God is a constant prayer.” But I do think he somewhere discussed specifically that everything we do in the spirit of pure love is a prayer in the sight of God.

      However, let’s not forget that he also guarded his doctrine – Those who have not accepted the atonement and been saved can’t do anything good in the sight of God – all their righteousness “is as filthy rags.”

      • “”our righteousnesses are…”

        Apart from the pedantic correction, Amy :-), I fully agree with the thrust of your comment!

  10. Should it not be pleasing to us that God is ultimately pleased? Even in spite of our human effort and wretchedness? God is only satisfied because Christ has and continues to intercede for us. He is too holy for us to even fathom. I think we can simply be pleased in the fact that Christ Himself became sin, and took the place of us. I think truly recognizing that fundamental essence of the Gospel allows freedom in our worship, and for that He delights in us and us in Him, thus we are both “pleased”.

    • I may please my self, a lot – and please God very little.

      As a believer, it is not “I” that lives, but Christ that lives in me (Gal 2:20) and this should show out in my life and walk – and worship.

      If I “feel” I am pleasing God, I probably am not. Paul warns, “God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

      We struggle to control our “I” – our ‘ego’ – what pleases us may bring no pleasure to the Father’s heart. He is glorified when His Son is glorified – not just in ME or in MY egocentric efforts.

      • But is it egocentric to enjoy what we do, as long as it’s a legitimate use of the gifts God has given us?

      • I’m not pushing that we should find any pleasure in ourselves by our own merit (which we find ways of doing, anyways). I believe God centered Worship focuses on the cross as its foundation and joy. Otherwise, without the sacrifice, we could never enter into proper worship as being “declared righteous”. Christ has done that for us. If I couldn’t take delight in that, then I would feel as if I were either A) using ritualistic and symbolic means for forgiveness of sins, or B) Boasting in myself and creating that “emotional, oozy feeling” which becomes (emerging, or emergent, take your pick) that NSGFan hit on. Spiritual Emotionalism doesn’t delight in God when, losing your wife to cancer or your kids in a car wreck. And to me, that is reason enough to be pleased, thankful, and overjoyed by the reality of grace.

      • I don’t think I can add anything besides a hearty “amen!”

    • TGS – that’s a profound thought.

  11. Re: “other musical efforts”, I consider concerts (SG for the sake of this blog) as an example here.

    While I absolutely agree it needs to be God-pleasing, I believe it also needs to be pleasing to us as well. In most cases, we are paying good money to see these groups in concerts. While that obviously could be considered an investment towards God’s kingdom, I’m not sure thats enough.

    There is a line between ministry and entertainment that is hard not to cross one way or another. I’m not sure there is a correct answer for that one.

  12. One slight comment regarding your question.

    I’m not a huge fan of labeling it as worship music. Shouldn’t/Doesn’t all Christian music worship God? Music is only one form of how we can worship God, so I don’t like labeling it like its the only way we can worship God.

    We should be worshiping God in everything we do, not just by singing a few songs in church once or twice a week.

    • …which raises an even broader question, of whether all music, period, should worship God.

      • All music that is good, true and beautiful glorifies God by its very nature, whether or not it mentions His name. It needn’t even have words. A Beethoven sonata glorifies God. A Tchaikovsky symphony glorifies God.

      • Methinks not. It glorifies the ego which produced it.

        Mary said, “My soul doth magnify Jehovah”.

        Why? Because;

        “My spirit rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 2:46-47) There’s the key!

      • Agreed – I hadn’t necessarily thought of that angle.

        For that matter, a song written for the glory of God is not always performed to the glory of God. That probably goes without saying, though!

      • David, are you trying to tell me that a symphony does not or cannot glorify God?

      • [edit – on second thought, I’ll let David answer for himself!]

      • “a song written for the glory of God is not always performed to the glory of God”

        Quite, but a song written to glorify self, or ego-centric “gods” can be performed in an attempt to glorify God.

        “My sweet Lord”, “you Raise Me Up” for example.

        Whether God IS glorified is another matter, or whether relogious confusion results is another subject altogether!

      • A Beethoven sonata or a Tchaikovsky symphony?

        Well, I don’t know of a bad Beethoven sonata or a bad Tchaikovsky symphony, but perhaps if I had a broader knowledge of music I would have encountered one. In that case I suppose it would not glorify God as fully as the cream of their repertoire. 😉

      • I disagree. I don’t see how a song without lyrics can glorify God. How do you know it is about God if there are no words? It could just as well be about some form of immorality. Obviously a good instrumental can glorify God, but only if you know the words that are in the song that is being played.

        You said all music that is “good, true and beautiful”…I don’t see how you measure “true” without lyrics.

      • I was using “true” to refer to music that had lyrics, trying to include both songs and lyric.

        As for music without words…haven’t you ever heard a symphony before? What about a fugue or a sonata? In general, the nature of instrumental music is that it’s not ABOUT anything. It’s music. Now maybe it’s music that’s trying to convey a certain emotion—so you could have a pastoral piece that’s very peaceful or a tempestuous piece that’s full of dynamics. But beautiful music is just beautiful music, pure and simple. And simply because of that, it glorifies God.

      • How do we hear from God in our quiet times if he speaks no words?

      • NSF, [Summary at 7:10 above refers.]

        I, with respect and speaking very carefully, find no common ground with the above comment.

        “The heavens declare God’s glory” – WHY? Because “The expanse shows His Handywork”, day and night utters SPEECH…and shews knowledge, “without words or their voice being heard” (Ps 19:1-3).

        This is because God made the expanse to declare His glory. Since the fall of Man the human progeny of Adam cannot be theo-centric, we are not God glorifying, in thought, word, or deed. The very origins of instruments – and their sounds – is based in rebellion against God (Gen 4).

        “True worshippers worship the Father, in spirit and truth..the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is Spirit, they that worship him, must worship Him in spirit and truth.”

        The activity of the unregenerate “spirit” of ego-centric man, MAY worship in “spirit”, but not in “truth”.

      • Apologies,

        The quotation above are the words of the Lord Jesus, in response to the queries of the immoral woman of Sychar, in John Chp 4, the contextual comment is,
        “Ye worship ye know not what.” (John 4:22 KJV)

      • The word “true” was a little confusing, and I apologize. Obviously we’d use a different adjective to describe instrumental music, but I was trying to be all-encompassing.

        All I can say is, if you can listen to music like this and tell me that God is not glorified by it…then it will be impossible for me to help you understand:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcJuZIUeBME

      • Daniel: “should…” Yes. Period.

      • Does? No. Period.

        Why the difference?

        See example above :-).

        Q.E.D. [Latin version!]

      • The question here was: “…which raises an even broader question, of whether all music, period, should worship God”

        which got lost in the rush of comment in the thread a little.

        [Just to clarify, fellow commentors/readers.]

  13. Well, worship is not what we call worship, or worship services. Worship is simply the presenting of one’s self to God. There are no worship services in the New Testament that I can see. No prelude, no invocation, no song service (traditional or contemporary), no offering, no altar calls, no every head bowed – every eye closed moment. No cards filled out, no asking for membership via profession of faith, baptism or “letter” – but to answer your question, In true worship, God is pleased and so are we.

    • You raise interesting points, and I concur on many of them. Most of the things you cite are things that, in fact, we do not see occurring as part of the New Testament church meetings on Sunday service – though, of all things, offerings are an exception! 🙂

  14. To quote Ed Butler, the answer is, “yes!” And that’s a very elegant way of looking at it. What pleases God should please us, and what displeases God should also displease us. This applies to everything, not just worship or music.

    The question then becomes, “how do I know what I’m doing/singing/thinking is pleasing to God?” If you’re in a healthy relationship with the Lord (saved, growing in grace and knowledge, in full fellowship with Him), the Spirit holds sway over your life every day of the week, and not just on Sundays. You will know.

    As it relates to worship, this has been addressed aplenty in this thread, and the form or mode is not at all critical in consideration of the question. Is God being glorified? Is Jesus lifted up? Is the Spirit leading and moving in the midst? Is worship resonating in the hearts of believers? Are unbelievers being drawn to a saving knowledge of Christ? Are Christians being built-up with doctrine and encouragement and becoming more motivated to live for God in the world? All this pleases God, and we should intrinsically know when it does or doesn’t.

  15. We have some heavy thinkers here which is good!
    I get nervouse about discussing theology in a interdenominational setting is like discussing politics in church.
    Better still, it would be like discussing taxes and spending in a political atmosphere.
    As far as God goes…..
    There are alot more people that believe in God yet do not know the God that gave us the promise of John 3:16.
    As for us…….
    God’s way to the fullest can be found in the promies of Matthew 6:33.

  16. “Is God being glorified?
    Is Jesus lifted up?
    Is the Spirit leading and moving in the midst?
    Is worship resonating in the hearts of believers?
    Are unbelievers being drawn to a saving knowledge of Christ?
    Are Christians being built-up with doctrine and encouragement and becoming more motivated to live for God in the world?”

    Scott, these are general but all-embracing principles for worship; which includes prayer as well as praise. They are good bench mark ideals.

    Ture worship IS Godward, but the resultant edification is also manward.

    Paul says, “I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I may teach others also” (1Cor 14:19)

  17. God is pleased if you don’t argue and if youlove each other. Has nothing to do with music. These discussions are just mind-benders for those who like that sort of thing. If you feel worshipful doing P&W, good. Idon’t. I feel worshipful when I hear SG music.

    • I used to feel worshipful doing P & W. Looking back now I wonder how I ever got myself so worked up over such poor excuses for songs…

      That’s a little harsh though. I do still like (some) P & W.