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May, 2023

Together for Musical Worship

So, have you ever come to church in a bad mood? Uh, maybe it was this morning. I don't know. You know, I mean, you're, you're just, you're just not all there. You know, you either you're frustrated with what you have on, you're frustrated with what your mother put on you. Um You know, you, you, you argue on the way to church in the car, you know, argue with your spouse or maybe your parents or your kids or your brother or your sister or, or maybe, maybe you're just arguing with yourself, you know, just looking in the rearview mirror, just kind of arguing with you. You know, anybody, anybody just me, ok, that's fine. You know, that's, you know, I have to admit it. It's all right. Maybe today is the first time you've been to church or maybe the first time you've been to church in a long time and you're kind of thinking, I don't know this, this religion stuff. It's a bunch of hippy, dippy baloney. I don't even wanna be here. I don't know why I'm here. If we were to put all those things in another way, we could say this have you ever come to church? And you didn't want to worship? You just, you just didn't feel like it. Well, look, it's, it's ok because I would say all of us have had at least one moment like that a moment where we, we came and, and we made the effort to be at church, but our heart just wasn't there. You know, we, we didn't want to worship, we didn't feel like worshiping. So, is there any help for moments like that? Is there, is there anything that can encourage us to soak up all that happens when we do gather to engage with and be encouraged by the beauty of what happens when God's church gathers to make much of him? Well, there is something that helps and we continue our series today called together For Good. This is our second to the last message in this series next week is our final sermon. And, and we're looking at this concept of being together for good. And, and what that means is we're looking at the values of a healthy local church. And the reason we're doing that is because there is plenty of things in the world to put us in a bad mood, right? Plenty of those things. And so we wanna be a church that's together for good. And what kind of good? Well, the kind of good that can change your mood when you're here, but also the kind of good that can change your mood when you're not here that can change your mood on a Sunday or a Tuesday or a Thursday or any other day. But even more than that, the kind of good that we want to be together for and with is the kind of good that will definitely change your mood when you breathe your last breath. We want to be together for that kind of good. So what does that look like? We're going to be turning our attention to Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus. Our sermon today is together for musical worship and we're going to be looking in the fifth chapter of Ephesians verse 19. And, and in this moment of the letter, what Paul is doing is this. He's writing to Christians and he's telling them, look, the world is a dark evil place that there's a lot of darkness in the world. There's a lot of sin in the world. There's a lot of evil in the world. Now, we can make a connection with that, right? There's sin, there's darkness, there's evil. And in the middle of that, what Paul does is here's some things you can use to fight against that darkness to, to work through that darkness. And one of them we find in verse 19 and it goes like this. Paul writes, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. So Paul says, when the days are evil, spend hours listening to talk radio, Paul says when the, when the days are evil, spend hours scrolling through news websites, put alerts on your phone so you can get all the, the latest news updates. Make sure that the background music in your house 24 hours a day. Is it Fox News or CNN or MS NBC or whatever it is you watch because when the days are evil, we need constant reminders of the things that make us mad and angry and afraid and apathetic in the world. That's what we need most when the days are evil, right? No, Paul doesn't say that. As a matter of fact, Paul says, when the days are evil, speak to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, speak to one another, sing to one another. Share with one another. The words of the Old Testament and the New Testament and even the, the phrases that we use today to speak of the glory of God. Paul says, use those things together, speak that to one another. When the days are evil, you see, we are not first and most together for traditional hymns and we are not together for contemporary songs and we are not together for choir songs and we're not together for congregational songs. We are together first and most for the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are together for the gospel and being together for the gospel means that sometimes we will sing traditional hymns and sometimes we will sing contemporary pray songs and sometimes we will sit and listen as we did this morning to the choir, do an amazing job of, of lifting up and glorifying God. And sometimes we will sing congregational songs together and it is good and right and helpful for us to do all of those things. And it is important for us to remember that because if we don't remember that, we will struggle to be a Christian. What I mean is if we struggle to say, well, I want my kind of music, we will actually struggle to be a Christian. And here's why this is what Jesus said to us. Luke 9 23. If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself. In other words, part of what it means to be a Christian is that whether you're at church or home or work or school or, or sitting in traffic on the interstate or, or stuck in a long line at the restaurant? Part of what it means to be a Christian is our mindset is to be, I am not here to get my way. I am here to do all things to the glory of God. Now none of us will do that perfectly. Ok. We can't pull that off all the time. But the question that's good for us to ask ourselves on a regular basis is, well, how am I doing with that? How am I doing it doing? All things to the glory of God. How are we doing it? Showing up at home and work and school and, and church and saying, hey, I'm not here to get my way. I'm, I'm here to glorify God and I'm here to serve other people because that's the basic call of what it means to be a Christian. In fact, if we don't do that, we're doing the opposite. Right. We're not glorifying God and, and even worse from a selfish standpoint, we're not doing what's best for us because it's been said that we are never more satisfied than when we are glorifying God because we were actually created for the glory of God. We exist for the glory of God. As I have walked through the death of my father in the last few weeks, I've, I've had to kind of mentally put that thought in my question. Hey, what's it all about? You know what, what are we here for? Is it? Is we just, we just live and then we die and I go, no, no, no. We were created for the glory of God. We exist for the glory of God. So as I look at my dad's 87 years, I saw a life that wasn't perfect, but it glorified God. We exist for the glory of God. You will never be satisfied until you do that math with your soul. You will be most satisfied when you are engaged with the glory of God. It's the basic call of, of what it means to be a Christian. And so with that mindset, that means that on any given Sunday, some of the songs may not be your cup of tea. And you know what? They may not be my cup of tea. But here's the thing. It's all right because it's not about our cups of teas. I saw a post where it says a random church goer said, you know, I didn't, I didn't really like the worship this morning and someone responded well, that's ok because we weren't worshiping you. There's a picture here of, of what Paul is writing that when the days are evil and dark, speak to one another, sing to one another, share with one another in Psalms and, and hymns and spiritual songs because we're not here mostly for our styles. We're here first and most for the glory of God. So when we glorify God, we will be doing exactly what we need the most. Now, on the flip side of that though, part of what it means to be a Christian too is to love one another, to lean toward one another and that matters too. It matters to how we, how we think and what we do when we gather to sing on Sundays. John Frame is 84 years old, 27 years ago. He wrote a book called Worship in Spirit and Truth and he shared some fantastic things about what we as Christians need to do as we gather to worship God musically. I've shared these things with you before. I think it's maybe been a couple of years ago but, but they never lose their punch from my own mind and heart. And this is what Doctor Frame wrote. Some complaints of the older generations may be petty, creating unnecessary conflict over matters of musical taste. But generally their complaints are more serious than that. One's hymn is his language of worship. It is the language of his heart's conversation with God to lose the hymns. One has grown up singing is therefore no small thing he goes on. The younger generations should learn to sympathize with this sense of loss and to accommodate their desires to the spiritual needs of their fathers and mothers in Christ. So much truth to that. And then he continues. But the opposite is also true. If the older do not bend somewhat, the younger will be deprived of their own language of worship. Those forms of God's word intelligible to them by which they can best grow in Christ. And then he says this in this respect, both sides should defer to one another in love, in the spirit of Christ. In other words, as believers, we should bend in love toward one another. We should speak and sing and share in hymns and in psalms and in spiritual songs and, and all kinds of different music that amplifies and glorifies who God is. And then he goes on to say this. It is interesting that the music of younger generations always tends to be criticized by older generations as irreverent. While the music of older generations tends to be criticized by younger generations as lacking joy and vitality. All of that is true math. It's what all of us think all the time, whether we admit it or not. And then he says this, those same generation gaps parallel similar ones in secular musical circles. In other words, it's not just the church, this is how music has worked throughout the centuries. And so he says this, finally, these recurring patterns suggest that some of our complaints may be based on factors other than a proper zeal for God. In other words, we should love one another, defer to one another because if we're not careful, if we begin to argue over music, we will not be arguing over God, we will be arguing over our sinful selfish, personal preferences. So we bend toward one another. We, we lean toward one another. We, we find ways to make sure that God is glorified in ways that are honorable and helpful for all or at least for as many as we possibly can. I've seen this in the life of, of my parents. Uh My math is right. My parents joined first Baptist Church of North Augusta, South Carolina 54 years ago. And in 54 years, the music does not look the same on the stage now as it did 54 years ago. But I, I've never heard my parents in my lifetime bash our home church. I've always been so thankful that I knew there were things my parents probably didn't like, but they always supported the work of the gospel in the home church. I, I've never heard them say anything poorly about the church and I saw that very strategically uh in a story with my dad from a few weeks ago in the hospital. Um for health reasons, my mom and dad have been watching online uh for, for, I guess, maybe almost four years now and uh for the home care uh folks that have been staying with my mom. Um What they don't realize is that if you're there with my mom on Sunday morning, you're actually going to watch three church services. Yeah. Um, you're going to watch ours, my brother in law who pastors Hope Point Church in Spartanburg. And then you're also going to watch First Baptist, North Augusta. So you're going to get three church services if you're hanging out with Pat Welsh on Sunday morning. So, hey mom, I know you're watching. Welcome. Um But, but it's been very interesting because of course, that dynamic is very different than being in the sanctuary and there's been lots of change in, in staffing and, and musicians and everything since my mom and dad last were in the sanctuary. So my dad had just gotten out of a procedure and he was super groggy. I mean, just very out of it. And the current minister of worship had, had stopped by and, and she said, you know, Mr Josey, I, I know you don't recognize me. You don't know who, who I am and my dad in the midst of all his anesthesia and whatever else was going on. He said, I know you, I sing with you. I sing with you. See what we do when we gather to sing us, it's not a style, it's glory. It's, it's our hearts doing something that we don't always do during the week, we, we stand next to one another and we sing and Paul says, when the days are evil, sing, when the days are dark, when everything you're hearing in the news is terrible sing, speak to one another with, with Psalms and hymns and spiritual psalms glorify God make much of God. Here in Ephesians. Paul writes something very similar to what he wrote in Colossians chapter three and in that letter to the church. But, but in Colossians, it, it kind of has the feel of corporate worship, kind of what we do here on Sundays. But, but here in Ephesians, there's almost a little feel in the language that it goes beyond Sunday morning. In other words, he's saying, look wherever you go, whatever you do speak, these things, make a big deal out of these truths. Make sure the gospel is being spoken and, and sung and shared from your life. Speak to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Now, someone may say, well, I can't sing or I don't like to sing or I don't like to listen to people sing or I don't like music. That's ok. Don't, don't get hung up with the music, which is strange since our sermon today is together for musical worship. Uh, but don't get hung up on the music, listen to what Paul says next, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord. Even if you can't sing or you think you don't know how to sing or, or you don't like music, you can still make melody to the Lord because true worship is all about the heart. What does that mean? Well, it means that, that someone can, can stand and, and sing a song about God with amazing musical ability and not do it to the Lord. It means we can hear a person or a group of people singing these fantastic songs. But, but if their hearts are not right with the Lord, we can say, oh I and o and felt the spirit when they saying, but actually if their heart is not right with the Lord, they didn't worship. So singing and making music, you can do that without it glorifying God in a sense, the, the melody actually comes from the heart. It's not just the music it's not just the singing, it's what's happening in the heart. You can see on the flip side, you can take someone with no musical ability and they can sing a song to the Lord. That sounds perfectly sweet in the ears of Almighty God. 28 years ago, I was the youth and young adult and recreation pastor um at Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Our pastor's wife Mary Lynn, uh worked with uh disabled Children at Easter Seals. And for many Sundays, she would bring a van load of the kids to church. And one of those kids was Stephen and Stephen and I became buddies. I even had the opportunity to be a part of Stephen's baptism. I think I may have shared that story with you all before too. But I would stand by Stephen on Sunday mornings during the service and Stephen was a terrible singer. I mean, awful like the worst thing you've ever heard in your life and he was loud like you could hear him over everything that was going on in the room. But I can tell you this, there are no sweeter moments that I can remember in my life than standing next to Stephen and listening to him worship God because his heart was right. His heart was making melody to the Lord. I think sometimes we forget about that melody. We forget that that sometimes when it comes to worshiping God melody has nothing to do with music. It's something completely different in Luke 18. Jesus tells the, the parable of the religious leader and the tax collector and he tells the story of them both showing up at church for our Sunday service and the religious leader. He, he went up on stage immediately and began to pray this fantastic religious Christian sounding prayer because he wanted people to hear what a great Christian he had been that week within the tax collector, he was, he was over in the, in the dark in the corner behind a column. And, and again, tax collectors in, in the day of Jesus were, were not, you know, trained servants that worked for the government in nice concrete buildings. They were, they were like criminals, they were hated by everybody in the community. And so Jesus says, the, the religious leader stood on stage and said, look at how, how great I've been as a Christian this week. But, but the tax collector off off in the corner was beating his chest, begging God to have mercy on him. You see, singing can be a melody to the Lord, but repentance can be a sweet melody to the Lord. It, it can be loud singing or it can be quiet, repentance. But there is a way to make a melody to the Lord that doesn't always require music in God's orchestra in God's economy. Melody does not always mean music and it doesn't always mean words over the last year, my sisters and I have, have been touring and researching assisted living centers, kind of making plans for impending changes that were going to happen with my parents. And, and so I've been in and out of a lot of places and I heard a great story from one in our community this week. At one of our, our local assisted living centers, there was a kind of a music day and there were some musicians from the outside that came in to play music for the residents. Well, they were joined by a man from the memory care area of the assisted living center. And I was told that this man's memory has declined so much that he can't even carry on a conversation, can't even speak anymore. But he joined the band that day and he played the trumpet and he played the trumpet. Well, he wasn't able to speak, he wasn't able to sing, but he was able to share, he was able to make melody even though his mind may not have been clear. His heart was able to make melody. There's an old song that, that has a line in it. It says I listen to the trumpet of Jesus while the world hears a different sound. What are you listening to these days? What, what's the sound that is filling your heart the most? What is it? That's kind of defining your attitude and how you think and how you do things at home and work and school and, and church and everywhere else. Is, is there some hope in the work of the gospel? Is there some hope in the truth of the gospel that, that your heart is able because of what Jesus has done to, to make some melody. Are you able to sing from your heart even on the hardest days? Are you able to speak from your heart even on the hardest days? Are you able to share from your heart? Even on the hardest days? My sister asked me a few weeks ago, she said, hey, she goes, I'm, I'm going to want you to sing at dad's funeral. I want you to sing it as well. And I was like, all right, but I knew in my mind I was like, that ain't going to work if y'all ever seen me here when we sing it here, I don't make it through verse three. I mean, that's just on a normal Sunday. You know, I mean, I just, I can't get through verse three. So I'm like, well, there's no way I'll be able to do that at my dad's funeral. And so I told her the night before I was like, yeah, I'm out. I said that this is going to have to be congregational. And so we did, we, we sang it congregational and the pianist, Susan was amazing and, and the congregation, the folks that came to the service that day, it was so loud. It was an amazing moment of melody and worship and praise to the Lord in the hardest moment. See, that's what the glory of God does. That's what the truth of the gospel does. When we gather to make music together, to the glory of God. It, it does something and listen. I, I will graciously not apologize that we're one of those churches. We're one of those churches that we sing together more than we listen together. Listen, our, our choir does an amazing job. I mean, even this morning, that medley was fantastic. And Beth is doing a superb job with our choir. But what I love the most is when Beth gathers us together and leads us to worship God together and here's why because no matter what we're facing in life, no matter what's going on in life, no matter what the difficulty is when the darkness of this world feels like it's overwhelming us and overtaking us. Sometimes when we come in here, we can't sing. I have days like that. I have days where I'm so overwhelmed. I just, I can't find my voice and I need to hear you sing to the glory. I need you to help me worship. And there's other days that you can't sing and, and you need me and, and some of the rest of us. So, so there's a thing, there's a thing that no matter what we face during the week when we come in this room and we stand around people, some that we know well and some that we don't know at all. But together we say, behold our God seated on the throne when we stand together and, and we hear each other's voices. Whether you sound like little Stephen or whether you sound like someone who is in an opera for us to gather together and hear voices that say holy, holy, holy. It's a thing to gather and, and worship together. It, it does something, it, it helps us see something. See, I need your voice and I need my voice and we need our voices together to help each other. See and remember that Jesus is alive and that it really, really is well with our souls because sometimes it doesn't feel that way. But when we gather, when we're together, when I can't sing or you can't sing, we, we help each other. We move each other with songs and hymns and spiritual songs and psalms. We, we are able to help each other see that in these days of evil, our God reigns and he is good and he does good. We approach remembering those who have given their lives for our sake. Tomorrow with Memorial Day, the Spanish American war was fought from April to August in 18 98. But after victory, American troops were stationed there for over a year after that. There's a story about something that happened on Christmas Eve 18 98. So just a few months after the battle had really stopped. And it's a good reminder that when we remember those on Memorial Day, every moment in their life serving our country was not always in battle. There were ever other moments and this is one of those moments. Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Gill Junior wrote of his experience on that Christmas Eve night. This is what he said. I sat before my tent in the Balmy tropical night chatting with a fellow officer of Christmas. And home suddenly from the camp in the 49th Iowa rang a Sentinels call number 10, 12 o'clock and all is. Well, it was Christmas morning scarcely had the cry of the sentinel died away when from the bandsman's tents of that same regiment there rose the music of an old familiar hymn and one clear baritone voice led the chorus that quickly ran along all those moonlit fields, another voice joined in and another and another. And in a moment the whole regiment was singing and then the sixth Missouri joined in with the fourth Virginia and all the rest till there on the long ridges above the great city of Havana, a whole American army corps was singing. And what were they singing? Christmas Eve came Christmas morning at midnight. What were they singing? Well from that tent, one voice started saying how firm a foundation, how firm a foundation and he began to sing. Fear not. I am with the oh, be not dismayed for I am thy God and will still give the aid. I'll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand. Can't you just feel that? Can't you? Can't you just hear the one soldier fear not. I am with the be not dismayed. And then one after one, after one to all of these voices are singing together upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand. That's why we want to be together for musical worship because the days are evil and the days are dark and there are plenty of moments when the news of the world will begin to overwhelm us and overtake us with anger and fear and worry and frustration. And it's in those moments as we continue to be a family of Christians that speak and sing and share psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together. What will happen is we'll begin to help each other. See, oh, in our salvation in Jesus Christ through God, we do not have to be dismayed. We don't, I don't care what happens in the news today. I don't care what happens with the economy this week. I don't care about wars and rumors of wars. We do not have to be dismayed. We can fear not because our God is still our God and he reigns and he still gives us aid and he still helps us every moment of every day in his hand. The only omnipotent sovereign hand of authority will never stop upholding us death. Where is your sting death? Where is your victory? Dear Christian? Thanks be to God that in Jesus, we have the victory and no one can take that away. That is good. Let's be together for good.


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