For His Glory

My friends, we need to learn a little of a jealous concern for the glory of God, because this is what puts worship in its true context. And it’s so easy to be worshiping idols. Let me put one illustration of that into the whole context of worship. I overheard someone, some time ago now, coming out of a church service and saying to someone who was standing nearby, “Well, I didn’t get a thing out of that worship. Didn’t do anything for me!” And I heard the voice of a kindly and wise pastor saying, “I always thought that what mattered about worship was what God got out of it, not you and me.”And when we begin to have the test of worship what I get out of it, beloved, we are in the world of idol worship, and the idol is ourselves.

O for a passion for the glory of God!

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God! (Rev. 19:10)” (sermon)

A Means to an End

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

—C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

Music is a wonderful tool. But it makes a terrible god.

Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters Jul 7, 2017

Musical Idolatry

How perplexing to think of the burden we have placed on music, this fleeting human construct! . . . The church desperately needs an artistic reformation that accomplishes two things at once: first, it takes music out of the limelight and puts Christ and his Word back into prominence; and second, it strives creatively for a synthesis of new, old and crosscultural styles.

—Harold Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, 75

Worship in Romans (12)

1:25: They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator . . . for this reason God handed them over . . .

1:28: As they did not see fit to take cognizance of God, God handed them over . . .

These verses show that the prior, non-moral but religious or theological, fall consisted in a rejection of the knowledge of God, an idolatrous turning from the Creator to the creature. This is what the main passage, 1:18-23, says; and this (in Paul’s view) is the fall, not the consequence of it. Man was surrounded by the handiwork of God, his infinitely beneficent Creator, who established him as lord over all his surroundings. But having tasted dominion he sought to be free even of God, and to extend his lordship upwards as well as outwards. He thus refused to glorify God as his Lord, and to give thanks to Him as the giver of all good things. This inordinate pride, the perversion of a lordship that God himself had created for man, was accompanied by the loss of man’s knowledge of God, and idolatry; that is, man’s subordination to the creatures he should have ruled.

—C. K. Barrett, From First Adam to Last: A Study in Pauline Theology, 19

A Place for Music, and Music in Its Place

I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music, or certain level of excellence in music. How many times have you heard someone say, for example, “I just can’t worship in that church.”? Or “I just don’t feel like I’m connecting with God there.”

Of course there can be a lot going on there, but I think that many times if you press in on statements like that, what you find behind it all is not very far removed from “I don’t like the music there.” People don’t put it that starkly, mainly because if you do it sounds silly. But I think that’s a lot of what people mean when they say, “I can’t worship there.”

I am really afraid that we’ve managed to create a generation of anemic Christians who are spiritually dependent on excellent music. Their sense of spiritual well-being is based on feeling“close to God,” their feeling close to God is based on their “ability to worship,” and being able to worship depends on big crowds singing great music.

I’m being facetious with the title of this article and the call for a moratorium on music, of course. The Bible tells us to sing. God gave us music precisely because it affects our hearts and emotion, and that is a good thing. But every good thing can be and will be misused by sinful humans. My sense is that “excellent music” has become something of an idol.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that it would do every Christian well to do some honest heart-searching about what makes them feel “close to God.” Can you feel close to God just by reading or saying the words, “In Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”? Would you be able to function in a church that’s great in every way except the music? If not, you probably need to give some thought to whether your spiritual life is dependent on something it should not be dependent on.

—Greg Gilbert, “Against Music” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/against-music