John 17:6a | The Unexpected Worship Leader | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 17:6a–17:6a
Please open your Bibles with me to John 17. Our text for the morning is John 17:6a, which means we’ll be doing half of a verse this morning. You start studying on Monday, and you realize I’ve got a full sermon and I’m not even close to the end of the section. But I think we’ll be encouraged by the truth in this half of a verse this morning.
John 17, verse 6. Let me just read the portion of Scripture that we will be looking at today. John 17:6 reads as follows: Jesus, speaking to the Father in prayer, says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”
I’ve entitled this message “The Unexpected Worship Leader.” The unexpected worship leader.
Singing is not just something that we love to do, something that sounds beautiful. Singing is also done for the purpose of teaching. Many of you learned your ABC’s by singing a song, did you not? Yes. [singing] A, B, C, D… You know the song. By the way, it’s the same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. That’s for free. I just found that out a few months ago, so…total mindblower there. But we learn through song, oftentimes.
Jesus, according to the Gospel of John, came to make God known to us. John 1:18 actually says that the God whom we can’t see has been made known by Jesus, the one who we can see. Jesus makes himself known to his own people in a number of ways. Sometimes Jesus makes himself known, or makes the Father known to us, by simply teaching us through words. Teaches us about the Father. We’ve seen that in a number of places in the Gospel of John.
Sometimes Jesus teaches us about the Father by just calling us to look at his life. What Jesus does is what the Father would do because Jesus is one in essence with the Father. When you see Jesus and hear him respond to critics, when you hear him respond to those who are in sin, when you see Jesus interact, it’s God interacting. So Jesus teaches us the Father not just by telling us the Father’s words; Jesus also teaches us about God the Father by showing us what the Father is like.
But there’s a third way that Jesus teaches us about the Father, and that’s through song. And you might be thinking, what in the world does music have to do with John 17:6a? I’m glad you asked. This morning I want to show you from all over the Bible that Jesus is the ultimate worship leader. Jesus actually goes before the Father and leads the people whom the Father has given him, his brethren, in worship before the throne of God.
Jesus is certainly the recipient of our praise, but he’s more than that. He’s also the one that leads our praise back to the Father. I’m gonna show you that that was prophesied in the Old Testament, it was actuated in the life of Jesus—I’ll show you that—and then I’ll show you that he continues that ministry even today in what we do here this morning.
We’re gonna do a lot of flipping through your Bibles. So are you ready, class? Yes? Okay. We’re ready. Good.
So the Bible portrays Christ as the one who makes God known to his people and leads them in praise. See, when you study John 17:6, the first part of John 17:6, you know that Jesus made the Father known to his disciples. But the Bible over and over again talks about how Jesus does that, and I want to show you the song ministry of Jesus.
So we’re gonna look at a chronological study of Jesus as the worship leader. A chronological study of Jesus as the worship leader, and we’ll go through three stages.
1. Christ as Worship Leader Promised
The first is this: Christ as the worship leader promised. Christ as the worship leader promised. Turn if you will to Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is that famous Messianic psalm that Jesus actually quotes a portion of on the cross. All throughout Christian history, we’ve known Psalm 22 to be ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, yet it was written a thousand years or so before Christ would die. So you go through Psalm 22, and you realize this is talking about Christ a thousand years before he would even come to the earth and live and die.
Verse 1—you can already tell this is going to have Messianic implications—verse 1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Who said that on the cross? Jesus did. Jesus did. Look at verse 14:
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet--I can count all my bones-- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! (Psalm 22:14-21)
Now notice verse 22. The servant of God back in Psalm 22 makes a promise to Yahweh: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
Catch what this is. This is the servant of God, the chosen one of God, a thousand years before he would come to the earth and live and die, promise that he would make Yahweh known. He would make God known to his brothers. What did Jesus do when he came to earth? Made God known to his new brothers. This is a promise made in the Trinity a thousand years before Jesus would come.
And by the way, notice that he doesn’t just say that he’ll make known God, but he’ll praise; he’ll lead them in praise. See, verse 22, if you look down, this is in Hebrew called a parallelism. It’s the same thing said two different times. Same thing said two times. “I will tell of your name” is the same as later in the verse, “I will praise you.” Those go together. “I will tell of your name to my brothers.” “To my brothers” is the same as “in the midst of the congregation.”
So, “I will tell of your name to my brothers;” and then he says, “in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” He’s saying the same thing twice. He’s talking about whom he will do it among and to, and what exactly he’ll do. He’s making him known, and by making him known he’s praising him. Those go hand in hand.
Gerald Wilson, a commentator on the Psalms, says this: “To declare the name of the Lord is equivalent to praising the Lord.” To declare the name of the Lord is equivalent to praising the Lord. So the servant of God here in Psalm 22 is saying, I will make you known, and in that same act I will be praising you. Jesus—I’ve manifested your name to my brethren, and he does that by praising him.
I’ll give you an illustration. We were in an airport recently, and I saw someone who I am—or was, as a youngster—in awe of. And I’m not a big fan of bothering celebrities when you see them, but I really wanted to go and bother this celebrity and introduce myself and my family to him.
I didn’t. But if I would have, I would have gone up to this celebrity and introduced my wife to him, I would have said, Michelle, this is Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice has multiple Super Bowl rings, the greatest receiver to every play in the National Football League, and I would have gone on and on about Jerry Rice. What I would have been doing in that moment was introducing my wife to Jerry Rice. But that wouldn’t have been the only thing I would have been doing in that moment. I would also be in the same exact moment praising Jerry Rice. So I’m making him known and praising him at the same time.
That’s the idea here. One of Jesus’ ministries was to make God known in praise, at the same time as praising him. This is what the Father is like. You see he’s worthy of praise. That’s what the prophecy is about in Psalm 22. He doesn’t just say in Psalm 22, I’ll make you known in the church; I’ll read some things about you; I’ll tell them what you’re like. That’s not the idea here. I will make you known. And the idea is, and they will be fascinated with you, and they will praise you.
This is something that the servant of God promised to Yahweh in Psalm 22. I wonder if Jesus will keep that promise. Well, turn to Matthew 26.
2. Christ as Worship Leader Actuated
The second point for the morning as the chronology continues. Christ is not just the worship leader prophesied; Christ is the worship leader actuated. He actually becomes the worship leader in time and space. It’s not just a prophecy a thousand years before he would come to the earth. He actually does it.
Matthew 26. Now, understand where we are in Matthew at this point. We’ve been studying the Gospel of John, and one of the differences between John and the other synoptic gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—is John tells you the things that are important and he doesn’t necessarily always give the same order. He’s not writing for chronology, largely. He’s writing for you to know Christ and what he taught so that you would believe in him and have life in his name, you would know that he’s the Son of God. The synoptic gospel writers usually stick to the chronology a little closer. They write for different purposes.
But Matthew tells us more about the upper room at this portion of it than John does. John leaves out the fact that the disciples in the upper room sung a hymn. John doesn’t tell us that. We learn a lot in the upper room from John. We actually learn more about the upper room from John, but he leaves this one unique part out. What did we learn from John? He washed the disciples’ feet. That’s unique to his gospel in John 13. We learn that he predicted Peter’s betrayal. That’s not unique. That’s in the other gospels.
We learn a number of things about the upper room from combining all the accounts. One of the things John doesn’t tell us is that Jesus led the disciples in singing, in a hymn. Notice Matthew 26, verse 30. This comes after, evidently, the foot washing as you compare the accounts. This comes after he institutes the Lord’s Supper, taking it from the Passover and turning it into a remembrance of his body and blood. And right before he foretells Peter’s denial, we learn this in Matthew 26:30: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Now remember, there was a prophecy in Psalm 22 that one would lead a congregation of his brethren, the disciples, in praise. See Jesus in Matthew 26 leading his brethren in praise. This is a fulfilment of prophecy.
Now, what would they have been singing? Does it matter? Yes. At this point in the Passover meal, they would have been singing the second part of the Hallel, Psalm 115-118. Do you know what those Psalms are filled with? The character of God and praise. Coincidence? No.
Jesus is leading his new brethren, just like he said he would in Psalm 22, in teaching them the character of God and praising him at the same time. Listen to some lines from the Hallel, Psalm 115:1: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory [there’s praise], for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness [there’s the character of God]!”
Do you see how they can’t be separated? When you teach on the character of God, that is an act of praise. When you proclaim the character of God, that is an act of praise.
Psalm 117. The whole psalm is just a few lines. “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! [Why?] For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!” Do you see that? Character of God, and praise.
Psalm 118:14-15: “The LORD is my strength and my song [there’s his character]; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous [there’s the praise].” The two go hand in hand.
Psalm 118:28-29: “You are my God, and I will give thanks to you [there’s the praise]; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
So see what’s happening here. In that upper room in Jerusalem, the disciples might not have been tying all these things together, connecting all these dots. With the full revealed cannon, we can. It was promised that the servant of God would teach his brethren about God and at the same time be praising his God in the midst of the brethren. We see Jesus doing exactly that in the upper room.
So when Jesus says in John 17:6, I’ve manifested your name to them; I’ve revealed your name to them, he’s not just saying, yeah, I gave them a Bible lesson. It’s more than that. I’ve taught them who you are and am leading them in praise back to you. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Christ came to the earth as a servant of God, and what did he do? He made known the character of God to his brethren, and he led them in song as they praised God for who they understood him to be. He literally led them in song. He literally was their worship leader.
Now is this the end of Jesus’ worship leading? So it was a prophecy, he came to earth, and he did it. Done with my work as the worship leader. No. The Bible actually speaks of him continuing that ministry even before us.
3. Christ as Worship Leader Continued
Turn to John 17, our text. Point number three: Christ is not just the worship leader promised; he’s not just the worship leader actuated; he is the worship leader continued. The worship leader continued.
Now I told you this last week about John 17, the greatest prayer ever revealed. In the first five verses that we looked at last week, Jesus is praying for himself to receive the glory that is due his name. So in the first five verses of John 17, he’s praying for himself.
In verses 6-19, Jesus is uniquely praying for the disciples, the disciples in the first century, the disciples who he went to and called to himself while he was on earth. Those disciples is who he is praying to God about.
And then, in verse 20, Jesus starts praying—two thousand years ago—about us. Notice chapter 17, verse 20: “I do not ask for these only [the disciples; I’m not only praying for these, the disciples], but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” through their message, through their proclamation.
So Jesus is saying, I’m not just praying for my disciples. But as they write this message of the gospel and send it out to the nations, I’m also praying for those who will believe according to their word, the disciples’ word. This is Jesus, the last part of this prayer in John 17, praying for us. So we are the subject, in a sense, of the final part of this prayer.
Now, look over at verse 26. What does Jesus say to the Father? “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known.” Jesus promised. Jesus promised to make known the character and the work of God to his disciples. He promised to make known the character and the work of God to us, disciples today, and he says, I will continue doing that. Jesus is, present day, our worship leader.
Turn to Hebrews 2. Hebrews 2—written after Jesus already ascended to heaven—the Holy Spirit reveals these words to the writer of Hebrews. Hebrews 2:12. Actually we’ll start in verse 10. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies [or sets apart] and those who are sanctified [set apart] all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Hebrews 2:-10-11).
Here’s what he’s saying. God has determined—the God who created all things and holds all things together—God has determined to set apart his son specifically to himself, and God has determined to set apart another group of people for himself as well. That’s us. That’s why Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers, because God has set apart him, and he’s set apart us for the Father.
So that’s what this is saying. Now notice verse 12. “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,”—and this is quoting Jesus now; this is how Jesus views us; this is what Jesus is saying to the Father—“saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise’” (Hebrews 12:12). Where does that come from? Psalm 22.
Here’s what this is saying: God has determined to set apart Christ and his work to bring the Father glory, and God has determined to set apart us for the Father’s glory, and that’s the reason Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers, and he says—Hebrews 12 which quotes Psalm 22 years before, a thousand years before—he says that’s why Jesus makes this promise, I will sing your name; I will praise you; I will make you known in the midst of the congregation, to my brethren.
So the writer of Hebrews wants us to understand this ministry of Jesus. Jesus makes known to us, his brothers, the character of God, the work of God, and he leads us in praise about that exact subject.
There’s more. Turn to Hebrews 8. Hebrews 8. This is the part in Hebrews where the writer is arguing that Jesus is the eternal high priest. He is our access to the Father. Hebrews 8, verse 1: “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2).
Here’s what this is saying: We have an eternal high priest. Jesus is in heaven before the throne, standing in our place, giving us access before the Father, being the high priest for us. You see that word in verse 2? It calls Jesus a minister in the holy places. So Jesus is a minister before the throne of heaven for us.
The Greek word for ministry—leitourgos. Sounds a lot like liturgy. It’s where we get our word liturgy from. Hebrews 8:2 is saying that Jesus is our high priest as our ministry leader, as our liturgy leader, as our service leader, in a sense. Jesus is our worship leader before the throne. That’s what Hebrews 8:2 is saying.
Final passage, probably. Romans 15. You might be thinking at this point, well, don’t we sing to Jesus? Do we just sing to God the Father? Don’t we sing to Jesus? Yes we do. But you’re saying Jesus leads us in song before the Father. Yes I am. We’ll leave it at that.
Romans 15—someone moved Romans in my Bible…here we go. Romans 15:8: Paul says, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.”
So here’s what Paul’s saying: Christ came to be a servant to the circumcised, to the Jews. Christ came to be a servant to the Jews “to show God’s truthfulness in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.” See, Jesus was promised in the prophets. Jesus was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was promised to the Jewish people, and Christ came to serve the Jewish people. That’s what this is saying.
Verse 9: “[A]nd in order [that wasn’t the end of his ministry] that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Now this would have got a lot of Jews scratching their head in the first century. He’s our Savior. And Paul’s saying, yes he is…and the Savior of the world. He’s both.
“[A]nd in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name’” (Romans 15:9). Paul—in making his argument that Christ came for the Jewish people and to bring the Gentiles into relationship with them and before God—Paul, making that argument, goes back and quotes an Old Testament Psalm which was also Messianic, Psalm 18. Psalm 18 is where the servant of God says those exact words. Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles.
So the servant of God, we know to be Christ—I will, in the future, praise you among all the Gentiles. Not just the Jews, but also all the Gentiles. I’ll praise you among them! “[P]raise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” The servant of God promises to sing before the Father the character of God among the Gentiles.
Verse 10: “And again it is said, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’” That’s a reference to the Jewish people. Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people. How are they to rejoice? In what context will the Gentiles rejoice in the Father? Well, the context of Jesus leading them in rejoicing before the Father.
Jesus comes to bring the gospel to the Jewish nation, he comes to bring the gospel to the rest of the world, and he says, we will all be rejoicing as I lead us in praise before the throne to the Father. That’s an unexpected and often misunderstood ministry of Jesus that we rarely think about. Jesus, out before us—out before us, Jew and Gentile—leading our praise to the Father.
And by the way, just a little tidbit. Psalm 18, where it says, “For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name”—that word for sing in the Hebrew is more than just singing. It also brings in the idea of plucking strings. So in a sense, you could say that Jesus is not just singing verbally but also leading in music that song before the Father.
The New Testament writers in Hebrews and here in Romans want this ministry of Jesus to be made known. They want it to be understood.
I got a text Thursday night from Steve Gallo, and they’re scheduled to be back home today, the group to Nicaragua. And I couldn’t help but think about this passage. See, God the Father and God the Son prize that not just people sing praise to them, but that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation sing praise to them.
Maybe the events in Charlottesville in the last couple of weeks have got you thinking that God only wants a certain color of people to sing praise to him. That’s a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus is concerned that people from the nations sing praise to him. People of the nations are important to God.
Steve Gallo sent me this text Thursday night about their ministry in Nicaragua. He said, “Well, I know you already know this, but God is amazing and awesome and all-powerful.” Thanks, Steve. Got it. “We have seen a man fifty-one years old today repent and turn from sin and be converted on the street by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Now let me just pause right there. A lot of times when you go and do street evangelism, door-to-door evangelism, that can oftentimes be the first time the seed is thrown. And the Lord, if he’s going to convert someone, often chooses to do so through a period of time. So the seed is thrown and maybe there’s a relationship developed. Maybe that person comes to church, meets someone who explains the gospel in more detail, answers questions, things like that. It’s not the most common thing in the world to do street evangelism and that exact moment have someone submit their entire life to Christ, especially in a context where Jesus Christ is not honored and his earthly mother Mary is. That is a huge stronghold.
And so for this to happen is huge. And many of you have been praying for this type of thing to happen for weeks now. Coincidence? No. I’m not ashamed of the gospel because it’s the power of God for salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and the Greek. The Greek meaning everybody else who’s non-Jewish at that point in Paul’s writing. To the Jew first, and to the Nicaraguan man who’s fifty-one years old and set in his ways. But apparently the Lord’s gonna interrupt his life.
Steve went on and continued. He said, “Praise God for the new believer in Jesus Christ. It was only God that could take the heart of stone in this man and turn it into flesh. What a story he has shared with us tonight. I am in awe of God’s amazing work in a man’s heart.”
It is the special pleasure of Jesus to lead a congregation of people who don’t all look like each other before the throne of the Father in praise. Jesus takes pleasure in that. Heaven takes pleasure in that. Read Romans 5. Heaven takes pleasure in that.
And today, this Sunday in August, we’ve got a new Nicaraguan brother learning our songs because his heart wants to sing to the Father. This is the ministry of Jesus, to lead people from all over the world to God.
You know why it’s such a great ministry? It’s because normally what you look like and the background you have are causes for division. We’ve seen that. We are seeing that. Jesus is so wonderful because he says, I’m bigger than those divisions. I unite people who you would not think would ever be united. Different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different cultures.
He does it here. Prescott’s got people from all different ages. What does our church have? People of all different ages. We don’t just have a church of ninety-year-olds or a church of twenty-year-olds. God has put a certain group of people in Prescott, a variety of them—maybe not ethnically so much; Lord willing, that would be great—but a variety of people from all different ages and backgrounds, and we’re all here.
We come from different places. We’re different ages. We wouldn’t get each other. We don’t get each other’s interests. But you know what we do get? We get each other’s Lord. We have the same Lord. We have the same faith. We have the same testimony.
It’s how the Lord planned it—people from all over the place, singing to the Father, and Jesus is leading them in song, saying, rejoice, O Gentiles. Rejoice, Prescottonians. Rejoice, those of you from California. Rejoice, those of you who are sixty. Rejoice, those of you who are twelve. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice. The Lord’s brought you together; he’s leading you before the throne of the Father in adoration of him. Jesus is our worship leader.
Now I’ve got some takeaways for us, some pastoral implications. I want to give you four words: think, exalt, teach, and long. Think, exalt, teach, and long.
Before I get into those, when you think of the ministry of Jesus as musically or song leader, praise leader, based on the passages we’ve looked at this morning, what’s important to him? What are the things that are important to Jesus as the music leader? What’s important to him is that we rejoice in the character of God, that we know and rejoice in the character of God. That’s important to him.
We also know that Jesus wants the attributes of God to be known by other people. It’s not just his own personal private song service. He wants God to be known through song to people.
We also know that he wants his attributes to be known to a variety of people, to people from all over the world, to Jew and Gentile. So with those things in the mind of Jesus as he’s leading us in song, maybe we can line our minds up with his as we sing these songs.
So, implication number one: We should think about the attributes of God when we sing. We should think about the attributes of God when we sing. It’s been said that great knowledge leads to great praise of God. That’s how it should be. The deeper you go into knowing God, the higher your praise.
Sometimes people today think you have to go shallow to give great praise. Ah, people can’t understand all those fancy Bible words. And the implication is, don’t go deep, but then the praise could be the same. No, it can’t be. It cannot be. The depth of understanding leads to a fuller praise.
But beware of the opposite idea, that the deeper you go, that’s all the Lord cares about. I know a lot about God, but I’m gonna sit here and sing like this [arms crossed, legs apart, frowning]. Doesn’t make sense to Jesus.
He makes known the Father and explodes in praise. I’ll make you known, and I’ll sing in the congregation. Jesus isn’t without emotion in singing. Look at the Psalms. Jesus is clearly singing with emotion and truth. Think about the attributes of God and sing. So go deep and sing.
Romans 9-11. This is the classic example. Romans 9-11 is about God’s electing love for some and not for others. And a lot of times, we think about God’s electing love and we read those verses, and it ends in debate. You know how Paul ends those verses? Praise. Praise. God’s electing love—that idea—ends in praise.
Let me read you the praise. He’s just taught them that God has a specific love, a saving love, for those whom he’s chosen. And he says this:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
Paul doesn’t look at the subject of election and go, well, I don’t think God should do it that way. I think he’d be better off doing it this way. Paul doesn’t do that. He goes, who can teach him what to do? Who can tell him how to decide what to do with his world and his people? Who’s known the mind of the Lord? From him, through him, and to him are all things! To him be the glory forever! He’s not like us! And we can praise him for that!
So deep understanding of God leads to high praise. The two go hand in hand.
Secondly, don’t just think about the attributes of God in singing; exult in the attributes of the Trinity. Exult—e-x-u-l-t. Praise. Glory in. Rejoice in. Exult in the attributes of the Trinity.
When we sing, we don’t just recite truth. When we sing, we praise because of that truth. I would encourage you to ask God to affect you with the truths that you are singing. Do not sing without emotion.
Now I’m not telling you you have to be like other people in how they express emotion. Some people raise their hands; some people put their head down and tears flow. All I’m saying is, emotion is normal for the person whose heart is impacted by the word of God, whatever that emotion looks like, as long as it’s orderly as 1 Corinthians would have it. But emotion should be a reality in singing. Think about what we’re singing.
Side note: Because we come from so many different places in this church—we’re two and a half years old; we come from so many different places, so many different musical backgrounds, so many different cultural backgrounds—it’s important to note if you’re singing and in your mind criticizing people around you because they express emotion differently from you, you’re missing the whole point. You’re missing it.
That person shouldn’t be raising their hands. That person—oh, it’s probably all emotional and they probably don’t know the truth like I do. Or, why isn’t he raising his hands more? Why isn’t she crying more? What’s with…what’s going on here? The message to both: Stop. Stop. The Lord is the object of our praise, not ourselves. It’s very important.
We have preferences. Preferences are fine, until they become idols. Or, preferences are fine until they become reasons to hit people and to assume that they’re less spiritual than us.
I thought about calling the pastors in Prescott, every church, and saying, let’s each of us build an altar in front of our churches before people come in on Sunday morning. You can tell this is not a true story, but the thought went through my mind. Let’s build an altar in front of our churches, and before people come in, they can take their preferences, slit their throat, and burn them on the altar, and then walk into God’s house. Sorry; it’s one of my buttons. It was pushed.
It’s good for us to walk in to any church gathering whether you’re on vacation, wherever you may be, and remind yourself, I’m not the focus of the morning, nor should I be.
People new to our church—we’ve got many—oftentimes want to know about our style of music or whatever, you know, ask questions along those lines, and they’re good questions. I think the best way to say it is our style of music is deep and emotional. We want our people to think deeply and to respond in joy to the Father. Our style is sound theology and heartfelt praise. There you go. So whatever you want to call that. Sound theology and heartfelt praise.
That’s our desire, that when we sing, we mean it. That when we sing, we know we can’t sing this song to anybody else except God, and he has called us out from the world to be the brothers of Jesus Christ, to sing to him, and we’re just amazed by that. He’s called us to sing a new song that the world doesn’t understand. That’s our style of music. That’s amazing. It’s about him, not about us.
Exult in the attributes of the Trinity. Sing with praise. Sing, glorying in who God is.
Third, teach through song. This is an aspect of music ministry according the New Testament, and the Old Testament, that’s not as well known today. When you sing, you’re not just singing to the Son and to the Father. You’re also singing to each other. They did this in the Old Testament. They would actually have groups of people on different sides of the assembly singing lines back to each other.
When you sing, you’re teaching not only your heart; you’re teaching each other. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms [this is how you do it] and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Part of what we do when we sing is we sing to each other.
That’s why loud singing is good. Because if someone walks in—maybe this has been you at some point; I know it’s been me—someone walks in thinking, I don’t feel that the Lord’s been as faithful to me as I think he should be. I don’t feel the love of God. I know he does, but I’m not getting it.
And then you come into a congregation where people are singing at the top of their lungs about the faithfulness and love of God, and you’re like, pff, well, a lot of people believe it. And you remind yourself of the words that you’re singing. You go, that’s right. That’s right. I believe that. Singing is teaching also. Singing is also teaching.
We sung “He Will Hold Me Fast.” You can sing that song and just pray, Lord, teach my heart to believe that you will hold me fast. Lord, teach my brother and sister sitting next to me—and I know they’re going through difficult things—teach them. Teach their heart right now as we’re singing, he will hold you fast. Lord, teach them that. It’s part of what we do in singing.
Finally, long for the choir to expand. Long for the choir to expand. One of the horrible realities of Charlottesville a couple weeks ago is apparently there are people who do not want the choir to expand. God sent his Son not just to one type of people, but sent his Son to save the world, and evidently the Lord loves brining the world into a song service to the Father. And the Father loves that the Son is doing that work.
One of the reasons heaven is glorious is that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation are united in something greater than their differences. Better said, one of the reasons heaven is so glorious is because people of every tribe, tongue, and nation are united by someone who is greater than their differences—their King, Jesus Christ.
I want to finish by reading Psalm 98:1-2. I think it’s a great way to close. You see in this making the Lord’s name known, praise—you see all these elements.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed [manifested] his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
As we sing to the Father and as we sing to the Son, led by the Son, keeping his character in the forefront of our mind, let’s always be amazed that we’re singing because he called us out and gave us a new song to sing. He is our perfect worship leader. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, we want as our priorities your priorities. We want to know God as we sing to him. We want to glory in God, exult in him, praise him. We want all sorts of people from around the world to sing with us a new song. A new song to the Creator of us all.
Father, keep us from petty, man-centered, prideful, sinful, music wars. What a travesty. Keep us focused on the one we’re singing to, the salvation we’re singing about, the one who’s leading us in song. Father, give us eyes to see what you want us to see from your word. We pray this in your Son’s name. Amen.
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