by Pierre Smith (Every Nation Somerset West, South Africa)
Have you ever considered what the world could look like if every single church-going, singing believer lived out every word of each song they sing on a Sunday?
Stop for a minute and think about the lyrics of this past week’s worship setlist at your church service or prayer meeting. What would your life look like if you went beyond the face value of the intriguing melody and clever rhyme, and consider each statement or request as an authentic, heartfelt prayer to God?
We will see the church rise up with hearts beating as one—with the heartbeat of Christ for the lost, ready to be filled up and poured out to a broken world as they overcome this world—standing in awe of nothing else but God.
“Hey, those words sound familiar…” Yes they do, because you might have been singing them at your church lately.
In Matthew 15, Jesus put out a strong challenge to us and reminds us of what He said through the prophet Isaiah:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
When I read that, and think about my singing this past Sunday, I can’t help but pause and consider whether the fruit of my lips was connected to my heart.
Jesus teaches us four things about worship in this #QuoteOfTheDay to consider in light of our singing.
1. Do Sing
Honor me with their lips (v.8)
Honoring Jesus with our voices is good. It’s impossible, however, to honor Him with our lips without making a sound (try singing with your mouth closed).
Singing to God in worship is an upward response, of an inward reality, through an outward action. The very next chapter in Isaiah says that God causes such a response in us:
And you will sing;
Your hearts will rejoice
2. Sing what is truly in your heart
their heart is far from me (v.8)
In the Gospel of John we read how Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. A first, second, and third time, He asked the same question, with the same response from Peter.
What Jesus was aiming for was that Peter would connect his words with his heart.
The Bible says Peter was grieved the 3rd time and said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Yes, Jesus did know that, but he wanted Peter to consider his heart before he made the confession of his lips. Confessing his love to Christ would mean that Peter would be “carried where he did not want to go” as Jesus ended the conversation by saying, “Follow Me.”
It’s not merely enough to sing, “Oh we love you.” Our hearts must be convicted of such love, and willing to follow Him—even if it means it takes us places we do not want to go.
3. Our singing can be in vain
in vain do they worship me (v. 9)
Our modern world of music—with endless choices of styles, genres, and new worship albums every week—has brought a stumbling stone to the worshipper, making the singing about ‘me.’
I can compile my playlist for the day based on my current mood, or what’s trending, and miss God completely in the midst of jamming along to the “hallelujahs” and “holys” in my ears.
Psalm 127 says that unless the house is built by and for God, it is built in vain.
When our hearts are set on our own achievements, needs, moods, or experiences, instead of on the attributes of God, it’s in vain. Our hearts are disconnected and the fruit of our lips are empty.
4. Sing biblical truth
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (v. 9)
Disconnected hearts cause disconnected worship that leads to theological error.
We are called to worship not just in Spirit but also in Truth, and this is only possible when we consider what we sing.
A friend of mine told the story of a school youth camp he attended, where a young boy loved the worship experience and eagerly anticipated it, but sang the wrong lyrics to the song. Instead of joining forces with the Darlene Zschech sound-alike worship leader singing “My redeemer lives” he sang what he thought were the lyrics to the song “My demon lives.”
I don’t know if the youth camp resulted in a time of deliverance, but it proves the point that when the worship is heartless, sometimes mindless, and only about the great experience, our doctrine gets jarred.
The doctrine of men is sadly written into hundreds of popular worship songs today. Let us stop to consider the lyrics, and make sure we celebrate Truth.
When we sing what is authentically in our hearts, and make our worship about Him and who He is, we start living the songs we sing! Then our lives can become the song, and our worship will shine His light before all men.
That is missional worship!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Pierre, together his wife Helena, founded and lead the South African worship movement Wholehearted. Currently, they are the senior leaders of our Every Nation Somerset West Church, just outside of Cape Town South Africa, and have one daughter named Alika. Pierre served as the Productions Director for our EN2016 World Conference, and co-wrote the new EN Music video single "We Stand In Awe."