Christian Music; June 6, 2019

2 Timothy 2:11-13 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

It is fascinating that in what was probably his last letter, Paul quoted what appears to be the lyrics of a hymn. I would love to know the tune, but I’ll have to wait for heaven for that! Setting truth to music is an excellent way to help people remember it. There are others, of course, but my wife has written a rather catchy tune that can be sung in either English or Japanese for remembering the books of the New Testament. In Paul’s day there were still many illiterate people, so memory tricks were essential, as well as having literate people in each church to read Scriptures to the congregation. We don’t have the issue of literacy so much today, but it is still true that you can identify the theology of a church by what they sing. It is sadly true that much “Contemporary Christian” music is focused on self rather than on the Lord, but “traditional” hymns aren’t much better. With older hymns, the vocabulary and imagery can seem alien to young people who didn’t grow up in church, and for those who did grow up in church, the words become automatic and are sung without thinking. Music is extremely powerful in many ways, which is why the devil has worked so hard to steal it from believers, but it is the privilege of God’s children to take it back! Virtually any musical style can be used to glorify God, but it’s a harder stretch for some than for others. The important point is to keep the focus on the Lord and our relationship with Him, just as this hymn does. Some praise songs are totally focused on God, which is fine. Some songs, like this one, touch on the interaction we have with Him. Some songs simply encourage believers to look to God for what He has prepared for them. It is when we focus exclusively on “what’s in it for me” that we get into trouble.

One of the happiest memories of my childhood is of our gathering around the piano to sing through the hymnal, which we did fairly frequently. I really can’t imagine life without music, but I don’t listen to recorded music very often. Rather, I delight in the music that wells up from within me. I do enjoy listening to orchestral music, but I don’t want to do it all the time. The Lord has given me translations for many songs over the years, both from English to Japanese and Japanese to English, so everything we use in this church is available in both languages. It saddens me to run into translations by others that fail to preserve the meaning and focus of the original, or fail to match the words smoothly with the music. I don’t always do it perfectly myself, but those songs don’t get sung very often! I am not at all surprised that my wife, and others who have been to heaven and come back, report that everything in heaven – grass, rocks, trees, whatever – is singing to God. I certainly look forward to that myself! I want my life to be a song of praise to my Lord, for He is worthy of nothing less.

Father, thank You indeed for music, and for the privilege of making music to You. May my music indeed be “a sweet, sweet sound in Your ears,” as the song goes. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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