Why Singing is a Life-Or-Death Matter

by May 1, 2013

We’ve got a lot of smart people in our church. More MD’s and PhD’s and JD’s per capita than any other church I’ve ever been in. Which means there are many people who love to think and read. A lot of people who love good theology.

Smart people tend to like intellect more than emotion. They like to evaluate things and debate things more than they like to feel things and experience things.

That’s why worship music can make them a little nervous. Because music is all about emotion! It’s all about taking the things you believe, and making you feel those truths and experience those truths.

Martin Luther was one of the greatest theologians of the last 2000 years. He loved thinking about theology more than anything else in the world. In fact, when he got married, his wife had to take his bed outside and burn it! He was so busy thinking about theology that he hadn’t bothered to change his sheets in two years. He loved theology!

But still, he said, “After theology I give the highest place and the greatest honor to music.” That surprised me when I first read it. Music? Really, Martin? What about holiness? Prayer? Spiritual disciplines? Compassion and mercy? Evangelism? “No,” he said, “There’s theology and then there’s music.” Knowing what you believe, and experiencing what you believe. As Jonathan Edwards said, “Singing praises to God seems to be given wholly to excite and express religious affections. There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose and with music, except that these things have a tendency to move our affections.” Everything else flows out of that.

Which is why John Piper believes that “Satan hates the songs of God’s people. He does his best to keep a church from being a singing church. And he does his best to keep you from being a singing person.”

Satan knows you won’t fully experience God and enjoy God and obey God until you sing to God. That’s what C.S. Lewis observed: “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

And your enjoyment of God is even greater when you can enjoy him together with other brothers and sisters. Lewis explained: “It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch.”

Have you ever gone sightseeing by yourself? It’s depressing! When you’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, you want to be able to turn to someone and say, “Whoa. Isn’t that incredible?”

It’s exactly the same in our appreciation of God. Which is why Martin Luther confessed: “At home in my own house there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through. We must come with great expectation – for we will experience just what we expect.”

We experience just what we expect. So go to church like you would go to the Grand Canyon, expecting to be awed by God’s glory and grace alongside an awestruck crowd of fellow sightseers.

UPDATE: Here’s a brand new praise song written and recorded by Rocky and DeShannon Higa:

I Praise Your Name