In my last post, I mentioned the First Article (belief in God the Father and the work of creation), the Second Article (belief in Jesus the Son of God and in the work of redemption), and the Third Article (belief in God the Holy Spirit and the work of sanctification). Today I want to apply these three Articles to the way Christians worship, especially to the songs Christians sing.
Many songs of praise honor God the Creator and speak of how all creation sings to him. Some groups of Christians sing nothing but praise songs when they gather to worship God. Songs of praise are entirely appropriate for Christians to sing. The night Jesus was born angels sang a praise song in the sky over Bethlehem. Many of the Psalms are songs of praise. However, limiting worship to songs of praise is not healthy for Christians. Worshiping God with songs of praise, and nothing but songs of praise, is like caring for the body with a diet of sugars and fats, lacking in proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Many of the Psalms speak of the work of redemption. Psalm writers confessed their sins and their need for forgiveness. They spoke of God’s enemies and of the war between God and evil. They looked to God for victory in that war. They thanked God, not merely for the wonders of creation, but for his mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Too many times I have sat through a service in a Christian Church that made little or no mention of the redeeming work of Jesus. The songs might describe him as Redeemer or Savior, but they failed to explain what those labels mean. They omit mention of our sins and our need for a Savior. They omit mention of the fact that we cannot save ourselves, that we desperately need God to save us. When the preaching also omits these themes, merely entertaining the audience or calling Christians to holy living, then the one set of Truths that distinguishes Christians from the rest of the world is missing.
Every hymn and Christian song does not to include all three Articles. During the course of a Christian service, though, all three should be remembered. At least one hymn and one prayer should acknowledge the sinfulness of the people gathered there and should remember the work Jesus accomplished to change us from sinners to saints. Even a song about the cross is not enough unless it is clearly linked to the problem of sin and the answer of the Savior. Likewise, every hymn and every sermon does not need to mention the work of the Holy Spirit, but Christians should know that there is a Holy Spirit. They should know that he is working in the service, using the Word of God to deliver grace and forgiveness to every believer. They ways in which he does this should be mentioned at least once in a while.
Many Christians want their worship to be uplifting. They want to feel good when they leave the service. A string of songs celebrating God and his creation might accomplish that need that they feel, but it leaves their deeper needs unmet. To be gathered in the name of Jesus means more than to say his name every few minutes. The men that fixed my roof last summer spoke his name often, but not as praise or prayer. We acknowledge him as Redeemer and as Savior, which means that we describe what he has done to redeem and to save his people. This message distinguishes us from the rest of the world and marks us as God’s holy people.