The Balance of Worship

Steve Viars August 9, 2003

- let me begin our time by asking you two questions...
1.  Do you believe you’ve grown in this particular area of your life?
- in other words, are you a more worshipful person?
- are you more pleasing to God in the way you participate in our public worship services at church, and in the way you worship God throughout the week?
- I hope each one of us could answer that question with a “yes”.
2.  Do you believe you have a biblical theology of worship and music?
- if called upon to do so, even if you had to use some notes or references, could you intelligently discuss what God’s Word says about this topic?
- do you have a working knowledge of some of the key Bible passages and principles?

- our purpose this morning is to wrap this package together, and to study one last key passage from God’s Word that really serves as a capstone to the topic of worship and music.
- with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Psalm 150 – page 457 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.
- if you’re visiting with us today, this summer we’ve been doing a series at our church entitled Passionately Pursuing Our God in Worship and Music.
- I believe it’s important for every believer in Jesus Christ to have a thorough understanding of this topic.
- it’s not enough that the musicians have thought of this...
- or that the pastors and deacons have thought of this...
- or one group or another...
- everyone in Christ’s church needs to be able to articulate a position on this matter.

- and even if you’d say, PV, I’m not really there yet...
- I’ve been listening...I’ve got several pieces of the jigsaw puzzle but I don’t have it put together...
- or, we’ve been out of town a lot...
- we just started attending, whatever...
- to help us all have this package together in our hearts and minds, our goal this morning is to make four primary points...
I.  Have the Right Methodology
II.  Have the Right Resources
III.  Have the Right Balance
IV.  Have the Right Conclusion
- I’d like to begin by reading Psalm 150 --- then we’re going to step away from the passage for quite a while, but I promise you that we’ll be back – READ Psalm 150


I.  Have the Right Methodology.


- one of the reasons we’ve spent the time we have in this particular study is because we’ve been trying to model an approach to answering questions we have about everyday life issues.
- how do you use the Scriptures to get the information you need?

- and what I’ve been suggesting to is that one of the big problems in this discussion has to do with methodology---the approach that was taken to arrive at the conclusions...
- let me try to illustrate that pictorially.
- one of the first questions you ought to ask whenever you are wondering about a particular topic is...does the Bible specifically address this anywhere?
- now, this is very important...
- many places in the Bible contain specific Bible principles...
- other places in the Bible contain general Bible principles...
- you’ll always run into trouble if you don’t distinguish between the two...

- for example...please tell me if these two principles are different, and if so, how...
- Ephesians5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church...
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 - Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

- are they different? – yes.
- how?...one is a specific principle about marriage...the other is a general principle that could be applied to marriage, or a lot of other things...

- now, please notice this, both kinds of verses are important, but both have their limitations.
- for example, if I said to you---husbands ought to love cats, and I used Ephesians 5:25 as my reason...would I be using that passage correctly?
- of course not...because Ephesians 5:25 is very specific about what it is addressing – a man’s relationship with his wife....so it is a specific principle that applies to that specific situation.
- now what about this...what if I said, a husband ought to seek to glorify God in the way he treats his wife, and I used I Corinthians 10:31 as my reason, would I be using the passage correctly?...sure, but what is my next question likely to be?
- exactly what do you glorify God in the way you treat your wife?...
- see, that one is a general principle...and it’s not like Eph. 5:25 --- it’s so general that it can be applied to anything, but exactly how it applies in a given situation is open to debate...
- now, what if a wife came home and said, honey, you need to take me out to eat seven days a week because the Bible says you should glorify God in your relationship to me...would she be using the passage correctly?...no...
- point is --- general passages are good because they can apply to many different kinds of situations....they are limited in that you don’t always know the specific application...
- specific passages are good because you know exactly the situation involved, and often exactly what you are supposed to do...but they often can’t be carried over to another topic that is not specifically addressed.

- now, one more question...and this one is especially important...
- if a man wanted to learn how to be a better husband...which kind of passages should he concentrate his time and attention on first?...specific passages about the role of the husband...or general passages that can be loosely applied to husbands?
- the answer is the first category...
- he can benefit from anything in the Scripture, but he ought to concentrate first on the passages that specifically address the topic at hand.

- now, you might say, OK, I’ve got that, but what does that have to do with anything, and especially what does it have to do with music and worship?
- perhaps this diagram will help....
- Specific biblical principles about worship and music.
- General biblical principles that can sometimes be applied to worship and music.
- Your approach to worship and music.

- now, again, what is the difference between the two boxes?
- the answer is...the first category is verses that specifically address music and worship...
- that is the context of the passage...
- methodologically, that’s always where we start.

- friends, I belabored this point to be sure we get it...
- this is one of the main problems with the way this topic is being discussed today...
- this is not the methodology that is often being followed.
- instead of beginning with an exegetical study of the passages in box number one and then branching out...some people are starting from other places...
- like “personal experience”
- [replace personal experience in the first box].
- one book that has become pretty popular begins with the man’s personal pilgrimage from rock music to CCM music to a more conservative view...
- and he makes some good points....but much of what he says is out of balance because he really didn’t start with the Scripture, he started with his own experience and made that his primary source of truth.

- others start with “music theory”...
- I’m not saying there is no place for music theory, but I’m saying when you start there, your position is going to become skewed...
- so the overall point is, if we’re going to get this right, we’ve got to have the right methodology...we start with specific verses about music and worship in contexts that are discussing music and worship.
- [go back to “Specific biblical principles about worship and music” being in box 1].

- now, you might say, PV, what are some of the main principles that fit in that box?
- I’d like to attempt a very brief answer to that question, but then I’d like to suggest that in the future, we all need to be prepared to do that...
A.  Specific biblical principles about worship and music.
1.   Worship should be our ultimate priority.
John 4:23 - ...for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
- if worship is that important to our heavenly Father, it is something He seeks, then it should be important to us as well.
2.  Worship is an action verb.
John 4:23 - But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father...
- we should not view this as something we passively observe, or something for which we have no responsibility
3.  Worship involves reverence and serving.
- the two original words in the Bible translated with our English word “worship” literally mean bowing down in reverence, or serving someone out of love and honor.
- that’s why we’ve used the definition “worship – ascribing to God His worth, or stating and affirming His supreme value.”
- we got that by studying these specific Biblical passages.
4.  Worship is a continual activity from the heart.
- John 4:21 - ...an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
- why?...because...John 4:24 - God is spirit...
- so it’s not about the place or the time or the external circumstances...
- as a NT believer in Christ, you have all you need to worship God at all times...

5.  Worship must be centered on revealed truth.
- John 4:24 - those who worship Him must worship in ...truth.
- we also saw that in the worship passage in the OT, Isaiah 6, where the focus was on the holiness of God.
- when worship went bad in the Bible it is because humans ignored God’s truth like Nadab and Abihu or Uzzah, or when people tried to add their own truth to the equation like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

6.  Worship must involve the whole man.
- John 4:24 - ...those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
- God detests half-hearted worship, and indifferent worship, and many of the worship passages in the Bible speak to that issue...
- our worship should be passionate, and gripping the entire inner man...our hearts, our emotions, our wills, and our desires...
- and of course that is always to be balanced...
- 1 Corinthians 14:15 - I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.

7.  Worship should be centered on the glory of God and the sufficiency of our Savior.
- even OT worship pointed to the cross...and the great joy of forgiveness
- and yes there is a place in our worship for the fear of God, and for conviction of sin, and for confession and repentance, but the emphasis should be on the joy that comes because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the forgiveness available through Him, and the change that results.

8.  Worship should be understandable to people in today’s culture.
- 1 Corinthians 14:9 - So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken?
- we should value intelligibility – in fact, that is one of the major themes of that entire chapter.
- John Frame - It is a good idea, then, for all of us to learn to appreciate music that doesn’t immediately appeal to us.  In that way we serve one another, and we also grow by learning to praise God in new ways.

9.  Worship should include a variety of music.
- Ephesians 5:19 - speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
- God gives us all kinds of music with which to praise Him, new songs, and as we’ll see today, with a variety of instruments.
- John Frame - In Scripture, new acts of God call for “new songs” (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3).  God delivers His people from Egypt, and they sing a new song (Ex. 15).  He gives them water in the wilderness, and they sing (Num. 21:17).  He renews the covenant and commits it to their memory with the song of Deuteronomy 32.  Christ is conceived by the Spirit, and Mary responds with her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55; compare 1:67-79; 2:14, 29-32).  The picture is not one of a static hymnal given by God for all time; rather, it is the dynamic picture of God continually doing wonderful deeds and His people responding to them with shouts of praise.  Just as God’s deliverances elicit new prayers of thanksgiving and new subject matter for preaching, so they elicit new songs.  In this regard, is it even remotely possible that the greatest divine deliverance of all, the redemptive work of Christ, should not evoke new songs?
10.  Worship should appeal to the body and the emotions, but always under the control/direction of a biblically informed mind and heart.
- that is why we read so much in these passages about clapping, and raising ones hands, and shouting, and dancing.
- and I’m not saying that is the standard of spirituality, but anyone who believes that music that appeals to the physical body in some way is sinful is out of balance.
- now, that’s not exhaustive, but those are some of the most important direct passages in God’s Word about worship and music, and principles that flow out of them.

- now, what about the second box?
B.  General biblical principles that can sometimes be applied to worship and music.
- there are many that we could mention here....
1.  Worship and music should be characterized by a balanced understanding of Christian liberty.
- even though passages like Romans 14 and I Cor. 8-10 do not discuss music directly, we have to bring those principles into the discussion since music fits directly under the heading of Christian liberty...that’s why we devoted an entire message to it on July 3rd
2.  Worship and music should always seek to glorify God – I Cor. 10:31
3.  Worship and music should avoid worldliness – I John 2:15-17
4.  Worship and music should strive to approve what is excellent – Phil. 1:10
- now, we could multiply those kinds of principles many times over...but please recognize this...good people are going to differ on the exact application of a general principle.
- the overall point here has been – be sure you have the right methodology...
- don’t start with experience, don’t start with preferences, with theory, or even with general principles...begin with the direct passages in music contexts, even if some of what they say might make us a bit uncomfortable.
- and one of the things you might want to do is to begin a notebook of passages and principles about this topic.
- and you could divide them into the two boxes I’ve mentioned...
- but as you come across something in God’s Word that you think would help round out your understanding, ask yourself, is this a specific principle, or a general principle, and write it down in the appropriate place in your notebook.
- the more comprehensive the better.

- now, let me make this next point more quickly, and then we’ll tie a few things together...


II.  Have the Right Resources.


- it is no secret to anyone who has attended here for any length of time that we are strong advocates of an approach to the Christian life that includes diligent study of the Scriptures and other biblical resources.
- that is one of the reasons we built the ministry resource center...we’re trying to get books and tapes and periodicals in your hands that will enable you and motivate you to dig deeper into God’s Word....that’s why so much time is spent getting things on the Internet...
- many Christians would be greatly helped if they would turn off the TV and read a book.
- and many of these music arguments occurring across our country would be helped if the people involved would learn how to think and discuss things theologically.
A.  Books
- If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage you to get either Milo Thompson’s book or John Frame’s book and study them...they are excellent examples of the methodology I’m talking to you about.
B.  Resource documents
- Philosophy of Music and Worship
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Discussion of Music and Worship Issues
- Sermon Notes and Tapes
- now, let me just pause and ask you this...
- I’m sort of throwing the gauntlet down here...I’m suggesting two basic ideas...
1.  The reason this topic has been such a problem in so many places is because of a lack of a reasoned theological approach to music and worship.
2.  Every person in our church should be seeking to follow such an approach, and developing their views accordingly.
- my question is --- in your heart, do you agree?
- and honestly before the Lord, have you done what we’re speaking about this morning, or do you need to?
- now, let’s turn to the last passage I’d like us to think about in this series...[could read Psalm 150 again].
- it is amazing to me, and I think very instructive, that the Holy Spirit of God saw fit that the entire worship manual of the OT would end like this...
- we could say it this way...


III.  Have the Right Balance.


- it’s not hard to figure out what this Psalm is all about...
A.  The joy of praising God.
- the writer wants us to be caught up with who our God is, and enthralled with the privilege of declaring our love for, and allegiance to Him.
- and by doing so, we are acknowledging that we want to be different than those in our world who do not know God...and different than our former manner of life that was so captivated with idols of the heart...
- we’re saying that we want to give glory to the God of the Bible...the God of heaven and earth...
- the God who is both Holy and just and loving and merciful...
- we want to praise His Son our Savior, and we want our lives to wrapped up in loving and serving Him.
- and we don’t find it simply a dutiful thing...or an obligatory chore...
- it is a privilege and a delight...in fact, if you scan over the last 5 Psalms in the book...you see this same theme over and over...let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
- John MacArthur - If you go to church selfishly to seek a blessing, you have missed the point of worship.  We go to give glory, not to get blessed.  An understanding of that will effect how you critique the church experience.  The issue isn’t, Did I get anything out of it? but, Did I from my heart give glory to God?  Since blessing comes from God in response to worship, if you aren’t blessed, it isn’t usually because of poor music or preaching (though they may occasionally prove to be insurmountable obstacles), but because of a selfish heart that does not give God glory.

- David Jeremiah – We say much about ourselves by our singing.  Music is the barometer of the church’s spiritual life.  When Israel abandoned God, their song became sad.  When they remained faithful to Him, their worship was full of joy.  The singing in churches today reveals the same truth.  Worship is vibrant when the joy of the Lord inhabits the hearts of people.  Music reflects our walk with the Lord.

B.  The place of praising God.
- verse 1 says, praise Him in His sanctuary...
- and...praise Him in His mighty expanse...

- and friend, I just want to ask you this morning...are you developing this kind of a worshipful lifestyle?
- would the people around you say, not that you’re stuffy or pious, but that your love for God and praise of Him comes through in your everyday conversation?

- some people here this morning can read this Psalm and honestly say, this is representative of the kind of heart/life I’m seeking to develop...others ought to hang their heads and say that this is so far away from the condition of their heart on the average day that it is terribly convicting.

- [apply to those who don’t yet know Christ]

C.  The reasons for praising God.

1.  For His mighty deeds

2.  For His excellent greatness.

- one of the sad results of the issue of worship and music becoming a battle in churches is that the attention invariably is taken off the greatness of God and placed on the significance of my preferences.
- my prayer for our church, and I hope our prayer for our church, is that we will be Psalm 150 kind of worshippers...
- we will so in love with God, and so enthralled by His majesty and works, that the exact form of worship really isn’t that big of a deal.

- and friend, that really is the way this Psalm ends...

D.  The ways of praising Him.

- what’s all this business about praising Him with a trumpet, and with a harp or a lyre, with timbrels and dancing, stringed instruments and pipe,
- loud cymbals...resounding cymbals...

- the short version is, grab something and praise God with it...
- and if you say, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this...look at the preceding Psalm [read 149:1-3]

- if you’ve got a horn, blow it...
- if you’ve got a guitar, strum it...
- if you’ve got a drum, beat it...

- but do it because you love God and you want to praise Him with your whole heart...

- we really need to get away from this notion that worship has to be done in a very predictable, regimented, confined box.
- the Bible just won’t allow for such a view...

- John Frame - The texts indicate a wide variety of instruments, similar to our modern harps, trumpets, flutes, percussion, and guitars.  To those who object to the use of guitars and drums in worship, I would comment that the instruments mentioned in the psalm headings look more like modern guitars and percussion than modern pianos and organs.
- John Frame - God’s praise also included, as we have seen, dance and clapping.  Some texts urge us to praise God with a loud noise or “shout” (Ps. 33:3; 98:4; 100:1), or with “resounding cymbals” (Ps. 150:5).  God’s approach is typically accompanied by loud noises (see Ex. 19:16; Isa. 6:4).  From these data, and from the instruments mentioned above, I would conclude that the ancient music was often strongly rhythmic and loud.  I would not be surprised if some of it would sound rather raucous to those accustomed to the subdued and stately music of traditional hymnody.

- and I’ve explained many times that we have no intention of pushing it.
- we’re not looking to be on the edge...if it’s doubtful, we won’t do it...
- but we are, and we should seek a balance in this area as well as all others, driven by a theologically sound approach to this topic.

- now, friends, there’s one more point I’d like to make this morning...


IV.  Have the Right Conclusion.


- at some point, with a discussion like this, you have to end it.
- there’s room for different opinions and we’ve taken a lot of time to study this, and discuss it, etc...
- but tongue in cheek, I’m declaring a moratorium on music and worship discussions...
- I’m kidding in some ways, because obviously I will talk to practically anyone, at anytime, about anything.
- but it would be my view as your pastor that we’ve invested all the necessary time on this subject and its time to move on.
- this has been like a husband and wife remodeling the bathroom [develop]
- [as time allows, explain some of the reasons why it is important to move on, especially outreach, and spending our energy on our core mission].

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video