Yesterday, I shared bullet points from the first part of a message I recently gave at the Doxology and Theology Conference and the Christian Musicians Summit. I was seeking to highlight the centrality of Jesus in congregational singing.
My first point was that Jesus is the leader of our songs. Here’s points 2 and 3.
2. Jesus is the content of our songs.
Col. 3:16 says we are to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
That word of Christ is the word about Christ – who he is and what he’s done. In other words, the gospel. If the word of Christ is to dwell in us richly as we sing, that means a significant portion of our lyrics should focus on the person and works of Jesus.
The person of Jesus (Heb. 1:1-4; Col. 1:15-19)
Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of God’s nature. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is fully God, fully man, King of kings, and Lord of lords. There is no one like him and we will never be bored considering him. Jesus is infinitely glorious simply to behold. Like a diamond that refracts a new shaft of light every time it’s moved, in eternity we will never exhaust the facets of Christ’s glory and beauty.
The works of Jesus
All thing were created through him and are being upheld by the power of his word. Jesus took on flesh, obeyed his Father perfectly, absorbed God’s wrath in our place, arose, ascended to his Father, and is coming back to destroy death, mete out justice, and live with his bride forever!
The center of Christ’s works is his death on the cross, where he became sin, endured God’s wrath, and ransomed a people for his Father’s glory. This is the heart of the gospel. (1 Cor. 2:2, Rev. 5:9)
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)
A few implications:
- We need to find, write, and sing more songs that spell out who Jesus is and what he has done. (In Christ Alone, Glorious Day, It is Finished, The Power of the Cross, Glorious)
- Jesus should be bigger in our minds and hearts after we meet to sing his praise.
- We need to help our people move beyond catch phrases and Christianese to think deeply about the glory of Christ.
- We need to incorporate God’s Word into our singing in a way that makes Jesus appear more clearly and more glorious.
3. Jesus is the glory of our songs.
What’s the best thing about leading people to worship God in song?
Here are some possible answers:
- being used by God to bless his people
- a great arrangement that works
- hearing people sing a song you wrote
- the experience of being overwhelmed by God’s presence
These are all good things. But our songs are the best when they glory in Jesus Christ. When they stir our hearts to honor and love him above all else.
This is what’s happening in heaven! Living creatures, elders, angels, all crying out:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:12-13)
No one’s saying, “This is great, but when’s the band coming out? Where’s Chris Tomlin?”
Paul said in Phil. 1:21 his aim was that “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:20-21)
What does that mean to us? Practice your music. Get better at your music. Enjoy your music. But don’t let music be your life. Jesus is better.
Jim Elliott, the 20th century missionary who died at 28, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” What we have in Christ, we cannot lose. Let’s give up the foolish pursuit of trying to find something better in our lights, arrangements, riffs, and
The greatest, most transcendent, most powerful experiences here are just a whisper of what awaits us in the new heavens and the new earth when we Jesus face to face, when we see him as he really is.
We haven’t experienced the glory of seeing Jesus yet, and never will in this life. But one day, if we’ve trusted in the finished work of Christ, we will sit down to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and be with our Savior forever.
So let’s fully enjoy the musical gifts God has given us now, recognizing that the best – seeing Jesus face to face - is still to come.
In the mean time, I pray that Jesus will increasingly be the leader, content, and glory of our songs.
Feel free to download my notes from the Doxology & Theology conference.