"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" The Joy Of Singing INTRODUCTION 1. Another important element of our walk with God is the act of singing praises... a. We spend nearly a third of our assemblies engaged in this activity b. It also has a place in our private devotions to God -- And rightly so, for it has the potential of reaping great spiritual benefits to those who engage in it properly 2. It is clear that those who walked with God in Old Testament times delighted in singing - cf. Ps 146:1-2 3. Christians were taught to respond to the goodness of God in a similar way - Ja 5:13 4. But there are indications in many churches which cause me to wonder if some have lost the joy of singing a. Many Christians sing with virtually no emotion b. Some go one step further, and do not sing at all! c. In contrast, it was common in the past for people to travel some distance to attend a service devoted to praising God in song 5. WHY DO SUCH CONDITIONS EXIST? I suspect it may be a failure to appreciate: a. The true purpose of singing b. How we can get more out of singing [In an effort to assure that we will experience the JOY of singing, let's first examine...] I. THE PURPOSE OF SINGING A. TO PRAISE THE LORD - Ac 16:25 1. This is the most popular concept of the purpose of singing a. Indeed, this is certainly the idea inherent in the word "HYMN" b. Which comes from the Greek word HUMNOS, meaning "a song in praise of" 2. Praising God should be "a natural" for Christians! a. For if David in the Old Testament reacted this way to the blessings God gave him ... - Ps 28:6-7 b. How much more should we! 3. In fact, singing is one of the "spiritual sacrifices" that we are to offer to God - He 13:15 a. As "spiritual priests" we are to offer up "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God" - 1 Pe 2:5 b. If we are not careful, we might be guilty of offering "defiled" service to God as was the case in Malachi's day! - cf. Mal 1:7-8 , 12-13 B. TO TEACH AND ADMONISH ONE ANOTHER - Co 3:16 ; Ep 5:19 1. Our singing is not just directed toward God... a. Certainly, many songs are b. But many of the songs are directed to each other 2. That's because many songs are designed to teach one another a. Teaching and admonishing us to live properly, enjoying the blessings of the Christian life b. It might even be said that "congregational singing" is often "congregational teaching"! c. Thus, singing is a way that we can encourage our brethren and ourselves as well! [When done properly, singing can be a wonderful blessing; but how can we get the most out of singing?] II. GETTING MORE OUT OF OUR SINGING A. WE MUST ENGAGE THE "MIND" AS WE SING... 1. Remember, singing is "teaching and admonishing one another" a. This assumes that we UNDERSTAND what we sing b. We must be careful that our enjoyment of singing is not like the way many people enjoy their popular music (liking the music without necessarily understanding the words) 2. Therefore, give careful attention to the WORDS of the song B. WE MUST ALSO ENGAGE THE "HEART" AS WE SING... 1. When we sing, we must do so... a. "with grace in our hearts" - Co 3:16 b. "making melody in your heart" - Ep 5:19 2. This assumes that we involve our EMOTIONS as we sing! 3. To sing without emotion (without grace in our hearts)... a. Will be evident in our countenances! - Pr 15:13 b. Is hypocritical, and condemned by Jesus! - Mt 15:7-8 [So as we sing, do so with BOTH the emotions of the heart and the understanding of the mind. In a further effort to assure that we experience the "joy of singing", consider some...] III. QUESTIONS TO EVALUATE YOUR SINGING A. DO YOU LIMIT THE SPHERE OF YOUR SINGING? 1. Is your singing limited just to the public assemblies? 2. Or do you utilize opportunities to sing at other times with others, or even alone? 3. Singing, like prayer, ought to be spontaneous, arising whenever the circumstances call for it - cf. Ac 16:25 ; Ps 34:1-3 B. IS THERE LACK OF EMOTION IN YOUR SINGING? 1. Remember, singing is to involve the HEART 2. And not with just "some" heart, but as in all that we do for the Lord, with "all" our hearts! - Mt 22:37 3. When it comes time to praise the Lord, it should not be done "half-heartedly" a. Remember Mt 15:7-9 b. "It is a great sign of mediocrity to praise always moderately." - Vauvenargues 4. Not all may be talented in voice, but all can and should praise the Lord with their "whole being"! - Ps 103:1 C. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SINGING? 1. Again, singing must also involve the MIND 2. Some songs, though sounding beautiful, can be so complicated as to hinder understanding a. E.g., the musical arrangement can be such that one spends more time concentrating on the notes rather than the words b. E.g., the pace of the song can be so fast that we don't absorb the meaning of the words c. E.g., the words used may be unusual and not understood by the average singer 3. Song leaders can perform a valuable service by being careful in the songs they select to lead a. Carefully introducing songs that may be new to the congre- gation b. Taking a moment to explain the meaning of the song or unusual words in it 4. But the ultimate responsibility falls on us who sing, so we should make every effort to understand what we are singing D. DO YOU STRESS MUSICAL HARMONY TO THE DETRIMENT OF NEW TESTAMENT SINGING? 1. Fortunately, God stresses making melody in our hearts over making harmony with our voices 2. In a natural desire to offer beautiful praise, do you discourage those who might not have trained voices but still love to praise God with their whole being? 3. I have occasionally seen some Christians give a criticizing look at others who sang "off key" 4. But the emphasis should be on praising God in heart and mind, and not how it may sound to the human ear! E. DO YOU HINDER YOUR OWN SINGING BY WHERE YOU SIT? 1. Sitting alone or spread out naturally discourages many from singing as they otherwise might 2. People become more involved, are more uplifted, edify others better, when they sit together and close to the song leader 3. One of the first steps to better singing is to sit with others who love to sing! CONCLUSION 1. Have we lost the joy of singing? 2. I believe that if we could see ourselves as song leaders do, we might be constrained to say "yes"! 3. I hope that by reminding ourselves of the purpose of singing and how to get more out of it, we might rekindle this act of worship which can do so much for our walk with God! 4. May David's attitude, a man after God's own heart, describe our own: "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." - Ps 104:33 "Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful." - Ps 147:1 SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING... 1. Which is more important when we sing, how we sound or how we feel? 2. Are we really teaching and admonishing one another in song if we just whisper or mouth the words? 3. Do we sing because we are happy, or are we happy because we sing? 4. Do you sing praises to God by yourself throughout the week? 5. Does your family ever sing spiritual songs together (e.g., while traveling in the car)? 6. Which is more unscriptural, singing with mechanical instruments, or singing without engaging the instrument of the heart?