August 2, 2016
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. — Colossians 3:1-4
I’m fairly frequently asked, “But am I truly worshipping God if I can’t say with one hundred percent confidence that the words I’m singing are true of my life in the moment?”
When Christians meet on a Sunday morning, we all come from different places, with different pasts, struggles, experiences, tendencies of heart, and frames of mind. Each of our lives is an obscure abstract of beauty and mess, and we all come into one room to approach an immaculately perfect God who really wants us to be there.
Most of us probably find it easier to sing songs with overarching, creedal statements about the basis of the faith, or songs of the unity that all believers share with one another in Christ … anything that doesn’t demand too much of an introspective eye, because that’s when it gets personal.
It’s the human condition to wrestle with our sin. In fact, it’s the grace of God that we’re even aware of it and have the spiritual ability to wrestle with it. David voices this struggle well: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51) The thought, ‘How much more intimately does God know us?’ can feel both comforting and convicting.
If, when we look at ourselves, we continue to see the flawed, pride-infested persons that we are, our natural response will be to shy away from using certain words or phrases in worship that trip our personal sin detectors.
But if we are to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, we’ve got to shake the notion that it’s anything but the Spirit that’s been granted to us and the truth of God Himself that allows us to commune with Him in the first place. So how do we sing songs ‘truthfully’?
Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians.
This passage is an encouragement for when our hearts and minds grow weary and distracted and wander away from our pursuit of God and His kingdom, which will happen over and over again. It’s an exhortation that even when we try to characterize our lives more by our meager successes or massive failures, Jesus Christ is the single, defining factor in our status before God.
Paul is reminding us of what is, in fact, true – when God looks at us, He sees Christ.
Yes, we need to be honest before God, and that includes the words that come out of our mouths. But we do so understanding that even our best words are formed by human lips; the Spirit is the true intercessor.
Yes, we need to acknowledge our sin before God; that’s how we’re healed and strengthened. But we do so in light of the forgiveness we’ve been shown and of which we sing, not by shrinking into guilt-consciousness that mutes our praises.
We sing to say “thank You.” We sing out of hope – an active and expectant confidence that God hears us and that we can draw near to Him – that is not dependent upon our current emotions toward our sin but on the biblical truth that Jesus has renounced the verdict of our sin. We sing out of desire that the truths portrayed in the lyric will settle more deeply on our hearts and minds.
We sing because these truths make us want to.
We sing because God loves it when we do.