God’s people have always witnessed to the truth through their singing. In the Old Testament, the faith of the Israelites could be clearly heard in their songs. Many of the lyrics of their hymnal, the Psalms, showed their awareness of other nations singing, and called them to praise God too.
The congregational worship in their prayer, their praise and their actions was a dynamic witness. As Paul put it to the Church in Colossae, a church should always be “wise in the way we act toward outsiders” so that we can “make the most of every opportunity” (Col.4:5). “Every opportunity” includes every time a congregation stands up to sing.
A Damaging Witness
We must actually believe and live the truths we sing, otherwise what we sing can make us hypocritical, and not only does it not attract non-believers, it turns them off. It’s easy to sing about the Lordship of Christ; far harder to live under it.
In Deuteronomy 31:19, God told Moses something remarkable:
“Write this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them.” Some of Jesus’ most fiercest words were reserved for religious people who “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they worship in vain.” Mark 7:6-7.
Be careful that what you sing does not expose hypocrisy, and if and where it does, repent and ask God’s help to change, and sing the great gospel truths of forgiveness and renewal with all the more feeling in your heart.
Hypocritical living damages our witness and so does half-hearted singing.
Facing a Task Unfinished
The hymns we sing together do not only help us in the mission, they also call us to mission and sustain us on the mission field, whether that is staying where you grew up or thousands of miles away. In his book Radical, David Platt writes, “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. ” The words we sing should include thoughts that stir us to action and challenge us with the call of Christ in our lives.
Our singing is not just a gathering for our own family. The doors are open , there is plenty more room at the table, and there is more than enough food for everyone who is hungry. “God blesses His people with extravagant grace so they might extend His extravagant glory to all people on the earth.” David Platt writes, “Your singing on Sunday will bear witness to the Savior of the world and fuel your witness through the week to the Savior of the world.” And if this chapter has not convinced you to sing the gospel as a part of the way you share the gospel then the words of Frank Houghton’s Hymn surely will:
Facing a task unfinished that drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished rebukes our slothful ease
We who rejoice to know Thee, Renew before the throne
the solemn pledge we owe them
to go and make Thee known
Where other lords beside Thee hold their unhindered sway
Where forces that defiled Thee defy Thee still today
With none to heed their crying for life, and love, and light
Unnumbered souls are dying and pass into the night
We go to all the world
with Kingdom Hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ the Lord
We bear the torch that flaming fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming that Jesus died and rose,
Ours is the same commission the same glad message
Ours fired by the same ambition to Thee we yield our powers
Our Father who sustained them
O Spirit who inspired Savior,
whose Love constrained them to toil with zeal
untired from cowardice defend us from lethargy awake
Forth on Thine errands send us to labor for Thy sake
(Frank Houghton – “Facing a task Unfinished” – 1931)
We are called to Sing as a Witness for His Glory, so why not SING!
Excerpts taken from the book Sing; Chapter 7