Hey, Calvary Chapel –
I don’t fight the WORSHIP WARS. I am Switzerland in these matters – I am neutral. Yes, I have my preference for a certain style, but no, I have no objections when other styles are used to worship God. I love the song, “Do It Again.” I can barely tolerate “The Old Rugged Cross.” I know – I am pure evil. Maybe singing it 10,000 times while growing up in church has something to do with it! Yet I will not object when it is led by the worship team, and I will heartily worship my God while singing it. I can’t imagine the Father turning to the Son and saying, “O, I hate it when the Church sings that song!” God is worthy to be worshipped even when my preferences aren’t honored.
I recently read an article where the author argued that it is dishonoring to contemporize the traditional hymns of the Church. He made it seem like taking some of the older hymns and adding a chorus to them or singing them with a different timing or tune was like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. The article wasn’t convincing. In my thinking, those who contemporize traditional hymns do not violate any absolute standard of right and wrong, they just cut against the grain of that author’s preferences.
There is only one song that I’ve asked our worship pastor not to sing. I don’t remember the name of the song, but it used the word ‘evolve’ in the context of creation. I don’t want someone in the middle of worship to begin to think that we believe in evolution and consider the opening chapters of Genesis to be merely a mythic account of creation. That was my reaction to the song. I stopped worshipping and began theologizing. There is a time to worship and a time to theologize, yet worship is the time for worship and not theologizing.
At the church I pastor, we sing the song titled “The Reckless Love of God.” I am aware that many take offense at this song. The fervent objection of many is that God’s love isn’t reckless – it isn’t careless and thoughtless. The love of God is measured and sane. (Maybe I’ll fight the WORSHIP WARS a little bit on this one). It’s interesting that the antonym of ‘reckless’ is ‘cautious.’ Is God’s love cautious, or is it BOLD and BRASH and BOUNDLESS? I need to extend to a songwriter the same courtesy I want extended to me as a pastor. The dictionary definition of a word is only of secondary importance in trying to understand its meaning. The primary way to understand the meaning of a word is determined by the one who uses it. Context more than etymology (root meaning) determines the meaning of a word.
We are all aware of contemporary semantic conventions and use them ourselves. I had someone tell me once after I preached, “That sermon was sick.” If I understood him according to the dictionary definition, he was telling me that my sermon was diseased and unhealthy. Yet what he meant was that my sermon blessed him and was life-giving to him. I think he also meant that my sermon was the best sermon ever preached in 2,000 years of New Testament preaching. (At least that’s what I took him to mean!) I didn’t take offense – I let the author, and not the dictionary entry, determine the meaning of the word ‘sick.’ I knew what he meant in context. I need to show a songwriter the same courtesy and not assume that he’s a complete idiot.
The content and context of the song tells me what the author means by the word ‘reckless.’ Jesus won’t allow anything to stand in the way of loving me and bringing me to Himself. Consider these lyrics: “There’s no shadow You won’t light up, Mountain You won’t climb up, Coming after me. There’s no wall You won’t kick down, Lie You won’t tear down, Coming after me.” Let me tell you, that’s the kind of Savior I want! That’s my Jesus! He is relentless in His love. That’s what the author meant by using the word ‘reckless.’ And I want to extend to him the same courtesy I want extended to me as a pastor in the use of words.
And now I come to my main point. I have written all that to say this – there is one lyric that I cannot sing. In the song “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” I cannot sing the line which says, “And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” I know why David wrote and sang it. He had seen the Holy Spirit taken from Saul after he sinned against God. Yet if Saul sinned in black and white, David sinned in living color! Saul’s sin was acting out of fear; David’s sin was adultery and complicity in murder. No wonder David thought that God might remove the Holy Spirit from him. No wonder he prayed, “And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
But why didn’t God take His Spirit from David as He had from Saul even though David sinned more grievously? It’s because David had covenant promises from God that Saul didn’t have. David was a covenant man. He didn’t need to pray for God to take His Spirit away from him. But I don’t think he was aware of all the implications of God’s covenant with him.
Unlike David, I know that Jesus has promised to never leave me or forsake me! What a glorious promise! When I sing that line, it bothers my conscience. I know – that’s weird. But when that song is sung and we come to that line, I just hum – I hum unto the Lord. I am so grateful for the covenant that God has made with us in Christ. I have a Savior for all my sin. I have a Jesus who will not allow me to wallow in the fear of abandonment. Jesus is fully Jesus every day. The Jesus who saved me is the same Jesus who keeps and cleanses me and will be the same Jesus who perfects His glory in me. Jesus will never leave or forsake you! That’s nothing to fight about – that’s something to worship about!
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim