Worshipful, Reverent, God-centered, Biblically Based Music Which Is Appropriate for Those Who Have Been Purchased by Christ's Blood
The new song, by its very nature, must be very different from the old song. The world knows nothing of the new song. They know nothing of deliverance from sin and peace with God. They know nothing of a precious Saviour ("unto you, therefore, who believe He is precious"–1 Peter 2:7). To them the cross is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). The only songs they know are self-centered and pleasing to the flesh. Those that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:7-8), neither can their songs.
When I (George Zeller) first came to the Middletown Bible Church in 1969, it was my first exposure to a Bible believing church, and one of the first things I noticed was that the music was different. The pianist was not accomplished. She did the best she could and made her fair share of mistakes. But the people sang from their hearts as if they really meant what they were singing. They were not just going through a religious ritual. They were redeemed and they loved to proclaim it. I had been to many churches where the music was quite polished and professional, but it lacked the sounds coming from souls who knew that they had been set free. The difference was quite evident.
An actor was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. His recitation was fluent and exceptional, with perfect intonation and diction—a flawless performance. A godly pastor was asked to recite the same Psalm. It was done from the heart and the difference was profound. One man knew the Psalm but the other man knew the Shepherd. So also, those who truly know the Shepherd are going to sing much differently than those who know Him not.
How can someone sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs if he is unsaved, unspiritual, having not the Spirit? On the other hand, how can a spiritual believer delight in the "song of fools" (Eccl. 7:5)? The two are incompatible. The new song belongs with a new creature in Christ. The old songs belong to our past life to which we have died ("old things have passed away"). "For ye died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God....Christ who is your LIFE" (Col. 3:3-4).
There is a massive movement in our day to bring the music of fools (CCM) into the house of God, including the jungle pulsing drumbeat and everything else connected with such sensual and fleshly musical styles. Worshipful, spiritual, reverent, God-centered, Biblically based music is becoming more and more rare in the churches. Instead of honoring the Rock of Ages, we have entered the age of Christian rock.
Peter Masters, Pastor of the Metropolitan Temple in London (where Charles Spurgeon used to preach), has shared similar concerns:
A ruling principle in Christian worship for generations was the need to distinguish between sacred and secular, or between sacred and profane, or spiritual and worldly. The 'culture' of the house of God must be joyful, yet at the same time honour the deeply reverent ethos of biblical worship. Until recently, evangelicals believed that the church and the world represented opposing standards and lifestyles and tastes, and so most of the world's popular jollities were treated with great suspicion. Spiritual worship was never to be confused or mixed with, or even tainted by, the debased end of the popular entertainment spectrum, because one belonged to the realm of sacred things, and the other to the realm of secular and profane things. All were convinced that Almighty God would be offended, and realized that lost sinners could not be called out of the world by a church that had adopted its lifestyle and entertainment values.
It was believed by virtually every serious Christian that to employ in worship something that was obviously associated with (or had arisen from) an alternative culture of free sex, godlessness, drugs, and emotional orgies would be worse than inappropriate - it would be sinful.
Christians of the recent past saw that two different worlds and kingdoms stood in stark contrast to one another, the churches being the upholders of God's sovereignty, and holiness. They represented the Holy and the High. They therefore disclaimed the help of a fleshly world and its idiom, relying instead on the power of God, and so they had spiritual power in their worship, not the carnal 'power' of entertainment-emotionalism.
As if to test the convictions of believers, the hippie and worldly Christian movements came into being, and initially, most conservative evangelicals were appalled. Why are they not all still appalled? Quickly, the new trends were picked up by leaders of youth groups, shallow churches, and certain international evangelists who had come to put earthly appeal before the standards of the Lord.
Called Out of the World
The father of the faithful, Abraham, was called to come out of the culture of a pagan world, and live life in an altogether distinctive way for the Lord. The children of Israel in the wilderness were severely judged for wanting to go back to the foodstuffs of Egypt, even though these were not intrinsically sinful, because God had provided something special for them. The Lord was teaching them to be a distinctive people. Under the law of Moses the people were taught in many ways to distinguish between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean, even if it meant the forbidding of things not inherently evil, in order to drill into them the law of distinction and separation. New Testament Christians have traditionally believed (as Paul said) that these 'things were written for our learning'.
Whether we consult the Old or the New Testament, purity and separation are ever to be maintained in worship. There must be a marked distinction between sacred and secular. The New Testament repeatedly commands us to hold ourselves apart from worldly activities which exalt or enshrine sinful acts and lifestyles. This is a tale of two kingdoms. 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,' says John. Wherever this world's culture distinctively serves and represents fleshly living, it is to be rejected by believers. Historic, mainstream evangelicalism has always taken this very seriously. Today, pastors and leaders of inferior spiritual substance are wrecking the worship of these churches, and selling them into a progressive worldliness from which they will probably never recover. This is the tragedy of the hour. What is the point of preaching or contending for sound doctrine, if the church's practice has submitted to the world and become offensive to God? What is the point of correcting the sails if the boat is irreparably holed beneath the water line?
Ministers may continue to preach sound doctrine in the midst of carnal noise - but they will only be serving Satan's purpose by calming and reassuring the faithful, while corruption gains total control. Many churches which have gone down this road in recent years have already become markedly shallow, frothy and indifferent to biblical standards. They have turned their Father's house into a den of entertainers. The writer has many testimonies to this effect, and has seen it in some very large churches in the USA. There, numbers have sometimes increased, but faithfulness and spirituality have plummeted. This is the future for those who defect to the contemporary worship scene. To go this way, therefore, is to be guilty both of great foolishness, and spiritual disobedience. We must stand clear - not on the grounds of taste, but on the grounds of sin.
When it comes to music standards and anything else, may we not allow the world to squeeze us into its ungodly mold (Rom. 12:2). May we delight in singing the song of a soul set free!
The problem with using rock music in the church is twofold: 1) What you win them with, you win them to; 2) What you win them with, you'll have to keep them with.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!