A.W. Tozer said, “Christians don’t tell lies, they just go to church and sing them.”
I heard this quote from someone else, and I haven’t seen (or been able to find) the context. So, I have been left to wonder at the meaning. Maybe he is addressing how poorly written some Christian music is. Perhaps he is addressing how we sing words we don’t really mean.
Either way, he is right.
Distracted from True Lyrics
I love it when I am able to truly focus the attention of my mind and heart on the Lord in worship. But, I sometimes find that I will become absent-minded while thinking about the inaccuracy of the words the lyricist penned.
There isn’t a problem with evaluating the words you sing. We are supposed to be discerning of what we allow to influence our souls. Our inclination should be to reject falsehoods and cling devotedly to the truth.
Missing the Purpose of the Music
The problem is that when I am unable to sing the words of a song together with my fellow saints, I am missing the point of the time of worship. Andrew Smith said, “Music in worship has three purposes: to codify the truth, to unify the church through the ages, and to glorify God.”
As my mind wanders, I miss the beautiful opportunity to declare the truth with my brothers and sisters. This brings us back to the original problem: Are we even singing the truth?
Why We’re Missing the Purpose
Most worship songs I know are faithful to the Bible, but some of them are written with laxity and entangled in untenable claims. Why? Because American evangelicalism has developed an apathy toward defending the gospel. We are focused on sentimentalism rather than intellectualism. I’m reminded of a video of Voddie Baucham that I watched a while ago. (Feel free to ignore the irrelevant words at the end of the video.)
Though Augustine said he loves singing (and is inclined to approve of it in the church), he was very cautious that the music would not outweigh the words. He said, “Yet when it happens that I am more moved by the singing than by what is sung, I confess myself to have sinned wickedly, and then I would rather not have heard the singing.”
Now on to potential problem #2.
Rather than dwelling on the words we are singing, we can sometimes let worship become a passive experience. We don’t realize that when we sing “My soul thirsts for you, O God,” our soul may not be thirsting for Him at all.
The testimony of our hearts attests against the words of our mouth. They are at odds with each other.
Should We Sing Anyway?
So, what do we do? Should we stay quiet, or should we sing it anyway? Here are some thoughts that I have been considering:
Be honest with the Lord. Lying lips are one of the 7 things that the Lord hates according to Proverbs 6. There is no gain in being dishonest with Him.
Be honest with yourself. If you truly want your heart’s attitude toward the Lord to change, you cannot convince yourself that you are in a place that you are not. Ask, “Why are these words not true?”
Don’t persist in the wrong mindsets. In the words of Matt Chandler, “It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.” Get to the source of the issue, and renew your mind toward Christ. Fix your eyes on Him. Repent if needed (e.g. if anger toward God is present).
Singing Is a Grace
God graciously gifted us with the ability to sing and delight in it. The Bible contains 50 direct commands to sing (Source: Bob Kauflin, http://bit.ly/2oMJfJS). I would highly recommend the message I linked as the source in the previous sentence.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4