Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Purpose of Praise
Music and Songs in the Life of a Believer
If I am a stranger to any of you, my name is Patrick Levis. I came on as the Worship Pastor here at Faith Bible Church three years ago and since then have had the joyous privilege of leading our music ministry here at FBC.
Now, before I launch into this topic of praise, I thought we would laugh about it first. Does everyone know what a meme is? You’ll get the idea, once you see it. Here’s my top five worship-leading meme countdown–ready?
#5 Every Worship Leader Under 30
#4 When the Worship Leader sings the wrong lyrics
#3 Oh so you’re a worship leader, how many Chris Tomlin songs can you play?
#2 When you’re leading worship at 6, but have to fight Darth Vader at 7, and . . .
#1 That moment during worship . . . when the lyrics don’t change
It used to be that you’d buy a record or a tape or a CD, walk it home, put it into the player, and listen to your music. Now we have Bluetooth technology and docking stations to amplify our digital libraries.
This is a Bose Docking Station–one of my favorite electronic devices. I received it as a gift years ago and loved it–until my phone stopped connecting to the dock. There’s a little saddle in the middle of the speakers, and the power port on the bottom of your phone is supposed to sit down onto it. When it connects, lights come on, there’s a little beep, and you know you’re engaged.
Once my phone stopped connecting with the docking station, this thing went from favorite toy to completely worthless. Unless my phone was fully engaged, that docking station had no purpose.
FBC family, tonight I want to draw you into the topic of praise, specifically through music and song, showing you the great purposes that praise has for every believer. Like the phone and docking station, only when you are fully engaged with the Lord and His Word will you realize the purpose that praise has in your life.
Let me make it clear upfront–this message will not be about singing louder, singing better or moving your hands and hips. God is about your heart, and I want to be about the heart as well. However, we’ll see tonight that when you engage your heart to the right things in this activity of praise, it will have an unmistakable outward effect.
“But,” you say, “Patrick–I’m not a musical person! I can’t carry a tune in a bucket! You don’t want me to sing!” I hear ya–I’m not asking you to come serenade me in my home if, when you sing, you sound like a rabbit being attacked by coyotes. You can’t ignore the Bible. It doesn’t allow us to use our personalities to excuse a lack of engagement in something that God has called us to.
Maybe you’re sitting there and thinking, “I love to sing–this is like my favorite thing in the world”–(which includes our whole music ministry.) Don’t tune out on the challenge–every one of us (me included) is guilty, at times, of not embracing the specific purposes of worship through music and song. Praise is not simply enjoying the act of singing–it is an expression that flows from an intentional engagement of your heart with your God.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, praise has purpose in your life. I want to show you some of those purposes and push you to more actively engage in praise. So follow along in your outline as we look at four purposes to engage in praise.
FIRST Engage in Praise for it is Your PURPOSE
This point lays a foundation for the whole message, so go with me as I camp out here for a little bit.
I want to be clear on the terms. Praise (similar to the term worship) does refer to any outward expression of exaltation. I’m isolating our focus to this one area of music and singing, because that’s the message I’ve been tasked with. But before you say, “See–music is only one area of praise. I have other ways that I express praise to God . . . ” Okay, hold that thought and go with me to Psalm 33.
“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright” (Psalm 33:1). That’s the NASB, using the word “becoming”–picture a little girl at the dinner table burping and mom looks over and says, “Sweetheart, that’s not becoming of a young lady.” But the opposite is true of the believer when it comes to praise–it is becoming, it is fitting, it makes sense, it flows naturally for a Christian to praise the Lord in song.
The psalmist doesn’t state that praise is fitting for the musician or the singer, but for the upright, the righteous, the one whose relationship with their Creator is right.
I know some of you can’t sing well. There are people in this room that are crazy godly, but can’t keep a tune. Listen, it’s not about the quality of the sound–it’s the genuine response of the heart. The praise of the people of God in Scripture is a truth-motivated, emotion-filled expression that’s consistent with the reality of a transformed heart.
Listen to Psalm 63. “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You” (Psalm 63:1 to 3).
The people of God have been singing with passion in the midst of major events all throughout redemptive history. They sang in festivals and celebrations. They sang because of births, they sang because of deaths. They even sang as they went to war when Jehoshaphat called on the temple worship leaders, the Kohathites, to stand at the front of the army of Israel, leading the army in a praise song about the victory that God had promised (2 Chronicles 20). How would you like that singing gig?
Go to Psalm 150–this is the “Praise” psalm in the Scripture.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150)
This psalm can be broken into a mini-philosophy of ministry for praise. It starts in verses 1 and 2 with the where, what and why.
“Praise the Lord! [Where?] in His sanctuary… in His mighty expanse [everywhere!]” For what? Verse 2 says, “for His mighty deeds”–all that He has done! And why? Because of “His excellent greatness”–all that He is, His character, His attributes!
And then verses 3 to 6 are the how–HOW do we praise Him? “With trumpet sound . . . with harp and lyre . . . with timbrel and dancing . . . stringed instruments and pipe . . . with loud cymbal . . . resounding cymbals” (and all God’s drummers said?). It’s like the psalmist is a conductor standing in front of an orchestra–“Brass! Strings! Woodwind! Percussion!” And it culminates in a call to every living creature, “Everything that has breath . . . PRAISE the Lord!”
Don’t make singing a side note in your approach to corporate worship. Take a tip from the people of Israel, who used music and song to exalt God in every experience of life. You have been made to praise. So that’s the first point–Engage in Praise, for it is Your Purpose.
SECOND Engage in Praise for the Purpose of Your GROWTH
Songs can sanctify you, music can motivate change, tunes can transform your walk with Christ.
Let’s go to the New Testament now. Turn with me to Colossians 3:16 and 17. “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Here we gain some direction to those outward expressions of praise. The main command in this passage is that opening phrase, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you”–then the “teaching” and “admonishing” and “singing” (interesting) are those things that lead to that most important thing, Christ’s Word dwelling in you.
You may have heard me say this, but this is the passage that shapes my philosophy of song-picking. Because the use of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, [and] singing” are meant to lead to the end of Christ’s Word dwelling in us richly, I want to choose songs that help to fulfill that ultimate goal. So I work with the preacher . . . to “garnish.”
After the 180th time that I’ve sung the song Cornerstone, it gets old. But when we can make a connection between a truth we’re learning in God’s Word and the lyrical content of a song, it impacts us. And not just in that moment, but a song will stick with you.
You won’t walk out of here being able to recite my sermon points, but you’ll probably have one of the praise songs stuck in your head. And if there’s been an intentional connecting of that song with the main application points of the message, then rather than just humming a song, you’re triggering your thoughts back to those truths, and hopefully then, applying them to your life. But that requires some participation on your part.
As a praise leader, I’ll pick those songs, I’ll even point to some of those connections–but every one of us has to engage our hearts. It’s not so that you enjoy our music more, it’s for your growth. That’s what Paul is saying earlier in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
Songs have been serving you in your knowledge of truth for years. Check this out–I’ll start the song, you finish the phrase with me. “Rejoice in the Lord always . . . ?” (Philippians 4). “The rains came down and the . . . ?” (Matthew 7).
My daughter, thanks to Jean Mueller, has memorized all the books of the New Testament. You know how she did it? “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Acts and the Book of Romans, 1and 2 Corinthians . . . “–it’s melody and beat. Any parents here excited about the power of songs in our kids’ lives?
How about this one–“Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness . . . ” (Lamentations 3). That one ever ministered to your soul? Songs make stuff stick. And we need God’s Word to go with us into every day, every moment, every joy, every trial, every task.
Are you utilizing the helpful tool of singing to engage your heart with God and His truth, so that you would grow? Engage in praise–it’s your purpose, and it’s one of the most unique tools that can be used for our growth in Christ.
THIRD Engage in Praise for the Purpose of the CHURCH
Your fellow FBCers need your active engagement in praise–particularly when we gather right here in this room.
Turn with me to Ephesians 5:15 to 21. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Incredible passage, too many things to say about it. For tonight, focus your attention on the musically-oriented actions that are flowing out of people who are filled with the Spirit.
One You see that these actions with music and song are a corporate activity. “Speaking to one another” through songs is not possible alone.
Two There’s a communication going on between us through the singing of songs. Yes, the main audience of our singing is God, but the Scripture here supports a singing as well to and for one another. Here’s the idea–as we each revel in the majesty of our God and lift our voices together, we express to one another our unified convictions about God, His Truth, His Gospel. It’s a way that we serve one another in corporate worship. (For example, singing “I believe in God our Father, I believe in Christ the Son . . . ”)
Three Paul says that in this communication through song to one another, it’s deeper than just the sound of our voice, he says that you’re “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23 to 25).
Our church embraces this very well. We take the need to encourage and stimulate one another very seriously. But I wonder if you’ve considered how singing together accomplishes those goals (what we just read in Ephesians 5)?
Three years ago, I sat down and attended service in this room on a Sunday morning, and I remember looking side-to-side while Chris preached. I told Chris recently that ever since that first Sunday, one of my personal goals is to see our church engage with that same level of intensity in praising God through song. The key is to connect it one to the other.
There’s an incredible scene of praise in Isaiah 6. The six-winged seraphim hover around the throne and they are shouting, crying to one another–“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!” And this cacophony of thunderous shouts is taking place in Heaven all the time and will continue forever!
There was a gentleman who attended my church years ago who had cerebral palsy, and had very little control over his voice, but he loved to sing. You want to talk about not being able to carry a tune? You’d hear the congregation start up a song, and booming over the top of everyone else, you’d hear “OOOOHH!” (like a fog horn). He was one of the most powerful examples of a love for the Lord, and an expression (though marred by his disability) that was so genuinely worship. I think there might be a few timid singers in this room who need to set aside a pride about their lack of singing skill and just go for it.
Engage in Praise for it is Your PURPOSE
Engage in Praise for the Purpose of Your GROWTH
Engage in Praise for the Purpose of the CHURCH, and . . .
FOURTH Engage in Praise for the Purpose of the LOST
Not everyone in this room on Sunday mornings is a believer in Jesus.
Chances are, not everyone in this room right now is a believer in Jesus. So, to you who have been redeemed–what is it that you would want an unbeliever to see when they look at your engagement in corporate worship?
At the end of Luke 18, Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus, giving him sight. And Luke 18:43 says that he was “praising the Lord”, and then it says, “when the people saw him, they gave praise to God.”
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas had their clothes ripped from them, they were beaten with rods, thrown in prison, and here’s the scene in Acts 16:25. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake.”
There is an element of witness in your singing, Christians. It’s not the primary, and it’s not really something you have to put any extra thought to, just engage in praise. Make the visitor look at you and say, “These people are serious about God’s glory–this must be a good God!”
Now when I start talking about evangelism in church service, I’m not saying we build our services based on our culture. I’m not saying we make our worship experience comfortable to unbelievers. I’m saying we have an incredible opportunity for the Gospel when we gather. And what the unbeliever needs to see when they join us is the Word preached boldly, the Gospel presented clearly, and a people who are radically in love with Christ.
Think about the effect that you have on a visitor who arrives here for the first time, slides into your row during the singing time and sees you singing like this–“Bless the Lord oh my soul, oh my soul . . . ” I’m not on a campaign to have everyone in this room love music as much as I do–I’m interested in all of us engaging our hearts to a point of passion and truth-fueled emotion about God and His Word.
I understand that there are some who are more expressive or emotional than others, but even the most stoic of people have been built by God with emotions and have the ability to express excitement over something they truly love. If you jump for joy and cheer like a crazy person when your favorite sports team wins, but barely make a sound or movement when you’re praising the God who laid down His life to ransom you from the clutches of Hell, there’s an inconsistency there.
If you’re filled with awe and wonder and sing at the top of your lungs when your favorite band plays your favorite song in concert, but care more for checking your text messages than engaging in corporate worship at church, something’s off in your view of God.
Engage in Praise for it is Your PURPOSE
Engage in Praise for the Purpose of Your GROWTH
Engage in Praise for the Purpose of the CHURCH
Engage in Praise for the Purpose of the LOST