Helping the Christian Church to understand and use the Psalms.
The Christian God is concerned about the Christian’s heart.
The Christian God is concerned about the Christian’s heart. We are to serve wholeheartedly (Col 3:23, Eph. 6:7). We are to love the LORD with all our heart (Deut. 6:5-6). But, an aspect that I find I don’t often give enough thought to in the moment is to sing with our hearts.
There are several times the Apostle Paul talks about what’s inside (or supposed to be inside) of us when we sing. He says that we are to be … singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (Eph. 5:19). In the parallel passage, Paul commands us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … singing … with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Paul is commanding us to sing and specifying what to sing, but he’s also saying a lot in these verses about the manner in which we are to sing. Singing is done with the lips, but if it’s not also done with the heart, it falls short of what Paul commands.
But, Paul doesn’t stop at the heart. Paul also talks about singing in 1 Cor. 14 (among other early Christian worship practices). He tells us of his own obligations in worship. “What am I to do? … I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15b). Paul will “sing with understanding” (NKJV). God wants our hearts and our minds engaged in singing.
And that’s not easy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the congregation, lips forming every syllable and my mind is on so many other things. I’m thinking anything but about the LORD. I’m thinking about corralling kids, about empty stomachs, full bladders, that ongoing conversation I’ve been having on Facebook since last Friday!
Paul is asking a lot of us, but he’s not asking the impossible. It’s not like he’s telling us that we have to sing the A B C’s wholeheartedly. It’s beneath what Paul asks to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with understanding. What does Paul have in mind that is so worthy of engaging our hearts and minds? Well in the very least, Paul is talking about the Psalms. The Psalms are the inspired word of God. They contain objective truth that we would do well to meditate upon day and night. But, furthermore, the Psalms are also inspired experiential truth. They contain inspired emotion. The Psalmists were inspired in head AND in heart. Paul is telling us to pour our hearts and minds into the Psalms, because they’re deep and wide enough to not leave us shallow.
And the power to do what Paul commands is in Christ Himself. Paul calls the Psalms the “word of Christ” (Col. 3:16). How often do I need to be reminded that I am singing Christ’s words! The Church sings praise in union with Christ. And, if I’m singing with Him, then He is singing with me! When we get this union with Christ in our minds as we sing, it necessarily affects our hearts, too. And that’s what Paul is after. Singing the Psalms is not a performance for God to listen to and appreciate, but instead is one of His means to have our thoughts renewed after the mind of Christ and our emotions shaped by the heart of Christ. Singing praises is transformative, and perhaps a first step toward being transformed is to see it as such.
So, where is your heart? Do you sing merely because you’re supposed to? Do you sing in performance? Do you sing distracted? There are different temptations for all of us, so I urge you to wrestle with Paul’s commands. We must confess to Christ where we have sinned in singing and trust that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And in faith, we must look to Christ. Look at His heart as revealed in the Psalms. Think His thoughts as you lift His words to your lips. And trust in Him to renew your heart and mind (and your lips as well).
It is our conviction that the whole Book of Psalms is, with the rest of the Old and New Testament, the infallible and inerrant Word of God. The Psalms are to be understood as the Word of Christ and all the Psalms speak of Him and those united to Him by faith. The Psalms are meant for use by Christians when they sing, praise, read, hear, memorize, pray, teach, rebuke, correct, train, and preach. It is our hope that this blog will be used by God to exalt Christ, our anointed mediator, that the Christian Church might know better the blessing for all who trust in Him.