In this series on the call of the Christian musician, we're looking at how our call is grounded in the gospel. Who we are and what we do is linked directly to the fact that we have been redeemed by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. In response to God's amazing mercy, Paul says:
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Ro 12:1, ESV).
We typically think of giving our hearts to the Lord in worship, especially as we're singing or playing an instrument. But did you notice Paul's use of the word "bodies?" Theologian John Stott comments:
"Paul is clear that the presentation of our bodies is our spiritual act of worship. It is a significant Christian paradox. No worship is pleasing to God which is purely inward, abstract, and mystical; it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies."
In other words, worship isn't something we simply feel. It's something we do with our bodies in all of life, whether we're eating, drinking, typing, speaking, cooking, roller-blading, or driving. Worship is arms holding the unloved, ears listening to the cries of the hopeless and distressed, and eyes looking for evidences of God's grace in others. This is the worship that flows from an understanding of God's mercy.
The first call of Christian musicians, then, is to present to God as an act of worship, not simply our music, but our very lives.
It's not particularly spiritual or pleasing to God to say to your pastor, "I just don't feel like I'm worshiping without my guitar!" Christian musicians should be the first to acknowledge that God can and should be worshiped in ways other than music.
I once invited a gifted vocalist to sing as part of the worship team for a conference. Shortly before the event, she became ill, and arrived unable to sing a note. A few weeks later, I received this e-mail from her.
"I experienced God in a unique way this year, and I wouldn't trade being sick for the world...I pretty much whispered through worship. Not being able to bring anything musically to the party did not distract or disappoint me at all (by His grace). In fact He allowed me to experience worship from my heart in a richer way! He is so faithful to dig a little deeper, bring it around again, and show me another layer of pride resident in my heart... He can take my voice away and teach me more about how to worship Him."
Her attitude exemplifies the heart of a true worshiper.
How do I know I've been worshiping God? If I've been playing my instrument in front of lots of people on Sunday morning? If I've been singing worship songs? If I feel "caught up" in the music? A more accurate assessment comes from looking at the way I've been investing my free time, my money, and my thoughts. As Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., once said, "Christ's sacrifice didn't just secure our happiness while singing, but our holiness in living."
That doesn't mean it's wrong for me to present my music to God as an act of worship. In fact, I should do that. However, the worship doesn't stop when the music does. It continues as I listen to the message, speak to my friends when the meeting is over, or help tear down the equipment.
We're always worshiping something or someone. We can't help it. The question is WHO will we worship at each moment? Every Christian musician is called, by God's mercy, to see worship as a way of life.
This column was derived from a message that Bob gave at the Sovereign Grace Ministries "A Passion for the Glory of God" worship conference this past August. You can order tapes or CDs from this conference at the Sovereign Grace online store. "The Call of the Christian Musician" audio message: http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/worcon201.html
Bob's outline for "The Call of the Christian Musician" is available for downloading on the Sovereign Grace web site. You can download the outline here: http://www.pdinet.org/teaching/conferences/passion2002.html