For the next six weeks, Wellspring Church (my home church) is doing a mini-series called “What Do I Do With My ________?” The idea is to cover a different aspect of corporate worship each week and provide tools to help foster a more passionate and God-centered time of worship in song. I’m going to be posting each part of the series here after each Sunday service. The topics will be as follows:
1. What do I do with my Mind?
2. What do I do with my Heart?
3. What do I do with my Voice?
4. What do I do with my Hands?
5. What do I do with my Body?
6. What do I do with my Kids?
This week, we begin with, “What do I do with my mind?”, but before we tackle that question, we need to answer another question: Why start here?
Why not start with the heart or the voice?
Because the Bible teaches that knowledge of the truth will lead us to freedom in Christ. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” This means that knowing the truth is not the ends, but the means.
The means to what?
Freedom from sin.
Freedom from the bondage of our passions.
Freedom to worship God fully and passionately.
Knowing the truth of God leads to freedom in God, and freedom in God means joyful, passionate, eternal worship of God.
Because of this connection between knowledge and freedom, the way that we employ our minds in song will determine the level of freedom that we possess to engage with our hearts, voices, and bodies. In short, we have to start with the mind. Which leads us back to our title question:
Since we don’t have time to exhaust the many possible answers this question, I am going to offer two suggestions to help engage with God in our minds as we sing. And then, we’ll conclude with a word about battling distraction.
1. We engage our minds in corporate worship by thinking rightly about God in our personal worship.
When the song starts at the beginning of the service, you will not “begin” to worship. You were worshiping as you came in, and you are worshiping now. You were created worshiping. We are in a constant state of worship for the whole of our waking lives. So when we come together on Sunday morning, we are simply joining in worship with everyone around us, and the question that is of ultimate importance then is, “Whom do you worship?” Do you worship the God of the Bible, or a god of your own design?
This is what Jesus meant in John 4 when He told the woman at the well that we must worship God in spirit and in Truth. The truth in which we are to worship is the very truth of God, God as He is revealed in Scripture. This means that our personal, subjective experience with God must be shaped by the eternal, objective truth of God. So when we pray, we must pray to God as HE has revealed Himself in Scripture, not the way we perceive Him. And when we read His word, we must seek to learn what He says about Himself, so that we do not run the risk of seeing God as something He is not. When our personal worship is shaped by God’s understanding of Himself, our corporate worship will be filled with the ever increasing power of a multitude of voices giving glory to the True and Living God.
2. We engage our minds in corporate worship by dwelling on the words as we sing them.
This may seem obvious, but it is much more difficult than it appears. We can easily zone out when singing a familiar song, and we can just as easily become a spectator when a song is unfamiliar or difficult to sing. But the reality is that if we do not think about the words being sung, we will not encounter God. The power to engage with God is mainly in the truth of the words, not the quality of the music.
Remember that Romans 10:17 says that faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. This means that if we want to be awakened in our faith, we must hear the words, hear and understand, so that Christ will be made known to us and we will be set free to worship.
Here are a few practical tips for engaging with the words:
a. Read a line before you sing it so that you can focus on the words as you sing, rather than focus on reading the words.
b. Seek to memorize the more common songs so that you can recall them even if the words are not provided.
c. Do not be satisfied to sing words that you don’t understand. Find out what an Ebenezer is, and find out what a Bulwark is. But you should also consider if you truly know what the words “glory” or “mercy” or “grace” mean. The more you understand what you are singing, the richer and more glorious your singing will be.
d. Appropriately respond to the words with a short prayer of thanks, and expression of joy, or a word of repentance.
e. Use worship songs and hymns during your personal and family devotions, allowing the truths of these songs to come to bear on your life throughout the week.
f. Think about the implications the truth of this song should have on your life. What does it mean for God to tune my heart to sing His grace? If Christ is really to be crowned as Lord of all, what do I need to offer up to Him in obedience to His Lordship?
I don’t need to tell you that we are easily distracted. Anything from the coming lunch after service to a flickering fluorescent blub can rip us from a place of true engagement with God. But rarely are we so taken with God that we are distracted from our everyday lives into a deep encounter with Him. I think this is because God is not fleeting. He is not something shiny to distract the eyes. He is constant and unchanging and invisible.
Because of this, there is not a cure-all, three-step method to winning the battle against distraction. Fighting distractions means just that: fighting. In the same way that God is constant His nature, we must be constant in our fight to encounter Him. The battle for our attention and affections takes place in the mind and in the moment. Therefore, we must be vigilant to actively redirect our thoughts back to God the moment we feel distractions arise. We must learn to take every thought captive as Paul says in 2 Corinthians.
Jerry Bridges says that one of our worst problems as Christians is that we listen to ourselves too much, and preach to ourselves too little. We must continue to preach to ourselves the great truths of our Great God as we join together to sing. As we fight this battle, we will never be won over completely, but God will win out against distractions more and more as He renews our minds with the glorious Truth of His being. He is the same today, yesterday and forever, and these fleeting distractions will not win out if we fix our mind on Christ as we join together in song.
Next week we move from the mind to the heart and find out what we need to do to deepen our affections for God as we sing.