Music Standards, Part 3

Part 1: How music communicates a moral or immoral message

Part 2: The importance of rejecting wrong music

Part 3: Rejoice in the Lord ye righteous!

Music flows from the heart - what kind of heart? I was excited to discover why I had been hindered from getting these posts posted for so long: the opportunity to experience and comment on the singing of the house churches in China! After hearing a couple years ago about the supernatural explosion of God’s light, life, and love in China and the fervency of their worship, I had always wondered what kind of singing and music resulted from the influence of the Holy Spirit with very little interference from western culture. When our family watched a documentary about Christianity in China, it showed a lot of their house Church worship and singing. I was nothing short of astounded. It was just what Christian singing should be. It was beautiful! They sang with all their hearts. They sang with all their emotion. They sang with all their might! They clapped their hands (Ps. 47:1) – always on the down-beat and not on the back-beat by the way – all in perfect order and decency without the slightest hint of any chaotic, rebellious or sensual feeling. There was no syncopation and no sensual body movement. It was the new song of a transformed life; not only of transformed actions, but of transformed character. God had indeed heard their cry, brought them out of a horrible pit, set their feet on a rock, and put a new song in their mouths, “even praise unto God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:1-3

I was even more amazed when the final episode of the documentary detailed the story of how God had given them the “Canaan Hymns“. There was indeed no western influence, yet their sound was unmistakably hymn-like! Rather than gathering together to be pumped up with an emotional high, their singing was more like a bubbling spring of pure water that overflowed from their dynamic and continuing relationship with their Redeemer.

Once in the documentary there was a short clip of a (more modern-looking) worship service where the people were singing with music that accented the off-beat. I also noticed that the singing in a village that did not experience persecution had less fervency and more of an entertainment atmosphere. This is a sign of vulnerability. I offer an urgent warning to my brothers and sisters in China: you will face an attack from Satan to infect and corrupt your music with “new techniques”. It always starts very slight, and will be hard to reject, but it never stays still. It always gets more and more augmented and overt. Remember, there is no relationship between entertainment and praise to God, and when God’s people fail to strive for holiness “in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15-16), the first thing to go will be the music.

In the early 1970s two sisters brought the new Christian music, which was the “in thing” in America, to Kalimantan in Karat, Indonesia where their parents were missionaries. One evening an older, converted national who had left the heathen practices of calling on evil spirits, heard the “Christian music” they were listening to. He came to the door and immediately asked, “Why are you playing the witch doctors’ music and calling on Satan?” So even though the rhythms of rebellion (“rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” – 1 Sam. 15:23) had moved from demon worship in Africa to the jazz and blues of New Orleans to rock ‘n’ roll and on to “Christian rock” – they were still easily identified by the tribal people of Indonesia. So the evil one gives his sounds to his people in unrelated cultures around the world and they are independently alike. And the Holy Spirit gives His sounds to His people in unrelated cultures around the world, and they are independently alike. So why would we want to be “mingled among the heathen and learn their works”? Psalm 106:35-37

So let us be zealous for the holiness of God’s house (John 2:13-17 and Neh. 13). Let us walk in the Spirit. Let us abide in Christ so that the music that flows from our lips is beautiful in His sight: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual [vs. carnal] songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” Eph. 5:15-19

Let us sing forth the honor of His name and make His praise glorious!“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises [or, “virtues” – get that!] of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9. Hallelujah! Let us sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints. Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. …Let the high praises of God be in our mouth, and a two-edged sword in our hand; to execute vengeance… (Psalm 149) “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil… rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.” (Ps. 97:10-12) Not only in song “on Sunday” but in all of our lives, with music or without, let us praise the Lord with our “whole heart” (Ps. 9:1-2 and 111:1) “from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same” (Ps. 113:3)! “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise [burst out, shout] unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp withe the psaltery.” (Ps. 81:1-2) “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: to show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning and thy faithfulness every night, upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work: I will triumph in the works of Thy hands.” (Ps. 92:1-4) While we live, let us praise the Lord (Ps. 146:2). Let us sing forth the honor of His name and make His praise glorious! (Ps. 66:2)

05-29-09_5657 For those who love music, let us make it our priority to cater to the Spirit rather than the flesh, encouraging propriety of conduct as God has directed, for “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

If you are looking for music, here is some that immediately stands out in my mind as being true to a high standard:

Recordings by Billy Ray Hearn and Tom Fettke, Linda McKechnie, Tracy Ann Collins, Melinda K. Wickam, and Rudy Atwood

On the radio you might be able to find In Balance Music.

…And the best music you could have is what you sing yourself, all day long. Get to know the melodies and get a good hymnal to learn the words. Or memorize and sing or quote the Psalms! Don’t worry about how you sound to people; after all, everyone is instructed to praise our God (Ps. 148:11-12 and 150:6) and out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God has perfected praise! – Mat. 21:16


  1. Crystal September 16, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    This is the best out of the three articles on music, but the others needed to come first in order to provide a good foundation:-). The Scripture verses were very beautifully arranged and I enjoyed the report of the house church in China. Excellent exhortations.
    Most of the time music is first to go, but *not always*. Sometimes it will be other things.

  2. Jamie Parfitt September 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    This reminds me of a question that has been coming to mind: are songs in the hymnal that have choruses properly called hymns? Are they just songs? I sometimes find myself singing only the chorus and missing the meat of the message. Do you have definitions of songs, of hymns, and of spiritual songs? I’m very glad you are publishing this series.

  3. Donald September 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    It is amazing that worship of self could ever be made to substitute for the worship of our risen Lord. But as you experienced in hearing the Canaan Hymns, one taste of worshipping God in spirit and in truth helps us realize what a difference there is. I was encouraged by all three posts and trust all of us will sing more often.

  4. Daniel Staddon September 18, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    Amen! Thank you so much for putting these together, Michael! Isn’t it fascinating how much splendor, excitement, creativity, and beauty is available within God’s design for music? When you hear truly good music, everything “less than best” seems so disgusting and worthless. Praise God for this wonderful gift!

  5. Amanda September 21, 2009 at 6:46 am #

    That’s a great reminder of how careful we need to be in choosing the music we listen to!! And I thought it was very interesting that the music of the less-persecuted area of China seemed to be more entertainment-based. That’s a sad but true commentary on human nature: when we aren’t in desperate trouble, we tend to forget that we need God so much and we relax into more worldly habits. Romans 6:1-2 gives a good reminder to keep striving for holiness, even though we’ve been given grace!

  6. Michael September 21, 2009 at 7:16 am #

    O yes, can’t forget for another good CD 🙂

  7. Bill Bartmann October 9, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Your site was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

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