the weblog of Alan Knox

Singing lies to God

Posted by on Dec 23, 2008 in discipleship, edification, gathering | 27 comments

When we get together with the church in our weekly meeting, someone leads us in singing several songs. Usually, this person changes from week to week.

If I’m scheduled to teach, I usually try to talk about some of the songs that we sang that morning. Why? So that the songs becomes more than an activity, but can actually be useful in building us up and helping us grow toward maturity:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

One morning, we sang the hymn “I Surrender All” together:

All to Jesus I surrender
All to him I freely give
I will ever love and trust him
In his presence daily live

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to thee my blessed savior
I surrender all

As we were talking about the songs that morning, I was thinking about the idea of surrender and yielding our lives to God – about trusting him and him alone – about not leaning on my own understanding. But, one brother’s thoughts were elsewhere. He said that he was troubled by singing that song. I asked him why.

He said, “I don’t like lying to God, even when I’m singing. So, I sang, ‘I want to surrender all…'”

He’s right. We often sing things that are untrue. We often sing lies to God. Oh, we may WANT it to be true of us, but that doesn’t mean that it is true. Like this brother said, I think it is much better to be honest with God – and with ourselves – than to sing lies to God.

Do you think about the songs that you’re singing? Do you learn from one another when you’re singing with a group of believers? Do you allow others to admonish you when you’re singing?

I learned that day. And, I was admonished to think carefully about what I’m singing to God. I don’t want to sing lies to God.


27 Comments

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  1. 12-23-2008

    One of the things I share when I share about our journey into missions is how I grew up singing “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go,” but never meaning it.

  2. 12-23-2008

    I’m half and half on the sentiment expressed here about singing. Yeah, I think its true we should mean what we sing. But I think we also realize that we don’t sing prose. A song out of a hymnal or off a screen is not my personal expression, but something we sing together as God’s people.

    If we don’t mean the lyrics, the answer isn’t to stop singing, its to start meaning. If you feel like you can’t mean them, then its time to start praying that God would help you be able to mean them.

    C. S. Lewis talks about how, when we don’t love someone, we should start acting as if we do, and we will find ourselves beginning to actually love them.

    I think the same may be true of singing. If you don’t mean the words, sing them anyway. And by the end of the song, you may find yourself meaning them.

  3. 12-23-2008

    Oh man. The LORD really convicted me of this a year or so ago. To this day, if I ever run across a song that I can’t sing with 100% honesty and devotion, I simply won’t sing it.

    I feel it is better to address the issue it brings up rather than sing it it vain. I don’t think we truly comprehend the great depths of our worship unto the LORD.

    We had better mean what we say at the foot of His mighty throne.

  4. 12-23-2008

    Good post. It brought to mind something I posted over a year ago. I guess it still applies. What does that say about my spiritual growth?
    http://where-we-live.blogspot.com/2007/10/i-surrender-all.html

  5. 12-23-2008

    Coming together, many times, causes me to open up the secret places. I think it is a natural (spiritually) response it is to be chided by the Holy Spirit through a song when the words don’t match my heart. I would suggest praying instead of singing when that happens. Praise the Lord for honest brothers.

  6. 12-23-2008

    Bryan,

    That’s another good one. Thanks.

    Brent,

    What is more beneficial to the body… singing something that is not true, or being honest with one another and with God?

    Joel,

    God knows our hearts. I wonder what he things when we sing obvious lies?

    Kat,

    Thanks for the link. I’ll read your old post.

    Hal,

    We did pray. I agree that honest brothers and sisters are a huge blessing from God!

    -Alan

  7. 12-23-2008

    Alan, at my old fellowship last year or so I got up in front of everyone after that song was sung.
    The question I posed was “do we really mean what we just sang?”
    I started realizing that no I didn’t mean it. I feel like we just sing with our voices and take for granted what we do without realizing the meaning and consequences.
    I now do as Joel said in his comment. If I don’t mean it 100% I don’t sing. I pray or praise from my heart what the Lord puts there instead of what was picked out by someone.
    Steven

  8. 12-23-2008

    Alan,

    We’re certainly in tune on this one.

    It is specious, to say the least, to draw a distinction between singing and praying. Several well known hymns were written as prayers.

    For most of my ministry years I have counselled congregations not to sing a song if they cannot sing whilst truthfully meaning the words they are addressing to our heavenly Father.

    It seems to me that the C.S.Lewis advice, offered by Brent, begs the question from whence the “love” is generated.

    Is that practiced/acted (the word translated as ‘hypocrite’ in our NT means ‘an actor’) “love” the effort of the natural man, or, the result of the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit, which effects a radical change, with love as one of the fruits?

  9. 12-23-2008

    Aussie John,
    I’ll let Lewis speak for himself. Book 3, Chapter 9 of Mere Christianity.

    “The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

    Moreover, I think its a perfectly good analogy with singing. Don’t feel like you mean the lyrics? Fine. Stand there are don’t sing. Add disobedience to the list of things wrong with your attitude. Add a little pride for your being so ‘honest’ with yourself – far more honest than many of these other hypocrites standing around. And quickly something that was meant to illustrate your brokenness ends up as prideful aloofness.

    Praying, as others have suggested here, is better. But why not go ahead and obey God when he commands us to praise him in the assembly of his people?

    To Joel and Steve, two who say they only sing if they 100% mean it, I would caution against being so sure that you’re even being honest with yourselves. If we we ever to wait for the time we truly did surrender all, we probably would never sing that song.

    Which leads me to another point… We should be singing songs about God rather than ourselves anyway. See? Problem eliminated. You can sing “A Mighty Fortress” or “Famous One” regardless of how you are feeling. Not so much songs with that center on us.

    And finally to Alan’s question: “What is more beneficial to the body… singing something that is not true, or being honest with one another and with God?” Well when you put it like that.. its an easy choice. But I reject the idea that you can’t be honest and also sing songs that don’t exactly describe how you feel that day.

    Telling people in spiritual turmoil that they shouldn’t sing a song like “It Is Well with My Soul” is not only silly on the face of it, but it misunderstands the role of music in the life of the believer and church body. After we sing it, it should be more well with our should than when we started. According to this standard, we’d never get started singing in the first place!

  10. 12-23-2008

    Mr. Hobbs,
    I feel the problem lies with how we conduct “worship services”.
    We are not called to sing praises in the assembly. We are to do as the scriptures say. I am not against hymnals or worship songs per se. But we have missed the mark in what we call worship today.
    God is Spirit and we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Which does not always mean out loud amongst others.
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colssians 3:16
    “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery,but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21
    As I stated I sing what the Lord puts on my heart.
    I do agree with you that we should be singing more songs to God instead of to ourselves. Which brings back the above scriptures. If we are singing in those context then all of our songs would be to God.
    Steven

  11. 12-23-2008

    I want to correct myself. When I said we are not called to sing in the assembly. I meant we aren’t called to have a worship leader. So then the scriptures quoted would cover how we are to conduct ourselves in our times together.
    Steven

  12. 12-23-2008

    Steven,

    I think it better to not sing than to lie to ourselves and to God. I also think its good to talk to others when you realize that you can’t sing something that should be true of yourself, but is not.

    Aussie John,

    “Hypocrisy” is a good concept to bring into this discussion. Whether we are singing, praying, teaching, or just talking – if we’re saying (or singing) one thing, but living something else, then we are being hypocritical.

    Brent,

    After talking with many, many people, I’m convinced that we generally do not actually think about what we sing – whether it is true or not. However, what we sing works its way into what we believe. Asking people about Jesus’ birth reveals this very clearly. People generally believe what they sing about the first Christmas. My wife had a long conversation with a woman who was convinced that the little drummer boy was with Mary and Joseph just after Jesus was born. There are many other examples.

    I said all this to say this: We should think seriously about what we sing or pray or teach or speak.

    By the way, I do not remember God instructing us to sing along with others something that is not true. So, I don’t really see how refusing to sing is being disobedient. Perhaps you could help me with that concept?

    Finally, I do agree with you in one point. God can work through our actions (including our singing) to change us. Thus, it may not be wrong to sing something that is not true – but we should recognize that it is not true and we should admit that it is not true. It is rare that I actually surrender all to Jesus. If singing that song reminds me of this fact, great! If this drives me to yield more to him, great! If instead I choose not to sing but to ponder the lack of surrender in my life, great!

    -Alan

  13. 12-24-2008

    Alan,

    Is it possible to lie to God without lying to yourself!!!

    Gary

  14. 12-24-2008

    Alan,

    I’m sorry my words caused Brent’s prickles to pop up. That wasn’t my intention, nor ever is. I seem to manage to do it occasionaly. Must be old age:)

    There is an element of truth in what C.S.Lewis says, that’s why secular benevolent groups, such as our service clubs, practice his advice. The “love” they practice and learn to “feel” towards people they may have once despised, is a far cry from the love which is the fruit of a heart changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

    As to “praising God in the assembly” apart from the Psalms, I suggest that the hymns and spiritual songs mentioned in Scripture may have been more an individually spontaneous expression of an attitude of the heart and mind of the singer towards God.

    I love singing words addressed to God, but we create a large problem for ourselves when we limit our praise to God to singing.

    I must be rather slow, because it took fifty years of preaching and teaching to realise that God is far more pleased with how the fruit of His indwelling Spirit is revealed in my serving others, in my attitudes towards those I live,work or play with.

    Mind you, I’d like to be a fly on the wall in Brent’s study, in fifty years time. I’ll just have to wait till we meet in heaven.

  15. 12-24-2008

    Alan,

    Joel’s blog at http://blog.graceroots.org/
    has a great comment on the subject at hand. Its title is “Fake It Till You Make It”

  16. 12-24-2008

    Gary,

    Can we lie to God?

    Aussie John,

    I agree. There is much, much more to praising God than singing. I often tell people, if our lives don’t match our songs, then our songs are not songs of praise.

    Thanks for the info about Joel’s post. Here the link: http://blog.graceroots.org/2008/12/fake-it-till-you-make-it-repost.html.

    -Alan

  17. 12-24-2008

    Alan,

    “Can we lie to God”?

    That’s kind of my point. In an attempt to lie to God, aren’t we really just lying to ourselves?

    Of course I’m speaking to the topic of lying in worship. God knows all things. But the heart is deceiptful above all.

  18. 12-24-2008

    Gary,

    Yes, exactly! We’re just lying to ourselves and deceiving ourselves that we are praising God by singing lies about ourselves. The bad thing is, since we don’t think about what we’re singing, we don’t even know that we’re doing it.

    -Alan

  19. 4-19-2011

    RE: C.S. Lewis’s writing quoted above

    I think he is right in what he says in the quote. The reason, though, is not just that Lewis has a handle on how human nature works, that acting loving can lead to feeling loving. It’s because love is not (primarily) a feeling. Love, as portrayed in 1 Cor. 13, is comprised of what we do – being patient, keeping no record of wrongs, not being rude, etc. When we actively work to be patient with others, to be kind to them, to not insist on our own way, and so on, we discover: 1)we can only do so in God’s strength, and 2)we start seeing people with God’s point of view, and begin to love them as He does. Thus, obedience in doing 1 Cor. 13 leads to the Holy Spirit growing the fruit of love in us.

    Not sure how this can apply to singing, though. Maybe it’s a similar process. As you said, we need to seriously think about what we sing/pray/teach/speak.

    Just had a thought – how does this topic apply to reading or reciting Scripture? Psalm 34:1 comes to mind – should we read/say this if we don’t follow it completely? We often memorize verses like this, and quote them to others. Is this different than singing a song, and if so, how?

  20. 4-19-2011

    Debbie,

    You said, “We need to seriously think about what we sing/pray/teach/speak.” Yes, that is definitely the point here. Do you think Psalm 6:3 is an appropriate way to follow Psalm 34:1?

    -Alan

  21. 4-19-2011

    Alan,

    Now sure how you’re thinking of applying Psalm 6:3 to following Psalm 34:1. Explain?

  22. 4-19-2011

    Debbie,

    In Psalm 6:3, the psalmist is talking about his troubles and wondering how long before the Lord acts on his behalf. Do you think this is an example of blessing the Lord all the time, a la Psalm 34:1?

    -Alan

  23. 4-20-2011

    It can be, as it expresses faith.

    I think any time we are honestly communicating with God, it will come around to praise fairly quickly – even if it starts in a totally different attitude – because God is so incredibly worthy of praise. Where I struggle with blessing Him all the time and having His praise continually in my mouth is in daily life. I don’t remember the reference right now, but it’s what James talks about – the same mouth that blesses God yells at my kids, makes unkind observations about others, etc.

    So, is it right for me to quote that verse when I’m not yet that perfect person who can always control her tongue? Is that any different than singing “I surrender all” when I haven’t yet surrendered everything?

  24. 4-21-2011

    Debbie,

    Great comment! I agree. Whether we are expressing what’s in our heart or a desire for the God’s truth to become real in our heart, we can praise God if we seek Him through it all.

    -Alan

  25. 6-8-2012

    I read something years ago “he who sings prays twice”. I love to sing, not only to worship but to use my body properly, singing with your whole voice burns calories and creates endorphins. However, I just left a church that sang the same 30 songs, and they are not being sung properly, I mean singing should be joyful! What is your position on the type of music sung in church? Here in New England, joy and zeal are almost looked upon as a sin. Most of the songs create an almost funereal atmosphere. No comtemporary stuff either. Don’t we need to measure our music so that all generations can happily participate?

  26. 6-10-2012

    Susan,

    When we are filled with the Spirit, we sing from our hearts – whatever is in our hearts. So, it could be joyful and happy, or it could be contemplative and even sad. Unfortunately, Christians are not usually give an option of what or how to sing when they gather together.

    -Alan

  27. 4-14-2013

    I think the following scriptures address this issue pretty well!

    Ecc 5:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
    Ecc 5:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
    Ecc 5:3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
    Ecc 5:4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
    Ecc 5:5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
    Ecc 5:6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

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