Music Ministry and Worship Article by John J. Rieger 9-23-99 re-edited
Through my years in the ministry I have witnessed on numerous occasions the wonderful outpouring of God's love on His people, on individuals who call upon Him in truth and seek Him with the whole heart. I have seen in men and women brokeness and Godly sorrow with repentance as a result of God's Word being delivered, which would later spring forth into great joy and worship, true worship which can only come forth out of grateful heart that has been set free and made right with God.
I also have seen how He chooses to use music, touched by His Spirit, as a means of quickening and softening hearts to receive the Word of the Lord.
What fulfillment there is to have a part in the program of God in reconciling the world unto Himself. I myself, knowing firsthand His great mercy toward me, am speechless before Him whenever I am somehow used in His service.
I would like to share with you some things I believe God has put on my heart. Things that are pertinent to all of us as ministers of the Gospel, and to all that call upon the Name of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
First of all, I want to say that I believe God is a personal God and that He is very much interested in each and every one of us. He cares for the individual. He is not impressed with movements that attract large crowds, or so-called revivals that bring forth no lasting fruit. But He looks on each and every heart. 2 Chronicles 16:9a says, ”For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” That is why when and an individual is blessed and receives from God in any religious setting, that in itself should by no means be proof of the validity of that particular movement. God will have mercy on that person if that individual's heart is truly set on Him, in spite of their surroundings. At the same time, let me say that God will always lead that person into truth and away from the error if there is any.
Now to the subject of music ministry and worship, in the which I myself have been involved with for some time now. I believe that temptation and deception may be at its strongest there, and I wish to discuss why.
In Ezekiel 28 we get an inside view of the fall of Satan. Verse thirteen says, ”Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.” I believe that this verse shows us that Satan was the master of music and along with many Bible commentators, I believe that Satan lead heaven in worship to God. Verse fourteen goes on to says, ”Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” Here we have Satan, God's ”anointed” worship leader, and what a platform! ”The holy mountain of God!” Verse fifteen says, ”Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” How long of a duration it was until his fall we do not know, but it could have been milloins of years according to our measuring of time. Could it be that as he led heaven in the praises of God that he eventually started receiving praise unto himself, believing that he was worthy to receive praise, and that he could be God? So iniquity was found in him.
I believe that the devil brings the temptation to receive some level of praise to every successful music minister. The thought may come, ”Hey, I must be doing something right to get all these people to praise God.” We often hear the word ”anointed” used these days. ”Wow, that worship leader is so anointed.” But the word ”anointed” means ”set apart for holy use”, and God can only entrust His power to those who have a heart after His heart, to those who are willing to do His will and speak His words no matter what the cost, even the cost of their ministry. There are many who speak of David of the Old Testament, and desire the same ”anointing” that he had. But why was he such a special individual in the service of God? Let us look to the scriptures and see, but first, let's look at his predecessor, King Saul.
Saul was a man chosen of God to be anoited king over Israel that he might save them out of the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16-17). The Bible says of Saul in 1 Samuel 10:9-10, ”And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” God changed the heart of Saul and anointed him for service, and used him to deliver Israel from their enemies. But in chapter thirteen we read that after Saul began to reign two full years, a change began to take place.
The people of Israel were distressed because of the huge army of the Philistines that were about to attack them. Saul had gathered the people of Israel to him in Gilgal, but many were frightened and hid themselves, and followed him trembling. It was Saul's first time of real testing to see what was in his heart. He tarried there at Gilgal seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed, for to wait for Samuel. But Samuel didn't arrive when Saul thought he should. We read in 1 Samuel 13:9, ”And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.”
This was Saul's first recorded sin, and it cost him his kingdom. In verse fourteen we read, ”But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” It was in the area of worship that Saul first rebelled against God, the offering up of a sacrifice. He was instructed to wait for Samuel, but instead he acted out of fear and followed his own reasoning instead of God’s Word. Saul acted presumptuously. He became so bent on doing his own thing that God could no longer use him, and ultimately took His Spirit from him. We read in chapter fifteen how Saul rebelled again against the Lord and used worship as an excuse for his rebellion. Read the whole account in 1 Samuel 15. In verses 22-23 we read, ”And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
In chapter sixteen we read how God told Samuel to anoint David (a man after God's own heart) with oil, and how the Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that day forward, but the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. But what made David a man after God's own heart and why was the Spirit of God so heavily upon his life? Why was he so greatly used in the area of song and worship and mighty in fighty the battles of the Lord? Well, we find the answer in a rebuke spoken to a king of Israel, long after David had served his time here on earth. God says in 1 Kings 14:8b, ”yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes.” In chapter 15:5 it says, ”Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”
We often pray ”Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” but do we really mean it or are we just trying to get God to help us build our little kingdoms and to bless our plans and to get Him to conform His will to ours?
David did not try to fit God into his own plans but was a true servant that yeiled his life to God’s purposes and God’s kingdom; God’s main purpose being to bring forth the Messiah into the world. David trusted in God’s mercy and was solely dependent on it looking foward to the ultimate sacrifice of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ. He was obedient to God’s voice and His way of doing things and so he pleased God.
Yes, David sinned, but his heart was always tender toward the Lord and he was always careful to get things right with Him no matter what the cost. David was totally dependent upon God and desired His will above all else. That is why God could bestow such wonderful graces upon his life. A man after God's own heart. A heart that cried, ”Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13).
I am very wary of ministers who just specialize in worship, teaching worship, and worship-leading techniques, holding seminars, etc. There is a great temptation to act independently of God in these types of ministries and I believe they set themselves up for compromise. One may say, ”I am called to lead people into worship and let the evangelist deal with the preaching of the Gospel and with doctrine”, but no where in the scriptures are we just called to specialize in worship, but we are called to preach the Word and make disciples.
Take an example of a minister who is holding a seminar on worship. His heart is already set on it, and he is convinced he is called to do it. There is an auditorium filled with people. He teaches them his principles on how to be a successful worship leader and then later, leads them in a time of jubilant worship and praise. But what if there are some who are not saved, some who are in bondage to sin? What if there is doctrinal error in some of the churches there represented? The scripture says in Proverbs 21:27 ”The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind.” But that minister already has his mind set. He has his agenda. He must sell all his tapes and videos. There is no moving him. Some will say, ”The worship will lead people to Christ.” No. The scripture says the truth will make you free, and faith comes by hearing the word of God, and the Gospel (not worship) is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.
As the coming of our Lord draws near doctrinal impurity and compromise are gaining more and more prevalence in our churches and with the mixture of Romanism and Penticostalism on the rise the stage is being set for a one world church that will deceive many of those who miss the Rapture and; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, ...God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie: that they all might be dammed who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thes.2:10-12) How much more then should the truth be defined in our meetings? How much more should we be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit and be willing to address those issues that will dam the very ones to whom we seek to minister? Read Ezekiel 3:17-21
Again God seeks and anoints ministers who have a heart after His heart, and not ones who love the praises of men. It is much, much easier to lead an auditorium filled with people in a time of happy praise than to say. ”Thus saith the Lord” and risk being despised, and might I add, much more lucrative. And so the set up for compromise and the sin of presumption and acting independently from God.
Let us look for a moment at the account of Balaam in Numbers 22. The king of Moab sent messengers to Balaam to get him to curse God’s people. God spoke to Balaam that night. Verse twelve: ”And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” Balaam obeyed the voice of the Lord and sent the messengers away. But the king of Moab sent more messengers, princes more honorable than the first, with the promise of promoting Balaam unto very great honor and whatsoever he desired, if he would just curse the people of God. Balaam, knowing full well God's mind on the matter, sought to inquire again of the Lord. Balaam said in verse nineteen: ”Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more. ” This was Balaam's fatal mistake that opened himself up for compromise and ultimately cost him his life. See Numbers 31:8; Joshua 13:22; 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11.
God, seeing the iniquity that was already conceived in Balaam's heart, and for riches and honour's sake Balaam was bent on acting independently of Him, let him go. In the book of Acts we read of Peter rebuking Simon the sorcerer, telling him that he was in the bond of iniquity, for he sought to purchase the gift of God with money, and most likely he wanted to use it to make a profit. See Acts 8:9-24. Again, we see how sin controls the person who has an agenda apart from God and whose heart is not perfect toward the Lord by presuming His will.
The temptation to compromise always seems reasonable. Always covered with beautiful religious phrases, and when the heart is bent on doing its own thing, there are plenty of seemingly appropriate Bible verses to make one feel that he or she is in the right place and going in the right direction. Read Proverbs 14:12; 21:2; Jeremiah 17:9-10.
The sin of using the Gospel program for selfish gain is not just found in the Christian music arena, but can be found in all areas of religion.
I think of the Christian who seeks a degree in psychology. First let me say that any wisdom that is found outside God's revelation to man, the Bible, and any knowledge that was first birthed in the hearts of men who had not the Spirit of Christ, and were in opposition to the Gospel, will only war against the truth of God which makes men free, and will ultimately make the cross of Christ of none effect. For the Bible is totally and compeletely sufficient for dealing with the souls of men and it is our only authority and the cross of Christ is the only remedy for the soul and the only way for true peace and happiness. 2 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4-16;3:18-21; 1 Timothy 6:20-21; Jeremiah 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
But say there is a Christian who says to himself, ”Hey, I can counsel people and get paid doing it.” Hence we have the error of Balaam all over again. We are commanded to care one for another as members of the body of Christ and there is no special qualification needed except a knowledge of God’s Word and the love of God for the individual. (Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Peter 4:10). This is God's way, and how He expects His church to operate. I do believe that God will supply all of our needs as we trust Him and put Him first and I obviously do not have a problem with the selling of CD’s which can be used to help meet the huge production cost and ministry needs, ”the workman is worth of his hire”, but it must be according to His riches and glory and when we serve Him without any ulterior motives, He will always show himself faithful.
Now getting back to the sin of acting independently from God. In Isaiah 14 we have more insight on the fall of Satan. I'll start with verse twelve: ”How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations.” Verse thirteen: ”For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. ” Verse fifteen: ”Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. ”
The devil always tries to get God's people to sin the same way he did. To be self-reliant, independent of God, self-willed, to love oneself more that God, to act presumptuously, what David referred to as ”the great transgession”. This is what Eve succumbed to when she yielded to the devil's temptation in the garden of Eden. He told her that if she would disobey God that she and her husband would be as gods. Genesis 3:6 says, ”And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. ”
Again, in Ezekiel 28:15 it says of Satan, ”Thou wast perfect in all thy ways the day that thou wast created till iniquity was found in thee.” What was this iniquity if not the sin of pride and acting independently of God? Again, Satan always tempts others with his own sin. To act independently of God is what he tempted Jesus with at the very beginning of our Lord's ministry. See Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus overcame him by the Word of God. 1 John 2:14b-17 says, ”I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” Now at the very end of Jesus' ministry here on earth He makes this statement found in John 14:30, ”Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.” I believe this was a reference to what we read in Ezekiel 28:15, ”Till iniquity was found in thee.” Iniquity was found in Satan, but the Son of God could boldly say, ”And hath nothing in Me,” showing that the sin of Satan (acting independently of God) could not be found in our Saviour! Hallelujah, praise His Name!
Jesus says in Revelation 3:21, ”To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My thorne even as I overcame, and am sit down with My father in His throne.” Overcome what? Again, it is that same temptation to act independently of God. The self-life, pride, self-exhaltation. He says as He overcome we must also overcome.
In Luke 10:18 Jesus said that He beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven in reponse to the disciples rejoicing over their power in their ministry. I believe He said this not as a confirmation of the disciples' success, but I believe that it was a sharp warning against the temptation of pride that comes to the heart through success and elevation. He said to rejoice not that the spirits are made subject to you, but rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven. In other words, ”Remain humble and realize that you were saved from iniquity.” I witnessed the fall of Satan and how it came about, so take heed. Yours could have been the same fate as Satan and the demons.” Galatians 6:1-3 says, ”Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”
We need a constant acknowledgement of God's mercy in our lives, and a true and Biblical view of ourselves, knowing that apart from the Spirit of Christ there is no good thing that dwells in us. We need to let the Word of Christ richly dwell in us so we can be safeguarded from this deadly sin of pride. James 4:6-9 says, ”But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”
We must take our eyes off of ourselves and look unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, and behold His glory, His splendor, His majesty, and seek His honour. We must behold Him as Isaiah did when he cried out and said, ”Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). John 12:41.
May we all get a glimpse of the glory of Christ, not as He was when He walked the roads of Galilee, but as He is right now. The all-powerful, risen Son of God, the Creator of everything, the One Who holds the keys of hell and death, the soon coming King. ” For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones ” (Isaiah 57:15).
Let us look to our Lord as the ultimate example of humility ”Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”(Phil 2:5-8) and let us soley put our confidence in His finnished work,His blood sacrifice on the cross to rid us from all self will and pride and receive His wonderful grace in our lives so we can boldly say as He did that Satan has nothing in us.
Let us worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for worship without the truth of God is vain, empty, and soulish, always reverting back to self, worshiping the creature, not the Creator.
Finally, let us seek God's glory and not our own. For ”...he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7:18b).
Praise be unto God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour forever and ever. Hallelujah and Amen.
Your brother in Christ
John J. Rieger