“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
I miss hearing the old hymns played the old way in church. There are a lot of old hymns not heard anymore. They have been replaced with what might be called “Christian mantras”. Shallow, repetitive songs with a beat. Not much to distinguish them from average pop music.
There is one old hymn that comes to mind called, Arise, My Soul, Arise! I first heard this hymn back when I visited Bob Jones University while I was still in high school. We had just arrived at the school and were in the dining commons for dinner. Back then, you met in a huge hall, with the rest of the student body, to share dinner together. Just before dinner, someone on an upper balcony would lead the whole building in a hymn.
When that hymn was played, I was blown away. I saw the Lord’s power and majesty when listening to all those voices joined together. That is one of the reasons I decided to go to that school. It was not a perfect place, but it had the reverence and respect for the old hymns I had grown up with. I found there a great mixture between the Fundamental Baptist and the old-time Methodist style. Something you rarely see anymore.
The words of that hymn stick with me today. I am referring to the original score and words by Charles Wesley in 1742.
Before the Throne My Surety Stands!
This hymn has come back to me many times over the years as I have struggled with sins, depression, and many of the other afflictions of this life. It stresses the power of Christ’s blood to cleanse us from all sin as well as to free us from guilt and fear. It shows how we are His children because of the amazing work that Christ did for us; not because of our performance.
There is nothing as wonderful as that moment when the struggling believer is freed from the shackles of fear. Satan would have us crushed and destroyed under the power of sin and guilt. He wants us to grovel in despair over our condition. He wants us to focus on our own flesh and our inability to make it better.
Thank the Lord, that we are not meant to engage in a “flesh-rehab” program! The flesh is not able to be improved. It has been condemned and put to death by the sacrifice Jesus Christ paid for us. God wants nothing that our “dedicated flesh” can produce. He is done with it.
What the new hymns rarely do is to focus our minds on scripture. Today, we are focused on a kind of sappy “love” that is shallow. We are focused on our own efforts or own feelings or our own “something” that we are doing for Christ. The really great hymns are powerful, with reverent and uplifting music that does not rely on the bombastic, worldly instrumentation or styles of the modern, Christian rock concert.
A Strange Merging of the Eastern Mantra with Christian Lyrics
The old hymns would focus our souls on Christ and His work. Who He is. What He has done for us. They were a means to teach people the scriptures by way of music.
Today, it is all about OUR efforts and OURSELVES. Because Evangelicalism, and even modern Fundamentalism, is much about self effort. The world has crept too much into our churches. We are always looking for “some new thing”, as Paul described the Athenians. We are too willing to accept some new strategy. new book, new music, new Bible, new teaching, new doctrines, new worship, new whatever.
Did anyone ever stop and think that “new” does not, necessarily, mean better?
Paul warned us to beware of conformity to the styles and elements of this world. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Why We are Losing the Young?
OK. I got off my point a little there. But the old stuff can be amazing. We have forgotten how great it was. Yes, there is some beautiful contemporary Christian music today. But much of it is like what my old friend, Ronnie, used to call, “Temporary Music”. I think he was right on the mark.
Today, they put a pop beat on it and repeat the same verses over and over. Shallow is what comes to mind. And that is because the words of scripture are less and less the basis of the music. We want people to feel good in our services. To have an emotional experience. And the young are very drawn to that kind of music. I know, because, as a young believer, I was too.
But the adults need to wake up. They are not losing young people because of the music.
They are losing them because leadership often does not fully teach or believe the scriptures or are unwilling to take a solid stand upon the old truths. They are trimming down to a couple “basic” truths. Or, they try to “restate” the old truths in new ways that are softer, more acceptable, and less offensive.
This is all reflected in the music. In both the lyrics and the sound. We are failing to teach people the Word of God through music.
The old church understood this. They knew the power of the biblical hymn to teach and ground believers in the Word of God.
A.W. Tozer, in his book, When He is Come, said, “You know, the church started out with a Bible, then it got a hymnbook, and for years that was it — a Bible and a hymnbook. The average church now certainly wouldn’t be able to operate on just a hymnbook and a Bible. Now we have to have all kinds of truck. A lot of people couldn’t serve God at all without at least a vanload of equipment to keep them happy.” (A. W. Tozer wrote this back in the mid 1900’s!)
Music is not a neutral thing. It isn’t simply a matter of taste and style. I truly believe that music is a gift from God. He has given it to lift our souls upward to Himself. To plant supernatural seeds into our souls to enrich and strengthen our lives.
Every piece of music has a “spirit”. It can be a carnal one. Or it can flow from the Holy Spirit of God. We must learn to handle music carefully in our worship services. For, by music, much good or much bad is introduced subtly into our spiritual lives.
With Confidence I Now Draw Nigh
So, if you want an uplifting moment, check out the following video. I really don’t know who this church or group is, but they are singing that old hymn, in that rare style, as I first heard it.