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Praying and Singing Hymns To God

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IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is good to be together again as we look in to the Word of God.  The title for the lesson is, “Praying and Singing Hymns to God.” The text is Acts chapter 16 verses 19 through 25. Listen to the Word of God.

When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said: These men are Jews and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged they were thrown into prison and the jailor was commanded to guard them carefully.  Upon receiving such orders he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them. This is the Word of God.

As normal as breathing is to us for life, so worship to our God needs to be for us as Christians, especially in our assemblies when we come together corporately. Our coming together as a congregation of the Lord’s Church first and foremost it should be for worship, worship toward our God. It is not primarily social time for ourselves, although that is part of it. The focus should not be solely on the preacher, but toward God.
I remember many years ago visiting a woman who had left the church who was no longer coming to worship assemblies. And I asked her why.  She said: The preacher before you left and so I no longer come. And so I asked her:  Well, did you come to worship the preacher or God? And she didn’t have much to say. So, certainly, when we come together it should be to worship our God, the godhead, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Genuine, godly worship needs to be personally experienced and lived even before we assemble or is our worship only for one hour, perhaps, per week? Worship in spirit and in truth begins with a godly mindset regarding our deep reverence and awe and love for our God.

Consider, for example, Romans chapter 11 and verse 36 where it says: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever, amen.  In this verse 36 of Romans 11 it is a mindset acknowledging and attributing all glory and honor to him, to our God. Notice, again, that in this verse the apostle Paul repeats four times him. It is from him. It is through him. It is to him twice.  It is a mindset of homage and honor deeply dedicated and devoted to him, to our God. A worshipful mindset needs to be established in our minds, in our hearts that our God is, in fact, personally, intimately for us the source, the sustainer of all that is good and right.  Therefore, our God is fully deserving of all of our worship, not just on the first day of the week on Sunday, but every day.

In Romans chapter 12 and verse one it begins: Therefore. So since God is so deserving of our worship as is indicated in Romans chapter 11 verse 36, the preceding verse, since God is so deserving of our worship God continues. It is a therefore.  It is there for that reason.  Paul could then write: I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.  Worship needs to be a heartfelt verb with action. We  offer our bodies as living sacrifices, not passively, but actively and not as Old Testament sacrifices of dead animals, but our worship toward God before we assemble is to offer our bodies wholly and pleasing to God, that is, our minds, our hearts, our hands, our feet, our entire being to the very core of our being to be consecrated, devoted to holy living, set apart from the world and unto the Lord.

And then in Romans chapter 12 and verse one it ends: This is your spiritual act of worship.  So genuine, godly worship begins in our minds and hearts. But with follow through, with action by our lives, by our lifestyle. Even before we assemble with our service, with our daily worship, with our acknowledgement and adoration to our God every day.

Meaningful worship then flourishes in formal worship assemblies.  It can be rousing in assembly, not a rut.  So as breathing is automatic and needful for us physically, so worship should be automatic and needful for us, to us spiritually.

So let’s evaluate the caliber, the quality of our individual worship.  In assembly, for example, how easily distracted from worship of our God are we by others around us?  For example, is our extended focus on people in the pews, on a visitor, on a late comer, on lunch, on a meal of any kind of any time or time? Is our focus only horizontal? Or is it vertical? Are we really focused on the Lord?  Are our minds and hearts engaged on God or elsewhere? Attendance to worship assemblies is not necessarily adoration and veneration of the Lord. Attendance only.  In our song worship is our focus just on the melody or on the sound of our singing or on the song leader? Or is it on the Lord which is and needs to be the object of our worship.  And it is not worship style that counts.  It is our worship of the Savior that counts. It is a personal relationship exercised in worship. Can we maintain our focus of worship toward our God or are we easily disconnected, distracted?

Let’s consider Christians who have a genuine worshipful mindset who offered their bodies as living sacrifices, wholly and pleasing to God and, therefore, could worship anywhere, even under any circumstances, even before assembly or formal worship.

In Acts chapter 16 and verse 19 it says, in part, that the seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. That is, they were brutally arrested. And why? Because they had disrupted the money making scheme of slave owners. When money is more important than God it is a clear evidence of greed and worldliness. In verse 20 it says that they brought them, that is, Paul and Silas, before the magistrates. Who exactly are magistrates?  They are civil officers empowered to administer the law, in this case, Roman law. And every Roman colony—and here Philippi, the place where all this happened—was a Roman colony according to Acts chapter 16 and verse 12. And so every Roman colony had at least two magistrates, which served as judges to uphold Roman law. In verse 21 what was the charge against them? It says there, in  part, the charge was they were advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice. It was technically true that Romans were forbidden to practice foreign religions that had not been approved by Rome. However, it was a false, trumped up charge that Paul and Silas were, according to verse 20, throwing the city into an uproar. That is, that they themselves were causing trouble or chaos. This was really about businessmen losing income.

In verse 22 it says, in part, that the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. This would have been that they were brutally beaten with rods, that is, flexible sticks tied together. And under Roman law this was illegal, an unjust punishment the way this was handled, because the magistrates did not investigate the charges. They did not conduct a proper hearing, nor did they allow Paul and Silas a chance to give their defense for their actions. So punishment here was illegal, because they had not yet been convicted of any crime.

In verse 23 it says, in part, that they were severely flogged and thrown into prison. In verse 24 it says, in part, that they were put in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Now this would have produced painful cramping as prisoners legs were spread as far apart as possible. So innocent, peaceful men, doing the work of God were subjected to cruel, unjust punishment. So what was a major part of Paul and Silas’ reaction to these unhappy, hurtful, brutal circumstances?  It tells us, in part, in Acts chapter 16 and verse 25 that Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, even in the midst of painful cramping in their legs.

Now you and I probably would have been praying rather hard. We would have been praying rather urgently in a situation such as this.  But singing hymns to God?  I dare say that very few of us today under such circumstances, under such brutal treatment would be singing hymns to God, even as their legs were spread as far apart and their feet put in the stocks, because Paul and Silas were not focused on worrying. They were worshipping.

Now how can this be? Because Paul and Silas had an established mindset of worship before they were thrown in prison. And regardless of their difficulties and distractions and this also their worshipping, their praying and singing hymns to God audibly whereby the other prisoners could hear was a witness to the other prisoners. After all, they had come to Philippi to share the gospel. And this was even part of their witness to the other prisoners as they listened to their prayers and to their singing hymns to God.

There is an application here for us. When we come to worship assemblies in our case do we really focus on God?  Or do distractions and difficulties that are in the midst of our lives, do they distract us? Do they cause a disconnect when we should be worshipping and focusing and concentrating on the godhead? Is our ability to worship in spirit and in truth really important to us?  In fact, a very important gauge and indicator of the depth of our personal relationship with the living God is our worship, because worship is not about us.  It is about God and the fire of worship needs to be stroked all week. Then when it comes to the first day of the week of the next week on Sunday even in assembly it is the after glow of our worship. And Sunday worship, Sunday assembly is not a half to, but a want to.  And worship is not boring, but blessed.  When someone says that worship was boring they are focusing on, perhaps, the preacher or on the singing or on the worship style. Is God boring?

 

Years ago I visited Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow in Russia. Today Saint Basil’s Cathedral is not a place for worshippers. It is a place for tourists. It is not the master’s house. It has become a museum and museums are usually about the past and about dead things.  But a house of worship needs to be about the present and about worship with God’s people alive, really alive on the inside and born again praying and singing hymns to God, filled with joy and awe toward the living God.  May that be the experience for us who are in Christ Jesus.  And for those that would become Christians as they are born again, baptized into Christ, that they also would worship in spirit and in truth.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10