Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Music in the Church

There have been several wonderful blog posts recently that think through musical worship in the church. For those so inclined, these articles edify and help clarify much that's misunderstood (for leaders as much as anyone).

1. Five Ways to Improve Congregational Singing by Keith Getty
Everything Keith says has been on my heart for a while. If there is only one link you follow, I'd heartily recommend this one.
2. Annoying Things in Worship Songs by Jeremy Pierce (reposted by JT)
The Psalms shouldn't be abused as carte-blanche justification for any bad song, but this helpfully shows how we must be thoughtful in evaluating whether a song is good. One thing I can definitely say about any song written after 100 AD or so: it was not inspired quite the same way the Psalms were.
3. I Love a Church that Sings Badly by Tim Challies
I agree with everything Tim says but want to take it further: good or bad musicians, mature or young believers, old hymns or songs so contemporary they're not quite ripe, I would love to hear the church sing its heart out because they're singing unto the Lord. 
4. Nine Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader by Alex Duke
This is slightly more on the technical side, but it may open your eyes to the part music and the music leader play in the service. The church should hold the music leader to a high standard of character as much as it would hold him to a high standard of musical ability.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Doxological Dictionary

I've twice had the opportunity to teach on atonement recently, and I've found that many of the terms that pastors use in the course of preaching and teaching can be opaque for many Christians. Much of this vocabulary is biblical, but if you haven't attended Bible School or intentionally studied theology, words like propitiation can sound impressive but ring hollow.

So I attempted to create a relatively short list of definitions (one page) for words closely associated with atonement to help laypeople grasp their meaning. Brevity may be an enemy of precision here, but I've done my best to capture the essence of each term without launching into a full discourse. Perhaps that will lead to further conversation, which I would consider a positive outcome. Ultimately, I hope that as we more deeply understand what God planned and accomplished in the gospel that we will stand in greater awe of him and worship him all the more.

Atonement Vocabulary List

Atonement - A term used to describe all the means that God uses to accomplish our salvation--the way we become one with God again. Think of it as the way the gospel is applied to your life: you were estranged from God because of your sin, and God made a way to repair (atone for) that broken relationship. It’s an idea that centers on the cross. God chose to save us through the work of Jesus in his life and his death. It’s the way that God saves us that is entirely consistent with his character--fully satisfying his deep love and his perfect justice. {Lev 17:11; Rom 5:11; Eph 2}
Propitiation - The turning away of God’s wrath from us and the gain of his favor. This happens when God’s wrath is appeased through the sacrifice of Christ. This is the function of the atonement--the way it is accomplished. {Rom 3:21-25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 4:10}
Expiation - Sometimes it’s simply used as a synonym for atonement or propitiation, but it may also be used in the sense that more specifically describes the solution for sin. It means cleansing or purging from our sin, or the removal of our sin, or how our sin is covered over by Jesus’ blood. Expiation is the other side of the propitiation coin.
Salvation - The outcome of being spared from the wrath of God (eternal punishment, destruction, hell). A direct consequence of salvation is that the saved receive eternal life. {Matt 1:21; John 3:16}
Penal Substitution - Simply put, Jesus Christ took the punishment due our sin when he offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross, and we gain his perfect record (his righteousness) that he actually lived out. In a sense, in God’s mind, we trade places with Jesus. It is through penal substitution that we receive a legal declaration of “not guilty” when God judges our life (as Christ bore all of our guilt). {2 Cor 5:21}
Reconciliation - J.I. Packer calls this “the sum and substance of the gospel.” We broke our relationship with God by our sin, but God repairs that! As with the generic definition, reconciliation is the peacemaking restoration of a lost relationship, but here it happens by God’s initiative and efforts through atonement. {Rom 5:10-11}
Redemption - Our sin put us into slavery and debt, and the severity of that condition is great enough that we can never hope to get out. But God was willing to send his Son and pay the price to gain our freedom. Christ’s sacrifice satisfies our sin debt and frees us from bondage to sin and death. Christ is our Great Redeemer, giving his life to make us his. {Eph 1:7}
Ransom - This is actually a very similar concept to redemption (it’s the price of redemption), but it’s so easily confused because of modern connotation. Ransom has more to do with paying a debt to end slavery than paying a bribe to a hostage-holder. Christ was the ransom--paid to God the Father!--that secures our salvation. {Matt 20:28; 1 Tim 2:5-6}
Justification - Most commonly refers to our legal status with God. Salvation is possible because God declares us just or righteous (beyond “not guilty”). We are not actually righteous, but God accepts us because we are seen as justified when we put our faith in Christ. {Rom 3:20-30; Rom 5:1; Gal 2:16}
Sacrifice - The character of God (holiness and justice) requires that he separate himself from evil and punish sin. However, God allows that wrath to be directed to a substitute--a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were the means God provided to restore a person’s relationship with Him that was broken by sin. Jesus Christ was the final, once-for-all sacrifice who became our substitute in bearing God’s punishment for our sin. {Heb 9:24-28; Heb 10:12-14}