• Andrew Nichols

Is worship making liars of us all?

A while back our small group got to talking about worship and how the songs we'd sung that morning (we meet on Sunday evenings) were good, challenging songs. And one of our members opined that the songs were so challenging, in fact, that he almost felt he shouldn't sing them because he knew the words he was singing weren't true about his life at that time. I can't recall, now, what song it was in particular, but the content was something to the effect of "Jesus is everything to me." And he felt like that wasn't true in his life at that time. That while he wanted it to be true, while he recognized the biblical authenticity of it (that is to say, he recognized that it should be true), he couldn't honestly say that Jesus was everything in his life at that time. Essentially, he was confessing what I'm sure many of us feel sometimes: that we just can't love Jesus as much as we ought to. Or that we just can't surrender as much as we should. That we are yet reserving some part of ourselves for our own control.


And I think there is such profound wisdom in recognizing that. I don't find such a statement shameful. We're all human and of course we all struggle at different times and in different ways, and I think there are many songs that, if we were honest with ourselves, we'd recognize as being untruthful about our lives. And of course, in our small conversation, the progression of the conversation was what you are probably wondering right now. What do I do in such a time? Am I lying to God by singing lyrics that are untrue of my life? Should I not sing them?


It's an interesting question, and the answer - as it so often is unfortunately - is it depends. Because on the one hand, I can't say with any certainty whatsoever that your life isn't so off the rails and yet your Sunday morning singing so inspired and apparently genuine that you aren't lying to God (and indeed, yourself and everyone around you). Maybe you sing these heartfelt words with tears in your eyes and your hands up as high as they go and in your heart there's nothing but impassive boredom. But if you're genuinely asking this question about yourself - am I lying to God when I worship? - then I think it's very unlikely that this is you. The very act of asking shows that you are seeking, pursuing, and chasing after God. That you want to be better.


No, I think if you are worried that worship lyrics don't reflect your current spiritual condition, you can rest assured in this truth: worship was made for man and not man for worship. When we worship, when we declare to God who He is and what our place before Him is and what He's done for us and what He means to us, it's a sort of longing. I think, like prayer, our worship is as much for us as it is for God. I don't mean that we are worshipping ourselves, of course. But when we pray, God knows already what it is that we need. We pray because it is good for to tell God the cry of our heart. It is good for us to put into words what it is we think we need. It helps us reflect on our lives and God's place in it. And I think worship is like this. Sometimes we are telling God what He means to us, and other times, we are telling ourselves what he ought to mean to us. So when I tell God He is everything to me, of course there are times when I don't live up to that. None of us can be so thoroughly God's that we never face moments of selfishness and self-sufficiency. It is our nature not to rely on God like we should. No, when we tell God He is everything, we are reminding ourselves that He is everything, and that we need Him. Actually, legitimately, every moment of every hour of every day in every act and in every way, desperately need Him. Honestly, we need Him even to be able to tell Him that we need Him!


I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns (but I think have about 30 favorites). "Come Ye Sinners" is a profound statement of the reality of our insufficiency before God. The sixth verse, in particular, stands out to me as a summary of this topic:


Let not conscience make you linger

Nor of fitness fondly dream

All the fitness He requireth

Is to feel your need for Him


Here, the term "fitness" refers to our ability to approach Jesus, that is, whether we are fit to come to Him. All it takes to be fit is to recognize that we can't be fit enough, that only He can make us fit. Indeed, another line in the song summarize the problem: "If you tarry til you're better, you will never come at all." If we wait until we are perfect to sing the words on Sunday morning, we'll never sing them because not one of us is fit before Him. As we come to Easter, let yourself off the hook. Let the things you sing be a challenge of who you want to be, not necessarily who you are. The cross and the empty grave made you fit enough to come to Jesus. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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