So I figured it would be good to briefly go into the value of music to the Christian, how to honor God with it, and the importance of theology to music, as I understand it.
First, the value of music. God is God of the good, true, and beautiful. Music, good music at least, along with good singing, is truly beautiful, like a work of art. We are to develop our God given gifts and abilities, for His glory. So the value of music is that it is a beautiful and unique way of glorifying God. Not only that, but we are commanded explicitly to honor God through music. I'll give just two verses, but there are more than 1,000 that speak of singing and praising God.
"Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day."
1 Chronicles 16:23 (NKJV)
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day.1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
3 On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute,
And on the harp,
With harmonious sound.
4 For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands.
So we see in the first verse that we are commanded to sing praises to the Lord, and secondly in Psalm 92 we see that it is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to Him for what He has done for us. It even speaks of declaring God's lovingkindness and faithfulness with the lute and harp, and harmonious sound. Why? Because we should be glad and thankful for what God has done for us, and the most pleasant way we can express our joy to God for what He has done for us is through making beautiful, harmonious music and beautiful, harmonious singing.
So the value of music is that it gives us a unique, and I believe the greatest form of expression, of our love and admiration of God, for who He is and what He has done. So the value is immense. That is why we need to get our Christian music, both for worship and not for worship, right.
And that leads us to the second point- how we honor God with music. Firstly, I believe there are some people who have been called to do be musicians, or singers, just as there are some to be called pastors or missionaries or evangelists or theologians. And of course, some I believe are called to be anything from doctors to garbage truck drivers to professional ball players to disc jockeys. God can and should be glorified in all of these areas, and there are ways to do it. And in one sense, the way you honor God with music is the same as you do with any other avenue- you do it well. And by well I mean you work hard at developing your craft, developing the gift God has given you. If that's playing a musical instrument, you practice hard, and you don't merely practice hard, but you practice hard motivated and for the purpose of glorifying God. There is an intentionality that goes into even practicing to get better in music, or anything that we do, and that should be done "unto the Lord" as the Bible says. This is very helpful, because it further motivates us to work hard and practice hard, knowing that even simply trying to honor God by working hard in and of itself brings glory to Him. We see the purpose in practicing, even when it is difficult and challenging. Even when it tests us. Especially when it tests us. And I think Psalm 92:3 is important, because it speaks of the sound needing to be harmonious. Harmonious means that each part of the musical whole should sound well, it should go good together, and this would include the ability to play an instrument well and to sing well. Therefore, it's not just what we sing, but how we sing it, and how well we sing it, that brings glory to God.
So we glorify God by practicing music, or practicing our singing, and then by delivering when it is time to sing or play our instruments- whether that be at a secular concert we are part of, an orchestra, or if we are doing a solo performance on our own outside on the streets. We do it all, and we do it unto the Lord, for His glory, always. And especially when we are singing in a church service or something of that nature, for corporate worship, we need to sing well and play our instruments well. Why? Because it is dishonoring, yes dishonoring to God to play inferior music or sing with less skill than the unbelieving world around us and/or not to play up to the best of our God given abilities. I truly believe that God is not well pleased if we do not play our music or sing very well because we are lazy and do not develop the musical gifts God has given us. And if a person has not been gifted to sing or play music, then God has not called them to be a musician (and I am pretty sure I have not been called to sing or play an instrument).
The point is, the quality of our music and singing itself brings glory to God, but the higher the quality, the more beautiful the music is. I am certain the music in heaven will be beautiful, everyone will be on pitch, and no one will sing bad notes. We should strive for that quality here on earth, because it is better and more God honoring. I strive to write well when I write these blogs or when I work on the fictional book I am writing, because a more harmonious piece of literature, like a more harmonious song or artwork, is more God honoring and God glorifying. So we honor God with music by practicing hard and singing and playing well. And there could be something said for playing music that "sounds" beautiful and fits the lyrics and the message of the song, but that is for another article at another time.
Finally, the theology behind music. Music is theological in nature, or at least it should be for the Christian. When we sing, even if it isn't a song directly about God or even considered by today's standards "Christian," it should still be theological in nature, because everything we do should be theological in nature and for God's glory. This is more true for music than anything else. The two verses I gave tell us what our music and singing should be about- it should be about who God is, and what He has done for us. In other words, it should teach theology, the truths of God, and it should tell of what He has done for us- namely, the gospel and His love and grace towards those He has saved, and His anger with those who are unrepentant. Yet theology is as broad as everything we do in life, so Christian music can and should, for instance, have songs about dating and relationships, going through depression, anger against someone, sinning, overcoming sin, the feeling of shame and guilt when we do sin, the struggle to understand God and His ways, how beautiful God's creation is, the delight of being happy, the sorrow of being sad, the kindness of a mother, the love of a father, the faithfulness of a friend, the pleasure of drinking good wine, etc. You get the point, the Christian should be singing and playing music that encompasses the entire human experience, because God's Word encompasses all of human life and experience, and there is a biblical and theologically God honoring way to do everything. Music should bring that out in a beautiful, powerful, unique way. So a good musician or singer needs to be theologically strong and incorporate sound, biblical truth into their works, whether a song or piece of music is about God's sovereignty or about the tastiness of turkeys at thanksgiving and the joy of being with family during that time.
That is how I see music for the Christian. It is indeed very important, and I do not think there are a ton of great Christian musicians out there in the world. Much of the contemporary worship music I hear is shallow and simple musically, sung by those who do not sing very well or have not tried and practiced so that they can sing well, and many if not most of the songs are theologically shallow and trite or outright theologically wrong. There are some notable exceptions, but there is too much stuff that is not God honoring out there today. I think this is because many do not understand the true importance and purpose of music in the life of a Christian, and I hope this article in some way helps correct some of the misconceptions.