I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Come Just As You Are To Worship

There is no shortage of crappy and doctrinally unsound hymns and praise songs that pollute the atmosphere of the church today.  And I have had to zip my lips and hold my nose through many church services while the “worship team” led the people in multiple repetitions of feel-good, man-centered, musical happycrap. 


Where did we ever get the idea that we could approach God “just as we are” and that He should be pleased to accept our worship?  That idea did not come from scripture.

I once led a Bible Study on the topic of The Laver in the outer court of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The laver is symbolic of the Word of God and its sanctifying effect on the believer.

God spoke to Moses and said: “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, 19 for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. 20 When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water lest they die. 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them—to him and his descendants throughout their generations.” Exodus 30:17-21

Take note of the purpose of that washbasin. The priests were to wash their hands and their feet BEFORE THEY ENTERED THE TENT OF MEETING OR BEFORE THEY COULD MAKE ANY OFFERINGS TO GOD.

God expects His people to be clean before they can come to worship Him. This kind of cleansing is not for salvation; it is for daily sanctification. The cleansing by the shedding of blood was accomplished once for all at the cross (symbolized by the altar) where the Lamb of God was slain for our sins. 

But in this sinful world, we will do things and go places that will stain our hands and feet so we need regular and frequent cleansing by the Word of God before we can worship Him.  He is holy and He commands us to be holy. In His instructions to Moses, He repeated this warning two times – “they shall wash their hands and their feet LEST THEY DIE.” And furthermore, He commanded that this statute shall remain forever to Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.

So how is it that we think we can glibly approach God with our acts of worship once a week on Sunday mornings with unconfessed sins and unrepentant lifestyles and think that He should be pleased with our noise?

There is another song with similar words but a totally different meaning; “Just As I Am.” That is the way God expects us to come to Him for forgiveness and salvation – as helpless sinners “without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”   That is the song of salvation.  But after that, we cannot remain just as we are.   He expects us to look into His Word and to be sanctified by it.

Okay, so I am not a model of sanctification; I know that. I’m just saying that I don’t need my head filled with false doctrines and errant man-centered philosophies learned through the music we sing.  Church leaders should take care to be just as accurate and discerning with the words in the songbook as they are with the content of their teaching.  

But maybe that’s the problem.

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