Why Could Paul and Silas Sing?
by Sharon Betters
I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
As a young man, Dr. J. I. Packer said: “Theology is bad for one’s soul.” What? This from a world-renowned theologian? Instead of a study of God transforming hard hearts into soft, tender expressions of God’s mercy and love, Dr. Packer saw rancor, conflict, and arrogance in theological circles. Fortunately, as he grew in his own understanding of God, Dr. Packer concluded that such rancor and condemnation “shows how a good thing can be spoiled”.
Our goal in our study of God must be to fall more in love with God and His Son, Jesus. Pursuing an understanding of God’s character and His perfect love that sent Jesus to die for our sins and pay the price we couldn’t pay, should open our eyes to our own sinfulness and a renewed appreciation for God’s mercy. Genuinely studying the character of God should result in a slow but steady transformation that leads us to love God with all our hearts and to love others. Instead of reading and studying Scripture just for the sake of academics, our motive should be to experience greater intimacy with Jesus.
In Today’s Treasure, Paul appeals to believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices. He states that living a life that is sacrificial is “spiritual worship”. Such a lifestyle flows from a renewed mind, a careful and thoughtful study of the salvation God extends to us through Jesus. When death forced its way into our home, I slowly experienced what Paul describes. My shattered mind needed a daily infusion of truth if my life was to be a living sacrifice in response to God’s love. It was and is often a journey of three steps forward, two steps backward.
Recently I attended an evening of worship that lifted our hearts and souls toward heaven. My heart sang with joy with a packed sanctuary of people from all walks of life and all ages. People driving by might have wondered why the building was rocking, the joyful noise to the Lord was so powerful. As we joined hearts to praise God for Jesus, a mental video of similar worship from years ago played back. I was standing in the same place, surrounded by voices filled with joy and worship. Musicians expressed their love affair with Jesus, but instead of overflowing joy from my lips, came whispers of despair. Tears flowed and I could not stop them. This was a true singing at midnight moment. My head believed the lyrics but my heart could not embrace them fully. I desperately wanted to, so as the congregation loudly sang, with my will, I whispered the words along with them, “Shine Jesus Shine.” Moments like these remind me that sometimes joyful words are in reality a broken hallelujah.
This recent night of worship was different for me, genuine joy and confidence in God’s love for me filled my heart. No doubt there were people in that large crowd, struggling with difficult emotions: grief, disappointment, fear, illness, broken relationships. I am sure some of these hurting people sang with their wills, praising God with the hope that their words were true.
To live a broken hallelujah life sometimes requires singing at midnight when our hearts are the most broken. What we believe about God and our relationship to Jesus fuels that kind of sacrificial broken hallelujah. Theology matters. What is yours?
Oh Father, teach us about Your character and move our understanding of Your love from our minds to our hearts.