The Power Of Christian Music

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

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Music: The Universal Language
      It has long been said, “music is the universal language.” It seems everyone enjoys music. It is found in the fancy palaces of kings, and in the humble homes of slaves. It is played on the expensive instruments of professional musicians, and on the cheap instruments of the poor. It can have the complexity of symphony music, and the simplicity of hillbilly music. It can express a broad range of human emotions: from joy to sorrow, from faith to despair, from love to hate, from seriousness to humor.
     My theme for this posting is the power of Christian music in the lives of Christians and non- Christians.
First, let us consider its power in the lives of Christians.
     Many things influence us in our Christian lives. Some of those things are good, some are bad. Christian music has the power to have a great influence for good. Let me suggest some ways in which it can have a good influence in our lives.
    Christian music can comfort Christians.
    We can need comfort for a variety of reasons, such as the following:
  • When we have lost a loved one or a close friend  in death.
  • When we are waiting for a loved one’s death.
  • When we are facing our own death.
  • When a family member’s marriage is “on the rocks.”
  • When someone close to us moves far away.
  • When our marriage is in trouble.
  • When our financial situation is not good.
   Consider some old Gospel songs that have brought comfort to many Christians.
  • “What A Friend We have In Jesus.”
  • “Does Jesus Care?”
  • “Sweet Hour Of Prayer”
  • “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine”
  • “When We All Get To Heaven”
  • “Count Your Blessings”
   It is important to sing and listen to songs of comfort in our church services and elsewhere. But such music can do more than comfort us:
   Christian Music Can Challenge And Convict Christians.
   We need to be challenged and convicted about many things relating to the Christian life, such as the following:
  • Bible reading
  • Prayer
  • Witnessing
  • Dedication
  • Service
  • Faith 
  • Joyfulness
  • Victorious living
   Consider some songs that do challenge and convict us to be better Christians.
  • “Thy Word have I Hid In My Heart”
  • “Is Your All On The Altar?”
  • “Take Time To Be Holy”
  • “Teach Me To Pray, Lord”
  • “I Will Serve Thee Because I Love Thee”
  • “The Joy Of The Lord Is My Strength”
  • “Count Your Blessings”
  • “Faith Is The Victory”
  • “Make Me A Blessing”
  • “Lord, Lay Some Soul Upon My Heart”
  • “Victory In Jesus”
   It is important to sing and hear music that can comfort, challenge and convict us to be better Christians. But it can do more than comfort, challenge and convict us:
   Christian music can confirm Christians in sound doctrine
   We learn a lot of doctrine from Christian music. More, perhaps, than we realize. Some of it unsound, some of it is sound. As theologian and author, Roger E. Olson, points out in some of his books, the religion of many persons is what he rightly calls “folk religion.” That is, it is not really based on clear Biblical teaching, but on commonly-held beliefs among us. Unfortunately, even true Christians often have beliefs that are simply “folk religion,” and Christian music can be a major source of it, if we are not careful.
    So, what sound doctrines do we find in Christian music? Here are some examples:
  • The deity of Jesus Christ.
  • The inspiration (divine origin) of  the Bible.
  • The Trinity.
  • The ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  • Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
  • The second coming of Jesus Christ to earth.
  • The importance of evangelism.
  • The love of God.
  • Heaven.
  • Redemption.
   What songs teach sound doctrine? Here are some examples:
  • “He Is Lord.”
  • “Crown Him With Many Crowns.”
  • “Holy Bible, Book Divine.”
  • “Holy, Holy, Holy” (“God in three persons, blessed Trinity”).
  • “Jesus Is Coming Again.”
  • Go Ye Into All The World” (“and preach the Gospel”).
  • “The Comforter Has Come.”
  • “Redeemed, How I love To Proclaim It!”
  • “Only Trust Him.”
  • “When We All Get To Heaven.”
   Since we learn much, and hopefully sound, doctrine from Christian music, it is important to listen to it and sing it. But Christian music can also be a powerful tool for spreading the Gospel, and winning others to Jesus Christ. Therefore,
Second, let’s consider the power of Christian music in the lives of non-Christians.
   This second main point will be shorter than the first one, because it is based to some degree on the first point. God has used Christian music to lead some non-Christians to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, from whom they then receive salvation. But their repentance and faith are the result of  their having learned certain truths that must be learned before one can be saved.
   In some instances, they have first learned those truths without music, such as through reading the Bible, attending a Bible study, listening to a preacher on the radio, or from some other source.
   But then God has brought them to repentance and faith through Christian music. In other words, the music was used by God as the final step in their conversion to Jesus Christ.
   In some other instances, non-Christians have first learned of their need for salvation through Christian music, and it perhaps it was Christian music that was their only, or their primary reason for becoming Christians. Therefore, God can and does use music as a means to save the lost. The only real difference between a sermon and a song is that in a song, Gospel truth is sung, but in a sermon it is spoken. But in both cases, the truth is made known.
Billy Sunday: An Example Of The Evangelistic Power Of Christian Music
     Let me use the conversion of Billy Sunday as an example of the power of Christian music to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those who do not know it, after his conversion to Jesus Christ, Billy Sunday became a very influential evangelist in the USA. Many were won to Christ through his efforts. The following quote about Sunday’s conversion is taken from chapter 7 of Rachael Phillips’s book, “Billy Sunday: Evangelist of The Sawdust Trail.”
    The book says this: “Very late one warm June night as Billy and other baseball players were visiting nightspots and drinking their way across downtown Chicago, they heard, of all things, a hymn. ‘Listen, boys! My mother used to sing that to me,’ said Billy. He followed the sound to a small band playing on the corner of State and Van Buren Streets. ‘Come on, Billy. We’ll take you someplace where there’s some real music,’ offered his companions. ‘I want to stay.’ Billy sat down on the curb, and a number of the ballplayers sat down beside him to listen as the band played. A few mission workers sang hymn after hymn. ‘I haven’t heard music like that since I left Davenport.’ Billy could not take his eyes off the group.  The music flowed over him like a warm river, soothing him. His uncertain future with the White Stockings floated away like leaves down the creek behind his grandfather’s house. ‘I want to stay right here. I’ll stay all night, if only they’ll sing another one…..’ Come on down to the Pacific Garden Mission, fellows,’ urged Harry Monroe, one of the young musicians. ‘It’s only a few blocks away. You’ll find God there.’ Billy stood. ‘I’m going.’
    The others watched open-mouthed as Billy followed Monroe down the street. The Pacific Garden Mission was located in one of the worst areas of Chicago, an area full of saloons, houses of prostitution, dirty dance halls, and gambling establishments. ‘Strangers Welcome’ said the lantern-lit sign over the door.  ‘I do, I do feel at home here.’ He wondered why.
    The place reeked with tobacco and whiskey odors and the sweat and dirt of the men who sat on the rude wooden benches. One emaciated man stood up, his face as fragile and yellowed as old paper. ‘I’uz a drunk and a thief,’ he said, ‘but Jesus done come into my heart and made me as new and clean as a newborn baby, and I know I’m going to heaven.’ Most of the men stared at him and ducked their heads.
    An enormous black-haired man whose muscles bulged out of his shabby sleeves also rose. ‘ I – I hurt a man bad once,’ he quavered. ‘Took his bottle of whiskey and smacked ‘im with it, but the Lord done forgave me. Now I can sleep without seeing his face and blood afore me every night.’ Billy sat motionless through the entire service as man after man told how Jesus had rescued him from misery and heartbreak.
    When Colonel Clark, the founder of the mission, invited the men to ask Jesus Christ into their hearts, Billy did not move. He watched one man finally lurch forward. The Colonel and Harry put their arms around the filthy, half-drunken derelict and prayed.
     Later, as he stared at the ceiling in his room, Billy could hear the hymn that had drawn him to the mission. ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…..’ He knew he was too far away from Pacific Garden Mission to hear the actual music, but the words wafted as tantalizingly through his room as the fragrance of his mother’s Christmas dinners. Billy knew that he would return to the place that welcomed strangers.
     ‘Young man, do you wan to know Jesus Christ as your best friend? Do you want to ask him to forgive your sins?’ The woman’s gentle, precise voice held Billy as if she had gripped his coat lapels. Her wise eyes penetrated his.  ‘Y-yes, ma’am, I believe I do.’ The well-dressed young man had returned a few nights after Mrs. Clark had first spotted him.  The boy’s clean-cut appearance contrasted so vividly with that of the of the pitiful creatures around him. ‘But God is never fooled by appearance,’ Mrs. Clark reminded herself. ‘He needs Christ as much as any of us here at the mission.’ Her eyes glanced at the large inscription on the wall: ‘Christ Came Into The World To Save Sinners, Among Whom I Am Chief.’
     Her husband, an astute Chicago businessman who had been involved in the Board of Trade, had recognized his own need for God’s  forgiveness and asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior. Moved by the suffering of the people he saw each day in downtown Chicago, he had poured his entire fortune into the mission, hoping to rescue as many as he could. Colonel Clark himself had nailed that large sign on the wall.  
     Now the quiet man approached his wife and Billy. ‘Billy wants to invite Christ into his life,’ said Mrs. Clark. The Colonel smiled, and Billy thought he would fall over from the sheer sweetness of it. ‘What’s your name, son?’ ‘Billy,’ answered the young ballplayer. ‘Very well, Billy, let’s ask the Lord to forgive you and help you live a new life for Him.’ ‘He’s sure no preacher, thought Billy. He’s got kind of a whiny voice. But as the Colonel prayed, Billy could not keep the tears from pouring down his cheeks. ‘Dear Lord, Billy wants to tell you he’s sorry for his sins; he believes You died on the cross for him…..’ ‘It must be you I’m hearing, Jesus. This must be your voice.’ “
    This remarkable story shows how God can use Christian music to win others to faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. And some of them, as Billy Sunday proves, can become a major force in the spread of the Gospel.

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