“Steadfast in Thy Word”

Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would seek to overthrow your Son
And to destroy what he has done.

— “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word,” Christian Worship: 203.  The original language text of this hymn was written by Martin Luther.

As a youngster, I did not appreciate Lutheran hymns; but now I recognize what a privilege it was to sing those hymns while growing up.  They are a part of our Tradition, our inheritance, our heritage from the Lord.  Will we pass on this rich heritage founded on the Word of God to our children?  Or will we bequeath to them a praise song pittance?

Many praise songs contain outright false doctrine while others contain no word from the Lord and therefore are just fluff.  Will God keep us steadfast apart from his Word?

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7 thoughts on ““Steadfast in Thy Word”

  1. I too love the old hymns but like Luther and David, the contemporary musicians and songwriters of their time, I embrace other musical venues that praise, glorify, and speak of the saving grace of our Sovereign God through hIs Son, Jesus the Savior. Tradition, in and of itself is fine (especially for Notre Dame football fans) but it doesn’t save nor is it any better or worse than other music that praises God in His sanctuary.

  2. Hello Paul.

    The purpose of the post is to say that apart from God’s revealed word our praise songs are useless. Since you appreciate David and Luther, you should appreciate their words: “Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy word,” and “Blessed is the man” whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1). That is why the title of the post is ‘Steadfast in Thy [God’s] Word’ and not “Steadfast in the Imaginations of Men.”

    Also, songs that merely praise God are not necessarily based on the word of God. For example, Jesus said:

    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ [Matthew 7:21-23].

    What is the work of God? The work of God is to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29), and only by hearing the Word of God do we believe.

    Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church. Tradition is the living witness that Jesus has kept his promise. Tradition is the living witness of the universal Church through history, and should be cast aside only if something has arisen contrary to the clear Scriptures. To treat the Church’s Tradition as no more important than the festivities surrounding a football game would be to treat Christ’s promise, that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church, as a mere jest. (Matthew 16:16-18).

  3. Rick,

    You have missed the point I was trying to make. Please re-read my response. I will emphasize the sentence “I embrace other musical venues that praise, glorify, and speak of the saving grace of our Sovereign God through his Son, Jesus the Savior.” Now go read Psalm 150. Songs that praise God are scriptural in and of themselves. God wants to hear praise from us! Now read Psalms 138 and 145-149. I think after you read them you will have a better understanding of what is to praise the God of Creation. Praise songs to the Living God are not useless!

    By no means is “tradition”, as you say, a living witness. The only living witness we have is God’s unfailing Word. The tradition you speak of is man-made; the thought that one form of expression, praise, glory, or crying out to God (organ vs guitar, for example) is better than the other is false. The verse you quote above (Matthew 7:21-23) is germane to all.

    Contemporary Christian music vs traditional Christian music is really a silly argument. Are you ever overwhelmed by the archaic language (riven, bidd’st me, tis, pine)? How many times (weekly I bet) have you sang a traditional hymn and by the time you got to verse 4 you can’t remember what verse 2 was all about? If that is the case and I know it happens to you and me, then that music is just as much fluff as you accuse contemporary Christian music of being. The words might have been there but the heart, soul, and mind were far, far away.

    Do you have ITunes? If so, here is my challenge to you, Rick. I will pick out a variety of contemporary Christian songs for you to buy. They cost only .99. All you have to do is download them and play them a couple of times. The most important part is that I want you to read the Scripture that they are based on and then play the song a couple of times. I am convinced that after awhile you will put away your prejudices and start to not only liking these contemporary Christian songs because of their direct relationship to Scripture, but you will be singing your heart out to God with them. 100 songs are all I ask. I will reimburse you for any, (or all for that matter) that you do not like.

    Martin Luther, the famous contemporary Christian songwriter, who combined his prose with popular tavern melodies , had the same challenge with the people of the Catholic faith of his day. We know the results of his challenge.

    Semper Fidelis,

    PC Christian

  4. Paul,
    The original post is not about “organ vs. guitar,” but rather is about hymns that express the word of God vs. songs that do not express the word of God. I play the guitar, and one of my favorite pastimes has been playing hymns on the classical guitar. The post also is not about “old vs. new.” There are some good new hymns as well as some bad old songs. An example of a good new hymn would be “In Christ Alone” by Getty & Townsend. Another would be “What Is This Bread?”

    I’m not certain what you mean by “venue.” A “venue” is a place or a locale. A different venue could mean an auditorium or movie theater as opposed to a traditional church building. I’m not opposed to other musical venues. However, if you meant other genres, then I’m not necessarily opposed to that either. My post said nothing about genres or venues.

    Regarding your offer, I already have plenty of contemporary Christian music CDs. (However, please feel free to suggest good hymns). I grew up listening to Christian bands like DC Talk and Third Day. I attended Lifest (a contemporary Christian music festival in Oshkosh, WI) four or five years in a row. My church encouraged all the young people to attend this festival. Unfortunately, there were no warnings about false doctrine; and I used to think that if a song merely mentioned Jesus in a somewhat reverent way, then it must be good. I was wrong.

    The Psalms you asked me to read all praise God specifically for what he does or has done for us; but not all so-called “Christian” songs are like that. For example, one of my favorite Christian contemporary songs was “I Will Choose Christ” by Kathy Troccoli. Does this song praise God for what God does? Here is the chorus to that song:

    I will choose Christ
    I will choose love
    I choose to serve
    I give my heart
    I give my life
    I give my all to you.

    Is this chorus even about God? No. It’s actually about me. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Compare those lyrics to some stanzas from “In Christ Alone,” a hymn that was written in 2001:

    There in the ground His body lay,
    Light of the world by darkness slain;
    Then bursting forth in glorious day,
    Up from the grave He rose again!
    And as He stands in victory,
    Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
    For I am His and He is mine—
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

    No guilt in life, no fear in death—
    This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
    From life’s first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.
    No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
    Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    Till He returns or calls me home—
    Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

    This hymn is about God, and not just some generic God who is “awesome” and “great,” but the true God who became our flesh and blood in history, and died and rose again for our justification.

    Here is an example of a bad song: the chorus from “The Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns. This song was sung at the grand opening of The CORE, a new WELS congregation in Appleton, WI:

    But the voice of truth tells me a different story
    The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
    The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
    Out of all the voices calling out to me
    I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

    Paul, I don’t know if you are Lutheran, but as a Lutheran, I confess that

    I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church in the one true faith. In the Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” [Luther’s explanation of the third article in The Small Catechism].

    The explanation above is part of the Lutheran/Christian Tradition, and it is true because it is based solely on the Word of God. It is also incompatible with repeatedly singing, “I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

    Here is the first verse to “Ready Lord,” another bad song that I’ve sung in church more times than I can count:

    Ready, Lord, I’m ready Lord, to follow where you lead;
    Oh show me Lord, just show me Lord, the service you will need.
    Ready, Lord, I’m ready, Lord, I’m ready come what may,
    So call me, Lord, just call me, Lord and I’ll be on your way.

    This lyric says that God needs our service. Does God need our service? Does God have needs? Is God not almighty? God does not need our service, but rather serving God is our privilege.

    Another type of empty praise song is one that says nothing specific. Christianity is a historical fact based religion. Christianity is not about God being merely “awesome,” but rather it is about God being merciful in a specific way: the shedding of His blood on the cross. As I said before, the Psalms you asked me to read, in fact all the Psalms, praise God specifically for what he does or has done for us. As Psalm 145 says:

    One generation will commend your works to another;
    they will tell of your mighty acts.

    They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

    They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.

    They will celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

    When evaluating a song or hymn, ask yourself: Does it tell of God’s mighty acts? Does it speak of His wonderful works? Does it proclaim God’s great deeds? Does it sing of God’s righteousness? Does it say anything specific? Does it say anything historical or revelatory? Praising God is good, but what do we praise Him for? Why are we praising Him? Compare once again to “In Christ Alone.”

    In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
    Fullness of God in helpless babe!
    This gift of love and righteousness,
    Scorned by the ones He came to save.
    Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied;
    For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
    Here in the death of Christ I live.

    Years ago, I stopped listening to Christian Contemporary Radio because of all the false doctrine. The final straw for me was a song that I can’t remember the artist or title, but the refrain was about how Jesus became a man so that He could know what it was like to be a man. Jesus is God: he didn’t become a man to learn, he became a man to redeem us from our sins.

    The point of the original post and the point I will not back down from is that we stand on the Word of God alone, and if our songs/hymns are not based on the Word of God: if they are empty or false, then they are useless. I have no use for that which pretends to be the Word of God, but is instead a poor substitute.

    Finally, I heard on the popular radio show Issues, Etc. that the statement that Luther “combined his prose with popular tavern melodies” is a myth. If you have proof to the contrary, I’d be happy to see it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    For your viewing and listening pleasure, here is a Youtube video of the Gettys performing their excellent hymn “In Christ Alone.” I wish we would sing this song in church.

  5. Rick,

    We are talking in circles. In actuality, we agree. Of course, as you said, our praise and worship songs and hymns should “stand on the Word of God alone, and if our songs/hymns are not based on the Word of God: if they are empty or false, then they are useless.” However, you seemed to have lumped all contemporary Christian songs into a false doctrine category (with a few exceptions). You appear to have thrown the baby out with the bath water, like so many of us do.

    However, I am glad to hear that you have a contemporary Christian music familiarity. So many people who have an negative opinion about contemporary Christian music have never actually heard it, studied it, and then have a tendency to pick and choose and destroy it out of hand. Don’t be one of them.

    So you don’t listen to contemporary Christian radio stations anymore? Why not? Does every song that these radio stations play not give glory to God? What about the vast majority of the songs that meet the criteria above? Unfortuately, I grew up in the 60’s with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendricks. Their glorification of drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll was all we had. Not good for impressionable teenagers and young adults. My daughters on the other hand were able to listen to K-Love and Air 1 when they were growing up, both nationally transmitted radio stations that are available where we live.

    I find it surprising that certain religious types denounce these radio stations but allow their own children to delve into secular music. There are secular rock bands that are formed by students who attend WELS teacher training colleges but where are the praise/worship/”hymn” bands at these same institutions? I’m sure there are some Christian bands now but in my opinion, we should be actively pursuing contemporary Christian music at the elementary and high schools, colleges, and seminaries. This type of music is not going to go away so lets embrace it and make sure it remains faithful. Archaic words in some of the old traditional hymns are not what unbelievers are going to find comfort in because they can’t understand them…and quitely frankly, neither can we.

    You said that you don’t like the song “Ready Lord,” which I find to be rather odd. I see that song as one of dedication, submission, and for the author (or us) readily and willingly ready to serve the Lord wherever he wants us to go. That song reminds me of the phase “Here am I send me, send me” in the famous hymn “Hark the Voice of Jesus Crying.” In “Take my Life and Let it Be” every one of those six verses in that song says basically the same thing that the author of Ready Lord said. You on the other hand go off on a harangue that God doesn’t need us to do anything for Him, which of course is absolutely correct…The Creator doesn’t need the created. Does God need this website to expound on or explain His Word? Absolutely not! Does that mean that you should close it down? Your call. I think you know where I am coming from so beware of subtle legalism, which turns into self-righteousness. Let us say what the Apostle Paul said “that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.”

    On that same thought, “In Christ Alone” is no doubt a beautiful contemporary hymn. Why isn’t your congregation singing this song since it is now “accepted” in the WELS? Have you asked your pastor and if so what did he say? The new CW Supplement has this song included, although, oddly and not surprising to me, without guitar chords. Why are not more contemporary Christian songs of this calibre found in this publication?

    I introduced “In Christ Alone” to a congregation during a contemporary Christian worship service about four or five years ago. The congregation appeared to really like this song. For emphasis of our faith, after we sang the fourth verse, we once again concluded with singing the last four lines:

    No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
    Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    Till He returns or calls me home—
    Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

    A powerful statement of faith indeed!

    Semper Fidelis,

    PC Christian

    PS: How about trying this question as a new topic: “Why don’t Lutherans daily read the Bible?”

  6. I too appreciate the hymns I memorized and sang as a child. I also appreciate some of the more Christian contemporary songs and enjoy singing them as well.

    Since I am WELS also, I agree that churches need to be especially careful when choosing music. So much of the newer contemporary songs clearly have some decision theology in them. Growing up there were many songs, we sang in church as part of the school or choir that our teachers had crossed out words and reworded songs to be more doctrinally correct. Any song that states “I choose” or “I decided” should be very carefully evaluated and if the song doesn’t clearly show that it is the Holy Spirit that has created faith in our hearts, it should not be sung in church. I was surprised and embaressed that a song like that was part of The CORE’s service, it certainly must be confusing to a newcomer to sing “I decided” or “I choose” when the sermon message is the opposite.

    I disagree with your view on the song “I’m Ready, Lord.” I also think of the phrase “Here am I, send me, send me.” To me the song is about repentance. During the week, I’ve failed to be ready to do what God wanted me to do. Much like the story of Jonah, I turn the other way because I’m too busy or too afraid of what people might think or say. In the song, I am repenting my failure and expressing my willingness and desire to change.

    Song lyrics are not inspired by God, but simply expressions of faith & praise, by the songwriter. We shouldn’t feel guilty to prefer one song over another or that we prefer a different one then another fellow Christian provided they are doctrinally correct. Our particular favorites could be for many different reasons, melody, phrasing, lyrics. None of thoses reasons are more worthy than another.

    We as children sang simple songs such as “Praise Him, Praise Him.” There is no command that we couldn’t as adults still sing these simple songs in church. Just because a song is not “wordy” doesn’t mean it is not appropriate to sing in church or to our Lord. I certainly would like my children to learn a variety of songs and hymns and I too feel it would be a shame not to have our children exposed to and learning the traditional hymns especially those based from the inspired Word of God.

    As a side note, we sing “In Christ Alone” all the time in church and I believe it will be in the new WELS sampler/hymnal as well.

    You mentioned Lifest. Not only was there no warning about false doctrine in the songs or presentations but does it not break church fellowship? Since musicians are leaders in worship and the purpose of Lifest is fellowship, worship and evangelism, are we not worshiping with those that proclaim false doctrine when we attend the concerts and sing along with artists that we are not in fellowship with. (If in fact a WELS performer was at Lifest, certainly it would be appropriate to attend that particular concert.)

    Why is it different than buying the CD and listening to the words in my own home or singing the same exact song in church? At home, I can skip over those songs with false doctrine and I am expressing the words in the other songs according to my faith not the artist. In Church, I am expressing those words with others in fellowship with me doctrinally.

    Additionally, some from our church attended the worship service at Lifest on Sunday rather than attending worship at our own church. Why would you choose to observe worship at Lifest when you could actually participate in worship in your own church? Unfortunately, the answer is most likely they are confused where the appropriate boundaries of church fellowship lie. Fellowship in prayer, song, as well as the Sacrament of Communion should be reserved for those who profess the same doctrines as you. It is not appropriate to practice joint fellowship in those areas with those who do not agree doctrinally. We will have an eternity to join with ALL Christians of the invisible church in praise, when we are all together with our Lord eternally.

  7. My critique of “Ready Lord” is based primarily on the false statement that God needs our service. Please read the post “Words of Truth,” and then consider whether this lyric from “Ready Lord” is really appropriate:

    show me Lord, the service you will need.

    Also, here is a critique of “Ready Lord” from the WELS Q&A web service entitled: “Is this Hymn Doctrinally Sound?” This critique does not address the question of whether God needs our service but does say:

    that the focus of the song seems to center on the individual rather than on the Savior … By way of contrast, notice how hymn 467 in CW keeps us going back to the Good News of Jesus, His Word, His love, His power, His peace, that motivates the individual Christian to go run the race… I certainly cannot say that singing this anthem would be wrong. It is a prayer that we Christians could say. But the richness of the Gospel message has not fully been communicated…

    God’s blessings,
    Rick

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