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Devotionals    H3'ed 12/23/21

Hark! The Soundness of Doctrine in Christmas Hymns

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Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3 (ESV)

In writing devotionals about some of the poor music that the Christian music industry creates I have been often accused of only liking hymns, or the old guard of Christian music. My response is always the same. My issue, as with everything, is doctrine. What we sing becomes what we believe because we repeat it so much. What we sing as worship unto God should matter to us. The example I always give is that 20 years ago we sang How Great Thou Art and now we sing Oh How He Loves Us. There is a marked difference between singing about the greatness of God and singing about how great we must be for God to love us. That does not mean that contemporary music cannot be sound doctrinally. I know of many modern songs that are such and do not belong to international heretical churches such as Bethel and Hillsong. There are likewise older songs that do not pass the muster of scripture. The issue is not the age of the song but rather the age we are living in. The enemy would love nothing more than to rob God of His rightful praise and worship. Churches across the land sing a mish mosh of songs demanding their inheritance to sloppy agape songs where most people cannot tell the difference between Christian music and contemporary love songs. I cannot listen to someone like Rick Pino without feeling the need to shower after. Jesus is not your boyfriend. You alone are not His bride. He is not leading you into his chambers and for the love of God stop declaring that you wish to be on fire. I saw a brand new lyric from Kari Jobe where she declares she wants to burn forever. Methinks you do not know what you are asking. This all being said, I would hope that while some might think I protest too much, there is no better source of solid doctrine than the hymns we take for granted every Christmas. Of these, the one that can always move me to tears is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! I thought it might be encouraging to go through the lyrics in advance of the celebration of the birth of Christ. Let's us reason and sing together!

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

The first reason I love this song is it doesn't bury the lead. It opens with the presentation of the gospel message. God and sinners reconciled! Put away all of the seminary lessons, leadership conferences, and theories of church growth. Oh, that pastors would stick to what matters. Stick to the reason they are called. God and sinners reconciled! When I was early on in my ministerial studies, I once reasoned with my pastor that I thought there were two types of sermons. One designed for Sundays to present the gospel and see people saved through the drawing of the Holy Spirit and another more designed for spiritual maturity, usually heard at the Friday night prayer meetings. I will remember his answer as long as I live. He said that any message that cannot be brought back to the cross is not worth preaching. That is what we see so wrong today. Messages of self-help and motivation stray so far away from the cross that they are useless spiritually. I once read Rick Warren advise pastors to not preach the gospel on Easter. Instead, he advised to start a series that spoke to their carnal lives so they would have a reason to come back. That is what happens when you are trying to see people get churched instead of saved. The fact that Hark begins with a message of reconciliation reveals the inherent state of man. We need to be reconciled to God. We stand apart from God. This is not a negative message as seeker friendly theology will advise. It is not negative because God does not leave us there in that state. He sends His only Son to reconcile us through the cross. Oh beloved, Hark the herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn King!

Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King

Two points here from a doctrinal purity standpoint. The first is that salvation is universal. Joyful all ye nations rise! Every nation! All people are offered the free gift of reconciliation to God. It has too often become the norm that American Christianity only focuses on this country. It has become infected with secular politics to the point that we act like it is a closed club. Us four and no more. Yet the very people the enemy tries to get us to hate and the countries he gets us to look down upon are those that need the gospel the most. Christ was not born in the USA. He was born in Bethlehem. Our brothers and sisters span the entire globe. They worship in underground churches in China and are martyred for their beliefs in the Middle East. Our citizenship is in heaven and God does not allow dual citizenship; just read the very first commandment. We are referred to biblically as pilgrims and sojourners in this world. The church was designed to see people saved out from this world but today the apostate church is more concerned with blurring the two until you cannot tell the difference anymore. If the unsaved see the church as just an extension of the world, they are offered no incentive for coming. What is different about the church from their lived experience? What makes us the shining city on a hill? That we offer hope beyond this world, hallelujah! That even the vilest sinner can be reconciled unto God, regardless of what nation they come from. Saul of Tarsus presided over the deaths of the early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr. Yet God still used him to change the world for the cause of the gospel. He went to all the nations to see them rise. Glory to the newborn king!

The newborn king is the second point here. A great deal has been made in the modern church about relationship versus religion, portraying religion as somehow being bad. The problem with that argument is God established religion, in the bible. In and of itself, religion was created by and for God. Man however, can always corrupt what God intended for good. In the days of Jesus the Pharisees made religion be about the rules instead of the spirit. We have seen this throughout church history where churches copy the Pharisaical model. The idea of relationship however can also be corrupted. Jesus is not your buddy or wing man. He is not your spiritual bellhop or busboy. He is not your blessing dispenser. He is not your boyfriend or lover. What I love about Hark is it reminds me who Christ is to me. He is my King. Many in the church like to confuse things by citing the verse where He declares that now He calls us friends but they neglect the context where Jesus tells us that if we are His friends we will do as He says! He did not come here to give you your best life now. He came to save you, and me, and all ye nations. Glory to the newborn King!

Christ by highest Heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a virgin's womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus our Emmanuel
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King

Solid doctrine upon sold doctrine. The promise of Christ and salvation is everlasting. It is not bound by mere human measurements and constraints of time. The incarnate deity and the Godhead veiled in flesh! Emmanuel - God with us! These are all reaffirmations of John 3:16 - that God so loved the word that He sent His only Son to save us. Why do we need saving? Because we are sinners unreconciled to God! Offspring of a virgin's womb reaffirms that Isaiah prophecy of the coming of Christ. The herald angels have a great deal to sing about indeed!

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Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
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