Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Singing in Harmony with the God-Song

          My aim in everything I write is to teach what accords with sound doctrine”.[1] This has three parts. On one side is “sound doctrine”, the truth we are given in God’s word. On the other side is what we “teach” about the issues of life, often dealing with things the Bible does not directly address. In the middle, connecting what we “teach” and what is “sound doctrine” is the word “accords”.

          This means that, whatever we teach on anything whatsoever must be consistent with what sound doctrine has already revealed. It does not matter what new things we face in life, and how little Scripture seems to speak of these issues, whatever we teach about them must match what sound doctrine has already presented of the thoughts and ways of God.[2]

          Here is an illustration that helps me appreciate what it means to teach what accords with sound doctrine. If someone composed a melody for a beautiful song, and then wanted to add harmony to that melody, each note of harmony would need to be consistent with the notes of the melody. The harmony would need to be in the same key, and follow the same tempo. In each measure, the harmony must follow the same chord as used for the melody. Just because other chords are used in the rest of the song, each particular measure has a chord that dictates what notes may be used to harmonize.

          When we read the Scriptures, and hear the wonderful truths of sound doctrine, it is like hearing the melody of God’s song. Different parts of the song have different rhythms and tempos. They all lead to the complete presentation that stirs our hearts in belonging-love for God and his people, and redemptive love for the world we live in. The music, and cadence, and tempo of the First Covenant stanza lead wonderfully into the beauty, and hopefulness and joy of the New Covenant cantata.

          We know that the church is the body of Christ.[3] He is the head, and he expresses himself through the body as a whole, and through the individual members of the body in varying ways. Keeping with our illustration, we can see Jesus as the lead singer who presents the melody of God’s word with stunning beauty and power. As he calls the church to join him in his work, or sing with him in his symphony, it is as if we are called to sing in harmony to every note of the song he has already breathed-out.

          Whenever we need to harmonize to God’s song, we must be consistent with what he has already played for us. When we write about contemporary issues of life, we cannot make up a new melody, but bring our understanding of contemporary issues into harmony with the strong, and clear, and beautiful melody of hope God himself is already playing.

          In practical terms, this means that we must address the issues of life with consistency to the revelation of God. Scientific issues may give us many harmonious notes of music that are not played in the original score of God’s word, and yet bring us to glorify the original song by adding thoughts that are in such pure and sweet harmony that there is no doubt the two go together. To see God’s creative genius in everything science discovers about life and our world, and to know that this is harmonious with God’s breathed-out description of how he created all things, is to enjoy the richness of the God-song.

          On the other hand, to allow contradictory beliefs about science to clash with what God has sung out to us in the sound doctrine of his word is to create such a cacophony of discordant sounds that people go running into opposing orchestras to focus on the music they have chosen as best.

          Those who gather to harmonize with the God-song of sound doctrine, find great satisfaction in the way their lives experience the richness of fellowship between God and man. Those who gather to rebel against the God-song, become so disconnected from the original score that they are soon lost in music that is devoid of anything to do with the God who created humanity, gave us his song, and taught us to sing.

          When God confronted me with what some of his children were dealing with in sexual abuse memories and eating disorders, I realized that I did not know how to teach on these things in a way that would accord with the sound doctrine of Scripture. I discovered that I was quite adept at teaching sound doctrine itself, but quite inept at teaching what accords with sound doctrine in relating to such painful issues of life.

          I was like a man who knew the melody to God’s song quite well, and loved the sound of the songs of my Father’s heart; I just did not know how to sing harmony! I could not tell an abused person what to do with the scary dreams, and the immediate trauma of flashbacks, and the sudden clash between reality and family dynamics. Scripture was full of the melody of sound doctrine. I would have to learn from the Composer and Conductor of the song how to sing harmony to the brokenhearted.

          If sexual abuse issues were out of my singing range, knowing how to sing hope into the eating disordered world seemed even more perplexing. I knew the melody of hope in God’s song; I did not know the harmony of hope that would comfort the heart of someone who wanted to disappear into the pain-free experience of nothingness. I knew things that God’s song sang out to me about my worth in Jesus Christ. I did not know how to harmonize with God’s song so that the heart of worthlessness would hear the harmonies of hope that flowed and poured out of the music of heaven.

          As I became an apprentice in God’s music school, I began to learn that every harmony had to be consistent with the melody God had already revealed. I realized that God’s melody was given to us with the absolute necessity of us joining the song with our unique gifting, our unique instruments, our unique personalities, and our unique voices, so that, at every given time, there would be some child of God somewhere singing in the exact harmony that some heartbroken soul needed to receive. These harmonies would bring hopeless people to hear the melody of the God-song and know that God himself was giving them hope.

          When churches only sing the melody of God’s song, they may have great ministries to strong people who want to know nothing more about life than what they can hear in the exact and precise notes of sound doctrine itself. At the same time, those churches that fall in love with their harmonization so much that they lose connection to the melody of God, attract people who know that the harmonies touch on things that are deep needs in their hearts, but drift aimlessly in seas of music that are more discordant and hopeless than they realize.

          Those churches that become so proficient in God’s melody that they can sing the songs of sound doctrine in harmonies that relate to any and every problem the contemporary world is facing, develop ministries to people who love Father’s song, and feel its harmonies transforming their broken hearts.

          We can never forsake the clear and precise melody of God’s sound doctrine; but neither can we simply read out the word of God as if that is all God has willed. Yes, the reading of Scripture is necessary,[4] just as the melody line of the song is necessary. However, God has orchestrated everything so that his people must sing along in harmony in order for one human life to bless another.

          Paul’s exhortation to, “teach what accords with sound doctrine”, lives and moves in our lives today. Pastors who cannot sing a lick of music with their physical voice, can have lives saturated with the songs of heaven through their soul-voice. In other words, the teaching and encouragement that comes out of our souls in ministry to others can be “music to their ears”, even if we cannot carry a tune if our lives depended on it.

          In fact, pastors should be the lead singer in the church’s soul-music like no one in the world could ever present.[5] People should come to churches where they can tell that the pastors are watching over the deepest issues of their souls,[6] because they can hear the men of God presenting pitch-perfect harmonies that touch them right where they are, and bring them to love the divine love song God has revealed through the sound doctrine of his word.

          Of course, what Paul expressed primarily to pastors who had to watch over the flock of God, is true of all believers. Whatever we pass on (or sing) to our children, our families, and the world around us, must be harmoniously consistent with the sound doctrine of the word of God. And, we should consider it an immense wonder that God would want to make us partners with him and each other[7] in making his song known to the world.

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)


[1] Titus 2:1
[2] “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
[3] Romans 12; I Corinthians 12
[4] “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (I Timothy 4:13) Note that the public reading of Scripture did not stand on its own. It had to be sung in harmony with exhortations to live by the word, and teaching how to live in ways that accord with sound doctrine.
[5] 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11) A study of God’s reference to the care of the soul would lead us to see how “soul care” under the shepherdly leadership of men who watch over people’s souls, has to be central to our ministry.
[6] Hebrews 13:17
[7]I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15) This picture of the vine and the branches is a God-inspired picture of how closely Jesus connects us to himself so that everything that is absolutely true about him, and all that he himself has recorded for us in his word (illustratively known as “the God-song”), is expressed through the branch of the church. We are like him, and yet different from him. Illustrating us singing in harmony to him simply helps me keep the sameness and differences in a picture I can understand.

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