Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Speaking Truth to Self through Psalms and Spiritual Songs (Part 1)

I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase “speaking truth to power.” Doing so is considered noble and a mark of a person’s integrity because it often involves great risk to ones person. I have no doubt that speaking truth to power is a noble thing when done from a pure and God honoring heart, but there is another entity that we need to speak truth to first, if we are to speak truth to power -- ourselves.

The book of Psalms gives many illustrations of a Godly person speaking truth to self as they pursue God and reject the lure of sin and the flesh. Psalm 42 is a rich example of this. Verses 5 and 6, for example, say: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed with me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.” (Psalm 42:5-6)

Here the psalmist combats his “downcast” spirit by speaking to Himself the rich truths of God. The psalmist closes the chapter saying “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Paul Tripp puts it this way: “No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. You’re in an unending conversation with yourself. You’re thanking to yourself all the time, interpreting, organizing, and analyzing what’s going on inside you and around you.

Martin Lloyd Jones poses the question “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

Ephesians 5:17-20 says, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Likewise Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

So, we see two things.

First, speaking truth to self is a key to combating sin, Satan, and the flesh.

Second, we are exhorted to speak truth to self through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” It is then important that all our spiritual songs be full of truth, and not just truth but truth that is focused on God, and not self (wouldn’t focusing on self to the exclusion of God defeat the purpose of speaking truth to self?) but with thanksgiving and the richness of the Gospel. I say the richness of the Gospel because it is the Gospel that simultaneously builds us up, giving us the strength and hope to pursue Christ with all our “heart, soul and mind,” and shines its bright light into the crevasses of our soul and exposes the totality of our depravity by comparing our human condition to the holiness of God.

Understand that this post is not to condemn any particular genre of music - only to put forward a biblical vision for a Godly use and choice of “spiritual songs.” I believe God gives us liberty in our choice of music that allows for us to honor Him through a wide variety of “genres.” But, I do fear that many churches have allowed their worship music to contain more spiritual milk than meat and are perhaps more focused on self and man's plight than it is on God, His glory and promises and the Gospel. Again though, my purpose is not to specifically attack any song or songs – only to offer what I believe to be Biblical instruction on the purpose and power of music.

I love old hymns because, much more often than not, they achieve the objectives I’ve laid out.

I know this post is getting long so I'll stop, but please come back tomorrow because Heidi M. of the Rebelution Forum has an excellent testimony to the power of speaking truth to self through song, specifically hymns in her case, that I believe you will be very blessed by. I know I was. :-)

God bless!


  1. Those are some good points. I'm also a bit disappointed at the way churches and most Christians have released the old hymns and taken on new "praise" songs that sometimes don't seem like praise at all. There are exceptions, I will be quick to say that, but at times singing the same milky line seven times over just doesn't do a thing for me.

    I love reading old hymns, besides singing them, because they hold really great theological thoughts. Despite what some say, they are just as applicable today as they were hundreds of years ago.

  2. Agreed, Jennifer! It's noteworthy that the authors of many if not most of the old hymns viewed their hymns as worship and doctrine/theology. Many of today's authors have lost that double focus, I fear, but that is not to say that great songs are not being written by Christians today.