I’ve heard people say “if you don’t mean it, don’t sing it” in relation to worship songs in church. Some might even go so far as saying that unless your heart is completely in the right place with God, you shouldn’t be singing certain lines of songs, because they’re not being sung out of a genuine place. I disagree with both of these statements and here’s why:
We are in a battle. Every second of every day, Satan is vying for attention and affection that belongs only to Jesus. Part of our armor is our praise. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and give ourselves to Him in worship, it quelches the enemies attacks and elevates Jesus to His rightful place.
We need help turning our hearts TO HIM. This requires more than just telling ourselves “OK, get right with God… ready, go!” God made us mind, body, soul and spirit… and sometimes we need the power that comes when all those things come together to soften the hardened places of our heart. It’s more than just deciding that we’re going to get right with god, it’s an active turning of our hearts. One of the ways we do that is by singing songs of praise and surrender (another post on this to come!). It’s a spiritual discipline, and it sets the stage for the Spirit to work.
We are called to be obedient. God has put a calling on each of our lives to be worshippers -- to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). Sometimes the best way to worship is to sing things we know to be true over and over again until they resonate and ring true in our own hearts.
Finally, it’s not about us. Because Christ paid the price for all of our sins, we can stand before Him clean. Because He said “it is finished” at the cross, we can live in total freedom. It is out of THAT place, the place of truly recognizing what our Savior has done for us, that we can truly surrender.
My heart’s desire is to see the song “I Surrender All to Thee” being used in the church for those purposes. It was written primarily by a dear friend of mine and avid worshipper Carolyn Marcotte, whose heart for Jesus is one I would like to emulate. This song is one of total surrender… and honestly, it’s hard for me to sing. I’m constantly asking myself, “Is this true? Am I really surrendering all to Christ?” I want to stay in that place… the place of humility and asking the Spirit to change me.
The verses of this song talk about Jesus’ great sacrifice on the cross and how in that moment of our greatest need, every debt was forgiven and we were set free. The appropriate response to this sacrifice is a life completely surrendered to Christ… but if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re often not in a place where we have surrendered all to Him. That is exactly why we sing, because singing songs like this help us get to that place. Recounting and repeating the love-sacrifice of Jesus together is what fuels a heart-level response of surrender. Ultimately, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that changes hearts, but we can invite Him to do so by loosening our grips and fixing our eyes upon Him.