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The Holy Spirit and Music

 

Dove

by Dennis Pollock

The Spirit-filled life is no option for the Christian. We are commanded in Scripture: “Be filled with the Spirit.” While no evangelical would deny or refute the command, many struggle with the idea of how it may be implemented in their own life. There are a number of elements that make for a life rich in the Holy Spirit; one of those elements is music.

The Scriptures make it plain that there is a special relationship between the Holy Spirit and music. It is amazing to think that the stretching out of sounds and the arrangements of tones and sometimes words can trigger an incredible response from the mighty Third Person of the Trinity, but it is undoubtedly so. There is an undeniable link between the Holy Spirit and certain types of music.

A classic example of this is found in the Old Testament story of Elisha. This fierce prophet somehow became part of an army that was on its way to attack the nation of Moab. After marching seven days and finding no water along the way, things became desperate. It looked as though the Israelites would perish before they ever arrived for the battle. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah heard Elisha was among them, and appealed to the prophet to do something.

The old prophet demanded, “Bring me a musician.” A musician was brought, and the Scriptures tell us, “Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” Elisha told them to dig ditches, for a flood of water was soon to follow.

This passage never fails to amaze me. Clearly the prophetic anointing that Elisha ministered with worked best in the presence of music. When the musician played, the Spirit moved. The Holy Spirit likes good music! His power is released, His mind is known, and His presence is felt when the right type of music is played (and sung).

Another example of this is found in the life of David. As a young man, he was gifted in playing the harp. After King Saul fell away from God, an evil spirit frequently troubled him. Wanting to be freed from this oppressing spirit, Saul would call for David to come and play the harp for him, and we are told, “David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.”

This troubling demon was not leaving because he couldn’t stand the music; he was fleeing because that harp music, coming from the anointed hands David, would bring the presence of the Holy Spirit. And when the Spirit comes with power, demons are not eager to hang around!

I have seen examples of this many times. Once, when I was a pastor, I took several of our church members to a local jail to minister to the prisoners. Upon entering the facility there was an immediate sense of oppression and depression. But we got together with some of the prisoners and began to sing praise choruses. As we sang, it seemed the very atmosphere was being cleansed. Afterwards there was perfect liberty to share the word, and we had a blessed time as that jail became a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit.

Praising Prisoners

We find the release of God’s Spirit and power through music in the New Testament as well. When Paul and Silas were arrested for preaching Christ, they were severely beaten and thrown in jail. Undaunted, these two men turned the prison into a church. We read, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.”

This was no ordinary earthquake. The earth itself couldn’t keep still; it trembled in the presence of the mighty Holy Spirit as His obedient servants sang praises to their God. Once again music brought power. Chains were loosed and doors were opened when the Holy Spirit showed up. Thus it will always be.

Earlier we quoted Paul’s famous command to “be filled with the Spirit.” But often we neglect to notice the rest of the passage. Let’s look at what follows:

… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord
… (Ephesians 5:18,19)

Singing and worship are both a cause and a result of the Spirit’s filling. As we sing we are filled, and as we are filled we will sing. During the great Welsh revival there were two primary ingredients in these Holy Spirit-charged meetings – testimony and singing. Once an Englishman asked a man who had been in these meetings if he thought the revival might come to England. The man asked him, “Can you sing?”

Worship Renewal

The late sixties and early seventies were a time of powerful renewal in the church, especially in America. Churches we refer to as “charismatic” played a primary role in this renewal movement. Never before had America seen such phenomenal church growth. We saw churches of fifty people become churches of thousands in a few short years. People who had long resisted traditional churchianity were swept into these churches as though by a whirlwind. You often could sense the presence of God in the sanctuary before the service ever began.

Temple WorshipAt the heart of this renewal was worship. Beautiful new Scripture choruses were breaking out on the right and on the left. Churches were no longer leaving the worship in the hands of some elderly granny, playing an off-key piano that was left around from the last century. They were hiring gifted young men and women playing guitars and keyboards, and backed by outstanding musicians. Many of the new songs had people singing to God, not just about God. Hands were raised, eyes were closed, and the worship time became truly worship.

Gone was the standard rule of “sing three songs and let the preacher preach.” The worship services often last thirty or forty minutes and sometimes longer. And that presence! I can remember being in services where the tears would just course down my cheeks as I experienced the presence of God. Churches like these usually had no “church growth” policy or plan. They hadn’t learned to be seeker sensitive or purpose driven. They simply worshiped and you couldn’t keep the people away.

In those early days the charismatics were about the only ones doing what we now call “contemporary worship.” The Baptists, Bible churches, Methodists, Presbyterians, Independent Christian churches, and nearly all the rest were still singing out of hymnals. Raising one’s hands in worship would probably have gotten you kicked out of most churches.

But an odd thing happened. As God’s hand was so signally evident on the churches that gave serious attention to worship, a few, daring non-charismatic churches began to risk singing praise choruses and giving priority to worship. As they did, they found a blessing attending their services as well. Gradually, and sometimes almost reluctantly, the churches began to yield to this new direction of the Holy Spirit. Today dynamic worship, including the lifting up of hands and clapping, can be found in churches of nearly every stripe.

Individual Worship

Singing, music, and worship should not merely be something we experience on Sunday morning, however. The Spirit-filled life must be a daily, hourly, and even minute by minute experience. Our generation has an advantage over every other generation of the church since the day of Pentecost. The creation of praise and worship CDs is huge today. Praise and worship music has become so big that even the “Time-Life” folks have a worship series that they advertise on television. Outstanding praise and worship music is available everywhere, from Wal-Mart to Amazon.com to Ebay.

I was in an airport in Brussels, Belgium recently, on my way to a meeting in Africa.  Having some time on my hands before my connecting flight, I found a worship album on my IPOD, put on my earphones and was instantly transported into the presence of God. While harried travelers rushed to their gates, and others sat around with nothing to do, my heart was soaring. As the singer sang “How great is our God,” I was nearly in tears. Surely God is great, and what an awesome way to be reminded of it. I wanted to lift my hands in praise, but managed to restrain myself.

But I don’t just use praise and worship as a filler when I have some extra time at airports. I have CDs on my computer as MP3 files and bathe myself in worship as I write (I’m doing it right now!). I often put on a CD when I am doing work around the house, or when I go to bed. As I read the Scriptures I frequently put on an instrumental praise CD to play softly in the background.

This is not fanatical; it is quite practical. A household where the Holy Spirit is welcomed through music is going to be most uncomfortable for any passing demons that might want to come in and cause mischief. The anointing of the Spirit that comes through music will not only draw you closer to God; you will find yourself far more effective at even the most mundane of tasks. You were made to live in God’s presence – it’s good for you!

Take advantage of the tremendous worship music that is available to our generation. Throw yourself heartily into your church’s worship service. Invest in praise and worship CDs and play them often. As you bathe your spirit in praise and worship, and beautiful, uplifting music, depression and fear will have a hard time latching onto you. The Holy Spirit will be pleased. And when He is pleased, good things happen!

Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose again the third day not only to forgive our sins and enable us to live with Him in heaven forever, but also to give us a tremendous gift of infinite value – the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that our Lord Jesus makes Himself known to the world, and sets the captives free. He promised that those who believe on Him would experience rivers of living water flowing from within. He was speaking of the Holy Spirit. Anything we can do to enhance the free flow of those rivers, we must by all means do. Soaking our spirits in praise and worship music, as well as beautiful instrumental music, is one of the ways we make the Holy Spirit comfortable in our lives, and promote the release of those living waters in and through us. All who desire to glorify the Lord Jesus through their lives and to share Him effectively with others should take advantage of the powerful, God-ordained blessing of music.


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