“What’s the most impactful book you’ve ever owned? What is the one book that every Christian should own, apart from the Bible?”
A few years ago, I was at a conference when Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson was asked these questions. You could feel the congregants in the room collectively lean forward as they eagerly awaited the answers from this powerhouse of the faith. Would it be a Puritan classic or a book written by one of his friends, such as R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God? Would it be a historical work from Martin Luther or John Calvin? After pausing for a moment, Ferguson answered the questions simply: a hymn book. For the next few minutes, he spoke of the power of singing and encouraged every man, woman, and child in the room to get a good hymn book and commit its words to memory.
If I’m honest, it’s not the answer I was expecting. I grew up with hymn books but hadn’t looked at one in years. But, because I respect Sinclair Ferguson, I went out and bought a hymn book and began slowly teaching my kids its tunes. That practice has turned out to be one of the sweetest and most transformational habits for our family this year.
The impact of hymns in daily life
Singing hymns has not only been a way to worship God as a family, it’s also reminded me of powerful truth throughout my days. My two-year-old son now regularly runs around the house with his upbeat, high-pitched voice singing, “Ho-wee ho-wee, ho-wee” (Holy, Holy, Holy). His squeals of worship fill our house in the stressful moments of parenting and remind me, “God is here, and He is holy.” My daughters now hum “Great is thy Faithfulness” in the car, and as I hear the song make its way deep into their hearts, it reminds me that “God is faithful to me.” While my children’s singing always brings me joy, their singing of hymns has been a helpful reminder to me about what is true, right, and holy. It seems that Ferguson was on to something.
Martin Luther’s exhortation to use hymns
Sinclair Ferguson is not alone in valuing music. Martin Luther once talked about the power of music by saying, “The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God....Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.” He also said that "Music drives away the Devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.”
Hymns throughout the Bible
Of course, the Bible also gives us examples and commands us to worship God through song. It’s not an accident that the biggest book of the Bible is a songbook. The name Psalms literally means songs or hymns, and in it, Psalm 96 simply calls us to “Sing a new song to the Lord; let the whole earth sing to the Lord. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; proclaim his salvation from day to day.”
Throughout the New Testament, the encouragement to sing remains. In Ephesians 5, Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5 to “be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul even modeled this in the flesh when he sang praises to God from the middle of a prison cell with his friend, Silas (Acts 16). Music is a common theme woven throughout Scripture, and it is a gift of God to us.
How to incorporate hymns in your daily life
As Christians, we sing praises to God because He is worthy of our worship (Psalm 96:4). He is the only God, the holy, awesome, and all-powerful Creator. But singing doesn’t only give praise to God, it also reminds us of what is true. So, if you don’t already have a hymn book, follow Ferguson’s advice and go get one. Fill your house with singing and your ears with music. Remind your heart of what is true through song. You may find that it not only brings God glory to worship Him with your voice, it also brings great hope and joy to your soul.
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