Jon Markey and Michael Payne are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in the latest episode of the Theology for the People podcast, I sat down with them to talk about the theology of music.
Michael is the Worship Pastor at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado. Prior to coming to Longmont, he spent 21 years as a worship leader and missionary in Hungary, and prior to that he served in the US Marine Corps.
Jon is a pastor and missionary in Ternopil, Ukraine. He moved to Kiev, Ukraine with his family in the 1990’s, when he was 5 years old, and earned a masters degree from the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music.
We recently had the pleasure of having Jon and his family visit Longmont and lead worship at our church, and while he was here, I got to sit down with him and Mike to discuss what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the “song of creation,” and how it serves to counteract pagan origin narratives, as well as Jubal: the first human musician, mentioned in Genesis 4, as well as other practical discussions which have modern application.
Michael Payne and Jon Markey are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in this episode they talk with Nick about the theology of music. Listen in to this discussion of what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the "song of creation," Jubal, and practical discussions for today.
Check out Jon's ministry: Room for More music on YouTube and his church: Calvary Chapel Ternopil (Ukraine)
Check out Michael on Spotify: Michael Payne and you can watch him on the White Fields Community Church YouTube page.
The book mentioned in this episode is Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card
Visit the Theology for the People blog.
The symbol of the cross is universally recognized today as the symbol of Christianity; for many in the Western world it is familiar and welcome. However, in the ancient world, in the first century AD, when this symbol was first used by early Christians, it was downright scandalous.
Paul the Apostle refers to the message of the cross as foolishness to the Greeks, a stumbling block to the Jews, and an offense to all. (1 Corinthians 1:22-23, Galatians 5:11)
The reason is because, for people in the ancient world, the cross was a terrible instrument of torture and execution.
The thing that made crucifixion so terrible is that it didn’t kill you right away; it was designed to make a person suffer as much as possible, for as long as possible. And for this reason, crucifixion was reserved for only the very worst kinds of criminals.
Because of how terrible crucifixion was, the Romans did not allow their own citizens to be killed by crucifixion, no matter how dastardly their crimes; only slaves and those without rights were allowed to be crucified, since it was exceedingly inhumane.
Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher said that crucifixion was so horrible, that the word “cross” should never be mentioned in polite society.
Let the very word ‘cross,’ be far removed from not only the bodies of Roman citizens, but even from their thoughts, their eyes, and their ears.
Cicero, 106-43BC, Pro Rabirio Postump 16
For the Jewish people in particular — to be crucified on a cross was considered a fate worse than death, because according to the Jewish Scriptures, anyone who was killed by being hanged upon a tree was considered “accursed”. (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)
And so, just imagine if you told someone back then that you were a follower of Jesus — a man who had been crucified… That person would have thought: “Whoa… Even if he was innocent, that’s probably something you should keep to yourself! That’s not something you want to go around advertising, because: that’s humiliating!”
But: here’s what’s interesting: for the early Christians, the fact that Jesus had been killed upon a cross was not something they tried to hide. Instead, the symbol of the cross became the main symbol they used to identify themselves – which is surprising, because the cross was generally consider to be the ultimate symbol of humiliation and defeat.
Furthermore, the message that the early Christians embraced and wanted to share with the world was what they called, “the message of the cross,” and “the good news of Christ, and him crucified.”
Paul the Apostle knew that the message of the cross was difficult for many people to accept. For the Jews, the idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block. For Greeks, the idea that you could be saved through the death of an executed Jew seemed ridiculous. The idea that God would come to Earth and allow himself to be beaten, mocked, rejected and crucified, seemed completely unreasonable. They couldn’t wrap their heads around it. The Greek gods made humans serve them; they didn’t serve people – and they would never sacrifice themselves to save guilty people.
Just as the message of the cross ran contrary to popular thinking back then, the message of the cross also runs contrary to popular thinking today.
The message of the Cross requires you to admit that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that you are powerless to save yourself. This is why Paul talks about “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11)
The message of the cross offends our sensibilities and our pride by telling us that we are sinners who need a Savior, and that we cannot save ourselves. In order to receive this salvation, you have to humble yourself before God.
Another part of the offense of the Cross is that the message of the gospel is exceedingly simple. Many people in Corinth seemed to believe that in order to “find God,” you had to be really smart, or exceedingly “good.” And yet, God chose to bring salvation to the world in a way that was so simple that even even a child could understand it, and in a way that it was available to people who had lived immoral lives.
Another part of the “offense of the cross” is that God says that His reason for saving you was not because you are better than other people. Salvation is simply an act of God’s grace: completely undeserved and totally unearned. You can’t take credit for it. The message of the cross leaves no room for pride or arrogance.
And when you really embrace the message of the cross, on the one hand it forces you to be incredibly humble, but on the other hand it fills you with an incredible sense of confidence – because the message of the Cross is that God loves you, and He has acted to redeem you, and if you have put your faith in what Jesus did for you, then God has sealed you and made you His own: He has adopted you as His Child, and placed His Spirit inside of you — and therefore you can be incredibly confident, knowing that you have nothing to fear in life or in death because God has promised that He will cause all things to work together for your ultimate good and for His ultimate glory.
One of the questions that is sometimes asked about the Holy Spirit, is whether God will ever remove the Holy Spirit from a person because of disobedience or sinful actions.
Certainly there are verses which talk about God removing the Holy Spirit from people, such as Psalm 51:11, where King David prays, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” David prayed this in the wake of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), so that brings up the question: Are there times when God removes the Holy Spirit from someone if they do something really bad?
Furthermore, in 1 Samuel 16, is says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul, and in the Book of Judges, it says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Samson.
So, does this mean that God will REMOVE his Spirit from YOU, if you live in a bad way? If so, that would be a pretty big problem, because Romans 8:9 says “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
Understanding the Three Relationships the Holy Spirit has with different groups of people
In order to answer this question and understand what it meant for David, Saul, and Samson – and what it means for us today, we have to first understand the 3 different relationships that the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit has with different groups of people.
Relationship 1: “WITH” All People
In John 14:17, Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit had been with them up until that point.
Jesus then he told them that the work of the Spirit in the world is that He brings about conviction in people’s hearts and minds about 3 things: Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (John 16:8)
In other words, the Holy Spirit is at work in the world in every country, with all people, and he is whispering in their ears and speaking to their hearts about the fact that 1)They are sinners (they have fallen short of God’s perfect standard), and 2) God is righteous, so therefore 3) There is coming a day of judgment when they will have to stand before that righteous God and give account for their lives.
The purpose of this conviction is not to just make people feel bad about themselves; the purpose is to draw them to Jesus by bringing them to a realization of why they need a savior, so they will embrace Jesus and what He has done in order to save them.
Relationship 2: “IN” those who have been redeemed by Jesus
Jesus told his disciples in John 14:17: The Holy Spirit has been WITH YOU up until this point — but soon, the Holy Spirit will also be IN YOU.
This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is something that was prophesied by the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, that one day God was going to put His Spirit within His people (Ezekiel 36:27), in order to transform them from the inside out.
For people in the Old Testament, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was always a future event, but after Jesus had died and resurrected, we read in John 20:22 that Jesus met with his disciples and he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It was at this moment, that the disciples received the Holy Spirit within them, and it was at this moment that they were “born again.” (See also: “What does it mean to be “Born Again”?)
What it comes down to is this: Only those who have put their faith in Jesus have the Holy Spirit within them, and every person who has put their faith in Jesus has the Holy Spirit dwelling with them.
The Bible tells us that when you put your faith in Jesus, God puts his seal on you and gives you His Spirit in as a guarantee(2 Corinthians 1:23). Furthermore, the regenerating and indwelling Spirit is called “the Spirit of Adoption” (Romans 8:15) It’s His guarantee that you belong to Him, and you are His.
The indwelling Spirit sanctifies, leads, guides, strengthens, and transforms from within.
Relationship 3: “UPON” Some people at different times, to empower them to do what God has called them to do
Remember how in John 20 Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”? Well, right after that, Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them. (Luke 24 & Acts 1:4)
But… if they just RECEIVED the Holy Spirit, then why did Jesus tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit?
Because: this is speaking about two different relationships with the Holy Spirit!
When Jesus breathed upon them, they received the Spirit IN them (and they were born again) — but then they were to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come UPON them: to EMPOWER THEM to carry out the mission Jesus had given them.
That’s why Jesus His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come UPON you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Throughout the Old Testament, before people could have the Holy Spirit WITHIN them — we read that the Holy Spirit would come UPON people, to empower them to do things God had called them to do. For example, it says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon! (Judges 6:34 NKJV) We’re also told that the Holy Spirit came UPON Samson, and UPON David, and UPON Elisha, and others — to EMPOWER them to do what God had called them to do.
So, Jesus was promising his disciples (and us) — that the Holy Spirit will also come upon us, to empower us to carry out the callings He has placed upon our lives.
Remember: in the Old Testament, the Spirit was WITH people (to bring conviction) and the Holy Spirit was UPON people (to empower them), but at that point that Spirit was not yet WITHIN people. So when we read in the Old Testament about God “removing” his Spirit, it’s not in the sense of a person who had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, rather it’s in the sense of God removing the empowering work of the Holy Spirit from those people.
But for a person who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit indwelling them, we never read of God removing His Spirit from someone in that sense. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption. God does not un-adopt us when we make mistakes and mess up, rather: he disciplines us like a loving Father (see Hebrews 12).
If He has SEALED you, as a guarantee of your salvation, that’s exactly what it is: He has placed his Spirit within you as a guarantee that He will see you through and bring to completion the good work that He has begun in you.
If you are His child, He won’t give up on you – and that’s really good news!
Recently someone reached out asking for a simple explanation of what it means to be “born again.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3 ESV
The idea of being “born again” is something that the Bible speaks about using a variety of terms, such as: Receiving a new heart, becoming a new creation, being made alive in Christ.
The exact phrase, “born again” is something which Jesus used when speaking to a man named Nicodemus: a moral, religious man who was well-respected in his community. Nicodemus came to Jesus asking for the essence of Jesus’ teaching, and Jesus told him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
What this means is that although we are born physically alive, every person’s default condition is that they are spiritually dead and disconnected from God.
God loves us, and yet: we are sinners, both by nature and by choice, and as a result there is a separation between us and God, and our default condition is that we are spiritually dead rather than alive.
There are a lot of people in the world who are like Nicodemus: moral and “good” people. And yet, Jesus told this moral man that he needed to be born again. And this is the message of Jesus to all of us as well: “YOU need to be born again!” Not just everyone else; not just the drunks and the immoral people, but YOU too!
YOU need to be born again by coming into a relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ: faith in the fact that he died in your place to reconcile you to God by imputing his righteousness to you, and imputing your sins to him; faith that he rose from the dead to give you the hope and promise of eternal life!
When you are born again you receive:
a NEW HEART: The very essence of who you are changes! You receive a new heart, with new desires.
a NEW IDENTITY: You change from being an enemy of God to being a child of God.
a NEW MIND: You begin to think differently.
NEW EMOTIONS: You feel differently; God pours out his love, joy, and peace into your heart.
A NEW COMMUNITY: You become part of the people of God, those who are being saved.
A NEW POWER: Power over sin; we are no longer slaves to our flesh, but we gain the power to be free when we are born again by putting our faith in Jesus and God places his Spirit inside of you to strengthen you in your weakness.
In Matthew 27:52-53 it says that when Jesus died, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
Why did this happen? And what happened to these “walking dead”: did they ascend into Heaven with Jesus, or did they die again at a later date? What was the meaning and significance of this?
I address this question in the latest episode of the Theology for the People Podcast – in which I tell a story of regret from my honeymoon and explain why this event can only be understood in light of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine.
In Matthew 27:52-53 it says that when Jesus died, "The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many."
Why did this happen? And what happened to these "walking dead": did they ascend into Heaven with Jesus, or did they die again at a later date? What was the meaning and significance of this?
You can find more articles and content, as well as a place to submit questions or suggest topics at the Theology for the People blog site.
In the Bible, Satan is referred to as “the ruler of this world,” (John 12:31, 14:30) and even “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). 1 John 5:19 says that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.
How then can Jesus say that “all authority in Heaven and on Earth” has been given to him (Matthew 28:18)?
In this week’s Sermon Extra, Pastor Mike and I discuss the authority of Satan, and what the Bible has to say about it: Did Adam and Eve hand over “regency” of the Earth to Satan in the Garden of Eden? And how does this relate to the scroll that only Jesus can open in Revelation 5?
Furthermore, we discuss the claim of Richard Dawkins and others, who say that Jesus’ death on the cross was “divine child abuse,” since the innocent Son of God was sacrificed by the Father – and how the deity of Christ changes everything when it comes to understanding the meaning of the cross.
What is the benefit of attending church? A person is demanded to surrender personal faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Jesus Christ to become a Borg in a socialist swamp. It’s great for becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized.
But its pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally.
Don’t go. Jesus isn’t welcome there. Conformity is King. Not Jesus.
I was tempted to ignore the comment, but I think this view of church is actually pretty widespread, even amongst professing Christians, that it warranted a response. And since I’ve recently started the Theology for the People Podcast, I figured this would be a good topic to discuss in more detail there.
In this episode Nick and Mike discuss a comment that came in to the Theology for the People blog claiming that church is only good for "becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized," and is "pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally." This comment represents a not-uncommon attitude to "organized religion" in general and church in particular.
This episode includes discussions about the Bible, Jesus, American history, and Henry David Thoreau.
The book recommended in this episode is The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History
I was reading in John, and during Jesus’s discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus makes a statement that gave me pause, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13)
Immediately I thought, “Wait, what about Elijah, or potentially Enoch?” They may not have descended in the same way as Jesus, or had a special nature as he did, but they ascended physically and yet seem to be ignored in this exclusive statement.
Great observation! Here are some important things to consider, which can bring clarity to this statement from Jesus:
Which Heaven is Jesus Referring To?
In ancient thinking, the word “heaven” was used in three ways (and it often used in these same three ways in our modern vernacular as well).
The “first” heaven = the sky, or the atmosphere, i.e. the place where birds and planes fly.
The “second” heaven = outer space, or the stratosphere: the place beyond Earth’s atmosphere, where stars and other planets are located.
The “third” heaven = the abstract use of the word, which designates not a geographical location, but the spiritual plane in which God and other invisible spirits dwell.
Paul the Apostle speaks of being caught up to the third heaven, in what was either a vision or perhaps even a near-death experience, in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Paul also speaks of the “heavenly places” in Ephesians as the place where Jesus is seated with the Father.
And yet, we know can surmise from different passages in the Bible, such as Luke 16 and others, that those who died in faith prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus did not go to “heaven” in the sense of the immediate presence of God, rather they went to Sheol, the dwelling place of the dead, where they awaited either the completion of their redemption or the final judgment of God.
In this case, it would seem that when 2 Kings 2:11 says “And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” it means that his body was caught up into the sky, not that his soul was taken to the immediate presence of God.
This would make sense in light of the rest of the text in 2 Kings, in which the “sons of the prophets” who witnessed this take place insist that they go and recover the body of Elijah that was picked up in this whirlwind. With Elijah and Enoch, though their souls were taken from this Earth, they would have gone to “Abraham’s bosom” (the part of Sheol reserved for those who died in faith – see article linked above).
Jesus’ point in John 3:13 is that Nicodemus should listen to what he has to say about Heaven since no human person has ever gone to heaven, yet he (Jesus) is the only person who has come from Heaven to Earth, and is therefore uniquely qualified to give accurate insight and explanation into Heavenly realities.
“Ascended” versus “Taken Up”
Another possible explanation is that when Jesus says that he is the first who will “ascend” into Heaven, he is correct in the sense that he will ascend by his own power and volition, whereas Enoch and Elijah were “taken up” by God, not by their own power or will.
Hopefully these explanations helped. If you see anything I missed, please leave a comment – and keep on studying God’s Word and asking questions as you go!
Sometimes you spend hours preparing for Sunday’s sermon, but the one thing you say that gets remembered most was something you said off the cuff, that wasn’t in the notes. That happened to me this past Sunday.
I was teaching a message called “Thriving in Exile” in which I was looking at Daniel and Jeremiah and what it took for the people of God to live faithfully in the Babylonian exile, especially since the Apostle Peter states that the Israelites in exile in Babylon is a perfect picture of what it means for us to be Christians in the world today.
During a section in which I was pointing out that the exiles needed to have convictionin order to live faithfully in exile, I pointed out that Daniel and the others with him were also very courteous towards those in Babylon who didn’t believe what they believed, which is notable since it seems that some people think that to be a person of conviction means to be a “Jerk for Jesus.”
In contrast to that, the example we have throughout the Scriptures and from Jesus, Paul, and Peter specifically is that rather than an adversarial approach, we are to take a missionary approach to those who believe and think differently than we do, so that we might be used by God to help bring his light, love, and truth into their lives.
The fact is, it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to influence people who can tell that you despise them. Those bombastic people who think they are dropping “truth bombs” tend to only embolden those who already agree with them and further alienate those who don’t – rather than wooing them to consider the beauty of the gospel.
Below you can listen to the podcast of this discussion and/or watch the video of it.
Here is a link to the book Mike and I discussed, in which I heard the phrase “Jerks for Jesus:” Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne. I recommend this book. In it, Larry Osborne points out how the pharisees never set out to become “pharisees” – they started out as people who cared about truth and following God whole-heartedly, but this devolved into pride, exclusivity, and creating rules which God never ordained, as well as fences which God never put in place. For those of us who truly care about truth and walking with God, this should be a warning to us lest we accidentally become pharisees ourselves. The book of course goes into much more detail and explanation. I especially appreciated what he had to say about Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the “secret disciples” mentioned in the gospels. It’s definitely worth a read.
Also embedded below is the video I mention about Ray Comfort, the Kiwi evangelist. I watched this film with my kids, and it was so inspiring. He speaks with so much compassion and empathy, and is a good example of how to not water down the truth, but still be courteous – and how many doors that opens for effective gospel ministry. The movie is called The Fool