About The Music And The Dance

For some time now both at my church, Christ Community in Daytona Beach Florida, and at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, I’ve used a metaphor that applies to both preaching and the Christian life.

Imagine a large house in which both deaf and hearing people are all living together. As you look into this house you see a man sitting in a room with an Ipod, he’s tapping his foot rhythmically and snapping his fingers and his body is swaying. You know what’s happening. He’s listening to music and obviously enjoying himself. His whole body wants to respond to the music he is hearing.

A deaf man opens the door and enters the room he sees this man and walks over to him and begins watching. He thinks to Himself, “He seems to be enjoying himself, I think I’ll try that too.” So the deaf man sits down next to the first man and begins to imitate him. Awkwardly and haltingly at first, he tries to snap his fingers, tap his feet and move like the man next to him. After a little practice the deaf man slowly begins to snap and sway pretty much in time with the first man just from watching and trying. But even though he gets fairly good at keeping in time he shrugs and says to himself, “It’s not as much fun as it looks.”

Someone seeing these two men might think both men are doing the same thing and not notice subtle differences. But is there a difference? Absolutely! The first man hears the music and all his actions are in response to and expressive of the music that he hears. The deaf man is only imitating the outward actions. As a result he doesn’t enjoy it much, he might not keep it up very long and he will never really do it as well as the one who hears the music.

The point of the analogy is to illustrate an important truth about the Christian life. It’s an illustration of the point that Paul is making in Galatians 5:6. The Scripture here says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

The dance, the movement, is the Christian life. Galatians 5:6 sums it up with one word: Love. Jesus said that is the whole law of God can be summed up as love for God and love for others. The Christian life of love for God and love for others is the dance.

What is the music that inspires the dance? The music is the reality of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ and the gospel. Sometimes people approach the Christian life as if all that matters is getting the moves right, there are certain steps that you have to learn, there are rules and rituals to master but that is not all that matters, the truth is you cannot dance the dance well unless you are listening to the music.

Faith is receiving the music. Faith is listening to the music, letting its rhythm, beauty and power move you so that you live a life of love. That’s why faith is so crucial, not just at the beginning of the Christian life but all through the Christian life. Galatians 5:6 says that it is faith, that expresses itself in love. Faith is listening to the music of the love of God in Christ, and then allowing the response of your whole self to become the dance, the life of love for God and others to which he calls us. It is God who choreographed the dance we call the Christian life but God also composed the music that inspires the dance. He wants the music of the gospel to inspire and empower us as we live our lives as Christians. In Ephesians 3:16-19 Paul speaks about this same Christ-centered, or gospel-centered dynamic in the Christian life when he says, I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

In all of our preaching, teaching, counseling and living of the Christian life we need the music and the dance. It’s never one or the other but both. We need to be deeply receiving the life-giving power of the love of God in the gospel. We also need to be responding to the love of God with our whole selves by dancing the dance of faith-inspired love and obedience for God and others.


8 Responses to “About The Music And The Dance”

  1. I hear that analogy a lot but I never am to the point where I didn’t need to hear that true message behind it. I savor these words and love to let them sink deeply into my heart- thank you!

  2. Thanks Brooke. Me too! It’s good to se you joining the discussions here.

  3. Hey Larry,
    A friend of mine passed along the link to your blog entry-very enchanting. I’m very appreciative of your thoughtful and creative ideas, esp. as they relate to the gospel.

  4. Hey Larry, great stuff. I used “The Music & the Dance” in my sermons this morning. But I made sure to give credit where credit is due and quoted my source.
    Thanks.
    Your brother in Christ, Dan Brinkmann

  5. Larry, currently I am Internet stalking you and Christ Community Church to find out what you guys are all about. Just a couple weeks ago I was sitting in on the Sermon on the Mount at SBTS taught by Dr. Jonathan Pennington. He assigned the article “Hearing the Music of the Gospel” by Keith Johnson which I just noticed has you as the originator, great analogy. Have you read “Christ Centered Interpretation Only?” by Jason Hood? I have yet to read it, but it was another article assigned in that class as a perspective/hermeneutical counter to Johnson’s article.

  6. Yes I have read Hood’s article and I appreciate his concerns. Maybe when I get a chance I can interact with some of them more fully here. My approach is in some ways simple and I believe clear and compelling.

    It is this:

    However we approach all of the hermeneutical issues to get at proper interpretation of a text, we must reflect our doctrine of sanctification in our approach to homiletics and praxis in general. This means the indicative is always the basis for the imperative in Christian faith and life. To use the analogy, the music inspires and empowers the dance. Now, how do I interpret a particular text and legitimately draw the connections between authentic interpretation and Christ-centered application (yes, I like the term “Christ-centered”) may vary. I may not agree with Greidanus or with Keller in a particular passage. I’m certainly not committed to a particular school of Redemptive historical methodology. But I do want to help people see the link between the application of the text, and the resources for heart-change that can only ultimately be found in Christ and the gospel.

    As Christians, and especially Reformed Christians we have a doctrine of sanctification which is rooted in Christ and the gospel as both motive and means for all of Christian life and growth. This should be reflected in our homiletics.

    Well, those are just some quick comments. I’m working on a sermon from James 5:1-6 which is nothing but judgment and condemnation. I will be reflecting on how to legitimately connect this text to Christ and the gospel! Thanks for the comment and keep on stalking us. Say hi to Daniel and the good men at Sojourn KY!

  7. Hey Larry,

    In preparing for my preaching responsibilities at Campus Outreach retreat, I read your sermon on the Holy Spirit from your series on the Apostle’s Creed. Fantastic job on that sermon. Wonderful balance of speaking to the whole person— mind and heart and hands. Sparked me to Google you and came across your blog. Look forward to more posts in the future.

  8. Hey Jerry. I’ve been off the blog for a while. Thanks for the encouraging word about the Holy Spirit sermon. I think I know some guys from your church Palmer of course through CO but also Greg Harris at RTS GReg’s in my preaching lab. Hope to meet some day.

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