Music is naturally a very spiritual thing; after all, Who created music? From the very beginning, music was created for the glorification of God. Of course, the entire book of Psalms is dedicated to the praise of God through music. Like every piece of the Lord’s creation, music was untainted –until the deceiver came. Satan, contrary to God, is all about the glorification of himself. However, the devil knows that men would generally never purposefully worship him, so he uses our favorite person instead: self. Satan’s path for our destruction is to take our focus off of God and place it onto ourself. Take the fall, for example. Did Satan lie and tell Eve that if she ate of the fruit of the tree, it would make Satan “King of the this World?” No. He told Eve that she would live forever. Satan took our focus off of God and placed it onto ourselves –just part of the beginning of sin –and he hasn’t stopped using the same plan.
Matthew 16:23 “But he [Jesus] turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
Satan knows our weaknesses better than we do. That is just why he uses music to ensnare the Christian.
One major problem with the world’s music is that it is all about self –including CCM artists as a whole. Churches today have geared their services toward self. They follow the philosophies of post-modernist psychologists –insert God’s name every once in a while, and call it preaching. The same goes with most “Christian” music. They follow the world’s philosophies, trends, and styles, then add God’s name every once in a while, and call it “worship.” That is why we as Christians must, shall we say, buck the trend of the world.
Even among some fundamentalist Christian churches and colleges, there has been a trend toward self-glorification instead of God-glorification. Instead of the music being directed off of the singer and toward the Lord, the music is directed to the singer and away from the Lord. This would go for specials and congregational singing. There is also more of an emphasis on the way that the singer performs, instead of what the singer is singing about. One wise teacher I had in college said on more than one occasion that he would rather hear someone sing way off-tune from the heart, than to perform perfectly with all of the wrong motives. I could not agree more!
Singing a special is not about being some sort of American Idol celebrity in the church. There was a dear, old lady in a church that I was in once, who truly lived what she sang and gave all glory to God, but was never the most talented singer either. I believe that she is the one that God looks down upon and knows that He is receiving all of the praise! I have also been in churches where a person who sings a special is given a standing applause for an “over-the-top” piece of music with all of the world’s styles, and very little honor is given to Christ. Oh sure, he may say it is for Jesus, but saying it doesn’t make it true–living it does.
What are, then, the world’s styles? I am not advising to go and turn on your radio to a given station and listen for a minute; you can do that while passing through your local supermarket. Specifically, here is a little list I have compiled of things that are worldly–different details that I have been taught with diligence from my parents, pastors, and teachers through my short life:
- A focus on the rhythm instead of the melody.
- Certain drum rhythms that have been spawned in America only in the last one hundred or so years, yet is the centerpiece of nearly all country, rock, R&B, hip-hop, and jazz music–as well as most CCM.
- Voice tricks (as I call them) –hitting every note between two written notes, sliding, scooping, etc.
- Swaying and “feeling the music.”
- The trend away from militancy for the Bible and towards a gentle, “touchy-feely” relationship with a non-judgmental God.
- Clapping, hooting, and wolf-howling towards a special music singer.
- Entertainment vs. spiritual strengthening and preparation of the soul for the preaching.
The World or the Flesh
1 John 2:15-16 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
I believe that this passage and the verses surrounding it in 1 John have a good amount of practical principles to live by as a Christian. The Bible is a tool to know what is of the Father and what is of the world. Most of us have learned it since Sunday School: “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes,” “and the pride of life.”
It is easy to ascribe the word lust simply to promiscuous sins; however–as James 1 describes–lust is the root of all sin. “The lust of the flesh” is anything that draws you to fleshly sin. What in music can appease our flesh rather than Christ? Again, a rock beating, performance-based kind of music is what is appeasing to our flesh.
A statement I have heard a few times is, “I really want to listen to the right kind of music, but it just seems so boring and dull to me.” One reason that can be true is that it is very easy to please our flesh, but it takes more work to please the Spirit. The truth is though, once you start trying to please the Spirit, it will be easier to resist the flesh, and its music. Another reason the above statement can be true is another lesson I learned from a teacher in college: “You like what you know.” Someone who is struggling with this issue sometimes says, “I know what I like, and I’m not going to change.” Nonetheless, the opposite is true, that person really likes what they know. If we can dwell around spirit-pleasing music and become used to it, we will like it! But it is for the same reason that we have to be vigilant; because if we start becoming accustomed to the wrong type of music, we will begin to like what we know there too.
The second description of the world that 1 John 2:16 states is the “lust of the eyes.” Now, music is not commonly attached to our eyes, or the lust thereof, but we still must be watchful of temptation in that area as well. Again, the idea has to do a lot with the performance aspect of music. Music in church is not a “show.” It is not about lights and cameras and who is singing. The attention of the eyes should be off of the singer and on the Savior. We cannot be so easily swayed when we sing or play special music at church to want some sort of approval from the congregation. The only approval that we need is from God.
Then there is “the pride of life.” The knowledge of music should never puff us up. Musical talent should never puff us up. Realize where ability comes from and acknowledge God as the benefactor! For the CCM musicians, forsake the riches and fame for the humility of Christ. For us, whether singing in the congregation or in front of them, forsake the spotlight for the lowliness that God demands. My wife just yesterday repeated a story to me from a class on counseling she is taking. The teacher was pointing out the fact that the writers of our hymns–far from perfect though they where–wrote the words they did because they were genuinely stirred by God. As a rule, many or most of today’s song writers are out to make the next “top of the boards” tune. Praise God for so many faithful song-writers we have had over the centuries, and still continue to have today that wrote from their heart, and not their wallet!
I will say as a testimony that when you listen to good music, it will stir your soul. God will revive your heart and refresh it anew. Sometimes it will cause tears, but other times it will make you, as a Christian, more zealous to carry the Gospel boldly to the lost. The Spirit of God lives within us, and is honored when biblical, Christ-honoring notes enter into our ears and heart.
Here are some resources that I have found helpful, though I disclaim some of the positions of the first link’s author on other issues: