Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sing the Truth

"...in this we constantly know experientially that we continuously exist within the midst of Him, and in union with Him. 1 John 2:5.

"Christians don't tell lies - they go to church and sing them."           A.W. Tozer

On one hand we're blessed with ever increasing venues and resources for Christian music. On the other, under pressure to produce new material to keep up with the demand, we find some songs confirm Tozer's observation. They just aren't true, Scripturally speaking.

While writing this piece I elicited my husband Joe's help. We both work from home, with offices on different floors. Other than a few hours a week (going to the gym, grocery shopping, and so forth) we are together all the time. I asked my better half how he would feel if I told him that I was desperate for him.

"Well," he replied, "if we were physically separated for an extended period of time, it could make sense...sort of."

"But what about right now?" I asked. "We're both at home most of the time."

He thought for a moment.

"Well, I'd begin to wonder what I was doing wrong. If we're in close proximity most of the time and you're desperate for me, somehow I'm failing you. You're experiencing some sort of separation that I don't feel at all. I think we're connecting, but from your point of view we aren't."

He proved my point.

"So, I said, "if Jesus is in us and we are in Him, how can we possibly be desperate for Him? What are we really saying about Him and to Him when we sing those words?"

"I don't sing them," he quipped.

Neither do I.

The 70's birthed the Contemporary Christian Music industry to fill the void of rock-n-roll the Jesus Movement left behind at salvation. Pickings were slim back then. Christian radio stations were leery of airing this new music. Our local station's offering of  Elvis crooning "Crying in the Chapel" was their nod to this new sound. Gag me.

Recording executives saw a market ripe for exploitation (Christian music really is a business), and as the airwaves expanded their playlists, Christian bookstores worked to accommodated this new, eager audience. What I've observed since the beginning and continuing until today is that content isn't always based on solid Scriptural truth, but usually on emotional appeal. Unfortunately marketing and stage presence often trumps genuine faith and maturity. Causalities litter the landscape.

Recent polls reveal the majority of Christians don't read the Bible. So, how does this apply to Christian music? Songs crafted with catchy melodies and well-written lyrics easily get stuck in our heads. How do I know? Let me hear a Motown song from the 60's and I'll probably remember every word. Problems arise when the message in the music doesn't agree with God's Word.

Is this some conspiracy on the recording industry's part? Are they trying to manipulate and dilute the truth? Personally, I doubt it. To me it is just a rehash of the old same formula they've used in other genres. Take heart stopping lyrics, accompanied by emotionally grabbing musical scores, performed by a compelling stage presence, and you have a hit. At least I hope that's all it is.

John describes our total integration with and in Christ now! We're inseparable. That established, why do so many songs issue a desperate plea for God to come and be with us? Did He go some where and not tell us? Is He reneging on His promise to never leave or forsake us? A lot of music would have you think so.

It's true that we may not always feel as if we're connected. But we walk by faith and not by feelings. Scripture instructs us to renew our minds. Does singing songs that lament a distance between us and God create mindsets that oppose God's promises to us? Does this set us up for frustration and disappointment? I believe it does.

Listening to music that emphasises our real position in Christ can conflict with our emotions making us feel uncomfortable and even hypocritical. Reprogramming our minds and thought processes, in those instances, is what we really need to do. If we base our theology on the music we listen to as opposed to the truth of God's Word or even better yet,  intimate encounters with Him, we set ourselves up for disaster. This isn't a railing against Christian music at all. I have more than my share. It is an encouragement to be discerning.

How about you? Is it easier and more comfortable to sing about God being far away as opposed to being in you right now? If so, why? How much of what you believe is based on the music you listen to and not on the Word of God? Between those two options, which do you think will prove to be the more truthful and beneficial?


  1. My son is very, very critical about the words of at least half of the Christian worship songs that have come out over the last twenty-five years. Honestly, though, I love the song "Breathe". I understand about the theology- but I think there IS a place for expressing how we FEEL when we sing to the Lord. My "Exhibit A" is a pretty good chunk of the Psalms are about how the Psalmist FELT and frankly could probably be considered lousy theology.

  2. Mary: You have raised an interesting point. I will have to think about the words I sing and hear. Thank you for this message.

  3. As always, refreshingly astute commentary. I have frequently felt awkward singing "Holy Spirit, come..." and the like.