That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Music Part 2

God created music (just as He created everything else in the world).  We know that whatever God has created Satan has tried to corrupt.  Sadly, Satan is succeeding in corrupting God's creation greatly.  Sin is rampant in this world, and Christians often fail to recognize or realize Satan's corrupting influence on God's good creation.  We must realize that Satan has corrupted everything that God has created.  As Christians we must also discern between our old and new natures in regards to choices that we make.  Our flesh and our spirit are at constant war with each other (Gal 5:17; Rom. 7). 

With these few premises in mind we can study further what the Bible says about music, and we can make pleasing and God-honouring choices in the music that we listen to and participate in.  The following are three principles that have helped me in making wise choices regarding the music I listen to and use in church.

Principle #1.  Let all things be done decently and in order.
I Corinthians 14:7-8, 33, 40 "And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  Let all things be done decently and in order."

In this passage Paul is dealing with the use of tongues in the church (I find it interesting that he uses music as an illustration of how to deal with tongues in verses 7 and 8).  The principle given in vs. 40 specifically deals with conduct in church, but it has a far reaching application..  One thing to remember in music, is that music must have order.  Music has a natural order of melody, rhythm, and harmony.  The melody is what we sing or hear, and thus, it is the most important element of music.  Rhythm gives melody structure.  Harmony complements the melody, but should not override it.  Satan's first corruption of music is to disrupt the natural order of melody and rhythm.  While melody cannot exist without rhythm, rhythm can exist without melody.  Much contemporary music emphasizes the rhythm over the melody through the use of percussive instruments.  Again, it is not the instrument itself that is wrong, but it's unbalanced use.  I have personally heard drums and percussion used in music in balance with the melody and harmony and the effect is beautiful.  However, modern drum techniques most often put the emphasis on an unbalanced or off-beat rhythm.  Many churches have simply opted not to use drums in their worship in order to avoid unbalanced and unordered music.  I believe this is a wise decision.  It is better to maintain a higher standard of practice than to allow compromise in our musical style.  Many churches that do use drums in their worship fail to realize that it takes a well educated (musically) and spiritually mature Christian to use them properly without overpowering the melody.  The simple fact that a drum set is very loud makes it hard to balance the volume with other instruments projecting the melody unless a good sound system is in place. 

This principle does not only apply to the drum set.  It applies to how our music is performed as well.  Some churches "worship" with people swaying, dancing, clapping, yelling, cheering, screaming, and even convulsing.  This is not order.  Sometimes music has not been practiced and is performed with mistakes, stumbles, and errors.  It can be too loud or too quiet.  All these factors take away from the order of music. 

This Scripture affirms that God is not the author of confusion.  By using music in our worship that is very similar in sound and style to the world's music, the church is causing confusion.  An unbeliever may wonder why the music in church sounds just like what he plays on his ipod.  A new Christian may struggle with the fact that the music from his old life is present in his church.  Maybe they never voice their concerns, but in their minds it leads to confusion.  This is not what God wants.  God doesn't want us having questions, doubts, or insecurities about the music we use.  That is why these principles are so important, and that is why studying this subject from the Bible is so important for the Christian. 

I Corinthains 14 is an excellent chapter on conduct in the church and many questions we have can be answered by applying the principles found in that chapter.

Principle #2.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.
I Thess. 5:21-22  "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil."
Sometimes we over look little words in the Bible.  One such word is "all."  Someone once said, All means all, and that's all all means.  We are not just to abstain from all evil as Christians, but we are to stay away from things that even just look evil!  God is holy and as such desires His children to be holy (I Peter 1:16).   One look at the music section in the local Christian book store should reveal that the vast majority of contemporary Christian music artists are not living by this principle.  The men have long hair and earrings.  The women dress immodestly.  Some even have tattoos and other piercings.  Some CD cover art has skulls and other disturbing and graphic pictures.  This is not avoiding the appearance of evil.  If this is how the world looks then why are Christians copying it?  Contemporary pop/rock music appears evil in all its forms.  When a Christian copies the world's style he is not living this Scripture.  Pop/rock concerts (both secular and "Christian") are dark, loud, and raucous.  They are not wholesome places.  The supposed "gospel" messages given at Christian concerts are shallow and don't even contain Scripture.  Christians should shun, avoid, and run from anything that tries to copy the world's style. 

The pop/rock culture of our society is so corrupt and so full of evil.  It thrives on drugs, alcohol, riotous living, blasphemy, and immorality in all its forms.  It truly saddens my heart when Christians take that music, change the words, and then put the label "Christian" on it.  Something about that just seems so contrary this verse in I Thessalonians.

Principle #3.  We are new creatures.
I Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new."
Psalm 40:3 "And hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."

When we are saved, our lives are changed.  The Holy Spirit indwells each born again believer and gives him a new nature.  This is when the spiritual battle starts between the old and new nature.  The Christian needs to be in the Word constantly, so he can learn how to fight his old nature and how to fulfill his new nature.  Music is a battle because it appeals to our flesh.  Really there is nothing wrong with liking music.  We should enjoy music because God gave it to us to enjoy.  Every new Christian knows that he will have sins that his flesh battles against on a daily basis.  For example, he may have a sinful habit that he finds difficult to give up like smoking.  He likes smoking, he likes the way it makes him feel, but he knows it is wrong.  He struggles every day with the urges and desires to have a cigarette.  He gives in, but he is guilty.  He repents and asks God for strength, but the battle is still raging.  Eventually, through much prayer and the strength of God he can overcome this addiction.  Many Christians are addicted to worldly music.  What is worse is that this worldly music is now accepted in the church.  So, instead of being able to overcome this addiction the flesh is fed over and over again.  The believer knows in his conscience that this music is wrong, it is sensual, and it is worldly, but he gives in to the feeling.  He loves the rush, the emotion, the impulse that it gives him.  He hears it at church, so eventually his conscience is hardened.  After all, if it's in church it must be good!!  Right?  No, no, no!!! This sensual, fleshly, beaty, loud, impulsive music is not good!  The heavier types of music like rock, heavy metal, rap, hip hop, etc. are fundamentally associated with sexual immorality.  However, even so-called soft rock, contemporary pop, contemporary country, and country music also are associated closely to sexual immorality.  One only needs to look at the way the performers are dressed or watch a few music videos to see this.  Most contemporary music we hear on the radio is immoral.  Our so-called "Christian" music sounds much the same.  It has the same beat, the same sensual vocals, the same instruments, the same style, and therefore, it cannot help but be associated with the same thing!

The Christian's music should be new.  Just like he is a new creature after he is saved.  His music should not be sensual.  In fact he should flee from any sound or beat that makes his music have a sensual feel to it.  The ability to discern the emotion or feeling of music is innate.  God created us with it.   If we really listen to what our emotions and feelings are telling us when we are listening to music, we can know inside whether or not it is producing a pure, clean, wholesome feeling in us or whether it's arousing feelings and thoughts that would not be pleasing to the Lord.  I think it's amazing that God has created us with this connection to music.  It proves what an awesome God we have.  Let's glorify Him and choose to use music that truly exalts His majesty and character!

These three principles should help Christians in choosing good, godly music to listen to.  The following list are some practical tips to consider when listening to music.
1.  Stay away from drums.  It's better to err on the side of caution, than to use an instrument that
      makes our music unbalanced, and therefore, not pleasing to the Lord.
2.  Stay away from vocals that are sensual in their sound.  Most of us can tell when a voice
     sounds this way.  It uses the breathy, whispery, sensual tone.  It also uses vocal slides and
3.  Make sure the melody is emphasized.
4.  Listen for beautiful, complimentary instrumentation that doesn't overpower the vocal melody.
5.  If it sounds like the radio it's probably not God honouring.
6.  Genres such as pop, rock, contemporary pop, country, etc. should all be avoided by the
     discerning Christian because they all highlight the unbalanced use of percussion, which
     gives the music a sensual character, and they are associated with worldliness.
7.  Just because music is labelled Christian doesn't necessarily mean it is God honouring.  The
     sound of the music should not mimic secular beats and styles.

My purpose in these posts is not to condemn anyone.  Instead, I want to encourage my fellow Christians to make choices that please the Lord.  After all, He is first in everything! 

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