Music: Compromising God’s Standards to Accommodate Youth
There is a growing tendency among the Evangelical churches throughout the world to compromise the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to draw the youth. The idea of attracting or drawing them into the church is perhaps very commendable. No one, who has a burning desire to obey our Master’s command to go into the entire world and make disciples of all peoples, will deny this.
The question, however, is not whether we should draw the youth, but rather how we should draw them. Having said this, I would like to stress from the very outset that no method or mode we apply can or will be successful. Jesus categorically stated that no man is able to come to Him unless His Father who sent Him draws him. (John 6:44; 12:32).
He alone draws mankind with cords of love by means of the cross (substitutionary death) of His Son. God will honour nothing else except the cross where His righteousness was vindicated and His love was satisfied. The preaching of the cross is the drawing power of God . . . only to those who are and are being saved. (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Only those who realize that they are lost sinners, who desperately need to be pardoned, will respond to God’s drawing power. The rest who regard the cross as mere foolishness will be eternally lost. No wonder Paul so emphatically declared that he resolved to know nothing among men except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2).
He was extremely careful not to deprive the cross of its power with ulterior motives. (1 Corinthians 1:17). Contrary to Paul’s resolve, many modern-day preachers seem to minimize the cross by giving it a secondary position with no apparent conscientious objections. Their sermons regularly contain references to the cross and they often encourage their listeners to “be born again, but with subtly hidden overtones. The preaching of the cross becomes a mere instrument to entice people into accepting another gospel that completely annuls the demands of the cross. (Luke 9:23-25). To say the least, these subtle ulterior motives are tantamount to an outright rejection of the cross of Jesus as mere foolishness.
A WORLDLY CHURCH
The church as the body of Christ consists of believers who have been called out of the world to be separated unto the Lord as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people with the specific intent of showing forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9).
Paul’s appeal in 2 Corinthians 6:11-18 that God’s children should separate them from the world and not to touch the unclean thing, ought to reverberate through the churches with thunderous fervor. The prerequisite for God to be your Father and for you to be accepted as His sons and daughters is separation. We dare not call Him Father if we persist in our rebellious and compromising attitude toward the world.
Especially the youth regard it as very restricting and narrow-minded when ministers of the word confront them with God’s demand for separation. Their immediate reaction is “Why shouldn’t I” or “What is the harm in it” or “What is wrong with this or that”. In Romans 12 verses 1 & 2 Paul, with a heart full of endearment, draws our attention to the mercies of God: Look! he says, at all the magnanimous mercies God has bestowed on us. Think for a moment! – He showers His mercies on us while we do not deserve it.
His mercies are embodied in His only Son Jesus Christ who gave Himself over for us as a holy sacrifice unto His Father. With these immeasurable mercies in mind, we too should present ourselves and our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God. Let’s turn the coin around for a moment. If the mercies of God mean very little to you; if you regard His mercies as just another religious experience in your life; if His mercies are not a reality in your life – then you will find it very difficult to present your body as a living sacrifice to the Lord.
Is this not perhaps the reason why so many “Christians” so frivolously present their bodies unto the pleasures of the world? Is this the reason why so many Christians begin to argue the validity of it all when they are confronted with God’s righteous demands on their lives and capriciously say, “but what is wrong with a little enjoyment on the dance floor?”, “what is wrong with a little indulgence in the theatres of the world?”
Those who question God’s demands on their lives with “what is wrong with this and what is wrong with that” will never present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord. Paul’s uncompromising stance in regard to this particular doctrinal truth urged him to weather many a violent storm on behalf of his Lord. He refused to please men for the sheer pleasure of drawing them into the church, for he realized that he would forfeit his servitude to Christ. (Galatians 1:10). Are today’s ministers of the word compromising their servitude to Christ in order to draw the youth in ways that are clearly more common to the world?
It is an indisputable fact that unity among the members of a church is of the utmost importance. In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one, in the same way as His Father is in Him and He in His Father and that they also might be made one in them. (Johan 17:21). Jesus did not pray for an institutional unity or an ecumenical unity in which the truth may be used as a trade-off to maintain unity at all cost. He was praying for the unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will.
It is a unity that God alone can bring about by sanctifying His disciples in His truth, which is His Word. (John 17:17). Unfortunately, preachers and ministers of the Word are often prepared to employ their own methods to obtain unity. Because it is a manufactured kind of “unity” one is very reluctant to refer to it as unity in the true Biblical sense of the word, and therefore I would rather use the word “congeniality” or the expression “a going together well togetherness”. This modern-day church “congeniality” will be discussed under the following headings.
CONGENIALITY IN MUSIC
Music has become the single most important factor in the lives of young people throughout the world today. Its enormous powers on the psyche of young men and women are evident from the vast throngs of teenagers who habitually attend pop concerts and spend vast amounts of money on records or CDs. It is an entertainment medium that enables mass audiences to have the same experience instantaneously and simultaneously.
Its mesmerizing hold on the youth is something unprecedented. It is a well-known fact that many youngsters regard these concerts as congenial for the advancement of love, togetherness, solidarity, oneness, and inter-dependency. In fact, music with a strong repetitive rhythm (or beat as it is commonly referred to) is able to sway youngsters en masse into a united assembly of like-minded people. In this state of euphoric uniformity, they are easily influenced and manipulated. It is this very spirit of congeniality in music that is presently being carried into the church of Jesus Christ.
The same euphoric bliss that pervades the minds and hearts of the youth in the secular musical world is being used to draw the youth into the church. The essential concept of worship in Scripture is service to God with reverential fear, awe, and wonder. As Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman in John 4, worshipping God involves a great deal more than the mere gathering of believers at a particular venue. God who is Spirit desires to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
Anything else we conceive to be pleasing to Him will not suffice. In fact, nothing that is designed to gratify the flesh is acceptable to God. Bearing in mind that secular pop music with its extreme emphasis on rhythm, emotional impact, and theatrical display is designed to evoke feelings of vivacity and gaiety in the psyche of youngsters, it becomes evident that gospel rock music (despite the spiritual content of the lyrics) will have the same impact on the youth in the church.
From this, one may conclude that it is not a Holy Spirit infused desire to worship God that draws the youth, but the entertainment value of the music. The well-known adage that such and such a church is dead – although it may be true of many churches today – merely becomes a ready-handed excuse to join another church where the music is lively and its members are more demonstrative in their worship of God. Financial deficits and dwindling members often compel a church to introduce ways and means to draw new members, especially the youth.
Salvation is the complete translocation of a sinner who has been washed in the blood of Christ, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Son Whom he loves. (Colossians 1:13). Everything that is characteristic of the kingdom of darkness cannot accompany the redeemed sinner. It must remain behind. The notion that Satan usurped music for his own evil purposes and that Christians should reclaim it for God, is the main reason why secular pop music with all its peculiar traits (except the lyrics) has been brought into the church. Things of the world clothed in religious raiment are nothing less than instruments in the hands of Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light.
No one can deny that music plays an integral part in the worship of God. In Revelation the redeemed of Christ burst out in joyous chorale singing to express their eternal thanks for God’s great redemptive work on the cross of Calvary.
CONGENIALITY IN EMOTION
It must be emphasized from the outset that emotion cannot be divorced from worship. The redeemed in Christ will sing with exuberant joy the praises of Him who accomplished such a great salvation. It is, however, a joy that is orchestrated by the Spirit of God in every true believer who worships God in spirit and in truth. The joy emanates from the innermost being (spirit) that is controlled and led by the Holy Spirit.
It cannot be evoked by an external medium that has its roots in the world, no matter how religious or pious the lyrics may sound. A joy inspired by the Holy Spirit alone will hold out against the severest persecutions and tribulations. All the prisoners heard the resounding voices of Paul and Silas when they sang praises to God at midnight. Their circumstances were not favorable to emotions of joy but they were able to express the most profound feelings of blessedness because the Holy Spirit cantered their emotions in Christ.
I am not suggesting that music has no part to play in the expression of a Christian’s emotions of joy and happiness. David’s Psalms are set to music for the lyre. In Revelation chorale praises to God and His Son are accompanied by harps. The question is not whether music is able to amplify one’s inner emotions, but rather what kind of emotions it exemplifies.
Apart from music, visual entertainment media such as the theatre (movies) and television have an enormous impact on the molding of young people’s emotions. The definition of romantic love with all its negative ramifications is determined by Hollywood images on our screens. It matters very little when couples on screen commit adultery or have a premarital sexual affair as long as they love one another.
Viewers unashamedly shun moral issues, as long as the two lovers are something to look at. While viewers look spellbound at their favorite romantic heroes, the soothing voices of world-renown pop artists ensure that these images of unmitigated fornication remain locked in their minds long after they have exited the movie theatres. Young girls and women flock to the stores to purchase their CD’s and recordings so that they may relive the emotions they experienced while watching these movies (Titanic).
Because religion has become a booming business enterprise in our day and age, the forging of congenial or well-matched emotions among members through music has become very profitable. Though Gospel music or Gospel rock cannot be equated with secular music in its lyrical content, the melodic and rhythmic similarities are quite evident.
The same emotionally charged melodic structures together with extremely articulated rhythms are capable of invoking emotions that reach no deeper than the soul, the seat of everything that embraces “self”. The music gives rise to a self-centered religion that is characterized by boisterous shouting, jumping, clamoring and an inordinately raucous atmosphere.
CONGENIALITY IN SPIRIT
Paul forewarned that the last days would be marked by a deceptive, hypocritical or counterfeit kind of Christianity, so much so that its members would have a form of godliness. How often have you heard someone refer to someone else as a true Christian because so and so is such a wonderful person? These assumptions are purely based on the outward appearance of people. Goodness, kindness, even compassion are the qualities of many piously religious persons, but this does not necessarily make them disciples of Jesus.
They might have all these qualities and deny the power of the Gospel. In fact, Paul says in 2 Timothy 3, that their outward godliness means nothing because of their denial or rejection of the power of the Gospel. The Spirit of God always operates within the parameters or within the realm of the power of God. Anything acting outside of these parameters is a counterfeit spirit or “another spirit” as Paul defines it in the eleventh chapter of second Corinthians.
What is the power of God? Paul emphatically declares that the cross of Christ and the unadulterated preaching thereof is the power and wisdom of God. It was on Calvary’s cross where God’s righteous judgments and His immeasurable holiness were vindicated and His immutable love was satisfied. No wonder King David sings in Psalm 85:10. “Mercy and loving-kindness and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” This is undoubtedly one of the most unique verses in the Bible.
It is unique in the sense that it refers to only one single event in the entire history of the world. It COULD only refer to a single event in the history of mankind because nowhere else could God’s righteousness, truth, mercy peace and loving-kindness meet each other; and nowhere else could you and I benefit from such a kiss, – THAN ON THE CROSS OF CALVARY WHERE JESUS CHRIST THE SON OF GOD WAS PUT TO DEATH 2000 YEARS AGO.
This simply means that everyone who desires to know what the righteousness of God entails, what His loving-kindness, His mercy, His truth, His peace encompasses, needs to come to the cross of Jesus. You will never benefit from the life-changing power of God if you do not come to His cross and you will never experience a continuous relationship with Him if you do not allow the Holy Spirit to effectuate or carry out the changing power of His cross in your life.
This is why Jesus said that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25).
The power of the cross of Jesus is increasingly being exchanged for all kinds of humanistic inventions to meet the needs of people. Motivational teaching, one of the fastest growing usurpers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, encourage people to look for the solution of their problems within themselves. They only need to tap into their own energy and resources to lift the burdens of life from their shoulders and to be successful.
Encouragement or motivation is not wrong in itself, but when it is used to enhance man’s inherent egotistic or self-centered mindset in order to gain or accomplish anything that he desires or wants, it becomes an enemy of the cross of Jesus. In this world that is bent on destruction, mankind daily experiences profound heartaches, pain and suffering. The young people are particularly prone to the relentless ill-treatments of our so-called adult world. This filth-infested earth has become a world “only for adults”.
No wonder so many young people try to shut out the mess with music, drugs and ulterior lifestyles. Can one blame them for becoming a chip off the old block? Instead of leading them to the cross of Jesus where they can experience the life-changing power of God, they are presented with the same worldly things cloaked in religious raiment. The Spirit of God cannot and will not associate with a cross-less or bloodless gospel. (The words “crucify” or “crucified” or “cross” do not appear in the lyrics of any of the 15 songs on Chris Tomlin’s album called “Passion: God’s Great Dance Floor.” They are presenting a crossless and bloodless Gospel which is no gospel at all).
The spirit that binds the young people into a congenial group of “Christians” through means other than the cross of Jesus Christ is not the Spirit of God. It is another spirit that presents another gospel and another Jesus.
A very dangerous duality or multiplicity has crept into the ranks of the church. For the elderly, the gospel is presented in a more subdued way in contrast to its presentation to the youth who prefer to be more demonstrative in their worship. Henceforth, the older people and the youngsters are separated so that the youth may enjoy their more demonstrative worship with raucous music, and very often the youngsters begin to look down with disdain on the elderly by labeling them “spiritually dead” and “old-fashioned”.
Do they gather to listen to sound doctrine or do they come together merely to entertain their own fleshly appetites? Paul admonished his youthful brother, Timothy, to devote him to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching and to set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (moral cleanliness) (1 Timothy 4:11-13).
There are many youngsters whose lives have been devastated by all kinds of ill-fated experiences – divorced parents, premarital pregnancies, drug abuse, child abuse, are commonplace. How do we reach them for Christ? Do we cater for their fleshly whims by drawing them into the church with means and ways that are more common to the world, or do we lead them to the cross of Jesus where the “Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) who was wounded for our transgressions and smitten of God is waiting to heal them for all eternity?
The Church should return to the old hymns which are sermons in themselves instead of the new songs with their strong rhythms and repetitive words such as “Jesus we worship you . . . we worship you . . . we worship you.”
Author: Isaac Watts; Chorus:Ralph E. Hudson
Composer: Ralph E. Hudson
Tune: Hudson (Hudson)
1 Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
2 Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
3 Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man, the creature’s sin.
4 Thus might I hide my blushing face
While Calvary’s cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.
5 But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.
Chorus:At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!