Subjects can take on a personality of their own. They may fall into the category of Christian liberty or personal choice. Even though Scripture does not deal with the options with great specificity, the word of God helps us in many ways, even in matters deemed preferential. That includes the topic of music and choice of music.
The subject of music, including the opinions on what freedoms we have and not have, is as vast as the ocean. Most of us may agree that music is a universal avenue of expression. While there may be different styles, the overall mission of music is generally the same. The instrumentation may not be alike but the objective is unchanging: making something beautiful (or at least attempt to) and melodious.
But in a world containing a plethora of choices and varieties, how do we and how should we manage the genre of songs and music we listen to? How can this particular artist shape the way I live and think? Am I only allowed to listen to “Christian” music? Or can I explore other musical options?
These are all pertinent questions, germane to how we think and act biblically in this world. So it is important to have priorities in place to shape how we choose.
I want to provide for you 4 safeguards that should always govern as you seek to live for the glory of God. The first Westminster Catechism says our duty is to glorify God and fully enjoy Him forever. For that to take place on a consistent basis, we must begin with Him. Therefore, our choice of music should be shaped by biblical convictions.
Safeguard Number 1: Choose music that makes God at home in you. Many years ago I had a close friend and his wife come over for dinner and a movie. For some reason, I did not recall the movie having such poor language in it. After that experience, I felt so woefully wretched. That was not what what I wanted to portray and I regretted it very much. But…..what about God? Should not my first concern have been about Him? That was a lesson for me: I need to have a deeper concern for the holiness of my God above anything else.
The lyrics of the song, no matter how good it makes me feel, the question should be: is God at home during that four-minute splurge? Is the Holy Spirit comfortable hearing a song from someone who does not know him and for certain not glorifying Him? The psalmist in Psalm 96 stressed the certainty of God being the object of his adoration at all times. He did this very well because He was aware of the absolute resolve needed to constantly honor this mighty and holy God, the righteous Judge, who was to become the only object of his praise.
God now abides in us, not in a temple. How much more should we give Him all of our attention and affection. Your body is God’s temple; what you put in it or allow to go through it does matter. Even though Paul referred to food and immorality, there is a principle to be found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. No one has rights to their body in any way if they are in Christ. Every Christian belongs to God, no exceptions.
How does music factor into that? Consider the temple in the Old Testament. Nothing was allowed that was deemed unclean or impure. While we do not have the externalities of ritual purity, there is still the aspect of dedication to God––that is our body, all of it. To believe we can just take in what we please without grasping just how much we are God’s possession, is a crucial mistake. We belong to God, everything we do should reflect that, including what we watch and listen to.
Safeguard Number 2: Know the reputation of the artists. With technology at our fingertips, we are able to Google search for anyone. It will not be a bad idea to learn something about the artist. Often their interviews will clue into their convictions or what they believe. That has a way of influencing what they sing about. Recently, I read an interview from a CCM artist and I could tell his music was drifting away from anything sound to all things acceptable. His whole philosophy for music shifted from God the ultimate object to man the ultimate audience. We can learn a lot by doing our homework.
As a caveat to the second safeguard, I would like to say ask: why do we involve our theology in many other avenues of life with the exception of music and sometimes how we eat? We are taught not to take someone’s word for it; we are to test using Scripture and exercise biblical discernment; but when it comes to music and how we take care of our bodies, we tend to compartmentalize. We have the audacity to strictly call them personal preferences. This is rather strange. Should not those who are sound in faith make good and informed choices? Do we not know that when we accept anything without testing and verifying, what that can do? Should not God be involved in everything, including what we listen to?
So we must be knowledgeable of those who sing to us. What we put into our ears should be scrutinized. And God hears what we are taking in. We should have a hard time listening to someone who does not know what life really means. Whoever this artist is, if he or she is without a saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, they might as well be singing into the wind instead of singing in the rain. This is all futility.
Remember, avoid making a decision for worldly things because it doesn’t bother you. There are many things that may not bother you, but at the end of that feeling, if you are saved for God, should not what you do revolve around His glory?
Safeguard Number 3: Base your choices on your faith, not preference. As a musician, I will admit this is not always easy. Naturally, there is a passion for good music. When I hear an artist handling his instrument and playing with great skill, that gets my attention. Unfortunately today’s musicians are more eye candy than skillful. You just need to know a few basic chords and be able to wiggle around to get on the stage. But back in the day, the old “cats” as they would be called, really knew how to “tickle the ivory” or “make the strings talk.” Yet should their ability or my liking of their ability impact what I listen to? The answer is no; my life as God’s vessel and His possession is for His glory, so what I listen to needs to meet His divine approval. Sadly, many believers fail to surrender their musical preferences for His––and God’s purpose is for us to sing songs of thanksgiving to Him as the psalmist in Psalm 147:7 did. A song setting our day straight, or making us feel good is not a faith-based choice, it is a personal choice. Unfortunately a lifestyle of worship (which is the activity of all believers in every aspect of life according to Romans 12:1-2) is not based on preference, it is based on one priority. If worshipping God is or should be our number one priority, we will constantly seek ways to adore Him and not waste as much time with frivolous musical options.
Safeguard Number 4: Rehearse for heaven. We of necessity must ask this: If I will not be able to sing it in heaven, why on earth am I wasting my time with fading earthly and ephemeral songs? The artist who does not know God will not be in heaven rejoicing anyway. And I will not be able to take his or her tunes with me either. Additionally, could it be I am endorsing his or her lifestyle or approving of it in some way if they are alienated from God? Furthermore, our citizenship, or status is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord “who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). My dear brothers and sisters, do we really have time to sing songs of the perishing? Should we not be tuning our minds, hearts, lips, and ears to the glorious melody of eternal wonder? Is there time to lower ourselves to the numbing affects of falling man who has no idea if he wants to be stay married or divorce his wife? Or to a person who has no idea what absolute truth is? Do we not have enough Scripture to keep us occupied from now and into eternity?
So my exhortation is for us to us let the word of Christ dwell with richness. Let us sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with melody in our hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).
Those melodies containing eternal and unchanging truths from Scripture should keep us occupied.
Until He comes……may we all be found faithful.