The hymn, “Jesus, Love of My Soul” has meant a lot to me these last few days, which is one of Charles Wesley’s most well loved hymns. The occasion for it’s composition is unknown but the comfort that these words have brought is undeniable.
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly. While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high! Hide me, O my Savior, hide—till the storm of life is past; safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last!
Other refuge have I none—hangs my helpless soul on Thee. Leave, ah, leave me not alone; still support and comfort me! All my trust on Thee is stayed—All my help from Thee I bring. Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Music turns from a gift to a god when we look to it for the joy, comfort, power & satisfaction only God can give. Here are 5 indicators that might be happening.
1. We choose to attend a church or a meeting based on the music rather than the preaching of the gospel and God’s word. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the church is to gather around music. We gather around the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We gather to hear God’s Word in the Spirit’s power. Eph. 2:13-14 says the blood of Christ unites us, not music.
2. We can’t worship in song apart from a particular song, style, leader, or sound.Anytime I say, I can’t worship unless X happens, or X is present, unless X is the death of our Savior on the cross for our sins or the power of his Spirit, we are engaging in idolatry. At that moment, X is more important to us than God’s command to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. That doesn’t mean that there are no bad songs, lousy leaders, or inappropriate styles. But being discerning is different from being unable to worship God at all.
3. We think music leads us into or brings God’s presence.Here’s what music can do. It can affect us emotionally. Create a mood. Soften our hearts so that we listen more intently. Help us hear words differently. Distract us from what’s going on. Help us focus on what’s going on. Help us remember words. And more.
Here’s what music can’t do. Make God more present. Bring God’s presence down. Bring us into God’s presence. Manipulate God. (Heb. 10:19-22; 1 Tim. 2:5). There is only one mediator, and it’s not a song, style, leader, or sound. It’s Jesus Christ.
4. Poor musical performance leads us to sin against other band members or the musicians leading us.We’re hardly representing God’s heart when we get angry, frustrated, or impatient with musicians who don’t play up to our standards. God’s standards are perfection, and they’ve been met in Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life in our place and died as our substitute, enduring the wrath of God in our place. ALL our offerings, no matter how well or poorly offered, are perfected through the once and for all offering of the Savior. We can strive for excellence to serve others, while extended to others the same grace we’ve received.
5. A love for music has replaced a love for the things of God. It’s possible to listen to music that’s destroying your soul and be completely dull to it. To become enslaved by an idol and you feel like you’re breaking free. In his confessions, Augustine said “For he loves thee too little who loves along with thee anything else that he does not love for thy sake.” I have no doubt we love music. But do we love music for God’s sake or for ours?
The other night Amy sent me out to Dairy Queen to pick up a couple of ice cream cones for us to eat while we watch The Biggest Looser (one of the many blessings of living with a pregnant wife). As I was driving back home with cones in hand I had the radio tuned into our local Christian radio station (Praise 106.5) when a song came on that caught my attention. The name of the song is “To Ever Live Without Me” by Jody McBrayer. What caught my attention was not the stellar vocals, because they weren’t really stellar. Nor was it the outstanding musical quality, because it was pretty bland for my taste. What caught my attention was the pure, unadulterated pride implicit in the song along with the depreciation of the cross. Here is the chorus:
Heaven knew the reason you were there
It was all about a man
It was all about a cross
It was all about the blood that was shed so I would not be lost
It was all about a love that was bigger than a life
It was all about the freedom that was given through your sacrifice
‘Cause you would rather die than to ever live without me
The pinnacle of the message of this song is the very last line which says that Jesus would rather die than “to ever live without me.” Now on one level that is kind of true. Jesus did die a substitutionary death on the cross in order to purchase my salvation and adopt me into His family. However, the motivation for that sacrifice was not my inherit goodness, nor was it the sheer joy of being with someone as great as I am for eternity (note my sarcasm here). The cross was about God the Father crushing His Son in order to glorify Himself. This is one of the principle differences between man-centered worship and God-centered worship. Man-centered worship tends to make everything that God has done somehow about me, whereas God-centered worship understands that man is simply the happy beneficiary of God’s passion for His own glory.
While the chorus was somewhat irritating, what really bothered me about this song was a single line where she said, “Selfless, you could have called ten thousand angels down to take your place.” I can’t think of a single line of music in recent memory that is more disrespectful to the cross than this one. The entire concept makes a mockery of Hebrews 1.
Hebrews 1:1-4 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
The point is that no one else could have made the sacrifice that Christ made, because only the death of God is sufficient to atone for my sins. It didn’t matter if it was 10,000 angels or 10,000,000 angels giving their lives. There is nothing that can wash away my sin but the blood of Jesus and I am so humbled by the fact that He did give His life and that I get to live with Him for eternity.