2009-08-26 - Summer Questions
2009 #7 ~ Secular Music
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
Today's Question: "Secular music - is it the intentions of the writer or the heart of the listener that is most important? Since becoming a Christian, some secular song lyrics have taken on new meaning for me, to the extent where I often feel close to God when listening to it.. My perception of the lyrics puts me in mind of the wonderful world he has created, and gives me new words with which to praise Him. Sure, the writer wasn't explicitly writing about God, but if listening to their music strengthens my relationship with Him, then surely this can't be a bad thing!"
The verse given, Philippians 4:8, was supplied by the person asking the question - so I will run with that to start. The question is if it is the intentions of the writer or the heart of the listener that is central in how we listen to music. I don't hesitate to say that it is the heart of the listener that matters more, but add also without hesitation, that we must watch our wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts are deceptive, and music is powerful. We have to take everything to God's Word. His Word alone is the standard by which we judge things. I think we look for those things that encourage us in grace, and when we find them, we seek to improve them even more. Can this be done with music that is authored by one who is outside of God's mercy? Sure, there is such a thing as common grace, and sometimes, to our amazement, even the heathen gets it right.. Our task is to filter everything through God's Word, and to see if these things are true, Acts 7:11.
I will take a quick moment and use this opportunity to address the difficult topic of secular music in general. There are a lot of "catchy" tunes out there, and not all of them honor Christ, please Him, or lead us in paths of righteousness. We may find ourselves singing the very things we don't even believe, because we like the beat or flow of the music. Let us be very careful here. We sing unto the Lord. The great reformer John Calvin lumped the songs of the saints in the same category as the prayers of the saints, because both ascended to Heaven. We might not think that way today, but it is food for thought. When we sing, who hears? We can be sure that God hears, even if no one else does. Do we want things that displease God to pass from our lips and into His presence? Or let us ask this question another way. Does the Lord want our Psalms and hymns of praise on Sunday, when we have been singing filthy, polluted, lascivious songs the rest of the week? Will God endure our living in foulness during the week, and then coming into His house and muttering praise to Him with the same lips? It seems insulting to the infinite majesty of Heaven, Christ, and everything holy. Yet how many of us do this?
I put it out there as a consideration for us all, including myself. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things," Philippians 4:8
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.