2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Well, it looks like 20theCountdownMagazine is the most reliably updated music chart. Let’s take a look at the #3 song “Start a Fire” by Unspoken.
Lyrics (via Soundlyrics.com)
This world can be cold and bitter
Feels like we’re in the dead of winter
Waiting on something better
But am I really gonna hide forever?
Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
Let Your light shine, let Your light shine for all to see
Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me
You only need a spark to start a whole blaze
It only takes a little faith
Let it start right here in this city
So these old walls will never be the same
Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
They need to know
I need to go
Spirit wont you fall on my heart now
You are the fire You are the flame
You are the light on the darkest day
We have the hope we bear Your name
We carry the news that You have come to save
Only You can save
The song is very catchy and motivational. The chorus is presented as a prayer or an anthem for the church to rally around something. It’s steeped in analogy without clarity.
This song seems to be pulling from a couple of Biblical references, but only by borrowing the imagery of the analogies. The first is that of being a light of the world.
Matthew 5:1-16 (ESV) | The Sermon on the Mount
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Philippians 2:12-18 (ESV) | Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Jesus first spoke to the crowd in the Sermon on the mount, and notice He was declaring the Jews to be the city on a hill. He goes on to say that unless your righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees you will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. What gives? Well, Jesus is pointing out that as God’s chosen people, they were entrusted with the Law and the Prophets, the Word of God, given to man as a testimony of who He is. That the Law and the Prophets all point to Jesus as the Messiah. This is what Paul is pointing to in Philippians when he reminds them they are to shine as lights in the world. God is the light. Christ in us is the light of the world, He does the work (Solus Christus) and grants us the will to do the work for His good pleasure (Soli Deo Gloria).
This might be a bit generous, but when the song points to “letting my light shine” I’m assuming it is prompting the listener to do good works, so that others will see these good works and give Glory to God (NOT glory to us). However, we must understand that both the will to do the good works and the good works themselves are not from us, but from God the Holy Spirit, for our flesh works against the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). I believe that is what is meant by the first line in the chorus being “start a fire in my soul”.
The strongest point in the song is in the bridge, when we get the Gospel nugget of “we carry the news that You have come to save, only You can save”.
The speaker and audience of the song flip-flop oddly, so the verses are a bit disjointed. If the singer is hearing the voice of God in his head, saying “let your light shine”, why is the message so cryptic? I try to be flexible on the artistic license thing for poetry and song lyrics, but we live in an age of the visible church where everyone seems perfectly comfortable saying things “in the Name of the Lord” without any discernment or fear of blasphemy.
I don’t like the line “they need to know, I need to go, Spirit won’t you fall on my heart now”. When combined with the request for God to start a fire within us, it seems to overlook the truth that the Holy Spirit is living within us as a promise for those who believe in Jesus as the Christ. Yes there are times when the Holy Spirit stirs us and grants Spiritual Gifts for His purposes in our lives, His presence is enough for us to do the works He has laid before us, namely, preaching the Gospel. Is it wrong to ask that God the Holy Spirit to move our hearts? No. I just don’t like leaving room for “presence” theology or for Christians to act like unless “the Spirit moves them” they don’t know what they should be doing.
2 Timothy 3:16 – 4:5 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work. 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
The Chorus is an exaggerated call for emotional excitement. The soul is sometimes a reference to our spiritual being, but it is more often a reference to the seat of our emotions, or our fleshly being. There is a lot of attention being given to the lighting of a fire, a spark to set a whole blaze, fanning into flames, and burn so brightly that all around can see. But this is all imagery… for what? What does it look like to have the Holy Spirit burning brightly within us? Let’s look to scripture.
2 Corinthians 4:1-15 (ESV) | The Light of the Gospel
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
As a motivational song, the goal is to “pump the audience up” to feel something in their hearts and souls to motivate them… to be a light. Paul points to what we preach, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, after writing this portion based solely on the lyrics, I thought I’d check out the video. I take issue with the video’s implication that somehow going to work faithfully, steadily, and dutifully was somehow hiding (first verse). That this fire being lit in our spirit will undoubtedly mean leaving our jobs (in the middle of work, like with the bike mechanic) because they just need to know that we have better things to do. Is that what Scripture teaches? Yes, Jesus personally called His disciples and they left their nets. Is that what all Christians are called to do? Paul taught otherwise, as did Peter, when they talked about bondservants serving their masters as if their service was to the Lord.
I’m starting to think that vagueness or self-motivation is what makes a song rise in the charts, even the Christian charts. This song doesn’t deal with repentance, and while there is a gospel nugget in there, it is not the focus, the focus is us “burning”. Obedience to the Scriptures and the Great Commission isn’t always going to be a “felt need”. The song is mostly just fluff, icing without a cake, gravy without biscuits or mashed potato. This song allows room for a discussion regarding the problems with seeker-mergent philosophy, by sharing what Scripture says (as I did above), but for the most part I’d just skip the song entirely. It is catchy, and well sung/played, but now that I’ve seen the video I’m all sorts of unimpressed by it. It falls under the “you can change the world” pep talk, really, ignoring that “you” cannot do anything and that Christ has already done it all, and “the world” is perishing and the role of the Church is to preach the Gospel to those in the world so that they might repent and come out of it.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.