Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).
March 10, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Soul on Fire” by Third Day which currently sits at #13 at 20theCountdownMagazine.
We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.
Last week, Third Day released their latest album entitled “Lead us back“. They are calling this a Worship Album. The first single released is their song “Soul on Fire”. Their latest tour is being called the “Soul on Fire” tour. So, let’s take a look at this new song. It’s a very catchy song, and I am drawn to their musical style. Musically, I love this song. However, lyrically this isn’t one of their better songs.
VEVO Lyric Video
Lyrics (via K-Love)
I’ve taken to dispensing with the “pros” and “cons” on songs that seem to just miss the mark such that I struggle to build either a Pro or a Con list. In this case, I’m completely confused by this song and its messaging. So, we’ll just talk about what has me confused, we’ll look at the Scriptures that I think are relevant to the message and draw to a close for now. If you are in possession of better insight, such as an interview with the band that sheds light on what they think the lyrics convey, do please share it either via email or in comments below.
Soul on Fire?
The most glaring problem is this phrasing. It’s in the title, the tour, and throughout the song repeatedly, but it is never defined. There are certain denominational idioms relating to being “on fire for God”. It’s such a popular component to seeker-sensitive song writing that it was included in the following parody of how to write a worship song by the folks at Blimey Cow:
The problem, even beyond the funny parody, is that despite the prevalence of this theme throughout modern emotive music there is not much in Scripture that supports this narrative. If we are talking about Biblical references that tend to be invoked by “Soul on Fire” theme, the very first one that comes to mind isn’t something we should be chasing.
Matthew 10:24-28 (ESV) 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
I’m certain this is not the sort of “Soul on Fire” that Third day is singing about. Eternal judgement waits for those who die in their unbelief, and face Jesus Christ as Judge who has the authority to destroy both soul and body in hell.
It could simply be a secularism where we’ve turned the notion of “burning with passion” for someone and redirected it toward God. Reading through the second and third stanzas, there is a sense of returning or getting back something that was lost. A rekindling of an old flame. All of these are romantic allusions that don’t quite fit Biblical worship, unless you are allegorizing Song of Solomon (Song of songs) as a picture of God’s relationship with Israel and Christ’s relationship with His Church. Even in that context, it should be corporate wording, not individual… because, well, Christ is returning for His People, the Church, not me individually. I know that is a tough thing to say coming from a Western mindset and speaking mostly to a Western audience, but our cultural bias is one of extreme individualism that doesn’t fit Scripture. I pray the Holy Spirit grant insight in this for I suffer from this Western mindset, too.
I want to give this song its best construction, and for me to do so I need to invoke an intermediate allegory or imagery of a burnt offering or sacrifice. The first form of worship after the fall was that of the offering, the sacrifice to the Lord God. When God gave Moses the Law, the sacrifices were burnt offerings to God. If we bear in mind the concept of a burnt offering, and the aroma of obeying the Law and making a satisfactory sacrifice by faith unto God, then we have an intermediate step for a right understanding of what the phrase “Soul on Fire” might be when we then jump into Romans 12.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) | A Living Sacrifice
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this way, we might understand what it means to present ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Perhaps it is in this way that the song is waiting for God to send down fire igniting our hearts and our souls demonstrating His acceptance of our living sacrifice. But what does such a sacrifice look like for those who fall under the New Covenant of Christ’s Blood? Let us turn to the book of Hebrews, chapter 13.
Hebrews 13 English Standard Version (ESV) | Sacrifices Pleasing to God
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altarfrom which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.
These are the Sacrifices that are pleasing to God, and not a single one can be done rightly apart from Faith. Where the song falls short of this (aside from needing an intermediate interpretation) is that it suggests that one simply needs to wait on the emotional unction or burning within. Even the disciple’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) where the Disciples recall a burning in their hearts was not a purely passive event. They were listening to the Words of Jesus as He recounted to them all that the Scriptures said regarding Him. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 (ESV))”. Don’t just wait to be set on fire, and don’t settle for vague allegory of “running to God’s heart”… read His Word, listen to His Word being faithfully preached, and pray for understanding from God the Holy Spirit. Emotions are fleeting and easily manipulated. I thank God that faith is not an emotion… and Truth isn’t a feeling.
This song isn’t for the unbeliever, it doesn’t preach Law or Gospel. It’s heavily coded chuch-jargon, and unhelpfully so. It is far to focused on the individual for it to be suitable for corporate worship in my opinion. I don’t question Third Day’s desire to inspire their listeners to a fervent love for God and true worship. But you can’t skip over the preaching of the Word of God. You can’t skip over the need for repentance, and forgiveness for even the sins of unbelief and of doubt. He is faithful to forgive us, and He has sealed us by His Holy Spirit until the day of His Return. Rest in that. There will be times when we feel like we are super-charged, burning-hot, souls on fire for God and walking in triumphant procession leading the throngs in worship into the Temple of the Most High God… and then there will be times when our souls will be downcast and the persecution from the world weighs heavily upon us, just as it was for the author of Psalm 42. Let us close with the last verse of this Psalm
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,