DiM | “This is Living (feat Lecrae)” by Hillsong Young & Free

CCM Radio Edition

January 14, 2016. Today’s song is “This is Living” by Hillsong Worship. Now this song is going to have two separate DiM posts, this one and an Evangelical Worship Edition. Admittedly, I was quite flustered and upset toward the end of the worship review of this song, so I’m going to try to start this review with a bit of a clean slate. That being said, I’m not sure the lyric can be salvaged even for casual listening. Most of the song review will be the same from that DiM, but this one will have extra rap lyrics (feat Lecrae) and the Official Music Video attempts to provide scripture references that are, oddly enough, different from what the worship version claims. hmmm.

I’m a huge fan of techno or electronic dance music (EDM)… it’s my favorite form of music. It taps my emotions easily… which is what anyone can say of their favorite musical form. I enjoy other forms of music, too. I don’t think there’s any place for this form of music in corporate worship, but I whole-heartedly wish there was more doctrinally-sound lyrics set to this music. Honestly, I think simply setting narrative passages to this style of music would make memorization of scripture (for me at least) much easier. Despite my love for EDM, I will not be swayed in favor of this song. The lyric that is there needs to be sound.

Hillsong Young & Free Music Video (feat Lecrae)

 

Lyrics (via KLove)

Verse 1
Waking up knowing there’s a reason
All my dreams come alive
Life is for living with You
I’ve made my decision

Verse 2
You lift me up, fill my eyes with wonder
Forever young in Your love
This freedom’s untainted with You
No moment is wasted

Pre-Chorus
See the sun now bursting through the clouds
Black and white turn to colour all around
All is new, in the Saviour I am found
This is living now
This is living now

Verse 3
You lead the way, God You’re right beside me
In Your love I’m complete
There’s nothing like living with You
This life You created I choose

Pre-Chorus

Chorus
You take me higher than I’ve been before
It’s Your perfect love that sees me soar
God Your freedom is an open door
You are everything I want and more

Lecrae
Maybe I ain’t really know what living is
Is it love if it was am I living it?
Do I live in it?
So astounding
Love is an ocean you can drown me
The sweet embrace the lovely taste
I taste and see I’m under Grace
The place to be it means I don’t ever need an umbrella
I’m cool in the cold and the hot weather
Whether or never I ever understand
I’m a man in the hands of great plans
I stand with faith in a life I never known or touched
It’s still outside my clutch but
I’m like what’s to dream of and what’s to hope in
What’s to die for and live to no end
This is living
The life I’ve been given’s a gift
If I’m gonna live it I’m gonna live it to death!

Pre-Chorus

Chorus

Publishing: © 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing (APRA) (admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Unashamed Music (BMI)
Writer(s): Aodhan King, Joel Davies, and Lecrae

Discussion

Let us begin by acknowledging the attempt at providing Scriptural context to the music video (even though it serves the radio listener no purpose). The video uses different versions of the bible, so we’ll continue using the ESV alongside the video’s versions.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Okay, this is a much better proof-text that what was attempted in the worship version, because it at least provides a framework for what the lyrics are trying to say. Let’s look at the verse in context from a good translation.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV) | The Ministry of Reconciliation

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Such a wonderful passage. Now, I wish this had truly been the foundation of the song, but even if it was the song misses the mark. You see, the song focuses so much on the saved individual that it misses the call to be an ambassador for Christ, entrusted with the message of reconciliation. It’s a message that must be preached, it cannot be acted out or pantomimed. Your best good works fall miserably short of the Message you were entrusted with to be a faithful steward of… the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the ministry of reconciliation to God. I have no doubt that the folks involved in this production intended to convey this message… but failure to handle the text properly leads to mishandling the Word and veering off-course into sensuality (feeding the senses).

As good an attempt as that first proof text was, the next one over achieves in demolition. The often misquoted John 10:10… but not the whole verse, so really John 10:10b, and that not even from a Bible translation, but a parody of the Bible called The Message. So, let’s begin with a good translation, in context, with the proof-text underlined… then we’ll look at what the Parody has to say (again, proof-text will be underlined):

John 10:7-16 (ESV)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock,one shepherd.

John 10:7-18 (MSG)

6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

Ugh. False promise inserted into the text by the parody bible. Notice that this is where we get a lot of the “dream destiny thingy” or “peter pan” doctrine we see in the song. The MSG doesn’t even attempt to convey what is in the Greek. The real passage of scripture is about being protected, cared-for, guarded, and led by Christ, the Good Shepherd. Our freedom is in Christ… IN Christ, which means that our freedom is found in serving Him and growing in His Word. It’s not a freedom that we get from Him to then live our lives as we please or to chase fame, fortune, prosperity or our dream destinies.

The video moves on from these proof texts to its own sloganeering (Young and Free) while the video itself is a montage of supposedly “young and free” youths doing their own things… it really feels like a Nike commercial or a FitBit commercial. It’s telling the young, (sub)urban viewer, “this is what you want to be doing, this is where you want to be going, this is what you want  you-being-you to look like… and then the song starts. But there is something more to the messaging that I find particularly troubling… and it comes in the timing of the video with the lyrics, particularly in the hook, “this is living now”. The video is targeting (sub)urban youth with the message that they can “live it up” like the world does, only it’s untainted when they do it because they’ve “made a decision for Christ” so it’s all cool, fun, hip, AND sanctified so come join the club. Uhm… that’s not Christianity. But it’s powerfully enticing to youth growing up in seeker-sensitive, emotionally driven churches.

Now let’s work through the song lyrics. I’m going to leave what we already covered in the Evangelical version in-place… so we’re really just going to skip to Lecrae’s addition.

Verse 1. There’s a reason all my dreams have come alive? What dreams? Jesus didn’t die on the cross to regenerate your dreams. Salvation isn’t about bringing your dreams back to life. What did you dream about before you were made alive in Christ Jesus? Sin. You followed the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air… you dreamed of carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, the passions of your flesh (Eph 2:1-10). That was what you dreamed about. Jesus didn’t die for those dreams to come alive. He died to rescue your soul from God’s Wrath to be set free from sin that controlled your heart and mind. So, you’ve made your decision? That’s great. What decision was that… to make yourself alive in Christ? We’ve covered that, that wasn’t your decision to make while you were still an unbeliever. Now, once you’ve been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and made a new creation in Christ Jesus, yes… there are some decisions that need to be made, sure. But I’m certain this line of the song is a reach back to Finneyism, decisional regeneration (I was saved because I chose to raise my hand and ‘say yes’ to Jesus).

Verse 2. Peter Pan theology. Drivel. Just… no.

Pre-Chorus. This is just some odd vision-scaping here. There is nothing real being said of Christ Jesus here. Fluff.

Chorus. Pitiful. Painting freedom in Christ as a door to Neverland, where all of our dreams come true and we never have to grow up or deal with consequences again.

Lecrae. Well, he’s skilled in the delivery of the quick-paced lyric. I’m not going to quibble with his poetic depiction of the Grace of God and the Love of God being an ocean. That’s fine. The song has been very self-centered thus far, so at least he’s pointing to God in the lyric, to some degree. But I start to recoil at the line The place to be it means I don’t ever need an umbrella. Hold the phone… are we saying that being a Christian means never having to deal with hard times? It doesn’t rain on Christians, metaphorically speaking?

Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV) | Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

His lyric works its way back to the confession that the life we live is a gift from God. That is true. What if our life is hard, boring, filled with trials, tests, sickness, poverty…. still true. Evangelicalism has a very bad habit of taking promises of eternity and applying them to this temporal life simply because “I’ve made a decision for God”. That, my friend, gets a red card, foul whistle, a flag on the play. There are promises for eternity and there are promises for the temporal, learn to know which is which. Lecrae’s lyric doesn’t end with any more specific Christian encouragement than what Hillsong offered.

Conclusion

Ultimately this is just an upbeat Electronic Dance Music (EDM) track with some vague vocals that anyone can sing along and quite literally infuse any meaning they want and a quick-rap lyric to boot. The video is a montage of what every youth pastor wishes they could show of their youth group outings… beautiful people, lots of beautiful smiles, fun times, zaniness, games, yay!

I don’t think this song topped the charts because it wasn’t heavily promoted on Radio; rather, this is geared for heavy promotion on youth groups, youth conferences, etc.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

3 thoughts on “DiM | “This is Living (feat Lecrae)” by Hillsong Young & Free

  1. Hello!

    Actually I can add something to that Pre-Chorus line.

    A few weeks ago me and my mom and aunt have been discussing about the grey areas seeping into Christianity worldwide — particularly ones with close affiliations to America who in recent years have been passing government laws left and right that start to lean on the godless side and if put in debate will often lead to lukewarm conclusions.

    I’m an artist so I can’t help but be fascinated by color theory. So I’m gonna comment on this as a Christian who studied color in depth to point out something that is close to the bible.

    In the bible it’s often clear that the prophets and God himself often mention light and dark. Always dark and light. Black and white. There was never room for compromise at all which is often called grey areas nowadays.

    So the lyrics:
    See the sun now bursting through the clouds
    Black and white turn to colour all around
    All is new, in the Saviour I am found
    This is living now
    This is living now

    In basic color theory classes, you will note that it’s often taught that colors are impure rays of light, the purest color being white because it is all colors intensified. Black being an absence of light altogether. This is scientific fact.

    So, if we are to interpret this song like a Christian who loves color theory and art — this is highly suspect. I’d have taken it two ways, yeah great life is full of color now, I feel alive in Jesus Christ! Amen Praise this song. On the other hand if I pause and understand the lyrics now with this revelation I start to ask “wait…what so now I’m free living with gray areas??? Yippee! Grace is awesome!!!”

    If you actually open a drawing app, let’s say Photoshop if you guys have one, or just the RGB slider installed by Google, you’ll notice that a box will show up with the purest color of red in the upper right corner, gradiating to different shades of red (right side of box) and gray (left side of box) until it reaches white (in the upper left) and black (the bottom part of the box).

    Slide the cursor around you’ll see how the color intensity changes to pick the hue you desire to have.

    This is based on Colors alone — if you check the Saturation slider it can set your color picker tool into an all gray pallete that is equivalent to it’s colored counterpart.

    So what’s my point?

    If I were to filter my screen to black and white setting or greyscale the colored side of that box will turn to gray and you will notice that only white and black are apparent, and between it all is shades of various greys.

    The lyrics is (probably unintentionally) promoting grey areas now (which are “colorful” in equivalent depending on “color settings”), instead of the sound teaching of the Bible that God has stated right from wrong and black from white and the only way to be able to do what’s right and to be in the light is to believe in Jesus Christ.

    I could go on and on about color theory and how Light is affected by atmosphere, obstacles, shadow and bounce light and reflected light etc and how it’s a wonderful metaphor/illustration in a secular view to help Christians understand God better but I’ll stop here.

    I hope it was interesting for you as it was for me and your review on this song! Let’s pray that Hillsong will recalibrate and fix their hearts on Jesus again.God bless you!

    • That is a very interesting application of color theory to those lines in the song. Without knowing the writer intended to use such imagery in forming this lyric, I hesitate to apply this to the song directly. I think Hillsong is drawing on generational gaps painting orthodoxy as the black & white films of the past and their brand as the 4K Ultra HD Color TV of today.

      Thank you for sharing. I, too, pray that Hillsong repents of what they are doing. The Lord be with you and bless you.

      • That is actually my concern too! I think our generation is struggling to stop ourselves from being too legalistic or oppressive with our teachings if we come to know how holy our God really is, and at the same time making sure we don’t go too far to the point of abusing our rights with how the grace of Jesus Christ really works.

        It does seem to me that they are leaning more into vague lyrics that are dipping too close in the self department to hopefully make people feel less oppressed and “vindicated” of their sins because, maybe, in Hillsong’s theology/ and observation through the recent years, people start to get wary of any song that has an obvious word of “Jesus”, “Holy” and anything scripture specific. Probably their intentions are real that they want people to be welcome and understand the love of Jesus Christ so that they can eventually be transformed into believers — the problem is there’s a dangerous thin line that could make it look more like a people-pleasing or seeker-sensitive movement rather than showing non-believers authentic grace. Also maybe because this is them (cluelessly?) trying to manipulate God’s will. They should be reminded that only the power of Jesus can transform the hearts of the people, and personally for me the way Hillsong is handling things is dangerously leaning on graceless motives rather than letting God’s Holy Spirit work on those people.

        I gotta admit growing up in a Christian environment and missing out on mainstream stuff feels alienating and you would desire that our elders won’t be so “paranoid” with song lyrics and things we watch and wear etc. Being an artist backed up that “suppressed” or “stifled” feeling in me for years. So initially when I saw Hillsong picking up pace by playing rock music since 2009 and now EDM ones I felt hope! I actually shared in their ideals music wise — I thought they’re doing a great job until news popped up that their church is not following the bible anymore.

        It’s sobering seeing your blog and Hillsongchurchwatch…it made me see how much we really need to be alert and pray for ALL things especially our ministries and the people that are actively in those ministries and the people who hear their songs be protected from possible blasphemous thoughts suggested by the enemy. Because after all Lucifer was a musically gifted angel when he was still on God’s side, these posts made me see how he can still twist something that is for Jesus Christ into nonsense and ambiguous lyrics.

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