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)
Waking up knowing there’s a reason
All my dreams come alive
Life is for living with You
I’ve made my decision
You lift me up, fill my eyes with wonder
Forever young in Your love
This freedom’s untainted with You
No moment is wasted
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
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
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
Maybe I ain’t really know what living is
Is it love if it was am I living it?
Do I live in it?
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!
Publishing: © 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing (APRA) (admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Unashamed Music (BMI)
Writer(s): Aodhan King, Joel Davies, and Lecrae
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)
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 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
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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. 8 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, 9 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.
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,