CCM Radio Edition.
February 09, 2016. Today’s song is “Guilty” by Newsboys which currently sits at #17 on 20theCountdownMagazine‘s top 20 chart.
I was really hoping the “guilty” was going to be a reference to our sin and that the point of the song was to preach Law and Gospel, Repentance and the Forgiveness of sin. I’m rather disappointed in what I found in the lyric. This song is the CCM equivalent to a pie crust promise, “easily made, easily broken” (Mary Poppins quote). It only works in a worldview where being told “you can’t say ‘Jesus’ because of ‘separation of church and state'” amounts to persecution. It doesn’t. Not even close. The song also suffers from a “cool-rebel” motivation for proclaiming the Gospel and Worshiping our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a stupid motivation to push. We aren’t motivated by rebellion, we are motivated by the Truth of the Gospel of Grace. Let’s get down to it.
Newsboys – Guilty (Official Music Video)
Lyrics (via Newsboys.com)
When did it become breaking a rule
To say your name out loud in school
When your names the only one that sets us free
When did it become incorrect
To speak the truth about life and death
When your life gave us all eternity
Even if it gets me convicted
I’ll still be on my knees with my hands lifted
If serving you’s against the law of man
If living out my faith in you is banned
Then I’ll stand right before the jury
If saying I believe is out of line
If I’m judged cause I’m gonna give my life
To show the world the love that fills me
Then I want to be Guilty
I’ll rise up and honor you
I’ll testify to all the good you do
cause your Grace and your Mercy have overtaken me
Guilty by association
Guilty of being a voice proclaiming Your ways
I’ll pay the price to be your light.
Let us begin.
Verse 1. When did it become breaking the rule… quite early on, in fact.
Acts 4:13-22 (ESV)
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another,saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
The religious leaders of the day forbade preaching, speaking, and teaching in the name of Jesus despite having such a powerful sign of healing testifying to the Name of Jesus in their midst. So, Biblically, this song is already starting on the wrong foot. At best it is appealing to the American nationalist who believes America to be a Christian nation where the name of Jesus would never be considered illegal to invoke. From that misguided and short-sided perspective, it makes sense. Notice the caveats I had to employ.
Now it seems this song is being written to address “Christian-American Culture” with the first lines of the first verse addressing the current trend of ruling against Christianity in all cases of “1st Amendment Religious Freedoms”. It is worth noting that the only religion consistently being prohibited is Christianity. That’s to be expected since it is the only True religion. If the first couple of lines are regarding “freedom from Christianity laws” the next lines are probably an attempt to address abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide (truth about Life and Death). Society wants to hear nothing about what God’s Word says about life and death. The last line is supposed to connect what is being prohibited is connected to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the promise of forgiveness from sin and the Promise of eternal Life in Jesus Christ. The problem is that the lines don’t bear this out, I’m eisegeting into them my best construction. The other way this can be taken (and I think this way resonates more with its intended audience) is a build-up to rebellion, a pep-rally for cultural revolution… with an Evangelical flavor.
Pre-Chorus. Yep… rebellion is the motivation. Even if it gets me convicted… We haven’t seen anything yet in this country, but it’s coming. But is this the right motivation for sharing the Gospel? Nope. How much are you sharing the Gospel now that it isn’t literally against the law? Historically, the Church grows strong under persecution… but only after it has been culled to a remnant. Remember the parable of the soils? There are some who for a time bear fruit, but when persecution comes they are burned up for their roots are shallow. Others will be distracted by their own desires and are choked up by the weeds. Anyway, my point is that this line is purely motivational pep-rally fluff. The next line doesn’t improve upon it because it is one of those lines you sing where you say you’ll keep doing something that you aren’t currently doing… I’ll still be on my knees with my hands lifted… you may, you may not, but why make it a promise? Why proclaim something if you aren’t doing it, and what does staying on your knees with your hands lifted earn you? What does that do for God? What does it do for the Gospel? The line is an evangelical church-ism, where evangelicals just assume that these outward displays of piety indicate true worship. Jesus isn’t swayed by the external displays of piety…
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV) | The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee,standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Now, in the parable Jesus gives voice to all that is going on in their hearts. There is also a contrast in outward actions, yet, but even if the Pharisee were on his knees with his arms lifted in the air saying the same “prayer” would have yielded him the same results in the parable.
But there is another problem with boldly declaring how you will react should a situation arise of which you have no understanding… you make oaths you cannot hope to keep. You’ll sin, and have to repent of lying to boot. And we don’t need to go to the unbelieving Pharisee to make this point… we can look to the Apostle Peter.
Luke 22:31-34 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Jesus told him point-blank he was going to fall away, but that He had prayed for Peter so that after he has turned again he might strengthen his brothers. All of them were going to fail, but Jesus assured them that He would bring them back. Peter doesn’t get it and decides to prove his zeal by making lofty claims of what he would do. Friends, you can’t out-zeal the Word of God. Just can’t do it. So don’t do it. Confess the Word, don’t try to one-up it in your misguided zeal.
Chorus. Works. Law. No Gospel. Dear Christian, you do NOT want to be judged by your works. You’ll fail. We all fail. And this gets kinda weird in that it’s somehow making rebelling against an antichrist state is a good work. That’s not what defines a good work. Please, this is a twisting of a sense of rebellion into a zeal for righteousness… but it’s starting in the wrong place. We don’t start by countering the World. The Great Commission isn’t based on the world, it’s based on Jesus Christ.
Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There is no mention of whether or not we’ll be arrested, or imprisoned, or convicted by the courts here… nor should there be. The motivation is Christ, not works, not rebellion against the world. That counter-culture stuff comes from theology of glory, a theology of purpose-driven nonsense and of dominionism and it’s 7-mountain fantasy. It’s all rubbish. We preach Christ and Him Crucified because of what He has done for us.
Verse 2. The focus of this verse is the singer. It’s a continuation of the thought at the end of the pre-chorus, through the chorus about all of the great works I’ll do IF the world crosses the line and makes this stuff illegal. /sigh. I’m getting more frustrated by this song by the minute.
Bridge. I’ll pay the price to be your light… I can’t even, right now. Tell me, what price will you pay for being Christ’s light, hmmm? With so much self-motivated works driving the lyric in this song, I’m left with no positive way to spin this line in the bridge. It still sounds like Peter defying Christ’s warning concerning his impending falling away and subsequent restoration. Stop boasting in your flesh. Stop trying to editorialize your good works. I mean, who wouldn’t like having a personal narration guy extolling your virtues and magnifying the hardships you’ve had to face and overcome…. by the Grace of God, naturally… and how you had to fight the good fight and blah, blah, blah, look at my good works. Vanity.
John 16:20-33 (ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
While one might be able to make an attempt at arguing in favor of the intent of the song, the song doesn’t stand on its own. It starts off on the wrong foot in the very first verse and never recovers. While I attempted to give the first verse its best construction, the rest of the song dives headlong into crushing legalism. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and even if you did they don’t advance the Gospel in any meaningful way. Preach the Word. Proclaim Christ and Him crucified. Know that we will face persecution, and take comfort in the Words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, “take heart; I have overcome the world“.
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
In Christ Jesus,