DiM | “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey

CCM Radio Edition.

February 16, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey which currently sits at #12 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

This song earned a disapproval immediately, but there is a good thought expressed in the song that is worth exploring, that of the need to heal and move out of our past. The video we are using isn’t the airplay version of the song, and it was recorded in a live-take, so some of the words might be slightly different from what you hear on the radio, but not enough to change its meaning. We are going with this version of the song because Danny retells the story of the background of this song. Sadly, that background wasn’t scripture, it was an experience.

Danny Gokey Studio Video (w/ Story Behind the Song)

 

Danny Gokey didn’t write this song. It was written by Randy Phillips of the trio Phillips, Craig, and Dean.

Lyrics

Shattered like you’ve never been before
The life you knew in a thousand pieces on the floor
Words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never going to get back to the you you used to be.

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterdays a closing door you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again

Beginning just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now, love’s healing hands will pull you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Because your stories far from over and your journey’s just begun

So Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in

Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterdays a closing door you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak and every scar
Be a picture that reminds you, who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment Heaven is working everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again

…oh so tell your heart, to beat again…

Discussion

The basic premise of the song is faulty. It isn’t up to you to tell your heart to beat again. The anecdote about a surgeon telling the anesthetized patient “tell your heart to beat again” is quite compelling and moving, indeed it fits the definition of an “awesome story”. But the story is then used a springboard to suggest that this holds some sort of spiritual meaning, that the Great Physician has healed our hearts, BUT… but now it is up to us to tell our hearts to beat again. I have a real problem with that message. Despite that rousing story from an unidentified doctor who talked his way into an undisclosed operating room, this is not how medicine works, this is not how healing works, not of our physical hearts nor of our souls. Please note, I’m not saying the story is fabricated, just that I couldn’t verify any of it. Let’s look at the primary issue with spiritualizing this anecdote and the message of the song.

Synergism versus Monergism

The anecdote is being used to push a notion that God heals the heart but it doesn’t beat until we tell it to do so. Synergists give lip service to “salvation by faith alone” but they’ll tack on the need for works to complete the salvation. Synergism is baked into the core theology of many churches, but also works its way into Monergistic churches. Why? Because part of our sinful nature is the desire to get credit for what we do. We also want to compare ourselves to others and we can’t do that with “faith alone” so we look to works to establish a pecking order. So, while the doctrine of these othordox churches clearly confess monergism, synergism creeps in to rob the believer of his/her assurance of salvation. It’s not new to our century, such creeping was already taking place in the early church.

Galatians 3:1-9 (ESV) | By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The right way to understand the role of good works is to view it as that which flows out from salvation rather than something that is needed to gain the assurance of salvation. When the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, granting saving faith at the hearing of the Word of Christ, that person is made alive in Christ. Fully. No need for that person to do anything, much less tell themselves to breath again, or their heart to beat again.

The stated purpose of this song in the two “background” stories isn’t presented as one of salvation. In fact, the original video from Randy Phillips targets those who’ve been hurt, who are broken-hearted. But such specifics didn’t find their way into the lyric, so we had to establish this groundwork first.

Healing of the broken-hearted

I mentioned earlier that this song did have something of merit in it, that is the idea of recovering from our past. Randy Phillips specified broken heartedness, and Danny Gokey left it a bit more broad, but the basic premise is that God has already healed your broken heart so you need to stop living in it. Now matter how softly one makes this suggestion, it is still something you have to do, which makes it Law. The answer to this problem isn’t in finding some formula or principle for how to do it; the answer is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Repent, and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name. Jesus also taught that we needed to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We cannot keep such a Law of our own, we must extend the Grace we’ve been given. Let’s read some Scripture on the topic.

Matthew 6:9-15 (ESV) Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 18:15-35 (ESV) | The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

A hard teaching, indeed, but necessary for us to understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very heart and center of all of Scripture. Our hearts are wicked, stained by sin. By Grace our hearts have been made new and we’ve been made alive in the spirit by the Holy Spirit of God, but we still have our fleshly hearts to contend with. It is something we must crucify in Christ daily. Repent, and be forgiven. Forgive others, and when you fail that, repent and be forgiven again.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (ESV) | Our Heavenly Dwelling

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (ESV)

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. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 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. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is the healing of the Great Physician, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Beware of Victim-Blaming

My wife and I are particularly sensitive to the flip-side of the synergistic coin. It’s an ugly side that few are willing to discuss until they need to separate themselves from an individual, or defend themselves from having their false doctrine exposed. The flip-side of this coin is where we find the words, “God did His Part, God is not a liar, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever… therefore if you didn’t get your healing, or if you are still burdened by your past, it’s because you aren’t doing your part”. The dark underbelly of this coin is repulsive and runs contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every false religion in the world has law and works-righteousness. Christianity’s coin is unique and stands apart. Our coin has the Law of God on the one side and the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the other. The Law points to the Gospel, and the Gospel answers the Law. The Law exposes our sin, the Gospel grants repentance and forgiveness from sin.

Conclusion

The song doesn’t have any Gospel in it. Disapproval was certain, but there is a real need that the song is attempting to address, the need for healing, for forgiveness, and for hope. This song offers more Law for the hurting to keep, so it fails in its goal. What is needed is the Gospel of Grace, the Hope of Salvation, the peace that passes all understanding… even when the emotions are wrecked.

Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology

25 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 26 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— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

10 thoughts on “DiM | “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey

  1. The “heart” is a metaphor like the mustard seed. For people with depression or those trying to survive tragedy there definitely is a point where you “tell your heart to beat again”. When you make a choice to live your life and ask God for his Grace. If you measure songs by sriptural accuracy you would be leaving out most of contemporary Christian music. I am grateful for it and it has changed my faith. my walk with God and my life. Try to enjoy that someone is singing about the possibilities of healing and heaven and not cursing it.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and share your concern for what we are doing here. Firstly, we didn’t curse the song. Secondly, that measuring Contemporary Christian songs by their scriptural accuracy will likely dismiss a vast majority of the industry’s songs is a tragic truth. If you’re going to write Christian music, it needs to be Biblically sound, otherwise you are simply writing a song that is arguably “spiritual” but not necessarily Christian.

      It’s a pretty song, very well sung, and I love a good clean piano. For a secular song, it’s quite moving and touching… but it doesn’t convey a Christian Gospel message.

      As a metaphor, the whole “tell your heart to beat again” is no more Gospel than “pick yourself back up” or “try again”… that’s Law, that’s saying “do something to change” or “do something to last a little longer until help arrives”. We all need such encouragement in our lives, but that isn’t Gospel, that’s Law. The Gospel is “Christ died for your sins, Christ has forgiven you of your sins, and in Christ you are a new creation”. That’s why this song was disapproved, not because someone couldn’t somehow be inspired by the song to self-improvement.

      Finally, when it comes to “singing about the possibilities of healing and heaven”, there is NO better source than Scripture, for it is the Word of God. The world tries to write motivational stuff, it tries to explore truth, and it focuses on self-esteem, self-worth, and self-improvement. This song is great in that worldly paradigm. Christianity is different, we have the Truth of the Gospel of Grace, and we are called to be good stewards of that Gospel message.

      2 Thessalonians 3:16 (ESV) Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

      In Christ Jesus,
      Jorge

  2. I do agree with your commentary here. And I agree it is a pretty song. However, I just wanted to add that Gokey’s version has been stripped down from Phillips, Craig, and Dean’s recording on their cd “breathe in.” Gokey’s not only took out the word Forgiveness and Forgiven but other lines such as “if the Son has set you free then you are free indeed,” “you’ve been made new,” ” Hope is reaching from a rugged cross, Mercy is calling from an empty grave.” And the last refrain ” So lift your eyes to heaven and hear the Savior say, Tell your heart to beat again……”

  3. I am surprised at this article and the above comments. I understand that we need to be scripture based as Christians, but I honestly feel that there is merit in this song. The first time I listened to this song, I liked it. Then I googled the words, and experienced such healing in my heart. The reason for this is simple if you hear my testimony. A few years ago I faced some circumstances that led me down the road of depression and eventually I came to the place where I was so tired of the fight, that I nearly committed suicide. I had planned everything perfectly, and if God had not intervened, I would not have been alive to tell the tale. I was so hurt and broken that I had no will to live, and I knew God loved me, but my broken heart could not handle the suffering any longer that I felt it best for me to die. When God intervened and I snapped out of the state I was in, I told the Lord that I wanted to live, but I did not know how any more. His reply to me was “Choose to live, and I will take over”. So, at that time, I needed to tell my heart to beat again. This decision was the start of a change in my life. That was nearly 20 years ago. Today I am an ordained Pastor and I am fulfilling the call of God upon my life. I believe that is the message of this song. If you have never been at the place where you did not want to go on, you will not understand and appreciate this song.

    • That the song evokes an emotional pick-me-up of sorts does not mean that it bears Biblical truth. If you read the discussion portion of the DiM post, you’ll see that we did grant that the song had some merit in the need to heal from past hurts… but the song is casting it in a purely emotional, man-centered light rather than from a Biblical perspective. Emotional encouragement can be found in many places, the world is good at it. Unbelievers know how to encourage each other emotionally, it’s where we get most of our psychology (as well as the junk-psychology like Dr Phil and Oprah). But Truth only comes from the Word of God, and we are told to Trust in Christ alone, not to tell our own hearts to beat again. It is God who brings us to life, not us willing ourselves to keep going. We thank God for His Grace, Kindness, and Mercy on us.

      The world puts out lots of heart-felt songs that stir the emotions and motivate the will… and I have many favorite songs that are clearly not written for praise worship or Biblical teaching… but I don’t confuse them as being “christian” songs, either. Here, we review what is being labeled as “top-20 Christian songs” to see if what we find presents a truly Biblical message.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the post, the comments, and for sharing your thoughts and objections. It is my prayer that all would learn to look more to the Written Word of God as the standard of Truth and less to our own emotions.

      In Christ Jesus,
      Jorge

  4. I am a Christian committed first and foremost to the scriptures. I am also a songwriter. in reading your comments, I can understand where you are coming from. We do not find our hope in experience alone and just because something is moving, doesn’t make it true. However, your interpretation of this song is way too narrow and legalistic in nature. First off, the writer is not being literal in his lyric. He is being creative and using analogy. That should be easy to see. Jesus told parables about real life situations to make a point. Same with the the songwriter here. Beyond that obvious element, I think there are other problems with your critique.

    Life, as God created it, is not a textbook experience. It is a flesh and blood journey through the deepest and darkest places at times. And while the revelations in life that God actually gives are never contrary to scripture, they are not textbook either. I think this song hits on some very important biblical topics in a creative way that transcends words on a page. As it touched me, I was drawn into its message in the context of my Christian journey and my need to release bitterness and sorrow from my past. That is a biblical admonition for sure. Overall, this song touches on faith (believing in light of grace and not giving up). It highlights the need to leave the past behind and more forward, a concept well taught by the Apostle Paul. And so on. I really want to encourage you and others who are attempting to stand for the truth and be honestly willing to critique works of art to be cautious when minimizing God’s use of life experiences and creative inspiration. The reality is that art and music are things God has created and uses mightily to encourage, enlighten and inspire us in a world of both dead orthodoxy and pagan hedonism. Art can be beautiful or ugly, it can be redemptive or destructive. You have labored here on criticizing something that is in essence redemptive in nature. That is majoring on the minors in my estimate.; Frances Shaffer once said that if we take everything that is sinful and put it in a box, all else is holy and good. This song certainly doesn’t to “in the box”. I must also say, regarding your critique of this song, that the listener will respond and be touched in the context of their personal experience and that means all can be touched differently by it. This is not an evangelistic song, nor is it scripture. Nor does the songwriter claim it to be. It is just a beautiful message to the brokenhearted. Just as the Apostle Paul tells us that God is revealed in creation itself, I believe God also uses real life experiences to touch people (such as this pastor, surgeon and songwriter) with truth and hope. I applaud your commitment to stand for the truth. But there are plenty of serious issues and blog fodder out there that are way more worthy of critique and a song that encourages people to hope and believe in grace.

  5. I believe that Gary Forsythe in is comment captures the essence and understanding of these words best. My 13 year old son committed suicide just over three weeks ago. We chose this song at his funeral. These words captured how my wife and me felt when he decided to write the last chapter of his life. We looked up to God for strength peace and understanding to live in HIS will:

    Shattered like you’ve never been before
    The life you knew in a thousand pieces on the floor
    Words fall short in times like these
    When this world drives you to your knees
    You think you’re never going to get back to the you you used to be.

    Jesus expressed His understanding for this kind of grief in many instances.

    However, HE gives us hope:

    Close your eyes and breathe it in
    Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
    Yesterdays a closing door you don’t live there anymore
    Say goodbye to where you’ve been. Beginning just let that word wash over you
    It’s alright now, love’s healing hands will pull you through
    So get back up, take step one
    Leave the darkness, feel the sun
    Because your stories far from over and your journey’s just begun. Let every heartbreak and every scar
    Be a picture that reminds you, who has carried you this far
    ‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
    In this moment Heaven is working everything for your good

    LOVE JESUS

    Jesus allowed this to happen for a greater good than we could ever imagine. Of the greater joy that we now know of, our son saved the lives of a 14 year old with his heart, a 13 year old girl with his lungs, a 17 month old boy and 64 year old woman with his liver and 2 others with his kidneys.

    Only God knows the extent of the greater good but He has given us a glimpse and a purpose to serve that greater good

    • I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious son. I can not imagine what that must be like for you, your wife, family, & all the ones who loved your son during his life.

      Thank you for posting what you did re. “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again”. Praises to our Lord for the comfort you received through the words & music. And, thank you & your wife for approving the donation of your child’s organs to help so many other people. That fact is greatly encouraging – – I’ve a nephew who has needed 2 kidney transplants in his lifetime, & will probably need another one eventually. (His mother tried to donate, but could not; both donor kidneys were from strangers.)

      Continue to tell the story of your son, & of his gifts of life to others in need, & of the help the song has brought you.

  6. Have any of you heard the phrase “we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves” it’s a reminder when times are tough our hearts grow weary we want to wonder our faith is weak we have to get to the basics and preach the gospel to ourselves. I think this song is just that preach the gospel to our own dead hearts we may have been betrayed been broken by events, family, fellow Christians, or our own sin, in our brokenness we have to remind ourselves God heals, God redeems, God loves us beyond all that we can imagine …. I know I do all the time maybe I am not as spiritual as those posting here, but the truth is the Church isn’t a safe place people hurt and damage each other and yet is also the place God calls us to connect and he uses the very thing that sometimes caused us damage the Church other Christians. Tell your heart daily hourly the gospel we need Jesus.

    • Indeed we need to hear the Gospel ourselves, every day. Sadly, this song doesn’t convey the Gospel, that’s why it isn’t on our “Approved” list. Thankfully, God has given us the Written Word and faithful Pastors who preach both Law and Gospel. We need the healing balm of the Gospel every day. Look to where Christ has promised to be found… in His Written Word.

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