DiM | “Your Love Awakens Me” by Phil Wickham

Presentation1CCM Radio Edition.

May 10, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Your Love Awakens Me” by Phil Wickham which currently sits at #16 on the20theCountdownMagazine.

I have concerns regarding this artist and his music in general, though this song, lyrically, finds itself in the “middle” category. It’s very vague and it relies on the listener to fill in the lyrical gaps to piece together a message. That strikes me as mystical form and is a red-flag, so I had to read up a bit on the artist to get a better read on his doctrine. We’ll start with the artist then move to the song.

Phil Wickham is a “worship leader” in the seeker-sensitive sense. He grew up in an evangelical home and was propped up as worship leader at the young age of 12 (source). His musical influences include Keane and Coldplay, so his music goes for an ethereal musical quality. Lyrically, he’s right in line with the Bethel / Hillsong / Passion narrative of presence theology and emotional goo. In the announcement for his latest album, we see this come through in his claim of direct revelation that “God loves us”… because, you know, it’s not enough to hear the Preached Word of God or to read God’s Word to build your faith… you need a direct revelation for it to become real. /sigh.

“My friends, It’s hard to put into words how excited I am to share this with you. This is the cover of my upcoming record “Children Of God”. We officially began working on this record exactly one year ago today, and I am thrilled to announce that it will be released on April 8th, exactly 3 months from today. We poured our hearts and souls into this project over the past year, and I can’t wait to share thIS music with you all. A year and a half ago I lost my voice and was forced to get surgery on my vocal chords with the risk of not being able to sing professionally again. During the difficulty of that season, God spoke the simple yet massive truth into my heart that he loves me. That he loves us. That we are first and foremost His children. That whatever may come our way we are His children. That whatever we may be faced with we are His. Out of this new found sense of identity many of these songs were written. They are a response to His love, and a call to others who have lost sight of or have never heard this truth. We are His. we have nothing to fear. We have only hope in front of us. We are the CHILDREN OF GOD. -Phil” (source)

For a little more emotionally-driven narrative supposedly giving a “behind-the-scenes” look at the inspiration for his latest album, check out his Facebook page here.

That’s the background on this artist. He’s wildly popular in the seeker crowd, and really dresses the part of a seeker-mergent artist. Let’s give this song a listen and then examine the lyrics.

Official Lyric Video

Lyrics (via MusixMatch)

There were walls between us
And by the cross you came
And broke them down
You broke them down
And there were chains around us
And by Your grace we are
No longer bound
No longer bound
You called me out of the grave
You called me into the light
You called my name and then my heart came alive
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me

Feel the darkness shaking
All the dead are coming
Back to life
Back to life
Hear the song awaken
All creation singing
We’re alive
Cause You’re alive
You called me out of the grave
You called me into the light
You called my name and then my heart came alive
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me

And what a love we found
Death can’t hold us down
We shout it out
We’re alive
Cause you’re alive
And what a love we found
Death can’t hold us down
We shout it out
We’re alive
Cause you’re alive
And what a love we found
Death can’t hold us down
We shout it out
We’re alive
Cause you’re alive

Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me
Your love awakens me
Your love is greater
Your love is stronger
Your love awakens
Awakens
Awakens me

Discussion

Okay, so lyrically this song is a jumble of positive statements loosely connected in theme. The lyrical format is strongly mystical, repetitious… nonsensical, even. There is nothing being truly communicated here… just a string of platitudes. The statements being made in this song are mostly true, but slightly unbalanced in their presentation. It’s like talking about how wonderful it is when a father finds and rescues his lost child… without ever discussing the fact that the child was actually a teenager and had run away from home by stealing his father’s car in the first place.

The Cross is mentioned, that’s good. Grace is mentioned. But the message of the Gospel isn’t clearly conveyed. Given Wickham’s seeker-mergent style, we see the focus of the outcome of all that the Cross brought us remains emotional. …then my heart came alive.

The song can be somewhat rescued via sound doctrine, but the mystical nature still remains and I don’t think it is particularly helpful for mass consumption. For today’s post, I’d like to read how the Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ll start in Eph 2 and read through Eph 3:13, because I think this covers the territory that the song mystically tries to manage.

Ephesians 2:1-3:13 (ESV)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

The riches of Christ are unsearchable… they cannot be discovered introspectively, they are revealed to us in Scripture. The foundation of the Church isn’t direct-direct revelation, it is the foundation laid by the Apostles and the Prophets with Christ Jesus as its cornerstone. The foundation has been laid, and we are being built on that firm foundation into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit of God… God is doing the building. He isn’t laying any new foundations, we are being built on the foundation that has already been laid. Sola Scriptura.

Romans 10:5-17 (ESV) | The Message of Salvation to All

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Conclusion

I urge my brothers and sisters in Christ to exercise Biblical discernment and caution regarding the music of Phil Wickham. The mysticism is problematic. The artist’s theology is problematic. The lyric in this song is salvageable with proper Biblical teaching, but it does not stand on its own. It’s a bit of a muddled mess.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 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, 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.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

4 thoughts on “DiM | “Your Love Awakens Me” by Phil Wickham

  1. I have a question (or 2) (not insincere): How does the art of being creative come into play with these songs? That is, does that allow for flexibility in language use and perhaps allow for some more vague (or figurative) language.

    Also, does the song’s purpose change anything? For example, one that is intended for corporate worship versus one as one person’s ‘response’ to God’s work in their lives.

    • Thank you very much for taking the time to ask. I’ll do my best to answer here. If you are curious about the why and some of the how we go about these DiM posts, I’ve linked some blogs at the top of our DiM Archive page.

      Being creative is great for entertainment. When it comes to preaching Law and Gospel, there is some room for creativity in attempting to explain what the Word of God says, to a degree, but it must always fall under a supporting role, not a primary one. Once our creative reinterpretations overshadow what the Word of God says, we are no longer preaching the Gospel, no longer evangelizing, you’re just doing creative entertainment at best or false doctrine at worst.

      The purpose of the song is a factor in how we evaluate the song, to a degree. In American Christianity, we’ve blurred the lines between entertainment and worship so badly that the stated purpose of the song carries little weight. For these song reviews, the big difference is that a CCM Radio edition review looks at how the song lyric might be understood in a vacuum, since rarely does a radio station play an artist interview or provide context or “purpose” of the song before it gets played. In our Evangelical Worship reviews, we know these songs are being unequivocally performed to instill doctrine, to teach theology, and to lead congregants. False or even vague theology in this context has far more grave implications.

      In the end, we aren’t here to evaluate entertainment value (though sometimes I do) but Doctrinal value of the lyrics. If a song is meant to be a response to God’s work in their lives, but the content doesn’t bring Glory to God or is biblically errant, then it falls far short of it’s goal. God is not glorified by false doctrine, bible-twisting, or vague mysticism. I hope that answers your questions.

  2. I’ve been seeing a lot of “blogs” lately related to taking apart more “contemporary” worship songs. I’m going to be honest and say it’s made me a bit calloused when I read them now, so bear with me if I sound a bit terse.

    I think when examining music/lyrics written by artists, you must be careful not to let semantics rule your arguments. For instance, your article says “The Cross is mentioned, that’s good. Grace is mentioned. But the message of the Gospel isn’t clearly conveyed”

    I feel that the Gospel is conveyed in the first two lines; THERE WERE WALLS BETWEEN US, BY THE CROSS YOU CAME AND BROKE THEM DOWN. Is that not a simple explanation of the Gospel? Jesus came and through his sacrifice on the cross restored the broken relationship between us and Him…

    Again, sorry if I sound a little upset, but as a worship leader who enjoys many of the new artists’ songs and content, I spend a lot of time meditating on lyrics and their theological awareness/soundness. It’s very easy to pick apart lyrics under a microscope and use semantics to make them seem vague or mystical….but I could do the same in the Psalms of David. I know you wouldn’t treat scripture the same way if you looked at the songs of David, yet we hold these artists to a different standard.

    I appreciate the heart of what you’re trying to do, in that you’re trying to help people recognize where these new tunes and correct theology meet. Matter of fact, I think it’s a necessary piece of the fabric of Christian society that someone be willing to be that guy. We have to be careful though to remember what the purpose of examination is. Not to be nit-picky, but to understand the whole and how it is connected. Line for line you can pick apart almost any Christian song, psalm, or hymn. This stuck out to me because I happen to know Phil. I know his beliefs from conversations we’ve had and I know that his heart/theology are solid.

    I also happen to know as a musician that he’s not seeker-friendly….matter of fact, no Christian artists who happen to often use the name Jesus or God in their lyrics regularly are seeker friendly. He would be considered friendly to a young adult generation…maybe not even the youth community anymore.

    Thanks for your heart and for being willing to look after what we (Christians) put in front of people. I think if we work together as brothers and sisters we’ll be able to use the microscope while also providing safe, proper criticism where it is due.

    • The first two lines aren’t a clear declaration of the Gospel, they are coded speech. What walls? What is the significance of the Cross? How does the cross tear down the walls? The message of the cross is that Christ died for our sins, and in His sacrifice we are forgiven of our sin and are clothed in His righteousness. While it is possible to read the Gospel into those first lines, the lyrics do not convey the message of the Gospel. I don’t expect the first 2 lines of a song to convey the Gospel, I’m just pointing out that those 2 lines don’t cut it, as you suggested they did. This song lacks clarity. As I said in the review of the lyrics, there are several half statements repeated over and over, but no clear message of the Gospel. If there is a Psalm you think is this vague, I’d be interested in it so that we can discuss it. Though, I would remind you that when we are talking about the Psalms, we are talking about Scripture, not just a song.

      In rereading my post, I confess I ended up being overly dismissive of the artist rather than discussing the merits of this particular song. I’m n ot immune to frustration, but I will try to rework that conclusion so that it focuses more on the lyrics of this song than on the artist. We also seem to be working with very different definitions of “seeker-friendly” if you think that anyone using the name of Jesus or God is automatically excluded from the definition. Seeker friendly pastors / songwriters are generally comfortable invoking the name of Jesus and of God, they just avoid calling folks to repentance.

      I shall endeavor to limit my conclusions to the merits of the song being reviewed and try my best to refrain from making blanket assertions on artists based on a single song review. The purpose of these DiM posts is to evaluate the substance of the songs, not to speculate on the “heart” of the artists.

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