DiM | “Rise” by Danny Gokey

disapproveCCM Edition.

November 01, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Rise” by Danny Gokey which currently sits at #17 on 20TheCountdownMagazine.

Thematically today’s song is like a sequel to “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again“. This song is clearly a “positive” and even “emotionally uplifting” song, but it isn’t a clearly Christian song. The lyric in this song is completely bathed in theology of glory, a theology that makes the christian the hero. This is wildly popular in popular evangelicalism, but it isn’t Biblical. The Gospel doesn’t point to our own greatness, it points us to Christ. No, not even under the argument of “because of Christ… I’m awesome”. In today’s post, we’ll be focusing more on what Scripture teaches us to focus on, the Cross of Jesus Christ than on parsing every line of the song. Let’s give it a listen, read the lyrics, and then discuss the theology.

Danny Gokey Lyric Video

 

Lyrics (via K-Love)

There’s a brokenness inside of you
There’s a wound that still reminds you
Of the fear, shame and rejection
You have seen it, you have seen it

You know it’s time to get up
But your heart’s paralyzed, you’re so stuck
You’re past the point of trying again
You’re defeated, you’re defeated

But something inside you can’t deny
You hear the call of your creator
I made you for more, unlocked the door
I wanna restore your glory

So Rise
Breaking the dark, piercing the night
You’re made to shine
An army of hope
Bringing the world
A radiant light
A radiant light
You were made to rise, rise

Lift your head and look around you
See the dreams you lost, they have found you
And the heart that once was beating
Is coming back to life
Coming back to life

But something inside you can’t deny
You hear the call of your creator
I made you for more, unlocked the door
I wanna restore your glory

So Rise
Breaking the dark, piercing the night
You’re made to shine
An army of hope
Bringing the world
A radiant light
A radiant light
You were made to rise, rise

Shut the door on yesterday
Leave what happened in the grave
You were made to rise
You were made to shine
Creations longing for the day
For kings and queens to take their place
You were made to rise
You were made to shine

Rise
Breaking the dark
Piercing the night
Made to shine
Bring the world
A radiant light

Rise
Breaking the dark, piercing the night
You’re made to shine
An army of hope
Bringing the world
A radiant light
A radiant light
You were made to rise, rise
You were made to rise, rise
You were made to

Publishing: BMG Platinum songs, Creative Hearts Publishing (BMI) / Word Music, LLC, Howiecowie Publishing (ASCAP) / Wordspring Music, LLC, (SESAC)
Writer(s): Danny Gokey, Benji Cowart, Josh Brownleewe

Discussion

So there is no mention of Christ, nothing is presented in light of the Gospel, no repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The focus of the song isn’t on Christ, it’s on (presumably) the christian. The song is a motivational pep-talk, urging the christian to do something. I take issue with what the song is telling the listener to do, namely to look inwardly for inspiration to believe in the self, the buried greatness inside that is somehow destined to rise. While Danny does invoke “the Creator”, it’s one who is speaking from inside the listener. I’ve been worried about his theology for a while, particularly with his fascination with “the Shack”.

gokey

We’ve discussed this particular concern, but considering the problematic theology in the book regarding Our Triune God, this is worth bringing up again because of how the lyric references God. Nearly every false religion also invokes a “creator”, so simply invoking a Creator does not provide clarity, particularly not in this something inside you context. When we need encouragement, the last place we need to look for it is within ourselves… we are the ones needing encouragement. Christians look to the external Word of God.

The song presents a few lines that are theologically problematic. Let’s work through them

Verse 1. I’ve already mentioned this one in the third stanza of the first verse,

But something inside you can’t deny
You hear the call of your creator
I made you for more, unlocked the door
I wanna restore your glory

If there was some possibility that the song was pointing to eternity, this one might be given a positive spin. But that’s simply not the context of the song. What glory is your creator trying to restore in you? You were born dead in sins and trespasses. That’s what these “purpose driven life” folks can’t seem to get right. The Gospel is NOT about unlocking some potential from within you, the Gospel is about rescuing from sin, for forgiveness and eternal life.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith

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.

We were dead in sins and trespasses. Dead. God saves us by His Grace, through Faith in Christ Jesus, and this salvation has nothing to do with our works. There is no “hidden potential” deep within you, no glory to be restored. We glory in Christ, not ourselves. So what is Paul talking about when he mentions the good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in? Paul gives general guidance in chapter 4 of his letter and then breaks down some more specific guidance for various vocations. Let’s look at the general description of this New Life we’ve been called to walk in:

Ephesians 4:17-32 (ESV) | The New Life

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Notice that Paul closes out this thought in the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus. Paul is not pointing to the christian’s glory, or special calling, Paul is pointing to what we might call the “third use of the Law”, where the Law informs forgiven Christians of what a Good Work is. Jesus is the Word made flesh. This is how John introduces the Gospel to his readers. He also recorded an important question and answer in Chapter 6.

John 6:26-33 (ESV) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

The bread of Heaven is the Word of God, Christ Jesus, who gives life to the world. The external Word is where we look for life, not inside of ourselves. This is what is so wrong with “purpose driven” theology of glory. It emphasizes the christian over the Christ.

Chorus. Can the chorus be re-interpreted to be pointing to Christ? I suppose it can and even has to in order for it to be so wildly popular, but doing so requires reshaping the focus of the song. The one Rising in the song is still the listener, and the listener has to remind himself that we are NOT the light, nor are we the hope of the world, that Christ is the Light and the Hope of the World. The lyric isn’t pointing to Christ, though, it’s pointing to the christian. The lyric might also be reshaped to point to eternity, indicating that all who are in Christ Jesus have been sealed by God the Holy Spirit, by Grace through Faith in Christ, for the Resurrection in the Last Day. Though, that Day isn’t the hope of the world that hates God. That Day will bring judgment upon the living and the dead. Only those who are covered by the Righteousness of Christ will be granted eternal life.

The biggest problem in this chorus is that it completely ignores those whose vocations aren’t given to glory or success or measurable accomplishments by the world’s standards. As we saw in Eph 4, our new lives in Christ are not particularly glorious in themselves. We love, we forgive, we speak the truth. There is no such thing as “glorious vs mediocre” Christianity… there is only Christ and Him crucified for our sins.

Verse 2. Okay, some of these lines might be reshaped a bit, but the following is just bad.

Creations longing for the day
For kings and queens to take their place

Creation isn’t longing for us to do anything. That’s putting the emphasis on the wrong thing. Creation is longing for Christ’s return. We, too, are longing for that very same thing.

Romans 8:22-25 (ESV) For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Skipping over that point of what it is Creation longs for leads us to think that somehow we (kings and queens) have something to do with His Return. I get that he’s invoking the promise that those who are in Christ will “reign and rule with Him” in eternity, but notice the context:

2 Timothy 2:8-13 (ESV) Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

The promise of the Gospel is indeed that we will rise on the Last Day (1 Peter 1:3-12). That is not to say that we are all called to temporal greatness as the world sees greatness. In the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus the man of faith died a beggar, covered in sores being licked by the dogs (Luke 16:19-31).

Conclusion

To consider this song a “Christian song” requires the listener to insert Christ into the lyric or behind the lyric. The lyric itself does not proclaim Christ. It is a motivational song that vaguely invokes the creator while presenting very odd theological statements that don’t rightly square with Scripture. This song is definitely a “positive” song, and an emotionally “uplifting” song, but not specifically “Christian”. The reinterpretation needed to make it a “Christian” song would also make songs like “Fight Song by Rachel Platton” a contender for a christian song. These two songs are in the same ballpark, though Gokey’s invokes a little more “spirituality” in the lyric. This is just “positive music”. It could play on any “positive” radio station without anyone batting an eye. That isn’t the standard for these DiM posts, where we are looking for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the lyric of the song.

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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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