DiM | “Battles” by The Afters

Presentation1CCM Edition.

November 17, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Battles” by The Afters which currently sits at #17 on 20TheCountdownMagazine.

This song aims at providing a blanket emotional encouragement for Christians to find comfort in their circumstance. It’s an anthemic appeal to emotional uplifting. There are some phrases we can try to anchor to solid theological ground. The biblical promises being invoked in this song are made from an eternal focus, not a temporal one. Applying this anthem to temporal circumstances is a mistake that undermines the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If the listener works hard at processing the theme of this song Biblically, it can be of benefit. We’ll spend most of our time focusing on the Battle won by Christ at the cross as we see referenced in Scripture. This isn’t a short post. Let’s listen to the song and then work through the lyric.

TheAftersVEVO

 

Lyrics (via K-Love)

Verse 1
This current is trying to wreck me
Like castles of sand
Castles of sand
My fear, like an enemy army
Is marching again
But I’m making a stand

Pre-Chorus
You surround me on every side
Your love is my armor, I fear no evil
Darkness runs from Your light
So I won’t be afraid
I won’t be afraid

Chorus
You’re going before me and oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles
When my feet are failing and my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles

Verse 2
Time after time, You’re my refuge
You heal every scar You’re guarding my heart
Your promise, the hope that I cling to
My rescue, my friend You come rushing in

Pre-Chorus
You surround me on every side
Your love is my armor, I fear no evil
Darkness runs from Your light
So I won’t be afraid
I won’t be afraid

Chorus
You’re going before me and oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles
When my feet are failing and my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles

Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles

Bridge
In my weakness, You are strong
Every trouble You have overcome
In my weakness, You are strong
Every trouble You have overcome
In my weakness, You are strong
Every trouble You have overcome
You have overcome
You have overcome

Chorus
You’re going before me and oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles
When my feet are failing and my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles

Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles
Fighting my battles

Publishing: The Secret Parade/Simply Complex Songs/Songs From The Indigo Room (SESAC) (admin. by Music Services, Inc.); Nashvistaville Songs/Light The Night/Songs of the Casbah (BMI) (admin. by Disney); Vistaville Music/Bad Nacho Music/Music from the Casbah (ASCAP) (admin. by Disney); Vistaville Music (BMI) (admin. by Disney)
Writer(s): Josh Havens; Matt Fuqua; Jordan Mohilowski; Dan Ostebo; Jess Cates

Discussion

Lyrically, this song suffers a bit from abstract expressionism (think Jackson Pollock). The focus of the song is emotional encouragement and motivation. It’s supposed to allow the listener to draw encouragement from the song regardless of circumstance. The problem comes in when the listener’s theology isn’t sound… there is nothing in the song to indicate that this might be a problem. It’s a blanket “you can do it” without limits. The problem in this song, simply stated, is “What battles are we talking about?” Jesus didn’t die for you to get that dream-job you’re completely unqualified to perform. If that’s your “battle”, this song is going to be lying to you.

Verse 1. If we are looking for the enemy in this song, this verse seems to be the only one that names an enemy. Here, it is “fear”. The first line mentions a current working against the singer in a “castles in the sand” metaphor. The metaphor doesn’t get fully developed which leaves me a bit confused early on. Like when artist begins speed-painting or splatter painting but stops before the image is fully formed. Let’s look to Scripture for this “castles in the sand” motif.

Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV) | Build Your House on the Rock

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Well, this doesn’t really bring clarity to our song today, but let’s talk about what Jesus is teaching. Notice he’s talking about those who build their houses on God’s Word versus those who do not. Doctrine matters, folks. What is the foundation of your doctrine? What do we do with this, then, strive to keep the Law better? No, the answer does not rest in our own law-keeping; rather, the answer rests on Christ, the Living Word of God. In Him we find both Law and Gospel, both the conviction of our sin and the forgiveness of the same. Let’s look to 1 John 1, the full chapter:

1 John 1 (ESV)

The Word of Life
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Walking in the Light
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Amen. Keeping the Word of Christ means confessing sin and trusting in His finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin, and in the Resurrection on the Last Day into eternal life by God’s Grace through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

Now back to the song. The artist doesn’t complete this metaphorical picture. Is his theology the sand castle or is it merely his current circumstance? If the former, then we should expect something corrective as the song progresses. If the latter, then we’re left wondering what current is that is trying to wreck the sand castle circumstance of the singer. If this were a secular song playing on secular radio, I wouldn’t be trying to hard to find the Christian theme, and I’d simply assume the artist is describing their dreams and desires as sand castles being attacked by reality. Why? Because pop culture has bought into this “positive thinking and self-esteem can overcome reality” mantra. Christians shouldn’t, but they’ve bought into it, also. Anyway, the pivot from describing the problem to setting up the solution has the singer “making his stand”. Are we still on sand? Unfinished, underdeveloped metaphor. Who or what are we standing against, our own fear army marching towards (inside of) us? Are we standing against the unnamed current? Is the current an outside actor, like “life”, “reality”, Satan, trials and tribulations? I don’t think there is a specific answer, because the goal of the song is to be a generic anthem for all listeners to insert their own “villain”. For those who really love the CCM songs that I’ve added to the “Disapproved” list, I could even be considered the villain, for the purpose of this song.

Pre-Chorus. Because God is everywhere we are always surrounded by Him. The question is have you been baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection? The next line invokes the armor of God, but not from Ephesians, I think it comes more from a Psalm 91 perspective (an often mis-applied and eisegeted Psalm) paraphrasing v14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name (Ps 91 ESV). Pulling from Ps 91 for this line is my attempt to salvage the concept of God’s love being our shield; but, this Psalm points to Christ as our refuge and our strength. It is Christ who dwells in the secret place of the Most High. It was this Psalm that Satan twisted in his attempt to tempt Christ to sin by throwing Himself from the pinnacle of the Temple (Matt 4).

Our culture has gotten away with redefining love in the most unbiblical of ways, so treating the word “love” here as representative of the Gospel is vague. With so much of the visible church processing everything emotionally rather than doctrinally, I think we are doing the church disservice in shortcutting the Gospel of Jesus Christ by appealing to “love” only. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letter to the Ephesians, he taught concerning the armor of God and preparedness for battles.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV) | The Whole Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Christ is our armor. We are baptized into Him, sealed by Him, forgiven by and because of Him. Please understand that I’m not saying it is wrong to say that God’s love is our armor, I’m saying we need be more specific because God’s Word teaches more. God has revealed Himself to us in His Word, and we are masking Him with emotional short-cuts. Please re-read what Paul wrote under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. These are God’s Words, breathed out for us. It is on these words we should build our houses.

The song then reminds us that darkness flees the Light of God’s Word. That is true. The end of this pre-chorus is a declaration that the singer won’t be afraid. That’s an emotional state that we cannot guarantee in our flesh. This song is anthemic, so it’s a motivational pep-talk not generally taken as a guarantee, but still the problem is there. The objective truth is that the darkness cannot blot out the Light of God. Set your faith on the Truth of God’s Word, not on the fickle frailty of human emotions.

John 1:1-18 (ESV) | The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 3:16-20 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Chorus. Well, the chorus is flat. Eisegetically reading the singer/listener into Exodus, where God led Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt by a cloud during the day and pillar of fire during the night and literally parting the Red Sea for them to pass through the waters of their salvation from Pharaoh. This all pointing to Christ, but when eisegeted in this manner it makes a different promise that isn’t found in Christ. What are the battles here? Christ has won the battle against sin, death, and the Devil. It is Finished. That doesn’t mean we won’t have to endure struggles, trials, even tribulations in this life. Christ has already won the battle, and in Him we have our victory… eternal Life. Our feet are always failing in this life, as long as we walk in this fallen world in corrupted flesh. We Christians live in the “in-between” being simultaneously saints and new creations in Christ Jesus; yet we are also sinners in fallen flesh. As long as the earth continues by God’s Grace, we look forward to Christ’s Return, to the Great Day of the Resurrection when we will finally be rid of this sinful flesh and welcomed into eternity with Christ, forevermore. Our feet fail, our hearts fail and are shaken, but Christ is unchanging. He has already won the battle that matters.

Verse 2. I don’t like the “time after time” qualifier to God being the singer’s refuge. Either the singer is indicating that he’s sought refuge in God “time after time” (which means there are times when the singer hasn’t) or the singer is admitting that there are times when it didn’t seem like God was there keeping him safe. Either way, it’s more emotional than factual. God IS our refuge… always. When we wander away, led astray by our own sinful, fleshly, desires… God is still our refuge, and His Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and leads us to repentance and then He forgives. So, you see, despite our failures, He is always our Refuge and our Strength. Read Paul’s words in Eph 6 again, belt of Truth, helmet of Salvation, breastplate of Righeousness (Christ’s Righteousness given to us), the gospel of Peace, shield of Faith, and the sword of the Spirit. None of these listed are of our own doing or contribution. All of it comes from Christ.

Bridge. Christ has indeed overcome every trouble. He is our strength when we are weak… and we are always weak.

Conclusion

Christ has already won the battle against sin, death, and the devil. I dislike how this song presents this truth as something we are waiting to see rather than the objectively knowable victory that occurred at the cross. What remains is not a battle that Christ is fighting, but growth and maturing of the corporate Church and each of us as members of the Body. That is what is truly missing in this song. In this life we will face many hardships, trials and tribulations. These are not battles that Christ has to fight for us, He has already won. He is already seated at the Right Hand of the Father.

This song doesn’t present the Gospel in any meaningful way, so it doesn’t get an “Approved” rating. If the listener narrows the definition of “my battles” and is looking to eternity for the Promise of Salvation, it can be a decent song of encouragement. That work must be done by the listener, though, for the lyric is written quite vaguely and artistically. The intent is to be emotionally motivational for everyone. There is nothing concrete to hold onto in this song’s lyric.

In closing, I’d like for us to read through the opening chapter in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 1 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

We proclaim Christ and Him crucified for our sins. He is returning soon for His Church. Lord, come quickly. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

One thought on “DiM | “Battles” by The Afters

  1. I will absolutely be using your blog as a source of new songs to add to my spotify list!! Great blog! Please visit my page and follow for my current and upcoming theological posts!

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