DiM | “I Wanna Go Back” by David Dunn

Presentation1CCM Edition.

June 28, 2017. Today we’ll be taking a look at “I Wanna Go Back” by David Dunn which currently sits at #11 on 20TheCountdownMagazine.

This song is a good example of taking a portion of Scripture and inflating it into a life statement or overarching philosophy of living that doesn’t really reflect the whole of Scripture. As we’ll see from the artist’s own words describing this song, he’s taken Christ’s command to become like a child and come to Him as something we should do to make all of life better. We’ll be spending some time looking at where Scripture supports this idea and where Scripture also calls us to maturity.

Official Music Video

Lyric (via KLove)

When I was a kid
I was sure
I could run across the ocean
And I was gonna be an astronaut

When it was You and it was me
I had everything I needed
Faith could even move a mountain top

And then I grew up
And then I got older
Then my life got tough
And we grew apart

I wanna go back
To Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me
For the Bible tells me so
I wanna go back
To this little light
Gonna let it shine
Gonna let it shine
I wanna go back

When I was a kid
I didn’t care to keep up with the Jones’s
I was just happy that they lived next door

When it was You and it was me
I had everything I needed
Your hands were big enough to hold the world

And then I grew up
And then I got older
Then my life got tough
And we grew apart

I wanna go back
To Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me
For the Bible tells me so
I wanna go back
To this little light
Gonna let it shine
Gonna let it shine
I wanna go back

I wanna go back, back to
Yes, Jesus loves me

Publishing: Songs From the Penalty Box(BMI) Word Music, LLC, Howiecowie Publishing (ASCAP) Be Essential Music, Bentley Street Songs(SESAC)
Writer(s): David Dunn, Benji Cowart, Hank Bentley

Discussion

Before we start talking about the lyrics, let’s take a look at an interview where David talked about this song:

JFH (Nicole): What inspired you to write “I Wanna Go Back”?

David: “I Wanna Go Back” is me thinking about kids, again, and really thinking about myself. Actually I started with the Bible, is Jesus encouraging us to be more, not less, like children, to be more like kids? I tend to speak in derogatory terms most of the time when I’m referring to children. You’ll go over to somebody and go “Stop picking your nose like a little kid!” Things like that–mostly you admonish people for acting like children, but Jesus mostly encouraged people to be more like kids. “I Wanna Go Back” is me investigating what that looks like from the kid me to the adult me. The kid me, when it came to faith especially, there were only two things that were important to me: that Jesus was, that He existed, and two, that He loved me, and that was it. That was the entirety of what was important to me when I was a kid. And then I grew up, and I felt like faith was no longer that He is and that He loved me, now faith was a culmination of my steps up this giant theological mountain. How much knowledge could I accrue about Jesus, so I could have this big punching bag of faith that I could delve into? This is not facts. The facts are is that faith is holding onto the important things. Whereas knowing about Jesus is a good thing, the important thing is that Jesus is and that He loves me.

JFH (Nicole): I definitely see that, as I get older, there are a lot more questions that I have, whereas when you’re a kid it’s more easily accepted, especially when you sing songs like “Jesus Love Me.” *laughs*

David: Yeah! And you get these questions and they tend to minimize the power. I don’t think asking questions is a bad thing, I think it is a good thing. Asking questions about your faith is a really, really positive thing. If it takes the place of what’s important, you’re in trouble. That’s the difference, I think. If you start accruing knowledge, and your doubts become the foundation of your faith, then you’re in trouble. What you want to be the foundation of your faith is that Jesus is and that He loves you.

{Read More of the Interview}

So let’s first address the overall theme of wanting to go back to “Jesus loves me this I know”. The idea here is simplifying life, and within the context of modern-day evangelicalism, this is sorely needed. American Evangelicalism has turned Christianity into a never-ending string of works-based striving without rest. Tithe, give sacrificially, volunteer for programs, join small groups to talk about shallow “Christian” books, etc. While most of these things are not problematic in themselves, what is a problem is they become a test of salvation, proof of “a changed life”, evidence that you are a “real Christian” as opposed to being merely a nominal one. Christians need to hear the Gospel for them, too. Dear Christian, not only does Jesus love you, He lived a perfect life for you, He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets for you, and He died on the cross in your place, propitiating God’s wrath against sin for you, and He rose again from the grave to eternal life for you, so that in Him you will also have eternal life. “This little light of mine” isn’t how great a life you lead… it’s the testimony of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and Promise to return for His Church. In giving this song its best possible construction, I’d say that this is what is being referred to in wanting to “go back”, it’s not so much wanting to turn back the hands of time, but to return to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ for the assurance of salvation and the forgiveness of sin. The answers to the interview questions leave some doubt as to whether or not that is actually what the artist was thinking, so please pray that this artist finds assurance, peace, and rest in the True Gospel.

Verse 1. We see in this first verse a theme common to most of CCM, in that faith is often depicted as unfettered optimism. I blame the widespread influence of Word of Faith (WoF) false teaching. Faith is better viewed as trusting in God’s promises, in His Will, and in His salvation. Our culture fixates onto the idea of “dreaming big” and “aiming high” and “changing the world”… but is that really the focus of the Gospel? No. Christ has already done all of the work, It is finished (John 19:30). Now, I don’t blame a child for not understanding faith, as I’m sure my little ones truly believe that I am capable of doing things that are well beyond my abilities. But, when asked the serious question, they trust that I will do my very best for them. We do our best to teach them who they are in Christ Jesus, and they are growing in wisdom, stature, and knowledge of Christ. They know that it is Christ Who saved and is saving them, Who forgave and is forgiving them, and Who is returning for them. Getting back to this lyric, I do have a problem with the turn in the end, particularly with the line “And we grew apart” because that phrasing suggests the separation was mutual. It isn’t. We are led astray by sin and the cares of this world… God doesn’t move. I don’t think this is anything intentional on the part of the writer, but that is what the phrase suggests. In common speech whenever this language is invoked in relationships it is done to suggest a mutual growing apart, a sharing in the responsibility for the separation.

Chorus. The chorus corrects the mutual language bit, so I’m thankful for that. If we’re still applying our best possible construction to this song we can interpret the “I wanna go back” as repentance and returning to the pure Gospel. This is something we do have to bring to the song, though, as the Gospel is never clearly articulated in any meaningful way. The references to the nursery songs “Jesus loves me” and “this little light of mine” don’t quite get the audience to the heart of the Gospel of Grace, repentance and the forgiveness of sin. This song settles into the megachurch evangelical sermon mode of “what one thing can you focus on that will make your life more effective for Jesus”. The whole “life tips” for living an overcomer’s life type of thing.

Verse 2. What we see different here is the artist keying in on how he feels like he was more grateful for things back then. He coveted less. I think that’s sort of looking at our past selves through rose-colored glasses. As children, we sinned just as badly. What has changed is that as adults we have responsibilities and as Americans, we measure our self-worth by our accomplishments, our collections, and our accolades. This part of the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” is a very real and sadly pervasive element in megachurch spirituality. When every sermon takes the form of “life tips” or “keys to Christian living” all centered on law (what you need to do or abstain from doing) rather than on the Gospel (what Christ as done and is doing for you), you fall into a constant cycle of fruit-checking for the assurance of salvation. And when you feel like you cannot internally measure your “progress” you look to your neighbors to gauge your progress in relation to theirs, and that’s when the enemy leads you into either the ditch of pride or the ditch of despair, either way, you’re in a ditch, stuck in the mud, trying desperately to measure your own fruit to find security in your salvation.

The song loops back around to the Chorus, and doesn’t quite offer a clear out for the artist or the listener. There is a sense of “going back” to what might be considered a child-like outlook on life, and there is some truth to it, but I’d like to develop the concept a little further. Let’s look at Matthew 18 for Christ’s teaching regarding a child-like faith.

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Luke 9:46-48 (ESV) An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

The disciples had gotten into an argument over who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ’s answer is surprising, especially to the Old Adam in us. You see, our Old Adam (our sinful nature) wants recognition/reward for our works. Christ’s answer chops that notion off at the knees. The least among us is the one who is great. It’s not the one who does great things, it’s the one who receives the Greatest thing, Faith in Christ Jesus. Faith alone. With this teaching in clear view, we can see how our best construction on the song lyric might connect that second verse to this passage… the disciples got caught in measuring up works, the idea that fuels the “keeping up with the Joneses”. Christ snaps them back to the Gospel, which is where Luke’s account focuses, “whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me”. Matthew also captures the clear warning of where such arguments can lead, it can cause one such person with childlike faith in Christ to stumble and sin. This is a clear warning and rebuke to the pastors who abandon the clear preaching of the Gospel in favor of law, of “life tips” and “keys to success” in this life.

Before we close, I do want to make a clear distinction between having a childlike faith and being childish in the faith. The former is a picture of humble reliance and trust upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. The latter is immaturity and lack of discipline.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (ESV) When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Colossians 1:24-29 (ESV) 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.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV) About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

While we are indeed called to have a childlike faith in Christ Jesus, we are also exhorted to spiritual maturity in Christ. It is childishness to ignore doctrine or to dismiss Biblical discernment. Childlike faith and spiritual maturity are not mutually exclusive, in fact, we need both. How can this be? Only through clear teaching of God’s word, both Law and Gospel.

Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 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.”

2 Timothy 3:10-17 (ESV) You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Conclusion

This song doesn’t really make much of any theological assertions, so it relies heavily upon what the listener brings to it. The song doesn’t stand on its own; however, as we’ve demonstrated it can be given a best possible construction by those whose theology has been grounded in the Word of God. As such, this song settles in the middle ground of listening with discernment. Childlike faith is trusting in Christ Jesus for salvation and the forgiveness of sin. I pray we all grow in this childlike faith unto spiritual maturity in the Body of Christ.

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

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