CCM Radio Edition.
February 19, 2018. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Control (Somehow You Want Me)” by 10th Avenue North which currently sits at #1 on the20theCountdownMagazine.
It’s been a while since we last took a look at the top 20 chart, so we have several new songs on the list we’ll need to review. Today, we start at the top of the chart with a song from Tenth Avenue North that really is all about “me”. This song leverages the “relationship” metaphor to make the listener feel special that the King of Heaven wants me. Apparently, the point is to feel wanted by God, even though you don’t deserve it. Let’s listen to the song and then work through the lyrics to see why we are giving this song a disapproval. Hint: the premise is wrong.
Official Lyric Video
Lyrics (via K-Love)
Here I am, all my intentions
All my obsessions, I wanna lay them all down
In Your hands, only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child
God, You don’t need me, but somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me, somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life and the way it should go
Oh, God, You don’t need me, but somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me, somehow that frees me
To open my hands up and give You control
I give You control
I’ve had plans shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in, fall through my hands
You have plans to redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe
You want me
Somehow You want me
The King of Heaven wants me
So this world has lost its grip on me
Oh, give You control
Oh, I want to give You control
I give You control
Publishing: © 2016 Fellow Ships Music (SESAC) / So Essential Tunes (Adm. at http://www.EssentialMusicPublishing.com); No Alibis Publishing (SESAC) (Adm. by Fun Attic Music, LLC) (SESAC); Unsecret Songs (Adm. by Showdown)
Writers: Mike Donehey, Jason Ingram, Matt Bronleewe
Based on the setup in the first verse, I think this song is intended for a “born again” audience. At least, it needs to be otherwise there are some serious theological problems with claiming that unbelievers could be considered children of God. So, this song is meant to be a sort of confession/promise of the believer to do some things for God so that God can do some things for the believer. The song doesn’t do it in a crass way, but let’s work through the parts of the song. The overcooking of the relationship model winds up focused on “me” rather than Him.
Verse 1. Here we have some disjointed lines somewhat confessing intension and obsessions need to be laid down. As we’ve already noted, this song aims at the Christian who is already “saved”, so the one sin we aren’t talking about directly is the sin of unbelief. But what tends to happen in so much of American Christianity is that once we’ve “been saved” we lose all language of sin, repentance, and our desperate need for forgiveness of sin. As though “once saved” all that remains is “doing better”. That’s generally where the relationship paradigm comes in, it suggests that there is a “getting saved” that equates to no longer being a stranger to God, but now we need to “go deeper in our relationship with Him” and that takes work on our end. Are our intentions inherently sinful? Do we need to lay down all of them? I’m sure our obsessions must be wrong, right? Or is it a matter of getting ourselves to obsess over the right things? Instead of teaching sound doctrine, it’s easier to romanticize these ideas and work them into the relationship paradigm, where the problem isn’t the obsession, it’s merely the object of that obsession. This premise fails because of two things. Firstly, it lacks a real understanding of the problem of sin and our need for continual forgiveness. Christians still sin and it is still sin, not merely mistakes or generic “brokenness”. Secondly, there is the problem of the vagueness of “relationship”. All of mankind has “a relationship” with God… either they stand condemned for sin and unbelief, or they are forgiven by Christ. There is no “other” category. The cross is still relevant for Christians, we still need the Holy Spirit to deliver the forgiveness of our sins won by Christ on the Cross to us and for us regularly. The Christian walk is one of repentance. Romanticizing and softening that language is unhelpful. When we lose sight of our sin, we also lose sight of the urgency of Christ’s forgiveness. We see this in the very generic reference to God’s love being only what’s vital. Yes, God’s Love is vital, and it was displayed fully for us at the cross, where Christ bore the full brunt of God’s Wrath against sin… our sin… in our place… so that we might be saved.
Chorus. So when we lose sight of the cross, we start to lose our bearing when it comes to talking of God’s love. This get’s a little sideways when we start to rely too heavily on relationship paradigms because as earthly people we tend toward romantic love and physical intimacy. Our society only has one word for love but that word isn’t enough. In some ways we recognize our own selfishness in others, so we don’t always trust those who love us because they need us. At the same time, we also don’t trust those who love us even if they don’t need us. We don’t trust those who love us because they need us. It’s not enough to be loved, we need to feel wanted. So, in this chorus we have been given just that… and overture of how God wants us even though He doesn’t need us. I do appreciate the confession in the song that God doesn’t need us. It is an important distinction that must be made when flirting with the whole “relationship” paradigm.
But this song is a Christian song, right? So why are we playing dumb in the whole “somehow that frees me” line? Have we gone so artistically vague that we no longer confess the Gospel even to ourselves? This is for Christian, isn’t it? We’ve definitely overcooked the emotional bit of this relationship model. And now we have the promise being made to God, a promise we can’t actually make, by the way. A promise to give God control over our lives. What does that even mean? Remember, we should be speaking as scripture speaks, of resisting and fleeing from sin, of confessing and repenting of sin, and asking God for forgiveness. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5 of how we are to walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
And this is a continual thing, a temporal constant in the life of Christians who still remain in sinful flesh walking in a sinful and fallen world. It is by God’s Grace that we have been regenerated to new life and have been filled by the Holy Spirit Who bears fruit in His children. We still sin, our flesh actively wars against the Spirit, and we still need the Law to mortify our flesh, convicting us of our present sin. Faith repents and receives the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ our LORD.
The chorus repeats the need/wants bit, but if we look at how Scripture speaks we realize this simply isn’t a neccessary language. God loved us so much He sent His Son to save us.
John 3:16-18 (ESV) “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.
Verse 2. I get the desire to make these songs open-ended and vague, hoping to broaden the potential audience so that anyone hearing the lyrics can think, “that’s totally me”. But this verse is making the dilemma about my “broken and shattered” plans and hopes that slipped through my fingers. Remember earlier when I was talking about intentions and obsessions? Same deal here. The turn in the verse isn’t going to examine whether or not those things were good or bad, just that they didn’t work out and now the person needs to pursue God’s plans and hopes for us. This rings of that dream-destiny nonsense from Robert Morris and those influenced by him. There are also hints at common evangelical prooftexts ripped out of context often to demand (declare) that God is going to make me a winner. But the song doesn’t actually give any guidance. It’s vague encouragement.
Bridge. Back to the wanting talk, but now we have the line The King of Heaven wants me
So this world has lost its grip on me. This manages to talk around Christ’s finished work on the cross such that we get a vague connection between God wanting me and somehow the world losing its grip on me. While it is true that Christ has set us free from the grip of the world, this line only addresses the external actor (the world) in our sin. We have not confessed our sinful flesh. We have not repented of our sinful desires. We have not asked for forgiveness. Instead, we’ve lamented broken plans, how I need to lay down my intentions and obsessions, and how badly and inexplicably God wants me.
The punchline of the song and the tie-in for the title is that because God wants me, I’m going to give Him control over my life. Brothers and sisters in Christ… God IS in control over our lives. This isn’t something you have to grant Him. Scripture doesn’t speak of a relationship that requires our surrender; rather, we are adopted children through the Blood of Jesus Christ, and in His Love, God disciplines us when we sin. The language of Law and Gospel, sin and grace, repentance and the forgiveness of sin is what we see throughout Scripture. In closing, let us look to the exhortation in Hebrews 12 immediately following the hall of faith in Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 12 (ESV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
In Christ Jesus,