DiM | “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey

Presentation1Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

At the time of this writing, the K-Love top songs chart had not been updated from last week; therefore, we will be using 20 the Countdown Magazine’s chart for today’s DiM post. I can’t tell how often this chart is updated, but the top song on the chart is Danny Gokey’s “Hope In Front Of Me”. As it turns out, this song was at #4 on the K-Love chart last week, and would have been the next song on our list to review anyway, so here we go. Let us begin with a refresher for those who might not have heard this song on the radio:

[youtube http://youtu.be/O5GFiDdGGGM]

 

Hope in Front of Me | Lyrics (via Metro Lyrics)

I’ve been running through rain
That I thought would never end
Trying to make it on faith
In a struggle against the wind
I’ve seen the dark and the broken places
But I know in my soul
No matter how bad it gets
I’ll be alright

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light, I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen
There’s hope in front of me

There’s a place at the end of the storm
You finally find
Where the hurt and the tears and the pain
All fall behind

You open up your eyes and up ahead
There’s a big sun shining
Right then and there you realize
You’ll be alright

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light, I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen
There’s hope in front of me

There’s a hope still burning
I can feel it rising through the night
And my world’s still turning
I can feel your love here by my side

You’re my hope
You’re the light, I still see it
Your hands are holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I’ve got to believe
I still have hope
You are my hope

Songwriters
HERMS, BERNIE / JAMES, BRETT / GOKEY, DANIEL JAY

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Read more: Danny Gokey – Hope In Front Of Me Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Positive Elements

Well, it is definitely an attempt to give encouragement to any and all who are going through hard times. If you bring in the Official Music Video, you get a sense of rescue for those who are struggling with hopelessness in various circumstances… and then they end up broken down in the middle of a country road and just need to keep walking… *sigh*. The song is vague. Danny Gokey has professed to be a Christian, he did so while he was competing in American Idol (Season 8) where he finished in 3rd place, which is quite an accomplishment. He has an absolutely tremendous voice and a great sense of musical style and delivers his music with power and emotion. This song also points toward a wonderful community outreach of Sophia’s Heart Foundation, named in honor of his late first wife. What they do here is undoubtedly a good work for the poor and the down-trodden, and this song Hope in Front of Me is undoubtedly anthemic for those being touched by this ministry. These are all positive elements and deeply commendable, but the vagueness of the messaging still looms. Before we move on to specific concerns, I want to share a video from Danny Gokey’s Homepage that really helped me tie this song to the Sophia’s Heart Foundation.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffivEQpbUZA]

Concerns

Our goal here is to practice Biblical discernment in the songs we hear played on the radio (maybe even sing along with) so that we are fully aware of what we are filling our hearts and minds with. The song has some very strong religious/spiritual keywords such as: faith, soul, belief, hope, light, and love. Each of these words resonate with religions of all flavors, even the godless ones (e.g. humanism and buddism). The vagueness is a problem here because at no time in the song or in the Official Music Video is the object of the singers faith identified nor is the hope articulated beyond a generic positive confession of “better days” and “I’ll be alright”. There is also a quirk that pops up in the use of the pronoun “you”. As with most modern-day spiritual songs, the “you” is at times implying God (or at least a higher power) but might also refer to an earthly person (love interest), but the quirk comes in where “you” suddenly shifts to the hearer. Well, that’s a problem since we also have the other two possible “you”s in the song. Vagueness is the key issue with this song. The Gospel isn’t remotely vague. Scripture isn’t vague. “Spiritual songs” are vague to appeal to the widest possible audience for sales. The song does not provide any answers, no gospel, and not really any Law, just an appeal to Hope.

To get any meaning out of the song, you first have to put real meaning into it. Let’s see if we can’t manage some salvaging of the song from the Scriptures.

Faith. Faith is not a thing unto itself. If we are using a strictly Biblical definition of faith, only believers have faith. We see in Romans 10:17 (ESV) “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. Therefore, apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ there can be no faith. In fact, when Paul describes the state of sin of mankind in Romans 1, he lists “faithlessness” as one of their attributes.

Romans 1:28-32 (ESV) 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

In the modern-day church we often use “faith” and “belief” interchangeably. If we are to do that, then we need to understand that there is only one True faith (faith that comes from hearing the Word of God), and all other faiths (or beliefs) are false. For the sake of redeeming this song, we must hold to the Biblical definition of faith, that is, faith in the Person, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Hope. Since this is the main thrust of the song, I want to focus on salvaging this term. I could not do so without first properly anchoring the term Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the same way that faith requires an object, we need to properly identify the object of our hope. Our hope is in Christ, and in Christ we have a hope. I think Peter does a great job of encapsulating it in the introduction of 1 Peter.

1 Peter 1:1-12 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Our hope is in an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading… and that inheritance is kept for us in heaven to be revealed in the last time. The hope of heaven, that we will gain entrance into heaven through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That this sinful flesh will finally be put away from us in death, and that by His blood we will join physically in His resurrection as He gives us perfect, new, sinless bodies as part of our inheritance. That is our hope. And it is so marvelous and such an occasion for rejoicing that the various trials may cause us grief in this life are brief and temporary. The Hope of Heaven and the Hope of the Great Day of Christ’s return is the Hope in Front of Me. Unfortunately, there are lines in the song that wrongfully anchor this hope in the temporal. I’m not saying there won’t be any good times while on this earth, the promise is that we who are in Christ will face trials of many kinds, and that our faith will be tested, for this fallen world Hates God. If your hope is anchored in this life, you’ve anchored it on a sandy floor that shifts with storms and seas. At the risk of belaboring the point, “your best life now” is NOT a Christian confession. Our inheritance (our Hope) is kept for us in Heaven. While on Earth, God the Holy Spirit comforts, helps, sustains, and nurtures us… but He does so for purposes that extend well beyond this present life, and beyond our own understanding. He is building up the Bride of Christ, of which we who believe are all members.

Conclusion

This song is vague, and at-best simply a spiritual song. It doesn’t really proclaim the Gospel or uphold the Law. It is a generically “positive” song, sung extremely well. I can become a teaching point if the conversation lends itself to you sharing the Gospel by explaining faith, hope, and love as they are defined by the Bible rather than humanism. But the song doesn’t do that on its own.

I was deeply moved by the EPK film, the background behind Sophia’s Heart Foundation… but even in that film we heard too much of “my story” rather than the Gospel. We touched on the problem of teaching that Christians are supposed to share “their story” rather than His when we reviewed Casting Crown’s teaching videos. I was moved by the good works of Sophia’s Heart Foundation, and I have no problem sharing what they are doing. But good works apart from the Gospel are temporal. Preach the Gospel, so that those who hear the words of Christ might obtain faith in Christ and through Christ be assured of the Hope that lies ahead, the hope of that upward call of Christ on the Last Day.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,
Jorge

DiM | “Say I Won’t” by Lecrae

disapproveToday is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

According to Billboard Music, the top song remains Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United. Since we’ve already discussed that song, let’s move down the list. The #2 song on the list didn’t get there legitimately, it debuted at #2. Market manipulation of some sort, not sure who is behind it, and I don’t really care.  The song is “Say I Won’t” by Lecrae. Apparently he has just released a new album, so this #2 placement is probably due to the marketing buzz surrounding the new album. We’ll look at this new song, but honestly I expect this song to disappear off the charts once marketing money moves to a different song. I truly hope so.

Lyrics (via AZLyrics)

“Say I Won’t”
(feat. Andy Mineo)

[Chorus: Lecrae & Andy Mineo]
Say I won’t (why y’all scared to be different?)
Say I won’t (why y’all scared to be different?)
Say I won’t (we them outsiders, that’s just how we live it)
Say I won’t (and I bet I will)
Say I won’t
I might do it just to show you [x3]
We be like la, la, la, la

[Verse 1: Andy Mineo]
From the same city as the B-I-G
Wanna serve these bars, gotta see ID
Now I’m on their radar, where B-Dot be?
Was a slave for the cars, then we got free
Used to only wanna pull up in a black sport
Just a white man excelling in a black sport
Now I’m really doin’ pull ups
Got a honeymoon for the summer tryna get a six-pack for it
Say I won’t catch ‘Crae slippin’ in the studio at like 3 AM
Autograph that forehead with a Sharpie pen and then Instagram
Might swag out a fanny pack
I might bring Velour back
Nobody wanna change the game, man y’all just want more trap
Okay, say I won’t rap over bagpipes
Say I won’t talk about that price
To know Christ and live life like every night my last night
‘Bout to switch up the program
I rock name-brand, I rock no brand
My whole life GoPro cam, got rap like I had no fans, nope
They say, I know I say, “veto”
Danny DeVito, and Al Pacino, those are my people
Also I’m rockin’ the speedo
This that casino, you bet your revenue
Thinking you’ll stop me, no never not letting you
You must be high on that medical thinking I won’t
But I know better, know that I bet I do (kill ’em, ooh)

[Chorus]

[Verse 2: Lecrae]
Say I won’t sell my shoes and take my kids to Chuck E Cheese with the money
Say I won’t bring my own bottle of Pellegrino to the movies with me
Say I won’t
Look, I’m from an era of fast living and mass terror
Boys cover them cover girls like mascara
I don’t need to keep a gun and a mask ever
I still make ’em put their hands up, ask Derek
My role manager damage all of you amateurs
Sneaking up on a tour bus with a demo to hand to us
When I was younger, I just wanted a chain
Now a chain of events has afforded a change
See, I been a rebel since back in the day, I don’t follow the people
I follow the leader through valleys and shadows of death and I fearin’ no evil
So say I won’t do it, say I won’t turn the music up and get to it
Won’t come down H-Town all the way to their town
In the old school, drop top Buick
And I’m getting, maybe 8 or 9 miles to the gallon
Still feeling like a stallion
I got Andy ridin’ shotgun with 30 gold chains on, talking about he Italian
Say I won’t go drop a double album, and rap double time on all dub-step
Got no producers, just me rockin’ over beatboxin’ by Dougie Fresh
Say I won’t

[Chorus]

Positive Elements

Only 2 lines can even remotely be linked to “Christian” theme (underlined portions). The first (Andy Mineo) is so quickly followed up with a “live life to the fullest” theme that it isn’t worth teasing out. No more significant than an NFL player pointing to the sky after scoring a touchdown. The second (Lecrae) looks like it might pull from Psalm 23, but…well… Coolio also co-opted this passage in his “Gangsta’s Paradise”, so we will not be going there either. This song does not honor God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or Scripture. This song seeks to glorify its performers.

Concerns

So this song is completely worthless. This song isn’t about Christ, it’s about Andy and Lecrae. It could play on a secular Top40  station, only it doesn’t live up to the grit and debauchery of popular Rap/HipHop, so it might not do very well. This song is on a Christian Chart to get whatever mileage it can for promoting the album.

I’m sure Lecrae has one or two songs that are better than what we might expect from the genre, but that is setting the bar very low. You see, Rap and Hip-Hop are not built around edification or inspiration; rather these styles are built around trash-talk set to a beat. The heroes of the genre are gangsters, thugs, drug dealers, and convicts. The lyrics mostly focus on self-aggrandizement (exaggerating one’s accomplishments) or justifying one’s reckless or even criminal behavior by a twisted victim mentality. That is what the genre is built around. Sure, occasionally you’ll get a poetic anthem about the human spirit from someone like 2Pac, but that is the rare exception rather than the rule.  Even then, it isn’t Biblical. 

The call of the Gospel is to come out of the world. Is there a way to do rap/hip-hop so that it honors God? Yes, but it won’t be popular “in the ‘hood”. Why? Because rap and hip-hop are self-centered musical forms at their very core. Fans of the genre like to take on the persona of the one rapping and feeling a sense of self-empowerment, strength, notoriety, and infamy. The most popular songs are either anthemic declarations of power, a challenge to authority, or shameless carnal gratification. None of these themes glorify God. A similar problem exists with “death metal” and it’s core appeal to rage and anger. While the vast majority of the popularized rap music glorifies “no shame in my game” and extols the achievements of “Old Gangsta’s” a God-honoring rap would be a call to repentance and to come out of that mentality, lifestyle, and to set aside those idols. Those songs exist, but they don’t last long within that genre because they don’t fit the core reason fans of the genre listen to the music.

Conclusion

I hope this song disappears from the chart before it ever gets any “Christian Radio” airplay. I hope this is just a marketing stunt to try to force the song onto unsuspecting listeners and not a reflection of what the industry truly considers to be Christian music. Since I consider this to be a throw-away chart position, I think we should do a bonus review.

Closing Thoughts

I’m not sure Billboard is the best approach for this endeavor, given it’s manipulation of the standings. I’m considering moving to a different chart, any suggestions? I am also open to reviewing songs submitted by readers. In the meantime, please do spend time in God’s Word this week. I’ll do my best to share what I’m studying and reading, but whatever I post here is no substitute for reading God’s Word for yourselves. Take notes and ask your pastors/elders/teachers questions about your readings. Be a disciple of God’s Word and submit to the authorities He has placed over you in the church. If you question any of my posts, take them to your pastors and elders and discuss with them. I just ask that you provide feedback to me so that I might be edified (be it by encouragement or correction).

May the Lord bless you and keep you firmly in His Grace
In Christ,
Jorge

DiM | “Greater” by Mercy Me

Presentation1Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

According to Billboard Music, the top song remains Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United. Since we’ve already discussed that song, let’s move down the list. The #2 song on the list is climbing quickly and I think it is far superior to Oceans. Today, we will be taking a look at “Greater” by Mercy Me. If you haven’t heard it yet, check out their official lyrical video below:

Lyrics (via AZLyrics)

“Greater”
Bring your tired
Bring your shame
Bring your guilt
Bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not you’re name
You will always be much more to me

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world
In the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

Bring your doubts
Bring your fears
Bring your hurt
Bring your tears
There’ll be no condemnation here
You are holy, righteous and redeemed

Every time I fall
There’ll be those who will call me
A mistake
Well that’s ok

There’ll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn’t matter
‘Cause the cross already won the war
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

I am learning to run freely
Understanding just how He sees me
And it makes me love Him more and more
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

So this song’s title and hook comes from a passage of scripture we refer to often here when we speak of discernment.

1 John 4:1-6 (ESV) 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Now, the focus of the song isn’t really the same as the focus John had. The focus of the song “greater” is one of resisting the enemy’s condemnation. It is intended as a song of encouragement to the weary Christian. What John is focused on here is discernment and understanding that we who have been redeemed have the Spirit of Living God dwelling inside of us as promised by Jesus Christ. I think that if we take some time to walk through some related scripture we can fill in some of the blank spots in the song to see how Scripture ties these 2 themes together nicely. Keeping the title of the song as both the starting point and the ending point, let us move through the verses of the song.

Positive Elements

The first verse is a call to the tired, shamed, guilty, and pained believers. The closing thought of the opening verse is to remember that those are not your name. As believers, your sin does not identify you. Now, here it is absolutely important to recognize that this song is NOT written for the lost. The unbeliever can derive no hope from this song, because the unbeliever does not have any of the promises in this song because he denies the cross of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that there isn’t any Gospel in this song, but the song is very clearly written to believers. Believers struggle with fatigue and are tempted to despair in their shame. In the second verse we also see that believers struggle with doubts, fears, hurts, and fears. All of these are common to man, but believers have a hope that is in Christ.

I love the second part of the verses that declare that we have been redeemed. That is powerful language if you rightly understand law and gospel. Too often we only think of  Jesus starting at the virgin birth, but He was with God in the beginning, and He is God. He came and gave up His life so that He could pay the debt we couldn’t not pay and in so doing He redeemed us to Himself.

Galatians 3:10-14 (ESV)10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV) 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came,in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Finally, the second verse points out that there is no condemnation here. This is important for Christians who are striving to live holy lives, but stumble and fall. You are going to stumble and fall as long as you live on this earth in your fallen and sinful flesh. It wages war against the Spirit of God. Your temptations actually live in your flesh. That’s tough for many to hear, but that is precisely what it means to “take up your cross daily”. We must die to our flesh daily, because our flesh is sinful. That is why we look forward to the day when we will be given new, uncorrupted bodies by the grace of God through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Knowing this, we also must know that what Christ did on the cross still covers our sin. There will be conviction, and we must repent from our sin (die to the flesh and turn to Christ) daily, but there is no condemnation for believers.

Romans 8:1-4 (ESV) 8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Now, the phrase “walk NOT according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” is what we focus on in repentance. When we sin, it is because we’ve taken our eyes off of Christ and onto either idols or our own fleshly desires. It’s a constant struggle even within our flesh, and we have a true adversary who tempts us to sin and then tempts us to despair in our sin (condemnation) all in an effort to rob from us the promise we have in Christ. He cannot take you from God, just as he couldn’t remove Adam from God, but he will lie to you and discourage you and tempt you to reject the Creator to serve the created.

Now here is where we come full circle back to the title of the song, we must discern what is of the Spirit of God and what is of the spirits of error. Our flesh wages war against the Spirit. Satan tempts us. All who have been baptized in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit. We must discern conviction from condemnation, Truth from lies. That is why we must live in the Word of God.

1 Corinthians 2  (ESV) 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Greater is the One living inside of me than he that is living in the world. God the Holy Spirit is greater than anyone and anything living in the world. Amen.

Concerns

As much as I like this song and its message, I am concerned by a couple of things. First, there is no call to repentance in the song. So, without repentance the line declaring the listener to be holy give me pause. In Romans 8, if you continue reading, Paul is very quick to move to an emphatic call to live according to the spirit and NOT according to the flesh. He’s not talking about mysticism or transcendence, he’s talking repentance. Denying the flesh that craves sin and obeying the Spirit of God that demands Holiness, not by the strength of our flesh but by the Grace of God. We cannot afford to super-spiritualize this, because the flesh is quick to engage in idolatry. So, the song is all affirmation without a call to repentance. I understand that it is a song of encouragement, and it should naturally be primarily focused on encouragement and affirmation, but completely skipping the call to repentance, I think, is a mistake. The other issue I have with the song which is more minor is the reference to the voices “telling me I’m not right” and “those who call me a mistake”. They are quick lines and I’m not entirely sure what is being said here by Mercy Me. If we are still talking about the world versus Christians, well then the world accuses our devotion to Jesus Christ and the Word of God as wrong, and they insist that we are all a cosmic accident (evolution) rather than a precious creation made by a God who loves us enough to have died for us. However, these are quick lines so my concern here is that some might (wrongly) take this as a blanket affirmation that whatever you think is right is right and anyone who tries to point out the wrong in your idea is clearly “he that is in the world”. Please understand that I am citing this only as a small concern, but given the kind of rampant progressive, seeker-mergent, false theology that has infected the church, it is worth mentioning.

Conclusion

This is one of the better Christian songs on the Billboard Chart today. It is not evangelistic song, especially due to its lack of a call to repentance, but it is clearly a biblical affirmation for the weary Christian to remember the cross. The Gospel is not simply something you heard once to “be born again”; rather, it is where we live, breath, and our daily bread. Christians who lose sight of the Gospel find themselves buried by the law, and need to be brought back to the cross, where Christ has already won the war.

I am also quite pleased to see “We Believe” by Newsboys still up near the top of the chart (#4 today). Both songs come as quite the breath of fresh air on the radio from all of the self-loving, self-aggrandizing, and new-age-spiritualism that dominates the Christian (or “Positive Alternative”) airwaves.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,
Jorge

DiM | “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong

Today is “Discernment in Music” day here at Faithful Stewardship.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Today, rather than wait for a song to play on the radio, I thought I’d start by looking at whatever was trending as a “top Christian song” on the radio today. According to Billboard Music, the top contender is clearly “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United. In the interest of full-disclosure, I am not a fan of Hillsong Church.  I disagree with their theology (Dominionism, Chrislam, Presence, etc) and their ecclesiology (emergent, seeker-driven, leadership model, mega-church). I will do my best to evaluate the song on its own merits, but I wanted to state plainly that I’m fighting to suppress a strong bias. If I fail, please forgive me. The good thing here is that if you take objection to my analysis and do so biblically, you are also practicing discernment and the goal of this post can be met, even while we disagree on the “value” of this song. Let’s take a look at the lyrics of the song pulled from the AZLyrics.

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Okay, so if you’ve read my “Discernment in Music” posts before you probably know that the first comment I will make about this song is that it’s lyrically vague. It tends to bounce a bit between focusing on the singer and the “You”. If this is a song about God, then it presents an odd uni-directional theme where God is only “out there” where feet may fail, or out upon the water. This is keeping with much of Hillsong and Bethel style theology where we always need to be “pioneering” into the unknown if we really want to know God. Is that Biblical? Not really, because God has gone to great lengths to present us with the Bible.  While we cannot hope to fully know God in this life, what He has made known of Himself is indeed knowable by reading and understanding the Scripture. This skewed theology suggests that living a quiet, steadfast life of prayer and submission to scripture is somehow less-than what we really need to be doing, or what God really wants from us. If it is a song of encouragement, I’m not clear on what we are being encouraged to do or to believe. If it is a song of worship, I’m not sure who or what is being worshiped. Because the song’s focus bounces between the singer and the “You”. Are we worshiping God for who He is or for what He is going enable me to do?

What Does Hillsong United Say About the “Oceans”?

I’m not surprised. Almost 8 and a half minutes of glowing generic and vague praise for the song, without any insight. They just wrote a song and were like “woah, God put His hand on it” and they love the song and love the reaction the song produces. Because it connects to people “no matter where they are on their spiritual journey” or “even if they aren’t on the spiritual journey yet but they might get drawn to God”. I find it interesting that the conclusion we get at around 7:50 is that “we need to step outside of our own understanding… and just know that, yeah, just gotta live the life of faith”. I’ve seen this a lot with Hillsong style music presented as worship… the lyrics don’t make sense and don’t convey a clear message. How does that Glorify God? How is it supposed to “draw people closer to God”? Does getting a cheer and joyful reaction from the crowd at the started of the song equate to people “progressing in the journey” (and seriously… why are we talking in such vague, mystical, terminology?). They wrote the song, but they can’t tell you what it means, or even why it should be considered a worship song. Well, this video was of no help. So, we’ll have to practice discernment at face-value.

Narcissistic Eisegesis of Jesus Walking on Water

But wait, isn’t the story of Peter walking on water? No. While Peter does walk on water (briefly), that is not the point of the story; therefore, I will not be referring to it in that light. Let’s start by reading the text.

Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV)
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

So, the song starts with the singer placing him/herself in the place of Peter, but not at “You come walking to me on the water in the midst of a storm”, but “You call me out upon the water”. This passage is often taught from the false notion that it’s about Peter needing to “step out of the boat” and some pale allegory about how each of us will face a moment in our lives when Jesus will expect big things from us and call us to do the impossible, to walk on water and place our faith and trust in Him… believing for a miracle. That’s NOT the point of this story. This is a one-time event that takes place for a singular purpose… in verse 33, ” And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God“. Peter and those in the boat were worried that Jesus was a ghost. Jesus speaks to them to calm then down and Peter says, “Lord if it is you…” This is a special event, with a special message, one that points to Jesus NOT Peter. It is captured in Scripture for us to know that Jesus truly is Lord. If you are going to put yourself into this passage, you are one of the guests in the boat, who worshiped Him saying, “Truly Jesus is the Son of God!”. Scripture doesn’t record anyone else walking on the water. And why allegorize the story to dumb it down so that Peter’s walking on water (woah, that’s awesome) becomes as mundane as getting a promotion at work, or being found “not guilty” by a jury in a civil suit? No matter where we are, Jesus is with us. Jesus sent them across the water, and He stayed behind to pray; yet, while they were battling the unfavorable wind and waves, He appears, walking on the water, saying “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid”. And even when Peter, after compelling Jesus to prove who He was by commanding Peter to walk on water, doubted and began to sink, Jesus caught him. Peter didn’t get a second chance to walk on water… because us walking on water was never the point. Placing our faith in Who Jesus is, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God is the point. This is a point that each of the disciples, including Peter, would be tested again, and fail again. Peter would end up denying Christ 3 times after the arrest of Jesus. But Peter was one of the first to believe that the Christ had risen, for he rushed to the empty tomb at the word of Mary Magdalene and the others.

Generic love Song in Vague Bible-Speak

Now, the second verse, and a bit of the refrain seem generally true-ish. Not really pointing to any scriptural truth or doctrine. But the problem here is that it is being presented as a worship song. The object of our worship, and the reason for our worship should be plainly identified. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not clear if God is the object of worship. If we assume the “You” is the God of the Bible, then we still aren’t clear if God is being worshiped for who He is or for what He will enable us to do. It suggests that unless He calls us out onto the water (step out into the unknown?) and do something radical, then we can’t trust in Him like we ought to, nor will our faith be strengthened. So does that negate the “I am yours and you are mine” bit from Song of Solomon? Can we rest in His embrace if we aren’t “walking on the waters”? This imagery only works if you buy into the notion that the story of Jesus walking on the water is actually what each of us must do as Christians.

Conclusion

This is a seeker-sensitive church band. They represent a brand, a theology, a way of doing church that isn’t prescribed in Scripture. So, when we listen to their music, we ought to pay close attention to what is actually being sung. We must take every thought captive, and that isn’t limited to the obviously sinful thoughts. Every. Thought. As far as the lyrical content of this song, I find it to be of no more Biblical value than the song “Feelin’ Good” by Michael Buble. This song is clearly “spiritual” in the “metaphysical” sense, but that doesn’t make it a good candidate for a Worship song to the Creator of the Universe, Jesus Christ. They are selling music, they wrote a song they hoped would sell and were greatly surprised by its reception in South Africa. They are very excited by the “energy” shown by the crowd whenever this song is played. I’m sure they are very excited that it’s been in the Billboard Hot Christian Chart for 47 weeks, and is currently #1. They are a band, they make their living by playing music. They also represent a HUGE church movement, one whose doctrine is highly questionable. My concern isn’t really Hillsong, but you and your walk in Christ. Is it a sin to like this song? I cannot make that determination for you, because it is so vague it is written specifically for hearers to apply their own meaning to the song (this is what is meant by “we want people to connect to the song”). If this song is your favorite, and you just find you are really “moved” by it whenever it is playing, check your doctrine. Know what it is you are confessing and praying and worshiping. Don’t mentally check-out and roll around in the “spiritual emotion” elicited by the song. That’s not worship, that’s a form of sensuality. The song isn’t outright pagan, but it is vague enough to support a pagan world view. The “you” could easily be directed toward a “spirit guide”, and now we have a real problem with the meaning of the song. It is a chart-topper because it makes people feel good, nothing more.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,
Jorge