DiM | “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

disapproveCCM Edition.

August 23, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams which currently sits at #20 on 20theCountdownMagazine.

This song presents a sales pitch of sorts for a “He” who is the remedy for your circumstances and your hurting. The “He” is never identified. We are left to assume the song is pointing to Jesus Christ, but is it? Is this how the scriptures present the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As an option out there that folks should try instead of trying all of the other stuff? hmm… doesn’t sound like the Gospel. Let’s give the song a listen and then look for the Gospel in the lyrics.

Zach Williams VEVO (Official Lyric Video)

 

Lyrics

If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside
There’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
When there’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify, testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

Discussion

Okay, so If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If? We’ll get to this point in a minute, and we’ll try to give it its best possible construction, but first let’s discuss the song lyric as a whole before trying to examine individual lines.

Every line of this song in every stanza but one begins with the word “If”, and stylistically that’s cute. But what’s on the flip-side of the “if”? In computer programming, we use “if-then” statements to execute a line of code based on positively identifying a particular condition. However, when programming an “if-then” statement, you also have to capture the conditions that don’t match, so we use an “if-then-else” statement. Without the “else”, the program will just run straight through the code and never execute the “then” since the “if” never panned out. This song has no “else”, so it’s assuming it’s covered all of the “if” scenarios. So, for applying our best construction on this song, we have to assume that the “else” of the song is the unbeliever who is absolutely clueless of his sinful condition, isn’t aware of his chains, enjoys the miles and miles of same old road, believes the lies, and is unaware of the holes in his life. Basically the sinner unaware that he’s a sinner. Such an individual needs the Law of God preached, so that the Holy Spirit can convict the world of sin.

John 16:7-11 (ESV) Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Incidentally, in this passage we see the Trinity: God the Son (Jesus) is speaking to His disciples concerning His sending God the Holy Spirit (as a Helper or Advocate) and God the Father. Notice the focus here, it is to convict the world of sin for not believing in Christ, that by the Grace of God they might repent and believe in Christ Jesus and be saved. Our song today doesn’t address the need for repentance. Not even remotely. It avoids sin and repentance completely via the unresolved “if”. That’s a problem.

Another problem is in it’s intended audience. If the goal is evangelism, then you’ve failed in not proclaiming the need for repentance. Also, the “He” is never identified in the song. We have to assume the song is pointing to Christ Jesus, but it doesn’t really, it’s pointing to someone who’s aim is apparently to give the listener a better life now and change his/her circumstances. Eternity isn’t mentioned, and that’s the focus of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If the intended audience is believers, now we have a different problem… one of false promises. There’s a better life? When? Everything in this song points to temporal circumstances, so trying to rescue this line by saying it points to eternity is quite the stretch, particularly given the “if you need saving”… eternally speaking, there’s no room for “if”, it is a declared fact of the Scriptures that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.

Romans 3:20-26 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

So if you’ve got pain, He’s the pain taker is another promise that can be correct if viewed through the lens of eternity. Christ is our great physician, and our diagnosis is: dead in sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1-10). He heals us of death and grants us eternal life by His Grace through faith. This is an eternal removal of pain, suffering, heartache, and death. In this life, however, we’ve not been promised a complete removal of pain. God is still able to heal us and He certainly does so according to His Will, but He hasn’t promised us earthly lives free of pain. He hasn’t promised us lives that are “better” in this life, either. The fruit of the Spirit, of faith, most assuredly grants us better lives anchored in the Hope that is kept for us in Eternity, that’s true, but without the lens Eternity our temporal lives are hard. The world hates those of us who are in Christ Jesus because it first hated Him. Let’s take a look at Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 1:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t merely an option out there, an alternative to worldly living that people should try so that they can find fulfillment… the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of salvation from eternal damnation, the Wrath of God against sin. Presenting the Gospel as merely an option to consider is dangerously untrue. This is part of the Pelagian heresy, the idea that people are born essentially neutral to the things of God, not saved, but not condemned. That’s patently false.

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.

We were all born into the sin of Adam, born in unbelief, condemned already for that unbelief. “If” you need freedom or saving? Not if, it is certain. You need saving. Jesus Christ saves.

Now, back to that “He’s a prison-shaking Savior” line. This is likely a reference to Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. Such a great story. Let’s take a look at it.

Acts 16:25-34 (ESV) | The Philippian Jailer Converted

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Such a beautiful passage of the Salvation… not of Paul and Silas being let out of jail, but of the jailer and his entire family being set free from their eternal condemnation of unbelief, rescued by the Gospel of Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior. To point to this passage as some sort of promise that God will rescue you from your temporal situations is a lie and a distraction from the true point of the Gospel. Paul closed out his earthly ministry in a Roman prison… eventually beheaded under the Emperor of Rome. False promise is false, and should be rejected wholly. Now, the best construction is the acknowledgement that God is capable of doing anything He wills, but that’s not how this song is presenting the message. The song is fixed on the temporal, on circumstances.

The song winds down in that “whip the audience into a frenzy” of the somebody testify. Testify to what? Well, their experiences. Certainly that’s the proof we need that God is good, right? Our experiences will prove it to ourselves and to our neighbors, right? Such pep rallies do offer temporary excitement and emotional pick-me-up, and they also get many to engage in “positive affirmation” hoping that confessing the positive stuff will lead to positive stuff via some sort of spiritual quid-pro-quo mechanic. But once the emotions wane, and the adrenaline subsides, there is only empty words, false promises, and nothing of substance to carry the listener on through the trials that are coming. They’ll be chasing the next emotional high, when what they need is the Word of God, both Law and Gospel rightly distinguished, convicting of sin and comforting with forgiveness and the eternal Promise of Salvation.

Conclusion

I expect this song to get a lot of play. CCM is filled with a lot of sweet-sounding promises of temporal gifts, the “better life”, and relief from pain. That’s how the celebrity preachers get rich, they keep selling those tropes… all the while distracting listeners from the true beauty and Promise of the Gospel… Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Say Amen” by Finding Favour

disapproveCCM Radio Edition.

August 09, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Say Amen” by Finding Favour, which currently sits at #9 on KLove Top Songs. It seems we’ve covered every song currently on our normal Top20 chart, so this week I thought we’d check a different list.

My first question after hearing this song was, “say Amen to what?” When I read through the lyrics looking for the answer to that question, I realized there was a big problem with the focus of this song. Let’s see if you can pick it out.

Official Music/Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

This life is a journey we walk by faith
And there will always be the mountains in our way
But right here in this moment, may our strength be renewed
As we recall what God has done and how we’ve seen Him move

If there’s anybody here who’s found Him faithful
Anybody here who knows He’s able
Say Amen
And if there’s anybody here who’s seen His power
Anybody here brought through the fire
Say Amen
Anybody here found joy in the middle of sorrow
Just Say AMEN!

Sometimes through the darkness, it’s hard to see
So just be brave and follow where He leads
‘Cause greater is the one who’s in us, than he who’s in the world
So child of God remember, the battle is the Lord’s

And if there’s anybody here who’s found Him faithful
Anybody here who knows He’s able
Say Amen
And if there’s anybody here who’s seen His power
Anybody here brought through the fire
Say Amen
Anybody here found joy in the middle of sorrow
Peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow
And seen it time and time again
Then just Say AMEN!

Even in the valley of the shadow when you feel alone in the unknown
Just say Amen, Just say Amen
Even when the storms are raging, Stand and know your not forsaken
Just say Amen, Just say Amen

Is there anybody here, Tell me is there anybody here
Come on and Say Amen

And if there’s anybody here who’s seen His power
Anybody here brought through the fire
Come on and Say Amen
Anybody here found joy in the middle of sorrow
Peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow
And seen it time and time again
Just say Amen, Just say Amen!

Publishing: 2014 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing ASCAP/Songs of Emack (ASCAP). All rights for the world on behalf of Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing and Songs of Emack administered by Capitol CMG Publishing. Wordspring Music, LLC (SESAC)/Farren Love & War Publishing (SESAC) All rights on behalf of itself and Farren Love & War Publishing administered by Wordspring Music, LLC All Rights Reserved. Christian Taylor Music (BMI) administered by Clear Box. Winding Way Music (ASCAP) administered by Clear Box.
Writer(s): David Blake Neesmith, Michael Farren, Kenna West & Jason Cox.

Discussion

So, let’s start this discussion with the most glaring issue, and that is the intended target audience. The artist is looking for an “amen” from anybody who has “experienced” the faithfulness of God, or who has seen His power, or who has been brought through the fire, or has found joy in the middle of sorrow, peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow… and who has seen it time and time again… Just those people. Not the ones who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, nor the ones who trust in the Written Word of God because they are His Word… no, the artist is calling on anyone in the crowd who can say “I’ve seen it”. This is enthusiasm, looking to our experiences and our emotions for the proof of the Goodness of God, rather than trusting by Faith in God’s Written Word regardless of and even in spite of our circumstances and what we see.

If you are in the crowd currently going through that fire, or in that sorrow, or in need of the comfort of the Gospel, well… this song ain’t for you. So, either you can “fake it” and say “amen” as a down-payment on a future experience, or you simply need to wait and hope the next song brings the comfort of the Gospel to your ears. You won’t be getting it in this song.

Most Evangelicals don’t realize they’re creating a falsely stratified Christianity, where you have Christians that are “saved” but only just so, and powerless because they’ve settled for a mediocre or average life. Most honestly think this sort of “positive self affirmation” and version of the “fake it ’till ya make it” somehow serves the Gospel. Now only the most brazen will call it such, most will baptize these concepts and rebrand them as “making a positive confession of who you are destined to be” and “declare now what you’re going to be in God’s timing”… but it’s a thin veneer, and it provides no hope. Instead, what you get is a lot of “fake it until you realize you can’t make it” and then the despair of, “why doesn’t God show up for me like He obviously does for all of these other people?”

So, let’s get to the whole “say amen” bit. What are we supposed to be saying “amen” to or about? Amen is a word of agreement or affirmation of the Truth of a statement. The singer is asking the question, “if there’s anyone here who’s seen God work, say amen” and everyone in the room is supposed to reply “Amen” as if to say “I’ve seen/experienced God work!” Now, there are a couple of lines in this song that breaks away a little from the “tell me you’ve experienced it yourself”, and attempts to offer a word of encouragement to those feeling all alone in the valley of the shadow… but the encouragement of “just say amen” isn’t grounded on the Word of God, it’s still within the context of “God has been there for everyone else in the room, just say Amen and know He’ll be there for you, too”.

How do we know this is all based on enthusiasm? How does this song provide the comfort of the Gospel for the mother who loses her child to cancer after years of praying and fighting? How does this song provide the comfort of the Gospel to the teen whose parents are getting a divorce? It doesn’t, because it can’t. This song isn’t bringing the comfort of the Gospel, it’s a call to “testimonials” based on personal experiences rather than the Word of God.

And now let’s get back to the opening line of the song, This life is a journey we walk by faith. Faith in Whom, ourselves and our experiences or in the Word of Christ? The song focuses on believing in a temporal rescue while making no mention of the eternal salvation found in Christ alone. Ignoring the reality that we all die, that often times God doesn’t rescue us from death, but instead calls us Home isn’t walking by Faith. It’s enthusiasm, and it does more harm than good. It leads to despair and in many cases it shipwrecks faith and hardens hearts against God because all of the false promises made in the name of God fall flat.

Conclusion

While I could go through this song and try to tease out the partial references to scripture, the overall context of this song is off, misguided, and focused on the senses rather than the Word of God. The Promises of God flow through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which this song seems to completely miss. This song earned a solid Disapproval.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “The Lion and the Lamb” by Big Daddy Weave

ApprovedCCM Radio Edition.

July 19, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “The Lion and the Lamb” by Big Daddy Weave which currently sits at #20 on 20theCountdownMagazine.

This is an older song that has popped up on the Top20 charts this week. It’s a good song. It’s a very good song. I’d rather have some of the excessive repetition traded out for a call to repentance, or bring forgiveness closer to the individual rather than simply “the world”, but as the song stands, it’s good, and I am so happy to be adding another song to the “approved” list.

Music Video (Official Audio)

[youtube https://youtu.be/aTUX8_ETIjc]

Lyrics (via KLove)

(Verse 1)
He’s coming on the clouds
Kings and kingdoms will bow down
And every chain will break
As broken hearts declare His praise
For who can stop the Lord Almighty

(Chorus)
Our God is the Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb
The Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

(Verse 2)
So open up the gates
Make way before the King of kings
Our God who comes to save
Is here to set the captives free
For who can stop the Lord Almighty

(Chorus)
Our God is the Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb
The Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

(Bridge)
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord

Our God is the Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
Every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb
The Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh, every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

© 2014 Meaux Mercy, The Devil Is A Liar! Publishing (BMI) (Adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)/Thankyou Music (PRS) (Adm. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com, excluding the UK which is adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family. Songs@integritymusic.com)/Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP)
Writers: Leeland Mooring/Brenton Brown/Brian Johnson

Produced by Jeremy Redmon for Red 91 Productions, LLC

Discussion

Overall, I like the song. It’s a declaration of the imminent return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There are areas of the song where I think the theology could be a bit clearer, but I don’t want to reiterate that I do like this song and think it is good.

Verse 1. This verse sets the tone for the song. It is a song of joyful expectation of the return of Jesus. It’s wonderful. This is our great comfort in these trying times, that one day Jesus will return. If there is room for confusion, it is in the tenses being used in the first verse. One might get the impression that chains will break and broken hearts will praise Him upon His return. That is not the proper order of things. As far as our enslavement to sin is concerned, that work is already finished by Christ on the cross. Let us turn to Revelation 1, where John is writing a letter to the 7 churches (actual churches in his day) from Jesus Christ our LORD.

Revelation 1:4-8 (ESV) | Greeting to the Seven Churches

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Amen. The work of salvation has already been done, and will already have been done for those who are in Christ Jesus at the hour of His return. His return will mark the end, the final judgement. We who are in Christ will live forever, and those who reject Him are condemned already.

John 3:16-18 (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.

The first advent (Christ coming to earth in human flesh) was not to condemn it, but to save it. The second advent will be to judge.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 (ESV) I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Chorus. I love the clear message that the Lamb was slain for the sin of the world. It is so rare to hear of sin being preached or sung on the radio these days, I’m very pleased to hear it brought up and in context.

Verse 2.  This verse gets a little on the evangelicalistic side. It is allegorizing a bit the local church with the Kingdom of God. There is a tendency in modern-day evangelicalism to treat the doors to their auditorium as analogous to the gates of heaven. I think that is a poor way to go. This verse may also play into the doctrine of the church needing to do something to bring on the Return of Christ. Christ is indeed coming for a spotless bride, but He has already washed her clean. All attempts to link Christ’s return with something the church has done or accomplished is folly. If I could make a part of this lyric more clear and focused, it would probably be a rewrite of this verse. Thankfully, the focus of this song is in the chorus.

Bridge. I don’t think the bridge adds anything worthwhile to this song. But it is worth noting that just as there is nothing that can stop the Lord Almighty, there is also nothing that helps Him accomplish what He chooses to accomplish. Our service to God is not to help Him, it’s to serve Him.

Conclusion

I’m very pleased to be adding a song to our Approved list. Bid Daddy Weave has some good songs, and some vague ones. I’d like to see more of the good songs get airplay and recognition on the top 20 charts. I wish somewhere in the song there would have been a mention of repentance, but I’m so grateful to have sins mentioned and that Christ died for the forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe

disapproveCCM Edition.

June 21, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe which currently sits at #19 on the20theCountdownMagazine.

I got frustrated with the song during the discussion of the lyric. This song spends most of its time, first couple of verses and even the chorus, building up to a climactic lesson or point. From the very beginning, we know there’s supposed to be a lesson, that cliche of “If I could tell the my younger self one thing…”. The artists relied on a bridge to bring the lesson home. It is almost good… almost. We’ll get to that point in the discussion, but this song could have been rescued were it not for the overwhelming self-focus in the problem and in the proposed solution.

MercyMe VEVO

 

Lyrics (via MercyMe)

Dear younger me
Where do I start
if i could tell you everything that I have learned so far
then you could be
one step ahead
of all the painful memories still running thru my head
i wonder how much different things would be
dear younger me

dear younger me
i cannot decide
do i give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
or do i go deep
and try to change
the choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
even though I love this crazy life
sometimes i wish it was a smoother ride
dear younger me

if i knew then what i know now
condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
if i knew then what i know now
would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

dear younger me
it’s not your fault
you were never meant carry this beyond the cross

you are holy
you are righteous
you are one of the redeemed

set apart
a brand new heart
you are free indeed

every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
every moment brings you closer
to who you were meant to be
Dear younger dear

Discussion

So who is the artist talking to? Well, the obvious answer is “himself”. The secondary target audience is anyone who has done some introspection and reflection and had the thought if I knew then what I know now. I think that idea has crossed everyone’s mind at one point or another, how we answer the question or go about answering that question is what tends to vary the most. I’ve come to the point now where I understand how the Bible describes sin and the corruption of our flesh that whenever these thoughts come to mind, the simple answer is always, “I’d not have believed myself, and would have simply gone on sinning”. We don’t get to go back and try to undo or redo anything, and we don’t need to. We have something much, much better. We have the Cross, the Gospel of God’s Grace, the promise of Forgiveness and Salvation, the Hope of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus. It is Finished.

Verse 1. Nothing particularly profound or particularly Christian in this verse. It is asking honest questions. That they are honest doesn’t make them good questions. For example, there is a hint in one of the questions that somehow we might be ahead in life if we had extra information. I don’t think that’s true for the Christian. We don’t sin due to lack of knowledge, we sin because we are sinful. The artist isn’t explicitly addressing sins of the past, and I find that troubling. Popular evangelicalism doesn’t know what to do with sin, doesn’t know how to describe it in light of the Gospel. So what normally tends to happen is sin gets treated as mistakes of the past that are now gone. That’s not completely wrong, but it’s missing the reality that as long as we continue living in this fallen world, sin is what our flesh will crave. We are born into the corruption of Adam, and our flesh bears that mark until the Resurrection, when we’ll finally be rid of this sinful flesh and granted new bodies. Our hearts and minds (flesh) bear many scars inflicted by our own sinful desires and the sinful desires of others. The song seems focused more on regret, guilt, and condemnation… so it is dealing with the hurt of past sins without naming the enemy.

Verse 2. Again, this song builds slowly. But here we see something that looks like a throw-away piece of advice, that almost seems awesome. Granted, we’ve still not seen anything in the song that is particularly Christian, but if we make that assumption based on the band and the CCM marketing model, who is out there preaching “how to get the most out of your life“? Most of popular evangelicalism is, the celebrities who preach themselves and life-tips (Greg Surratt, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren) instead of Christ and Him Crucified. The guys making up their own creeds (Joel Osteen, Keith Craft) and rejecting Biblical orthodoxy (Andy Stanley), and just reading themselves into every possible scripture, including the ones plainly talking about God (Steven Furtick). At this line in the song I got my hopes up thinking, “wow, this song is rejecting that man-centered drivel and is going to point us to Christ”. Sadly, that thought didn’t pan out. The artist then talks about going deep… by questioning if we should really change anything in the past since those past mistakes are part of what makes us who we are. Well, great. So, going deep is to question whether or not past mistakes were really mistakes or building blocks for who we are now? /sigh. That’s not deep, that’s self-justification. At this point, I’m glad the artist isn’t clearly naming sin as the enemy, because that would make this turning point in the song very bad. As it stands, this turn in the song makes it very surface-level and thin… like wondering if I would have finished my degree according to plan right out of high school or if I’m better off having failed at college and struggled for years before joining the Army. That’s not deep… it’s self-centered, self-focused conjecture that can either lead to a self-pity-party or a self-love-fest or vacillate between the two. So far, we’ve seen nothing in the song that separates it from secular humanism. The song is further downgraded in impact when the artists claims to love this crazy life, he just wishes sometimes it was a smoother ride. Who doesn’t want a life with less pain and fewer bumps?

Chorus. So what is it that the singer knows now that he didn’t know then? It has something to do with removing the power of condemnation, and it would have provided a sense of worth greater than joy and pain. That sounds fantastic, but what is it? What would you have told your younger self sooner to have all of these powers (or maybe told your younger self if your deep thoughts concluded it was worth avoiding some hardships)? We get one more teaser toward the end of the chorus that suggests that if he’d known then what he knows now it would have been easy to figure out what he would have changed if only he’d heard (may need a chart that sentence out on a piece of paper and colored markers, lol)…

Bridge (the answer). It’s not your fault. WHAT?!?! That’s the big payoff, that it’s not your fault? What is not your fault? Your sin? Your sin is your fault. You are born in it, born into it, born a slave to it, it comes from within you, it is in your heart, it influences your speech, your thoughts, and your actions, it is yours. The message of the Gospel is NOT that we are victims of injustice, it is that in our guilt and shame God stepped in to pay the price we owe but could not pay in our place so that in Him we might be saved and made righteous.

In fairness, I’m the one that has been trying to understand the lyric from a Biblical Christian perspective. The song hasn’t been talking about sin directly. The next line mentions the cross… oddly. you were never meant carry this beyond the cross. To give this single line/thought its best construction, completely removed from the rest of the song, this could be a wonderful thought reinforcing the Truth that Christ died for your sins and has forgiven them all. Once you’ve been absolved by the blood and body of Christ Jesus, It is finished is what He spoke on the Cross, and It is forgiven is what remains of your absolved sin. That is glorious good news, Gospel. Sadly, the song hasn’t been building to this truth of the Gospel. I do believe this is intended to provide relief to the weary believer who struggles to find assurance of his salvation. That is a prevailing source of torment for the majority of professing Christians in popular American evangelicalism whose focus is always on works and self-examination, a form of Christianity that is foolishly looking to progress beyond the Gospel of Jesus Christ into human perfection under the LAW. The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t something only unbelievers need to hear… Christians need the Gospel preached to them continually also, Christians need to hear that their sins are forgiven constantly because we sin constantly and are constantly in need of forgiveness.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) | 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.

Now, regarding the issue of picking up old regrets, and listening to the condemnation of the enemy concerning sins we’ve already been forgiven of, that’s why we need our brothers and sisters in Christ speaking life into our lives. No, I’m not talking about “positivity” I’m talking about the Truth of the Gospel. I need to hear a brother in Christ say to me, “yes, we’ve committed the sin of idolatry in the past… but that sin has already been absolved, there is nothing more that needs to be done there, Christ has forgiven it, you need to let it go” (words my pastor spoke to me over some ice cream). I need to hear that. You need to hear it also. When the struggle is internal, you need to look to the external, objective Word of God to build your faith. Wallowing around in the mire of introspection won’t build your faith, it will distract you from God’s Word. If this was intended to be the central point of the song, it wasn’t build up well and there is no acknowledgement of the Law, no clarity in the Gospel, and what’s worse, the song simply ends in a blanket of positive affirmations and promises without a tether to Christ and Him Crucified.

you are holy
you are righteous
you are one of the redeemed
set apart
a brand new heart
you are free indeed
every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
every moment brings you closer
to who you were meant to be
Dear younger dear

Every promise pointing to how great “me” is… I’m now going to be who I’m meant to be. In the end, this is a motivational song that any secular humanist could relate to and agree with and never be convicted of sin or made aware of the Gospel. Are these fragments all part of actual promises in the Bible? Yes, they are. But they’ve been divorced from Law and Gospel and applied blindly. The focus is on the self, not on Christ. Throughout the whole song, the focus is on the self. The cross gets a small mention.

Conclusion

If this was a song intended for secular airplay, just part of everyday musical art being performed to pay the bills, it would make for a cool, positive song. I’m used to ignoring bad theology in secular songs. However, this song is written by Christians for a Christian audience, so it’s bad theology is central to the song and it cannot simply be ignored.

If I could tell the younger me something, it would be to read the Scriptures with a Christ-focus, looking for how this passage is pointing me to Christ rather than constantly trying to see “what this passage is telling me to do”. As I wrote earlier, I made the bad choices because of sin. I am where I am today because of the Grace and Mercy of God through the working of the Holy Spirit, not by anything I did or realized on my own. What I know now is because the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, and there is nothing I could say to my younger self that would help the Holy Spirit do His work any differently. Believers don’t get “do-overs” we get something much, much better… we get It is Finished; You are Forgiven.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “What You Want” by Tenth Avenue North

disapproveCCM Edition.

June 14, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “What You Want” by Tenth Avenue North which currently sits at #18 on the20theCountdownMagazine.

Wow, what a catchy tune this song has. I’ve mentioned before that I have a soft spot, musically speaking, for EDM (electronic dance music). Tenth Avenue North has done a bang-up job on the music track. It’s progressive with a breakbeat/house feel. Quite compelling, musically. The vocal work is also very nice. So how do the lyrics fair? Well, the theology pushing the song is a bit off. It presents a picture of Christianity one of choosing to follow Jesus rather than of being forgiven by Jesus. If you’re thinking “what’s the difference” I hope to explain that a bit below. For now, let’s give the song a listen and take a look a the lyrics.

Official Lyric Video

 

Lyrics (via KLove)

Every day I’ve been feeling the pressure
I always gotta know the plan
It’s a weight that I’ve tried to shoulder
I thought I could, but I can’t

And I’m so tired of chasing dreams
When I am wired to let You lead

You’re changing my heart
To what what You want
To love how You love
And that is enough
There’s no greater plan
That I need to know
You only ask me to follow
And want what You, what You want
And want what You, what You want
And want what You, what You want
And want what You, what You want

Oh, there’s freedom in this surrender
I feel myself come alive
And the burden feels like a feather
When I let my agenda die

And I get so tired of my own dreams
When I am wired to let You lead

So many leaders
You ask for followers
So keep on leading
‘Cause You’re my Father

Publishing: © 2016 Mike Donehey Publishing Designee (SESAC) / Fellow Ships Music (SESAC) / So Essential Tunes (SESAC) (adm. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) / Colby Wedgeworth Music (ASCAP) / Fair Trade Music Publishing (ASCAP) (adm. by Music Service, Inc.). All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Writer(s): Mike Donehey, Jason Ingram, Colby Wedgeworth

Discussion

Verse 1. In the first verse we have the singer stating a problem of being unable to measure up or keep up. We don’t have a lot of context, but the singer is letting go of the idea that he (we, by extension) have to always know the plan and shoulder the burden, but we can’t. Here is the question that needs to be asked… where is this pressure coming from? Placing my best construction on this song, I’d say the pressure comes from bad theology and false teaching. The message of the Gospel isn’t that you’re going to change your world, the message of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ already has by His death and Resurrection.

Pre-Chorus. So tired of chasing dreams? Good… because nowhere in scripture is the charge to chase our dreams, and Christ did not die to resurrect dead dreams, He died so that we might have Eternal Life in Him. When I am wired to let You lead *ugh*. If this were a finely polished radio program, you’d likely hear the sound of a needle scratching across a vinyl record. In what sense are we wired to let the King of kings and LORD of lords, the Alpha and the Omega lead? If our best construction is that the song is calling out bad theology, well… here we see it being replaced with more bad theology. While there is a narrow context within which one might rightly use the phrase “follow Jesus”, it’s not the center of our confession. The disciples literally followed Jesus and were discipled by Him directly, and we sit under their teaching preserved for us in the Written Word of God. Whenever we hear preachers today talk about “following Jesus” I’ve noticed it rarely ends with preaching Christ and Him crucified; instead the discussion normally ends in the Law, and sometimes not even Biblical Law. We’ll get to that in a minute, but for now let’s take a moment to see how Scripture talks of following Christ and what it means for us today.

Following Christ

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (ESV) | Divisions in the Church

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

I like to start here to point out another problem with today’s slogan of “following Christ” or “being a totally committed Christ-follower”… it’s not pointing to the Gospel, it’s often intended to establish a sort of piety pecking order. It was taking place in Corinth in Paul’s day, and it remains with us today. Paul isn’t preaching against baptism here, he’s saying the focus is in the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see this reinforced in his letters to Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:1-6 (ESV)  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

2 Timothy 1:8-14 (ESV)Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

The Apostle Paul had a laser focus on the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, the sound words and good doctrine of Salvation through faith, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and Grace in Christ Jesus. False teachers will often point to the idea of “following Christ” directly, while surreptitiously inserting themselves and their machinations as intermediaries for explaining and even evaluating your walk or your level of commitment in “following Christ”. Naturally, you should be following them.

There is a context within which we might treat Christ as an example to be followed, and the Apostle Peter points us in that direction in his first epistle.

1 Peter 2:13-25 (ESV) | Submission to Authority

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

In His suffering. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, joining in Christ’s suffering.

Colossians 1:24-28 (ESV) | Paul’s Ministry to the Church

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.

And we’ve come full circle back to the very center of the Apostle Paul’s focus for ministry, not in trying to imitate God, but in preaching Christ and Him crucified for our sin.

Getting back to the pre-chorus discussion, I’m struggling to find a corrective mechanic for the notion that we are wired to let God lead us. Our flesh is corrupted by sin, bent in on itself… it is wired to serve itself. The Spirit desires the things of God, but we remain simultaneously sinner and saint, with the war waging in our members. So, it’s difficult for me to find a clear way to correct this line, and it is the thought that turns the song into its chorus.

Chorus. With the chorus, I’ve pretty  much abandoned my attempt at giving this song its best construction. At best this is an attempt to say that the work of the Holy Spirit within us is to change our desires such that they align with God’s. The flip-side of that coin suggests that we block the work of the Holy Spirit by not letting Him lead. From here on out, the song lyric stays stuck in this “Jesus is my example” in a way that leans heavily toward “I will one day be like He is” and I just don’t find that a clear or helpful way of looking at the Christian Life. I think it casts a shadow over the substitutionary atonement and looks past the fact that our righteousness is not our own, it’s Christ’s righteousness which is granted to us. This is winds up clouding how we share the Gospel, leading some to buy into the lie that the lost will come to ask for the Gospel because of looking at our lives. But the truth is that we still fall short, and we cannot live up to this standard of living in a way that proclaims Christ without words. It is Christ who fulfilled the Law in our place, so we preach Him and Him Crucified in our place so that by Grace through Faith we might be saved. I know some might be thinking, “but what about good works of faith?” We do good works for our neighbors as an outflow of our having been forgiven by God. Our good works server our neighbors as the result of our having been set free from and forgiven of sin by a gracious and loving God. Good works flow from the Gospel, not the Law, though the Law identifies what is a good work (love God, love neighbor).

Is there something to be said about the need to desire that which God desires? Absolutely… and that is why we have the Word of God preserved for us in Scripture by God the Holy Spirit. This song doesn’t point in that direction, instead it is pointing to some sort of permission we need to give God to then simply overwrite our desires. That’s not the picture we see in Scripture. That’s why I’ve been pointing out Paul’s focus on the preached Word of God.

Verse 2. This verse is bent in on the self, in our feelings. The object of our faith is external to us, not internal. Your feelings will fail you, Christ’s Word won’t. The Truth of the Promise from God that by faith in Christ Jesus that your sins are forgiven you doesn’t wane simply because you don’t feel forgiven. I completely understand wanting to feel forgiven, but we need to submit our feelings to the Truth found in God’s Word, and trust in that. It is your feelings and emotions that fail you, and even lie to you.

Bridge. It’s just odd. It’s like the “Jesus is my co-pilot” trope where we treat our LORD and Savior like some meek introvert who won’t do ANYTHING without our permission. That’s not the Jesus found in the Scriptures, friend.

Conclusion

As much as I love the musical part of this song, I don’t like the law-heavy theology which demotes Jesus down from LORD and Savior to an example we can follow and even permit to lead us. If your picture of Jesus is the gentle shepherd with the lamb across His shoulders… remember that lamb is YOU. He’s carrying YOU on His shoulders because you got lost and He had to go get you. The shepherd doesn’t need nor ask the sheep’s permission to lead them. His sheep hear His voice and follow because they are His sheep. This song presupposes a seeker-sensitive ideology where unbelievers have within them a will to know God and it’s just a matter of grabbing their attention so that they can finally “let God be their God”.

Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen, Indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge