DiM | “Guilty” by Newsboys

CCM Radio Edition.

February 09, 2016. Today’s song is “Guilty” by Newsboys which currently sits at #17 on 20theCountdownMagazine‘s top 20 chart.

I was really hoping the “guilty” was going to be a reference to our sin and that the point of the song was to preach Law and Gospel, Repentance and the Forgiveness of sin. I’m rather disappointed in what I found in the lyric. This song is the CCM equivalent to a pie crust promise, “easily made, easily broken” (Mary Poppins quote). It only works in a worldview where being told “you can’t say ‘Jesus’ because of ‘separation of church and state'” amounts to persecution. It doesn’t. Not even close. The song also suffers from a “cool-rebel” motivation for proclaiming the Gospel and Worshiping our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a stupid motivation to push. We aren’t motivated by rebellion, we are motivated by the Truth of the Gospel of Grace. Let’s get down to it.

Newsboys – Guilty (Official Music Video)

 

Lyrics (via Newsboys.com)

Verse 1
When did it become breaking a rule
To say your name out loud in school
When your names the only one that sets us free
When did it become incorrect
To speak the truth about life and death
When your life gave us all eternity

Pre-Chorus
Even if it gets me convicted
I’ll still be on my knees with my hands lifted

Chorus
If serving you’s against the law of man
If living out my faith in you is banned
Then I’ll stand right before the jury
If saying I believe is out of line
If I’m judged cause I’m gonna give my life
To show the world the love that fills me
Then I want to be Guilty

Verse 2
I’ll rise up and honor you
I’ll testify to all the good you do
cause your Grace and your Mercy have overtaken me

Pre-Chorus

Chorus

Bridge
Guilty by association
Guilty of being a voice proclaiming Your ways
Your truth
Your life
I’ll pay the price to be your light.

Discussion

Let us begin.

Verse 1. When did it become breaking the rule… quite early on, in fact.

Acts 4:13-22 (ESV)

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another,saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

The religious leaders of the day forbade preaching, speaking, and teaching in the name of Jesus despite having such a powerful sign of healing testifying to the Name of Jesus in their midst. So, Biblically, this song is already starting on the wrong foot. At best it is appealing to the American nationalist who believes America to be a Christian nation where the name of Jesus would never be considered illegal to invoke. From that misguided and short-sided perspective, it makes sense. Notice the caveats I had to employ.

Now it seems this song is being written to address “Christian-American Culture” with the first lines of the first verse addressing the current trend of ruling against Christianity in all cases of “1st Amendment Religious Freedoms”. It is worth noting that the only religion consistently being prohibited is Christianity. That’s to be expected since it is the only True religion. If the first couple of lines are regarding “freedom from Christianity laws” the next lines are probably an attempt to address abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide (truth about Life and Death). Society wants to hear nothing about what God’s Word says about life and death. The last line is supposed to connect what is being prohibited is connected to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the promise of forgiveness from sin and the Promise of eternal Life in Jesus Christ. The problem is that the lines don’t bear this out, I’m eisegeting into them my best construction. The other way this can be taken (and I think this way resonates more with its intended audience) is a build-up to rebellion, a pep-rally for cultural revolution… with an Evangelical flavor.

Pre-Chorus. Yep… rebellion is the motivation. Even if it gets me convicted… We haven’t seen anything yet in this country, but it’s coming. But is this the right motivation for sharing the Gospel? Nope. How much are you sharing the Gospel now that it isn’t literally against the law? Historically, the Church grows strong under persecution… but only after it has been culled to a remnant. Remember the parable of the soils? There are some who for a time bear fruit, but when persecution comes they are burned up for their roots are shallow. Others will be distracted by their own desires and are choked up by the weeds. Anyway, my point is that this line is purely motivational pep-rally fluff. The next line doesn’t improve upon it because it is one of those lines you sing where you say you’ll keep doing something that you aren’t currently doing… I’ll still be on my knees with my hands lifted… you may, you may not, but why make it a promise? Why proclaim something if you aren’t doing it, and what does staying on your knees with your hands lifted earn you? What does that do for God? What does it do for the Gospel? The line is an evangelical church-ism, where evangelicals just assume that these outward displays of piety indicate true worship. Jesus isn’t swayed by the external displays of piety…

Luke 18:9-14 (ESV) | The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee,standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Now, in the parable Jesus gives voice to all that is going on in their hearts. There is also a contrast in outward actions, yet, but even if the Pharisee were on his knees with his arms lifted in the air saying the same “prayer” would have yielded him the same results in the parable.

But there is another problem with boldly declaring how you will react should a situation arise of which you have no understanding… you make oaths you cannot hope to keep. You’ll sin, and have to repent of lying to boot. And we don’t need to go to the unbelieving Pharisee to make this point… we can look to the Apostle Peter.

Luke 22:31-34 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Jesus told him point-blank he was going to fall away, but that He had prayed for Peter so that after he has turned again he might strengthen his brothers. All of them were going to fail, but Jesus assured them that He would bring them back. Peter doesn’t get it and decides to prove his zeal by making lofty claims of what he would do. Friends, you can’t out-zeal the Word of God. Just can’t do it. So don’t do it. Confess the Word, don’t try to one-up it in your misguided zeal.

Chorus. Works. Law. No Gospel. Dear Christian, you do NOT want to be judged by your works. You’ll fail. We all fail. And this gets kinda weird in that it’s somehow making rebelling against an antichrist state is a good work. That’s not what defines a good work. Please, this is a twisting of a sense of rebellion into a zeal for righteousness… but it’s starting in the wrong place. We don’t start by countering the World. The Great Commission isn’t based on the world, it’s based on Jesus Christ.

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There is no mention of whether or not we’ll be arrested, or imprisoned, or convicted by the courts here… nor should there be. The motivation is Christ, not works, not rebellion against the world. That counter-culture stuff comes from theology of glory, a theology of purpose-driven nonsense and of dominionism and it’s 7-mountain fantasy. It’s all rubbish. We preach Christ and Him Crucified because of what He has done for us.

Verse 2. The focus of this verse is the singer. It’s a continuation of the thought at the end of the pre-chorus, through the chorus about all of the great works I’ll do IF the world crosses the line and makes this stuff illegal. /sigh. I’m getting more frustrated by this song by the minute.

BridgeI’ll pay the price to be your light… I can’t even, right now. Tell me, what price will you pay for being Christ’s light, hmmm? With so much self-motivated works driving the lyric in this song, I’m left with no positive way to spin this line in the bridge. It still sounds like Peter defying Christ’s warning concerning his impending falling away and subsequent restoration. Stop boasting in your flesh. Stop trying to editorialize your good works. I mean, who wouldn’t like having a personal narration guy extolling your virtues and magnifying the hardships you’ve had to face and overcome…. by the Grace of God, naturally… and how you had to fight the good fight and blah, blah, blah, look at my good works. Vanity.

John 16:20-33 (ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Conclusion

While one might be able to make an attempt at arguing in favor of the intent of the song, the song doesn’t stand on its own. It starts off on the wrong foot in the very first verse and never recovers. While I attempted to give the first verse its best construction, the rest of the song dives headlong into crushing legalism. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and even if you did they don’t advance the Gospel in any meaningful way. Preach the Word. Proclaim Christ and Him crucified. Know that we will face persecution, and take comfort in the Words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, “take heart; I have overcome the world“.

Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) 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.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “This is Living (feat Lecrae)” by Hillsong Young & Free

CCM Radio Edition

January 14, 2016. Today’s song is “This is Living” by Hillsong Worship. Now this song is going to have two separate DiM posts, this one and an Evangelical Worship Edition. Admittedly, I was quite flustered and upset toward the end of the worship review of this song, so I’m going to try to start this review with a bit of a clean slate. That being said, I’m not sure the lyric can be salvaged even for casual listening. Most of the song review will be the same from that DiM, but this one will have extra rap lyrics (feat Lecrae) and the Official Music Video attempts to provide scripture references that are, oddly enough, different from what the worship version claims. hmmm.

I’m a huge fan of techno or electronic dance music (EDM)… it’s my favorite form of music. It taps my emotions easily… which is what anyone can say of their favorite musical form. I enjoy other forms of music, too. I don’t think there’s any place for this form of music in corporate worship, but I whole-heartedly wish there was more doctrinally-sound lyrics set to this music. Honestly, I think simply setting narrative passages to this style of music would make memorization of scripture (for me at least) much easier. Despite my love for EDM, I will not be swayed in favor of this song. The lyric that is there needs to be sound.

Hillsong Young & Free Music Video (feat Lecrae)

 

Lyrics (via KLove)

Verse 1
Waking up knowing there’s a reason
All my dreams come alive
Life is for living with You
I’ve made my decision

Verse 2
You lift me up, fill my eyes with wonder
Forever young in Your love
This freedom’s untainted with You
No moment is wasted

Pre-Chorus
See the sun now bursting through the clouds
Black and white turn to colour all around
All is new, in the Saviour I am found
This is living now
This is living now

Verse 3
You lead the way, God You’re right beside me
In Your love I’m complete
There’s nothing like living with You
This life You created I choose

Pre-Chorus

Chorus
You take me higher than I’ve been before
It’s Your perfect love that sees me soar
God Your freedom is an open door
You are everything I want and more

Lecrae
Maybe I ain’t really know what living is
Is it love if it was am I living it?
Do I live in it?
So astounding
Love is an ocean you can drown me
The sweet embrace the lovely taste
I taste and see I’m under Grace
The place to be it means I don’t ever need an umbrella
I’m cool in the cold and the hot weather
Whether or never I ever understand
I’m a man in the hands of great plans
I stand with faith in a life I never known or touched
It’s still outside my clutch but
I’m like what’s to dream of and what’s to hope in
What’s to die for and live to no end
This is living
The life I’ve been given’s a gift
If I’m gonna live it I’m gonna live it to death!

Pre-Chorus

Chorus

Publishing: © 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing (APRA) (admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Unashamed Music (BMI)
Writer(s): Aodhan King, Joel Davies, and Lecrae

Discussion

Let us begin by acknowledging the attempt at providing Scriptural context to the music video (even though it serves the radio listener no purpose). The video uses different versions of the bible, so we’ll continue using the ESV alongside the video’s versions.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Okay, this is a much better proof-text that what was attempted in the worship version, because it at least provides a framework for what the lyrics are trying to say. Let’s look at the verse in context from a good translation.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV) | The Ministry of Reconciliation

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Such a wonderful passage. Now, I wish this had truly been the foundation of the song, but even if it was the song misses the mark. You see, the song focuses so much on the saved individual that it misses the call to be an ambassador for Christ, entrusted with the message of reconciliation. It’s a message that must be preached, it cannot be acted out or pantomimed. Your best good works fall miserably short of the Message you were entrusted with to be a faithful steward of… the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the ministry of reconciliation to God. I have no doubt that the folks involved in this production intended to convey this message… but failure to handle the text properly leads to mishandling the Word and veering off-course into sensuality (feeding the senses).

As good an attempt as that first proof text was, the next one over achieves in demolition. The often misquoted John 10:10… but not the whole verse, so really John 10:10b, and that not even from a Bible translation, but a parody of the Bible called The Message. So, let’s begin with a good translation, in context, with the proof-text underlined… then we’ll look at what the Parody has to say (again, proof-text will be underlined):

John 10:7-16 (ESV)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock,one shepherd.

John 10:7-18 (MSG)

6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

Ugh. False promise inserted into the text by the parody bible. Notice that this is where we get a lot of the “dream destiny thingy” or “peter pan” doctrine we see in the song. The MSG doesn’t even attempt to convey what is in the Greek. The real passage of scripture is about being protected, cared-for, guarded, and led by Christ, the Good Shepherd. Our freedom is in Christ… IN Christ, which means that our freedom is found in serving Him and growing in His Word. It’s not a freedom that we get from Him to then live our lives as we please or to chase fame, fortune, prosperity or our dream destinies.

The video moves on from these proof texts to its own sloganeering (Young and Free) while the video itself is a montage of supposedly “young and free” youths doing their own things… it really feels like a Nike commercial or a FitBit commercial. It’s telling the young, (sub)urban viewer, “this is what you want to be doing, this is where you want to be going, this is what you want  you-being-you to look like… and then the song starts. But there is something more to the messaging that I find particularly troubling… and it comes in the timing of the video with the lyrics, particularly in the hook, “this is living now”. The video is targeting (sub)urban youth with the message that they can “live it up” like the world does, only it’s untainted when they do it because they’ve “made a decision for Christ” so it’s all cool, fun, hip, AND sanctified so come join the club. Uhm… that’s not Christianity. But it’s powerfully enticing to youth growing up in seeker-sensitive, emotionally driven churches.

Now let’s work through the song lyrics. I’m going to leave what we already covered in the Evangelical version in-place… so we’re really just going to skip to Lecrae’s addition.

Verse 1. There’s a reason all my dreams have come alive? What dreams? Jesus didn’t die on the cross to regenerate your dreams. Salvation isn’t about bringing your dreams back to life. What did you dream about before you were made alive in Christ Jesus? Sin. You followed the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air… you dreamed of carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, the passions of your flesh (Eph 2:1-10). That was what you dreamed about. Jesus didn’t die for those dreams to come alive. He died to rescue your soul from God’s Wrath to be set free from sin that controlled your heart and mind. So, you’ve made your decision? That’s great. What decision was that… to make yourself alive in Christ? We’ve covered that, that wasn’t your decision to make while you were still an unbeliever. Now, once you’ve been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and made a new creation in Christ Jesus, yes… there are some decisions that need to be made, sure. But I’m certain this line of the song is a reach back to Finneyism, decisional regeneration (I was saved because I chose to raise my hand and ‘say yes’ to Jesus).

Verse 2. Peter Pan theology. Drivel. Just… no.

Pre-Chorus. This is just some odd vision-scaping here. There is nothing real being said of Christ Jesus here. Fluff.

Chorus. Pitiful. Painting freedom in Christ as a door to Neverland, where all of our dreams come true and we never have to grow up or deal with consequences again.

Lecrae. Well, he’s skilled in the delivery of the quick-paced lyric. I’m not going to quibble with his poetic depiction of the Grace of God and the Love of God being an ocean. That’s fine. The song has been very self-centered thus far, so at least he’s pointing to God in the lyric, to some degree. But I start to recoil at the line The place to be it means I don’t ever need an umbrella. Hold the phone… are we saying that being a Christian means never having to deal with hard times? It doesn’t rain on Christians, metaphorically speaking?

Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV) | Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

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.

His lyric works its way back to the confession that the life we live is a gift from God. That is true. What if our life is hard, boring, filled with trials, tests, sickness, poverty…. still true. Evangelicalism has a very bad habit of taking promises of eternity and applying them to this temporal life simply because “I’ve made a decision for God”. That, my friend, gets a red card, foul whistle, a flag on the play. There are promises for eternity and there are promises for the temporal, learn to know which is which. Lecrae’s lyric doesn’t end with any more specific Christian encouragement than what Hillsong offered.

Conclusion

Ultimately this is just an upbeat Electronic Dance Music (EDM) track with some vague vocals that anyone can sing along and quite literally infuse any meaning they want and a quick-rap lyric to boot. The video is a montage of what every youth pastor wishes they could show of their youth group outings… beautiful people, lots of beautiful smiles, fun times, zaniness, games, yay!

I don’t think this song topped the charts because it wasn’t heavily promoted on Radio; rather, this is geared for heavy promotion on youth groups, youth conferences, etc.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

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 Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Messengers” Wins Grammy for Best CCM

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

February 10, 2015. So last night as I was driving home I heard the DJ of a local Christian radio station congratulate Lecrae and For King and Country for their Grammy. I thought, “oh yeah… we should probably take a look at what was honored at the Grammy’s for DiM Tuesday.”

So today we are going to take a look at the winners of the “Gospel” category of the Grammy’s. The winner for BEST CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC PERFORMANCE/SONG was indeed “Messengers” by Lecrae Featuring For King & Country. We’ll look at this song today, but before we do let’s look at the other nominees:

Now, one thing I couldn’t help but notice is that though we’ve been trying to review the top 20 Christian songs over the past year, we’ve only managed to cover 1 of the 5 nominated songs. Should I be using a different list? Should we try to add a DiM day in our week? I don’t know. Your feedback on this question would be most appreciated.

Okay, so let’s take a look at the song “Messengers”. First, I want to try to clarify that rap, like poetry, rarely makes clear objective statements. It is a genre that tries to poetically allude to societal themes or trends. Rap music is a part of a very dynamic rap culture that is intentionally kept in a state of flux. The vast majority of secular rap is filled with fad references and short-lived colloquialisms connected to even shorter-lived trends in clothing, entertainment, and civil unrest/outrage. A big part of secular rap culture is demonstrating how “fresh” you keep your language, tastes, and style. In fact, my use of “fresh” in that sense clearly signifies that I am not on the cutting edge of rap culture… and I’m okay with that. “Christian” rap is equally poetic and it needs to speak to a culture whose language changes faster than the headlines at CNN about a timeless, unchanging Truth of God’s Word. Rap is a genre of poetry, and poetry isn’t the best way to convey the clear message of the Gospel. God indeed breathed out the Psalms, but the Apostles didn’t write poetry in the New Testament, they wrote clearly and concisely as the Holy Spirit led them.

Music Videos

Lyrics (via K-Love)

Messengers by Lecrae (feat. For King & Country)

Calling all the messengers
Calling all the messengers
Calling all the messengers

We’ve been given a call
Been forgiven, risen
We livin’ to give him our all
Rise up from your past
That’s holding you down
This moment is all that matters
The future is now
How will the people know if we don’t tell ’em?
If we fail ’em
They’re stumbling in the dark
But the lighters that we carryin’
Don’t have to wonder your purpose
Or what you’re here for
Reflect his image
And show the world what he cares for

And I know it’s all right
And you know it’s your life
And we know that time’s running out
Can’t wait around cause

Calling all the messengers
Calling all the messengers
Calling all the messengers

I’ve been a lot of places where the scene ain’t pretty
I’ve seen plenty of hate, death and destruction
Where ignorance kills many
The blind leading the blind
We turnin’ a blind eye
That alone is a crime
We’ve got the power to life
I know that we make mistakes
Don’t let ’em keep you away
Mercy, love, and His grace
The reason we movin’ here
Speak out
Though we’ve never been qualified to do it
I ain’t earned it
I was loved into it
I’m brand new

Calling all the messengers
Calling all the messengers
Calling all the messengers

Publishing: Fellowship of the Unashamed Music (BMI), WB Music Corp./Method To The Madness/Shankel Songs (ASCAP) (Admin. by WB Music Corp.), Warner Tamerlane/Kilns Music/Shankel Songs (BMI) (Adm. by Warner Tamerlane), Ally Plane Music (BMI), Evident Music (ASCAP), Before I Die Publishing (BMI), Joseph Prielozny Music (ASCAP)/Unashamed Music (ASCAP) and Track or Die Music LLC (BMI)
Writer(s): Lecrae Moore, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Ricky Jackson, Ran Jackson, Kenneth Chris Mackey, Joseph Prielozny and Torrance Esmond

Positive Elements

I believe the title and the choral refrain points to the Christian’s call to Evangelism. We can pluck a few lines out to support this assertion. One thing I’d like to point out is that the value of a messenger is in the Message being proclaimed and from Whom the Message originates. We are called to take the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Let’s look at how Paul writes of this in Romans 10.

Romans 10:11-17 (ESV)

11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

There is a line in the first verse of the song that seems to come from this passage, “How will the people know if we don’t tell ’em?” I wish the emphasis of this song was on the preaching of the Gospel, the sharing of the Message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin found only at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. That was Paul’s emphasis. That was Jesus’s emphasis. This is the emphasis of the Great Commission.

Concerns

If the lyric of the song is aimed at calling Christians to Evangelism… why then do we see this song pop up seemingly out of nowhere at the Grammy’s? Why has this song not been on our radar here? I believe that this song resonates more with a secularist activism crowd of artists and producers because it doesn’t emphasize preaching of Law (repentance) and Gospel (forgiveness)… rather the song seems to emphasize works. The world is eager to judge Christianity (and Christians) for their lack of works. This song offers up a few lines that seem to echo that sentiment.

This moment is all that matters The future is nowHow will the people know if we don’t tell ’em? If we fail ’em, They’re stumbling in the dark But the lighters that we carryin’ Don’t have to wonder your purpose Or what you’re here for Reflect his image And show the world what he cares for

What does “the future is now” and “this moment is all that matters” mean in a Christian context? Are these statements even remotely supported by Scripture? This is the kind of stuff you hear from a sales pitch or a motivational hype-man. Do something now! is what is conveyed. Reminds me of the song we reviewed “Do Something” by Matthew West. One of the positive lines we highlighted earlier is in bold. We connected that line to Romans 10. But when we look at this line and how it falls in the context of the song, we see the next line “If we fail ’em”… and it leads to the reflect his image and show the world what he cares for. It seems to fall in the “deeds not creeds” (which is a creed) category, or one of those “earn the right to preach the Gospel” philosophies. I’m not saying I think that is Lecrae’s intention, just pointing out that this seems to be the overall tenor of this song when we look at the lyrics apart from the music video.

The second verse has a line that I think secular activists key in on to further push the “deeds not creeds” mindset. There is an allegation by Lecrae that “We turnin’ a blind eye That alone is a crime”. This also changes the over-arching theme of “calling all the messengers”. There is now an implied rebuke to Christians for turning a blind eye to the state of… well, those places where the scene ain’t pretty that Lecrae has seen. He’s vague and generic, but the implication is much the same as Matthew West’s accusation that “we’re never going to change the world by standing still”. Lecrea’s song isn’t nearly as blatant, but the problem of a works-focused “social gospel” is still evident. Lecrae is “calling all the messengers” to pay attention and reflect Christ by showing what He loves and do something about the hate, death, destruction, and ignorance in the world.

The biggest concern with which I take issue is the avoidance of topics of Sin and Repentance. In the first verse, we are called, forgiven, and risen… but we still need to “rise up from a past that holds us down”. huh? God forgave you (when you got saved) and he raised you (from the death of your sins and trespasses) but its up to YOU to rise up from your past because it’s still holding you down? Law-Gospel-Law. There was a chance to clarify this concept in the second verse… and it was missed entirely. “We’ve got the power to life I know that we make mistakes Don’t let ’em keep you away Mercy, love, and His grace The reason we movin’ here Speak out Though we’ve never been qualified to do it I ain’t earned it I was loved into it I’m brand new“. So, we make “mistakes” that we “can’t let them keep us away”? How about, we Sin and are in continual need to repent and be forgiven, and that is the message we should be preaching to the Lost as well? Mercy, Love, and Grace are popular themes for the world to hear, but still no confession and repentance. Incidentally, the way to “not letting them keep us away” is to confess our sins one to another, forgive each other, and repent at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

The world is all for praising social activism that down-plays sin and repentance. This song won a Grammy, but I haven’t seen it on a Christian music top 20 chart. The world picked this song and championed it as what they want to see coming out of Gospel music. A world that tells Christians, don’t talk about sins, just demonstrate love. Don’t ask me to repent, go work to end world hunger, slavery, and climate change like all of us who reject your God do. You see, social activism can be overtly engaged by anyone, even those who’ve rejected the One True Living God. This song will likely see a lot more Christian radio airplay as the CCM industry gushes over it’s Grammy. The song is a poetic, generic rebuke that Christians aren’t “doing enough” because evil exists.

In closing, I’d like to remind all of the messengers, what Jesus warned.

John 15:18-25 (ESV) | The Hatred of the World

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.

To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
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