DiM | “Thrive” by Casting Crowns

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

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

I’ve decided not to use the Billboard chart anymore. Today, we are looking at the top Christian songs according to K-LOVE Radio. On that chart, “Greater” by MercyMe is in the top spot while Hillsong’s “Oceans” isn’t even on the chart, and that makes me happy. It is one of the better songs we have reviewed here. Sadly, “We Believe” by Newsboys is not on this chart either, so this chart reflects a certain geographical demographic (dictated by where KLOVE is broadcast) so I may just have to bounce around radio charts to focus on the top 5 across the nation. Again, I’m open for suggestions / requests as well.

Today we are looking at the #2 Song on the KLOVE chart, “Thrive” by Casting Crowns. Today’s review will be a little different because Casting Crowns is a different sort of band. The lead singer is a youth pastor whose heart is really for training young adults in the Christian walk. As such, when they release an album, it isn’t just a means to drum up ticket sales or whip a crowd into a frenzy (ala Hillsong or Passion); rather, they seek to teach and challenge youth by their music and by their bible study material to grow in Christ. I truly believe their heart is in the right place, though I do have some concerns regarding this “Thrive” study/song. We’ll look at both the song lyrics and the associated study material and I will share some of my concerns later. For now, please understand that I am impressed by their commitment to teach and not to merely entertain the youth.

Casting Crowns | “Thrive” Ministry Website

Lyrics

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry

So living water flowing through
God, we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives
Its time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Into Your word, were digging deep
To know our Fathers heart
Into the world, were reaching out
To show them who You are

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable, anything is possible

Positive Elements

Speaking of just the merits of this song on its own, I love the focus on digging deeply into the Word of God, drinking of the Living Water that flows from Jesus Christ, and the imagery of being a tree planted by that water. The audience for this song is clearly for the Christian listener. This song is not so much a Praise and Worship song as it is an anthem setting up the rest of the album (also called “Thrive”), and a look at the album art demonstrates that the imagery of being a tree planted by the water is central to the album. Let’s jump into some scripture, beginning with the Lord’s answer to Jeremiah in chapter 17 beginning in verse 5.

Jeremiah 17:5-13 (ESV)
5 Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

11 Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice; in the midst of his days they will leave him, and at his end he will be a fool.

12 A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. 13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.

The context here is not limited to any covenant or time period, because here the Lord God is declaring Truth about mankind and about Himself. He is setting forth Law that identifies a cursed individual and a blessed individual. He is pointing to salvation, and we know that we can only find it in Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. And blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and in His Son, from whom flow streams of Living Water.

While I do wish this were somehow better conveyed in the song, at least we have the Scriptural imagery upon which to draw and research and be edified. In the various introduction videos and lesson videos, the theme of growing deep roots and stretching out long branches does play out, it doesn’t really get fleshed out from scripture; rather, it is presented in anecdotal form, which brings us to our concerns regarding the song and the teaching presented with it.

Concerns | False Dichotomy

Mark Hall (the lead singer and youth pastor) sets up a false dichotomy between “being so deeply rooted that you produce no branches or fruit” and “being all branches and no root”. I believe it is an honest mistake (not done with malice) but it remains a problem. The analogy of the Tree being planted by the water doesn’t really leave room for this dichotomy. Either the tree is planted by the water or it isn’t. A tree with deep roots that has not forsaken the fountain of living water cannot possibly be a tree with no branches or fruit. It simply doesn’t fit what Scripture describes. This dichotomy doesn’t find its place in Scripture, rather, it finds it’s origins in our post-modern progressive culture.

There is a post-modern progressive seeker-driven ideology that often erects a straw-man of the Christian who takes everything to Scripture and insists on Sola Scriptura as being an unloving, self-serving, legalistic, heartless, and fruitless Christian. The seeker-driven community is quick to label a Pharisee anyone who would dare to point out doctrinal errors, or rebuke even outright false-doctrine. That’s the progressive extreme, and I don’t think Mark is in that camp, but he invoking their straw-man. So, what Mark seems to be trying to do with this dichotomy is to find a neutral ground where Christians “keep a healthy balance” between Law and Gospel. But is that really for us to balance? If our roots are tapped into the Living Water of Jesus Christ, we needn’t worry about the year of drought, for our leaves will remain green and we will continue to bear fruit. The false dichotomy has no real answer, so ultimately the solution to the problem Mark sets up gets a little muddled. The real dichotomy is a tree whose roots are not digging toward Christ; but towards something else. In one of the videos Mark describes the “all root” straw-man as someone who is learning the Greek and Hebrew (good things) and reading each new book (uh-oh) and rejecting one teacher because he doesn’t like how he explains something (mayday) as well as this other guy… well, now we’ve totally broken the Scriptural image of the blessed tree. Such a person isn’t digging deep roots toward Christ, or God’s Word, he is in-fact placing his trust in man. That’s not to say that we can’t learn something about God or His Word that has been written recently (otherwise, why am I sharing these blogs?) but if you are constantly chasing after the ‘new doctrine’ you will die of thirst. You will become the shrub in the desert rather than the Tree planted beside the Water.

If our trust is in the Lord, and we dig deeply into His Word and drink from the Living Water that flows from the Son of God as a promise of the Holy Spirit of God to all who believe, growing branches and bearing fruit isn’t a concern on our part. For it is the Holy Spirit that grows and matures and bears fruit. Our task, is to trust in the Lord. Everything flows from our trust in Him, just as the health of the tree depends on its roots and from where they draw their nourishment.

Concerns | Ordinary Life and Surviving

Another concern I have is with the implication that “an ordinary life” is somehow sinful, or that “surviving” is somehow failing. What is the definition of “thriving”? If the definition of thriving is tied to that of the tree, then we’ve already demonstrated that there is nothing for the tree to do besides be planted by the Living Water, which is to trust in the Lord. In one of his videos on the page, Mark even teaches that we can’t focus on “producing fruit” because it isn’t something that can “be done” it’s something that grows by the Holy Spirit. So he teaches it right, and he also does a great job of pointing to the heart of the Gospel (that Christ did the work, not us) in the Colossians video, but the song still has that dangling implication. Let’s look at some scripture.

1 Peter 2:9-19 (ESV) 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

Often times what happens in self-esteem sermons the preacher will use verse 9 as a springboard to prosperity and living the blessed life as royalty in this life. But does that fit the rest of what Peter is teaching? Does that even fit Peter’s life? No. Peter is now in Heaven, and enjoying the blessing of being a royal priesthood. While Peter was on this earth, he was a worker, a servant, a shepherd under the Shepherd. And so we must consider our days on earth. We are to be subject to every human institution, not for “our own good”; rather, Peter makes the appeal “for the Lord’s sake”. If we define “an ordinary life” as one that indulges in the passions of the flesh, then indeed it is a sin to live such a life. But if living an ordinary life includes living a life in submission to authority of the human institutions (the government, your boss at work, the tax collector, your creditors, etc.) then how can we rightly declare it to be somehow “less-than”? Less than what?

The bit about “just surviving” is also troublesome, but to a lessor degree. I think the song makes clear that they are talking about an attitude that betrays faith, an attitude of “I don’t know if I can make it”. The truth is you can’t. You were dead before the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and your flesh still tries to kill you (by its sinful passions). That is why we must not put our trust in man or in our flesh, otherwise we will be a shrub in the desert where we will wither up and die again. But there is an element of survival that is central to the charge Jesus gave us when He taught about the days ahead for His Church:

Matthew 10:21-23 (ESV) 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Matthew 24:9-14 (ESV) 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

If thriving is about temporal success and prosperity we are all doomed. However, if thriving is about enduring through the year of drought, bearing fruit and green leaves despite the lack of rain, then we have our commandment to place our trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ, the fountain of Living Waters. The truth is that regardless of how much hype and raw emotion or self-esteem you drum up, if you trust in your own actions, motivation, or effort you will not survive.

Concerns | From the Last Teaching Video

This final concern actually doesn’t come from the song “Thrive” at all. It popped in the final video and it is the false-idea that the means of sharing the Gospel is about sharing “my story”. No, it isn’t. He even makes the foolish statement, “people can argue with your verses, but they can’t argue with your story”. He makes the argument in hopes of removing the bad excuses people have for not sharing the Gospel themselves, but it remains a foolish statement nonetheless. He says that loving Jesus and loving on the world is how we share the Gospel. Uhm, no. How we share the Gospel is preaching the Word of God. When we preach ourselves, it had better be part of the Law in that apart from God we are all sinners and dead in our sins (which is kind of what he does right at the tail end, but it is subtle). The Gospel is not “our story” the Gospel is His (Jesus Christ’s) story. Mark’s heart is in the right place, his teaching is just a bit convoluted and appeals too much to anecdote and psychology of self-esteem. As he continues talking, truth comes out, but in small bits.

Conclusion

The song is not bad, but what really has captured my attention in this project is the work that Casting Crowns has put into the website and the album to remind Christians of the Gospel through their music. I wish more Christian artists took this approach to ministry. Sure, I have some concerns with some of the content, but that is bound to happen and as long as we contend with one another in love and in the Word of God then we build each other up in Christ. So this is one of those cases where the conclusion is in support of the band’s approach to ministry despite the shortcomings of this song. I didn’t research the rest of the 3 week YouTube studies through James and Colossians, so I can’t speak to the rest of those. Casting Crowns has truly set themselves apart from the other Christian Bands we’ve reviewed thus far. I look forward to reviewing more of their music.

In Christ,
Jorge

DiM | “Say I Won’t” by Lecrae

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

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

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

Lyrics (via AZLyrics)

“Say I Won’t”
(feat. Andy Mineo)

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

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

[Chorus]

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

[Chorus]

Positive Elements

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

Concerns

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

DiM | “Greater” by Mercy Me

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

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

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

Lyrics (via AZLyrics)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positive Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concerns

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

In Christ,
Jorge