Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).
May 12, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Evidence” by Citizen Way which currently sits at #17 at 20theCountdownMagazine.
We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.
This song has no depth. There is a thin veneer of truth that is worth mentioning, so I haven’t completely disqualified this song, but it needs some work. The best construction on this song would be a reminder to Christians that Faith without Works is dead. We’ll discuss that in detail below, but this song also has some dangerous ideas running through it, namely the false-notion that our ability to Love people (Law: love your neighbor as yourself) is the only way the lost can find Salvation. That’s bunk, and it’s dangerous.
VEVO Lyric Video
Lyrics (via KLOVE)
Evidence by Citizen Way
It’s not a flag on a field
It’s not a sign in my yard
Not a cause that I join
Not a phrase on a coin
It’s the change in my heart
Mercy and grace and compassion
They’re only words without action
I need hands that are open
Reaching out to broken hearts
Cuz’ that’s the only way this world
Will ever know who
You are Love is the evidence
Love is the evidence
Might be the pain that you share
Might be the time that you spend
Or the war you don’t fight
Backing down from your pride
After all in the end
My life wasn’t changed by an argument
That never would have been enough
My life was changed by the evidence of love
Your hands that were open
Reaching out to my broken heart
Publishing: Fair Trade Music Publishing (ASCAP) (admin. by Music Services); Meaux Hits / Bears In the Bowl (ASCAP) (admin. by EMICMG Publishing). All rights reserved. Writer(s): Ben Calhoun; Jeff Pardo
Let’s start with the problem of the false evangelical premise of the song. The false premise is that of the quote falsely attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel and when necessary use words”. Preaching of the Gospel requires the use of God’s Word. You can’t “demonstrate” the Gospel to anyone without first speaking Truth. Without preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, your “good works” point others to you, not Christ. We’ll come back to this point in a moment. The first pre-chorus actually infuriates me: mercy and grace and compassion are only words without action. The context for this statement to be a valid one is extremely narrow, and really shouldn’t be driven into our heads in an ambiguous song on the airwaves. Who is the speaker of this song? There are phrases that identify the earthly individual as the speaker of the song, “My life”, “my broken heart”, “change in my heart”… so is the singer a Christian or an unbeliever demanding more evidence from the Christian who is sharing the Gospel with him? If the former, the assertion that mercy, grace, compassion are nothing without action is obnoxious. God’s grace, mercy, and compassion are the reason the Earth yet remains, and why we even have the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are talking only about earthly grace, mercy, compassion of believers… sinful, fleshly believers, the statement still falls flat. Restraint, the absence of self-seeking action (vengeance/judgement/vindication) is the predominant form of grace and mercy in our daily walks. Forgiveness isn’t always an action. Mercy and Grace are not always actions, many times they are exemplified by inaction. However, as we discovered in our walk through the Sermon on the Mount, even in the midst of practicing the good work of extending outward grace/mercy/compassion to our neighbor, our sinful hearts sully our good works. If the singer of the song is an unbeliever demanding proof from the one preaching the Gospel, then we are dealing with a red herring. The unbeliever is fully accountable for his unbelief.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
It isn’t up to you to provide evidence of the Gospel. Despite what any unbeliever demands of you or even swears to you, they don’t need anymore proof that God exists than what He has already provided. They need to die to the Law of sin unto repentance and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to New Life. Hands that are open… The open hands that we are in desperate need of daily are those nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the Law of Righteousness and then gave up His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, so that by faith we might not only be spared the due punishment for our sin but that His Righteousness would be bestowed upon us at the Resurrection. Oh how I wish that this was the direction the writers of this song had taken… but it isn’t. The writers aren’t pointing to Christ, they are pointing fingers at Christians who “need to do a better job of obeying the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself”. Dear reader, these two themes don’t fit together. We’ll talk about the work of the Law in the Christian’s life, but for now we need to make a clear distinction: the unbeliever is not granted saving faith by the believer’s keeping of the Law, nor is it dependent upon the believer living a sin-free earthly life. If it were, no one would ever come to saving faith after Jesus ascended into heaven. The only person who could ever legitimately demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in that manner, was Jesus Christ, the only truly Righteous and Good Person, completely sinless. The rest of us rely on faith in the Word of God. Cuz’ that’s the only way this world will ever know who You are. Is that what the Bible teaches? No. There is buried here an allusion to something Jesus said:
John 13:34-35 (ESV) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
It’s only an allusion to what Jesus was teaching. To suggest that this teaches the only way that we might evangelize unbelievers is to twist this text. This relates to the authenticity of their faith in Gospel of Jesus Christ designating them (and we also who Believe) as His disciples. All people will know that we are truly His disciples by our love for each other. Jesus doesn’t include the notion that this is also how unbelievers will suddenly start believing in Christ. That’s not in the text. The Apostle Paul clearly instructed how people are to come to saving faith in his letter to the Romans.
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.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached… with words, specifically, the Word of Christ. The Law cannot be skipped in the Preaching of Christ, for His first purpose was to fulfill the Law on our behalf. Therefore, we are to preach both Law and Gospel, for that is the ONLY way that the unbeliever is granted faith. Sadly, not all who hear the gospel obey it… some will inexplicably continue in the condemnation of their sin
John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 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.
It is not up to you to “prove” to the unbeliever the Truth of the Gospel. It isn’t up to you to grant the unbeliever saving faith. That isn’t your part in their salvation. Your part is to preach the Word of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that opens the ears, hearts, and minds of the hearers of the Gospel. The burden of the unbeliever’s unbelief isn’t yours to bear. Preach the Word. Now then, let us look to the element of truth in the general theme of the song. We are commanded to love one another as Christ loved us. Once we have come to saving faith, we are caught in the daily struggle between the sin that dwells in our flesh and the Spirit of God who fills us. Until the day we finally put off this flesh of sin, we will have to put to death our selfish, sinful desires and seek first the kingdom of God. We are commanded to Love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to Love our neighbors as ourselves… and we will continue falling short of this Law until the Resurrection. Our hope remains fixed on Christ’s Finished work on the cross… it doesn’t shift to our ability to keep the Law, we are to remain humbly repentant of our sins. Give us this each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins (Luke 11)… Jesus taught us to pray daily. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The world sees your sin, and proposes the impossible test of “prove your righteousness and then I’ll accept your God”, as a red herring, a smoke-screen distraction from their own sin and need of a Savior from the Just Wrath of God. Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge sets the terms, not the defendants. God is faithful, and it was He who began a good work in you for it was by Him that you were brought to saving faith. Let’s look to James 2 for a moment.
James 2:14-26 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Dear Christian, please don’t be scared of James, nor distracted by those who would use James to burden Christians under the works of the Law. James is pointing to a faith problem, not a conduct/discipline problem. Genuine faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ produces fruit in the believer, and as the believer grows in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, so will the fruit by faith. If there is no fruit, James is pointing to the problem of a lack of faith as the cause of the lack of fruit. So many preachers today flip it around, as though by some manipulating of good works of the law can instill faith. That’s not how it works, and that is not the focus of James. If you have faith, the works will follow, for we are not saved by good works, we are saved by faith for good works (Eph 2).
So here’s the idea: as Christians, we need to be reminded daily of our need for a Savior. We need to hear the Law preached lawfully, so that our flesh, our sinful nature remain crucified, but we also need the Life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached so that our faith can grow and be sustained. When our good works fade, the answer is to return to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Repent and be forgiven, and in the same measure that you are forgiven forgive others. In the same measure that you are loved by Jesus, love others. We will fail, He knows this, and He is faithful and Just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of our unrighteousness. We are commanded to love others as Christ loved us, and when we fail we are to repent of our sin. Preach the Word of God faithfully and humbly so that the lost might hear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that by the Grace of God they might come to saving faith. If your life is not bearing any fruit, its time to examine your faith… most often what we find is we’ve gone dry from spending so much time under Law without Gospel, and we’ve allowed our focus to drift away from the cross and onto our own ability (truly inability) to keep the Law of Righteousness. We need to keep an eye on our brothers and sisters in Christ and lovingly stir each other up, by reminding each other of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
James 5:19-20 (ESV) 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Whenever this song plays on the radio, think on these things rather than what the song is pushing. Preach Law and Gospel to both the unbeliever (that he might be saved) and the believer (that he might be encouraged). Amen. In Christ Jesus, Jorge