Some are still gathering stones…

I see a lot of folks doing the Throw-back Thursday (TBT) thing and I just never felt like anything we did here warranted a TBT. Well, today I guess is a good time to bring up an older post that relates to something that has popped up again in social media. I’m so disgusted by it, and this time around it seems worse since I’m not even in any of the Reformed groups I was in the last go-round… no… this time I’m seeing the vitriol in Lutheran circles. The TBT subject for today is the expressed lack of satisfaction in the penance of Tullian Tchvidjian, and the willingness of some to condemn his pastor with him.

TBT: He’s Moving, Cast Another Stone (September 3, 2015)

Mostly what I see happening right now is folks pushing their own agendas by borrowing from the name of Tullian Tchvidjian while blasting his current Pastor, Kevin Labby, for mentioning the same name in a favorable light. Nothing that has been written thus far regarding Tullian has expressed any deeper thought than “I don’t think we should hear about him at all, he hasn’t truly repented because no one could this quickly”. Some posts go the extra sanctimonious route of I’m super offended on behalf of his victims at his old church because he hasn’t paid enough penance. If you don’t fall in line with those looking to stone Tchvidjian and Libby, then you are immediately labeled a “Gospel Reductionist”.

The latest article that got under my skin was from the good folks at ChurchWatchCentral. I like their work. They do good work. Tullian has nothing to do with Hillsong. He has nothing to do with Driscoll. This is a hit piece.

Here’s what we know:

Pastor Libby has been publicly encouraging Tullian
Liberate Network is being brought back online
Tullian has been sharing the Gospel and Speaking in public

I’ll get worried when there’s talk of restoring Tullian to the Office of Pastor. Until then, I pray he has truly repented and I trust that he’s being restored Biblically in his local church. Notice that none of the hit pieces on Tullian actually have substantive penitential standards… they are placing themselves over Tullian and Libby as judges. I’d rather not go there until I can see a clear violation of Scripture.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (ESV) | Forgive the Sinner

5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

If people within his new congregation or his old one have an issue with forgiving Tullian, that’s between them, God, and Tullian. As for those who are as disconnected from the local church body as I am… I encourage you to exercise forgiveness and pray for his full restoration (not necessarily to the Office of Pastor, but surely able to share the Gospel as a layman). If you cannot do that, that’s between you and God… Tullian doesn’t owe you anything.

If there is unrepentant sin, it needs to be called out and the Law needs to be preached fully… and then we need to preach the Gospel with equal force and conviction. It is God who saves, God who grants faith, God who grants repentance, and God who forgives and restores according to His Will and His Grace, and for His Glory.

Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology

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

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Battistelli

Presentation1CCM Radio Edition.

March 7, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Battistelli which currently sits at #19 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

In my opinion this is the best song by Francesca Battistelli we’ve reviewed, and it is so close to being a phenomenal song. I really like this song, though there are some key omissions in the lyrics that make it fall below our standard for Approval. This song represents the problem of dealing with the cognitive dissonance that the modern evangelical wrestles with and is so close to providing the answer… so close to granting the rest that the modern evangelical desperately longs to find. The song misses but it is starting to ask the right questions.

Francesca Battisteli Official Audio

 

Lyrics (via MetroLyrics)

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay
our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Songwriters: REED, MOLLY E. / BATTISTELLI, FRANCESCA / PARDO, JEFF
Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Discussion

Artist Backstory? Before I share my thoughts on this song, I wanted to take a shot at finding an interview somewhere that maybe had Francesca Battistelli’s take on the story behind the song. This is the title-track of her latest album, so most of this interview is covering the album, but here is a portion where she talks about this song:

SAM: With this album, If We’re Honest, is there a big idea or a key message running across the whole record?

FRANCESCA: Y’know I think honesty and vulnerability. There’s a lot in this record that came from my life, and I think there’s just a deeper spiritual sense to this record. I think I’m talking about some things that I haven’t talked about before. If We’re Honest is the title track, and the theme of that song which ties in with the record is that God has called us to live lives of authenticity. I think that means that in a culture that says: ‘Crop the perfect picture of yourself, put a nice filter on it, send it out to the world and let people think that’s who you are,’ God has called us to be raw and be real. We should be able to come to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and say: ‘This is what I’m going through. This is what I’m struggling with. This is what I need prayer for, or help with.’ It’s so hard for us to do that in this culture, and I think God is really calling us to go back to that basic… He created us to live in community with each other. He created us to need each other. To be his hands and feet on this earth. So I really wrote it as a challenge to myself, to get outside of myself. To challenge me to know that the things I was saying and the things I was talking about on stage and singing, and who I was when I was offstage, it’s all the same. There wasn’t a facade being put up. I think the vulnerability on these songs shows up. So I would say honesty is the theme of the record.

SAM: Yeah, that definitely comes across as I listen to it, and I’m sure that your fans as they listen will be encouraged to be honest as well in their lives too.

FRANCESCA: I hope so! That’s the goal.

Overall Thoughts. I was surprised to see Francesca answer in such a broad sense given that my first impression of the song, as-written, was that it held a more intimate meaning… like between a husband and wife who are struggling with secret sins that were destroying their marriage. That’s what jumps out at me with the chorus of the song, an appeal for mutual brokenness and confession. While that was my initial read on the song, I was going to suggest we suspend that for a moment while we try to rescue it a bit with some clear doctrine, and then see how it works within the narrow sense of a marriage.

Overall there are some solid thoughts captured in the lyric of this song: each of us is a mess, each of us is broken, and failure to acknowledge this truth is a failure to be honest… because we know we’re broken. We know it in the Romans 1 sense where the world knows there is a God and it hates Him. The most powerful statement in this song is coded, unfortunately: There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross. That’s so close to being the Gospel… but what does it mean to lay our secrets down at the cross? How is this something I do? Why is it so hard to sing the words “repent and be forgiven of your sins in Jesus’ Name?” So close. I think now we need to discuss cognitive dissonance a bit.

Cognitive Dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc. For example, when people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition). [source]

Modern-Day Evangelicalism holds to a man-centered definition of justification / sanctification  while giving lip service to salvation by grace through faith alone. Most of this can be traced by to the earliest church-isms of the settling of the New World. Methodism and Pietism play a major role in this forming of “American” Christianity…. but in many ways it is a return to the synergism of the Roman Catholic Church to varying degrees. Sure, they’ve dropped the Pope, but they haven’t dropped the notion that says “God did His part, but I have to do my part or else God can’t work in my life”.  So we insist that man has a free will (from birth) and that God has made a way of salvation that few will find, but if you search for it with all your heart you will find it and be made a new creature, freed from sin… and because we “bowed our heads” and “said a prayer” (Finneyism) we can now declare and decree that we are new creatures… but that was only the first step of “getting saved”. Now we have to do our part to “demonstrate our faith” is genuine, we must progress in doing good and resisting evil. That’s what evangelicalism preaches… and pushes… and advises… keep progressing, know these fundamentals… if you’ll just do these things you’ll overcome that sin… and we raise our hands, we walk down the isle, kneel at the “altar” and sob, trying with every ounce of strength we can muster to “lay our sins down at the cross”  hoping that this time… THIS TIME… we’ll mean it, it will be real, we will be set free from this besetting sin because we truly meant it… THIS time. But when we’ve left the “revival” meeting… and we find ourselves at work, or all alone… if we’re honest… we know we are still sinners. We doubt whether or not we’ll fall again… we doubt whether or not God truly loves us… given enough time and hardship… we’ll even doubt whether or not God died for us.

Incidentally… this isn’t the result of poll research or anything… this is me. At a very low point, I remember admitting to someone that I have no problem sharing the “promises of God” for everyone else… but He didn’t have those good things set out for me. I didn’t deserve them. I’d confess that I was saved, but that I was supposed to struggle… because I wasn’t progressing… I was arrogant in my youth, sloppy in my sanctification… and I was being held to a different standard. After all, my parents were pastors… God had worked huge miracles in their lives… so-called prophets always knew exactly what my brother’s calling was on his life… but when it came to me no 2 were ever in agreement… they were all over the place with me… because I didn’t have a calling, because God’s awesome promises weren’t for me… they were for everyone else. Cognitive dissonance… I simply couldn’t hold all things I was being told in evangelicalism (NAR flavor) as true while making an honest assessment of my own actions, my own thought life, my own sin. The pieces didn’t fit. Either the theology was wrong, or I was…and I was convinced that God simply didn’t want those things for me. I thank God that in His Grace and Mercy… He never let go of me.

I’m sorry for that tangent… getting back to the topic of cognitive dissonance, modern-day evangelicalism doesn’t make sense to one who is honest about their surroundings or who actually reads the Bible. It doesn’t fit together. It’s entirely too man-centric, and we are horribly messed up. And that is a strength in this song… if we’re honest, we simply cannot go on decreeing and declaring that we are healthy, wealthy, and prosperous because… we aren’t.

Repent and be Forgiven. The song takes a step in the right direction by at least acknowledging something isn’t right. We sin. There needs to be a solution to that sin. There is, but it isn’t found within us. The first line of the song that needs correction is the line everyone has a heart that loves to hide. The truth is that everyone has a heart that love to sin. To protect our sin, we hide it rather than expose it. We did it back in the Garden in Adam when he chose to hide from God after sinning, and then blaming the woman for our sin. We hide our sin rather than confess it. That is our bent, that is the impact of sin on our hearts.

1 John 1 (ESV)

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, thatGod is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us. This is where we find our rest in this life… in the Person and Word of Jesus Christ. There’s no moving on from this while we walk this earth in jars of clay. We are still sinners, saved by Grace. We sin, and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin according to the Law and crushes us… for the letter of the Law kills… but the Holy Spirit brings life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t look to your emotions, your “brokenness”, or even your “honesty” for forgiveness… it’s not within you… it’s outside of you… it’s in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ… it’s in the Written Word of God, it’s in the waters of baptism, it’s in the bread and cup of communion. Seek forgiveness outside of you, for only God forgives… and He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse you in Jesus’ Name. Daily.

Where the song completely misses. The song simply cannot seem to shake itself free from looking within for answers. ‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides And mercy’s waiting on the other side Who’s love? Which divide? Are we talking simply the emotional pangs of hurt, or are we talking about sin? Are we talking about simply airing out grievances with our neighbor or are we talking about seeking forgiveness from sin? And mercy’s waiting on the other side of what? Again, God’s mercy comes to us through His Word and through Preaching… but this evangelicalism suggests that we have to do something or cross something to get to that Mercy that is on the other side of whatever it is that separates us… does this point back to the divide caused by hurt? So we need to be honest, so that love can heal what hurt divided and once that divide is healed THEN we get to Mercy? I think I might have pulled something.

The bridge of the song misfires, because the “it” points to us and our honesty. If we’re honest, then it would It would change our lives. If we’re honest, then It would set us free. If we’re honest, then It’s what we need to be. See how that is bent in on itself? Forgive me the obvious counter-argument, but there are a lot of sinners who are quite honest and brash concerning their sin. They are flagrant. In fact, and I didn’t start this discussion like I usually do by pointing out the intended target audience, but this song is clearly pointed at the evangelical Christian… because only the evangelical Christian struggles with the cognitive dissonance of proclaiming to be fully set free from sin and progressing toward perfection in Christ Jesus while having to ignore the reality of their own sin. Unbelievers don’t struggle with this level of dissonance, because they simply call evil good and good evil. They embrace their sin because they reject God.

Conclusion

If we are honest… we are sinners in need of a savior. We bring nothing to our salvation than our sinful hearts. Salvation, Faith, Repentance and Forgiveness is Christ’s work on us, and we contribute nothing to that work. Now, as believers, we share the grace bestowed upon us with our neighbors, we do good works of service to our neighbors in thanksgiving to God, knowing full well that even our best good work for our neighbor is stained by our sin. Just like the Israelites in the wilderness needed God to provide Mana from heaven on a daily basis for their daily bread, we rely on Christ’s unfailing love for us and forgiveness for our sins. Dear Christian, stop looking within yourself (or your heart/emotions) for faith, healing, restoration, rest, forgiveness… instead, look to the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Your right standing before God isn’t based on what you’ve done, but what He has done for you. Your relationship with your neighbor (and getting back to the context of within a marriage) is affected by what you do. Be honest and vulnerable with your neighbor, and share the Gospel of Grace. Serve your neighbor, forgive your neighbor, and share both Law and Gospel with your neighbor, knowing that Christ has forgiven you of all of your sins, in Jesus’ Name.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

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

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Real” by Nichole Nordeman

disapproveToday we are doing a Christmas Edition of “Discernment in Music” (DiM), here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)). I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d be addressing CCM radio stations’ treatment of the Gospel during this Christmas season, but I got distracted by this song so we’ll push that discussing back a bit.

December 3, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at a contemporary Christmas song by Nichole Nordeman called “Real”. This song is beautifully sung… and poetically written. It stands apart from most of the holiday sugar-pop that plays in shopping malls and diners… this song attempts to look beyond the commercialism and the hype to the “real meaning of Christmas”. How does it fare? I find myself in a quandary, on the one hand we need a lot more serious Christmas songs; on the other hand, we need Christmas songs that proclaim the Truth, not some fanciful re-envisioned version of history shaped to tug on our heart-strings.

The story of Jesus’ Birth is real. There were witnesses. We have the history recorded in Scripture. You don’t have to imagine the facts, you just have to read and believe them. There are cases where our imagination can help us understand the facts, but our imagination doesn’t get to rewrite them. If you are caught up in the false spirit of Christmas, and this song helped wake you up, Praise the Lord… but don’t stop there… read the real account, recorded in Luke 1-2 & Matthew 1-2.

Nichole Nordeman VEVO Video

“A Walk One Winter Night” by Al Andrews

I shared the second video because it was credited as the inspiration for Nichole Nordeman’s song “Real”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to my readers, that I object to the premise of this song. I find it odd, even frustrating, that a song purporting to correct the listener’s misconceptions of Mary, or the night of Jesus’ birth would be inspired by a work of fiction, itself also containing some misconceptions of the manger, the “inn”, and those who were present on that night. Do we really need to turn to works of fiction to realize the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is that where we are as a Church today? For the vast majority of Western Evangelicalism… the answer is “yes”. Pulpits are replaced by performance stages, and Pastors no longer preach the Word of God, they preach their own ideas, their own fantasies, their own fiction… and people flock to them, because their fiction is so “relevant” to them, so “real”. We’ve traded what is REAL for what we want to hear. 

Lyrics (via MetroLyrics)

Real

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary’s babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much too clean
We might think we know you well
But what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt and dust and shame
Everybody burning labour pain

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don’t turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I’ll show you what it means to love like this
To be real

Shepherds bending to the ground
Bethlehem is safe and sound
Joseph you look brave and true
Do we know what it was like to be you
How many sleepless nights awake
Found you desperate and afraid

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don’t turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I’ll show you what it means to love like this
To love like you don’t even care about the hurry and the hustle
Like you are unaware December comes with so much trouble
‘Cause you believe a baby came, not in paintings or in plays
But every minute, every hour, every day
To be real, real

You are real, real

Show us what it means to love like this
To be real
To be real

More than a memory
More than a story
Real

Read more: Nichole Nordeman – Real Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Discussion

Both the book and the song it inspired engage in mystical fiction. Statues don’t talk and Mary and Joseph are not speaking to anyone today, much less for direct revelation. Evangelicalism is awash in mysticism today, so I feel it necessary to point this fact out explicitly.

Once we get past the feel-good revelation of, “hey, this isn’t just a holiday with lawn decorations, this is about a real story that took place”… the songs lyrics have some troubling elements. Why is Mary begging to be real to the observer? Mary is begging to be real to the observer in exchange for her demonstrating to the observer what it means to love like this. So, Mary wants to be real so that she can demonstrate her love. Mary is pointing to Mary? No. Mary would be pointing to Jesus. We don’t need Mary as an intermediary to Jesus. Mary isn’t the point of the story, Jesus is.

There are some details in the song that are good and even interesting to ponder, like what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph to have been visited by the shepherds, and their story of seeing the angelic host. I’m sure Mary and Joseph had many a sleepless night, as with any first-time parents in the first century.

Conclusion

The key to not letting the Gospel fade into memory or myth, is to have it preached from the Word of God on a regular basis. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, not by having your heartstrings plucked by some work of fiction. Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season. Jesus took on the form of man for one reason, to live a life we couldn’t live and pay a price we couldn’t pay so that we can have a forgiveness we don’t deserve.  That’s the Grace of God found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Be One” by Natalie Grant

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

December 01, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Be One” by Natalie Grant which currently sits at #15 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

While we kept this song in the “middle ground” today, it could just as easily have earned a disapproval. The Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) Industry is very excited about Natalie Grant’s new album. Releasing this single just before the Christmas season is a smart marketing move. She’s been on morning talk shows and performed this first single a few times on TV (I saw the one on Fox and Friends). It’s a Law-heavy song urging the listener to good works. For any good to come from this song, we must do the work of reminding ourselves and others of the Gospel and Christ’s work in us that produces good works the song is calling for, and we also need to address some of the wording. I simply ask you , the reader/listener, to do the work of a Berean in this case and decide for yourselves.

Natlie Grant Official Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

Be One

We don’t feel ready, we don’t feel steady
Question what we really have to give

Stay where it’s safer, claim faith but waiver
Is this how we’re really meant to live

We pray but never move
We say but never do

(chorus)
It’s time to get our hands dirty
oh oh, oh oh
Be love – there’s a whole lot of hurting
oh oh, oh oh
Calling all hearts, Calling all hands
Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
When we can be one, When we can be one , When we can be one

A little somethin’ might feel like nothin’
But in His hands it’s all we’ll ever need

To speak life to the broken
Watch the blind eyes open
It’s who He’s calling you and me to be

We can be the change – be the hope
We can be the arms that don’t let go
We can be a light in the dark
We are we are where it starts

(chorus)

We can be the light in the dark
We can be the arms that don’t let go

Publishing: © 2015 SeeSeeBubba Songs (SESAC) (admin. by Music Services)/ Maxx Melodies (SESAC)/BMG Platinum Songs (BMI)/Takin It To The Maxx (BMI) All Rights Administered By BMG Rights Management (US) LLC/ WB Music Corp./ Thankful for This Music (ASCAP) All rights admin. by WB Music Corp. (ASCAP) All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Writer(s): Natalie Grant / Sam Mizell / Becca Mizell / Emily Weisband

Discussion

The resounding theme of this song is be a miracle for someone else. Let’s start today’s discussion by first acknowledging the ways this song can be good. Our first challenge will be to reshape the notion of “being a miracle for someone else” into something more Biblically sound. Let’s look at how Jesus summarized the Law.

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

So, the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. This song is an attempt to call the listener to keep this commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a good call, for it is Lawful. It is indeed a good work to love our neighbor as ourselves… the only problem is that we fail this commandment continuously. For this song to have stood on its own, it needed a clear reminder of the greatest commandment and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Okay, so we’ll address some problems in the target audience of this song in a minute, but for now let’s assume the intended audience is professing Christians. One could connect the thrust of this song to the Epistle of James.

James 1:16-27 (ESV) | Hearing and Doing the Word

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 2:1-17 (ESV) | The Sin of Partiality

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

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.

Now we need to address where the song falls short. Notice that the focus of Jame’s writing is on the faith of the reader. Is James talking about creating a cascade of miracles throughout society? No. He’s saying that a genuine faith will produce works… the faith will produce works. If it doesn’t, whatever faith is being claimed is a dead one. The core of the problem of a lack of works isn’t effort, it’s faith. James rebukes the sin of showing partiality within the body of Christ, and then he makes the case that a genuine, saving faith will produce good works. James goes on to warn us to control our tongues and to avoid worldliness. He doesn’t come back around to any notion of being a miracle for other people in order to shore up your faith… because that would be works-based righteousness, which is NOT in keeping with the Gospel of Grace.

The biggest problem with this song is that anyone could meet the call of the song (on occasion) without having any positive impact on their faith or in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every false religion teaches a works-based righteousness, and most of them push something akin to the good works being promoted in this song… the idea of being the miracle for someone else. Even atheist humanism preaches this sort of good work, while denouncing those who sit around and wait for a miracle to come. This song isn’t pointing to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, it is pointing to the listener saying “be a miracle”… “do something good”. Frankly, I debated disapproving the song because of this… and my only rational for not doing it is because I could see the attempt at echoing the Epistle of James in the song, though it didn’t quite make it.

Another problem with this song is the odd call to be a miracle for someone else. God isn’t calling you to be a miracle, but to be a neighbor. The idea of being a miracle is doing something out of the ordinary, something supernatural, but that simply isn’t our charge nor calling. We are called to be set apart by the Spirit of God, and to love and forgiven our neighbors as Christ first loved and forgave us. I’m so sick of the purpose-driven, prosperity drivel that denigrates everyday living and serving our neighbors in our mundane jobs as something “less than”… God’s word tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, not “be their savior”. You don’t have to be a super star, or do something really big… love your neighbor as yourself. Sure, there are times when God places a need before us that calls for something big, but His desire is that we love our neighbor in between those big events, too. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to give your neighbor a car or a kidney… begin by extending grace, a word of comfort, and encouragement, or forgiveness. Our good works must point others to the Grace of God… for the moment it points to ourselves it ceases being a good work.

Conclusion

Dear Christian, you were called to repentance and forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He loved you, He lived a perfect life where you could not, He gave His Life to pay the price for you that you couldn’t pay, and He rose again so that in Him you might have everlasting Life. It’s Christ’s work for you and in you and through you. Place your faith and trust in Him, and love others as you have been loved by Him, forgive others as you have been forgiven by Him. God isn’t asking you to be a miracle for someone else, He’s asking you to share the good news of the miracle of Salvation with your neighbor… preach the Gospel, love your neighbor, repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Alone (Feat. TRU)” by Hollyn

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

November 24, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Alone (Feat. TRU)” by Hollyn which currently sits at #7 on the Air1’s Top 10.

We’ve covered all of the songs on the Klove top 10 and 20theCountdownMagazine charts. Today we are looking to Air1’s Top 10 chart. What we have here is another “wooing your boyfriend song”, and the only one who mentions Jesus is the featured rapper, TRU. This song is a trainwreck. Let’s get this over with.

Hollyn Official Lyric Video

Lyrics (via Air1)

Alone (Feat. TRU)

Fell for you first day that I met you
Never dreamed that I ever could forget you
But black and white make a mess
When it turn to grey

Sunlight came sweepin’ cross the window
Rewind to the time when we were so close
Got me longin’ for yesterday

But Lord You, know me, so well
I can be a little punk sometimes

But don’t leave me, leave me alone
Bust down the door to my heart like it’s Your home
Don’t need no keys
I’m on my knees
Begging You please
I’ve gotta settle this thing once and for all
You got my heart my soul You can have it all
I’m on my knees
Beggin’ You please
Beggin’ You please, Lord
Don’t leave me alone

Through the tears, through the pain comes a new day
Blown away still amazed You pursue me
Ain’t no limit to the way You love

Don’t stop
Lord I need You like a heartbeat
Concrete
Rock solid under my feet
And You’re callin’ me You’re callin’ me up

[Rap Lyric]
I said You had me in your arms but I fell through the grasp
But yep I had You in my heart but I guess I relapsed
Like I’m livin’ for the wrong reasons, through the seasons
Tryna fall for you but then they put me on blast
It’s like I try to speak my mind because I know that I’m His
And yep I try to speak my mind but it don’t fly with them kids
Man if I’m not talkin’ bout the newest Nikes or releases
They put the mute on me
I can’t speak about my Jesus?
Like I’m living for Him
I’m slippin to sin
I turn around and make the amends
I try to fit it
I mess it up and stumble again
I’m takin’ this pen
And writing everything so I remember just how sweet that it is
Yeah man I got issues I can’t even lie
My only saving grace is knowing I got You inside
I’m done with (saving face) I ain’t gotta thing to hide
So don’t leave me alone
Keep coming day and night

Don’t leave me leave me alone
Bust down the door to my heart
Lord it’s Your home

Written by Holly Miller, Toby McKeehan, Bryan Fowler, Truett McKeehan.

© 2015 Capitol CMG Paragon/Songs of Gotee (BMI), Capitol CMG Genesis/Christopher Stevens Designee (ASCAP), Achtober Songs (BMI), Offwite Creative (BMI) all administrated at CapitolCMGPublishing.com. Produced & Mixed by Bryan Fowler for fabmusic.

Discussion

First, let’s scan through the lyrics sung by Hollyn (skipping the rap portion for now) and everywhere you see “Lord” in bold, replace it with “baby” or “boy”. And just like that, you have a Pop40 love/makeup song. That’s a big problem, because the message of wooing your boyfriend/girlfriend does NOT mirror our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So, epic fail on this point. Jesus is not your boyfriend or bearded girlfriend. 

The artist is describing a feeling we all know but using all of the wrong words to do it. Probably because her theology isn’t rooted and grounded in the Written Word of God. Confessing that “I can be a little punk sometimes” is a whitewash of the truth, that we are sinners deserving of destruction. That even when we’ve been regenerated by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ, our flesh is still corrupt and we still sin. Our flesh is week, but through faith in Christ Jesus we hold onto the Promise of the forgiveness of sin and being resurrected into eternal life as heirs and joint heirs with Christ by His Blood. This song doesn’t convey that truth of God’s Word. Instead, this song presents the notion that we need to woo God not to leave us, like the boy/girlfriend who has finally “had it” with us and is threatening to leave.

The closes this song gets to pointing to a remotely Christian message comes in the rap portion performed by TRU. Again we see a lack of understanding of our sinner/saint duality while we walk this earth in corrupted flesh. That leaves a very anemic understanding of sin and grace that will inevitably lead to a man-centric, works-based approach to repentance and the forgiveness of sin. As we see in the lines “I guessed I relapsed… tryna fall for you… I turn around and make the amends”. That’s not the Gospel of Grace, that is a recipe for penance and works-based religion. We aren’t tryna fall in love with God… either we’ve been saved by Grace, or we remain enemies of God.

I find the line “I can’t speak about my Jesus” particularly frustrating. Why? This is an entire song, produced and published by a promoter of “Christian Music”, that has made its way to the top 10 of a “positive hits station” and the only line about Jesus is the line talking about how the artist is supposedly not allowed to speak about Him. Seriously? This entire song is squandered specifically because you AREN’T speaking/singing about Jesus. As is typical of mainstream rap/hip-hop, the artist isn’t “being real”, he’s merely addressing a caricature of reality that fits beat and fills the out the stanza. Even in that pseudo-complaint about being muted… the focus is on him and his career as a performer, not on preaching the Gospel to the lost and the hurting.

When we lack the proper understanding of the war that wages within Christians between our fallen flesh and the Spirit, we are left completely vulnerable to a man-centric religion of works. The book of Galatians is addressed the Judaizing heresy which sought to enslave Christians of the New Covenant of faith by the Blood of Jesus back under the Mosaic Covenant. Is the Law evil? No, but its purpose isn’t to prove your righteousness; rather, it is to prove your unrighteousness and need for a Savior, Jesus Christ. The Promise of Salvation is a gift from God. He opens our eyes and ears to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He grants us faith.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

He seals us with His Holy Spirit, safeguarding us in Christ Jesus until the Day of Resurrection

Acts 2:37-39 (ESV)

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

We are not yet made perfect in body, for we still live in corrupted flesh and walk this corrupted earth. We still have to deal our sinful nature, not by works, but by faith.

1 John 1 (ESV) | The Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

It is by faith alone, that we are made righteous before God. And that faith does produce good works, but the good works that flow from the Gospel of Jesus Christ are not to make amends to God, or to prove to God our love for Him, or to “give Him our hearts” as suggested in this song… our good works are to serve our neighbors.

Galatians 5:1-14 (ESV) | Christ Has Set Us Free

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Dear Christian, stop stabbing blindly in the dark at some form of penance, or good work that will finally grant you rest… rest can only be found by faith in Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Repent daily, forgive and love your neighbor, and trust God to carry you through the Resurrection by His power and might, not yours.

Conclusion

I’m very disappointed in this song and its position on Air1’s charts. I used to listen to Air1 all the time… but so little of what they play and promote is sound Christianity. Society has completely screwed up the concept of marriage and sexual fidelity. Society has a perverse view of dating and courtship. The last thing we should be doing is taking a carnal dating song and trying to make it fit the Gospel. Jesus is not your boo. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Revelation 22 (ESV)
The River of Life

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Jesus Is Coming

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge