DiM | “Call It Grace” by Unspoken

Presentation1CCM Radio Edition.

April 28, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Call It Grace” by Unspoken which currently sits at #17 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

This song is better than the most of what I’ve been hearing on CCM Radio. This week the better of our local stations is doing their fundraising (sidenote: stop assuming that everything you do as a radio station is “spreading the Gospel”… the Gospel is infrequently articulated and absent from the majority of the music being played) so I’ve had the radio tuned to Air1. Wow, they’ve gone full seeker-mergent-nonsense with Tony Campolo and Levi Lusko getting airtime for their moralistic deism posing as Christianity. This song is on the better end of the “listen with Discernment” spectrum, but the problems in the song were enough to make granting an “approval” unsettling for me. Let’s take a look/listen.

UnspokenVEVO

 

Lyrics (via LyricsBox)

It’s the light that pierces through you
To the darkest hidden place
It knows your deepest secrets
But it never looks away
It’s the gentle hand that pulls you
From the judgement of the crowd
When you stand before them guilty
And you got no way out

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues, it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that took our place
Just call it what it is, call it grace
Call it grace

It’s the breath that’s breathing new life
Into what we thought was dead
It’s the favor that takes orphans
Placing crowns upon their heads
It’s the hope for our tomorrows
The rock on which we stand
It’s a strong and mighty fortress
Even Hell can’t stand against

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues, it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that took our place
Just call it what it is, call it grace
Call it grace
Call it grace

Amazing, unshaking
This is grace, this is grace
Unchanging, unfailing
This is grace, this is grace

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues, it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that That Jesus took our place
Oh call it what it is, just call it what it is
Call it grace

Discussion

Okay, so the best thing going for this song comes by way of what may have been an ad-lib after the bridge, you’ll see above where I crossed out what is in the posted lyrics and wrote in the ad-lib. Here, we have a Gospel nugget, but it’s not presented well and it comes very late in the song. The biggest problem with this lyric is the pronoun game and the treatment of God’s Grace as a thing unto itself. This is common for an evangelicalism that is steeped in Star Wars Christianity where Faith is like the Force and Grace can be an opportunity, or Love, or a second chance, etc.

The Pronoun Game. Were it not for the ad-lib, the “it” of the song would have no direct object. Whatever “it” is… apparently cannot be known directly, it has to be experienced in some way and then that experience… well, let’s just Call It Grace. We’ll assume that’s what grace is… whatever “it” is in the song. Now, we do have that last ad-lib connecting “a love that took our place” with the Name of Jesus. That’s a Gospel nugget. Took our place where? What did it mean when He took our place? Why did He take our place? What does this mean for me? None of these questions gets any sort of answer in the lyric of the song. The song just poetically hints at experiences it assumes the listener will be able to piece together. That’s not sharing the Gospel, folks… that’s being vaguely spiritual-ish. We’ll work through some of the hints at scripture, and we’ll see that reading the Actual Scripture gives so much more clarity than these paltry hints. And here’s the thing… as with most of the songs that fall in our middle-category, only those whose doctrine is sound and scripturally rich have any chance of being edified by these vague works of art… most will walk away clouded, confused, and leavened.

Starting with the ad-lib rescue, let’s look to the best place in Scripture where we can see the answer to what it means to have Jesus take our place, and we’ll pull from Romans 5.

Romans 5:6-9 (ESV) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Immediately, we get to our second point, too, being that the song talks about grace as a thing unto itself apart from God. But notice that is not how the Apostle Paul talks about the Grace and Love of God. It’s personal. He loved us by dying for us in our place for our sins. We could go to a few places, but let’s look to Paul’s intro in his letter to the Galatians because it will help connect these points to the next point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:1-10  (ESV) | Greeting

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospelnot that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Now, in this specific context Paul is most concerned about the Judaising heresy, one which sought to compel Gentile believers to convert to Judaism in order to be (or to prove they truly were) Christians. This heresy hasn’t gone away, we still have various hebrew-roots and torah-observant legalists running around, but we also have the non-jewish versions like theonomy and moralistic therapeutic deism. While these errors are not in today’s song lyric (yay!) the sterile treatment of Grace as a thing unto itself drives a wedge between the blessings of the Grace of God and the God from Whom that Grace flows. That wedge creates a gap that is easily filled by false religion of works.

I don’t see any upside to treating the Grace of God separately from God Himself. There is no benefit, no edifying purpose in it. In my view, it only presents a pitfall.

Now, lets work through the vague hints toward scripture found in the verses.

Verse 1. The picture of rescue in this paragraph doesn’t demonstrate the message of Salvation, because our condemnation wasn’t before the world, it was before God. We sinned against God and were dead in our sins and trespasses from birth. I think this verse is pulling more from the pericope adulterae:

John 7:53-8:11 (ESV) | [The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.]
The Woman Caught in Adultery

[[They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her,“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

As you can see in the note pulled from the ESV (and other good translations), there is a concern regarding this account. It is absent from the earliest copies of the Gospels entirely, and the copies that have the story aren’t always in the same place, or even the same Gospel. It’s included, but with a strong caveat here. While nothing in this section directly contradicts scriptures, taking this narrative passage and building theology from it is strongly discouraged. If we keep it in the text, we must keep it submitted to the rest of Scripture. Jesus didn’t forgive here because there were no accusers left, He forgave her. The scribes and Pharisees were not misinterpreting the Law of Moses, and Jesus didn’t argue what the Law commanded, He instead argued that He alone was just to judge the woman… and He forgave her. What the song ends up doing with this clouded passage is somehow make all of us the woman caught in adultery, and Grace rescues us from all who judge us… but it’s clunky in its vagueness. God doesn’t slip us away from the judgement seat, we stand before Him, accused by the devil and we are indeed guilty before God. So, the Gospel isn’t us being whisked away… it’s Jesus standing before us, taking our punishment in our place and imputing His righteousness onto us, so that we might bear the Righteousness of God the Son while standing in the sight of God the Father.

Chorus. Okay, so the chorus plays in the wiggle room left by the pronoun game. Some may call it foolish and impossible is probably a reference to Paul’s letters referring to the Message of the Cross. Remember the rescue mechanic for “it” was Jesus, but here they are using “it” to refer to the message of the Cross.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV) | Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

This passage is also where we get the idea that the Gospel of the Grace of God is a scandalous one… the notion that God would save us in this way, by faith in what He has done, and not in something we have to earn or make up for. It’s not a terrible reference, just a vague one… mostly due to the poor pronoun game. We preach the word of the cross, we preach Christ and Him crucified… and the world thinks it foolish, to their own destruction. Sadly, the song doesn’t actually preach it… it hints at it.

The second verse has the same issues of vagueness, pronoun play, and treating salvation as a result of a Grace somewhat separated from the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. There is a reference to Salvation as being adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. But it focuses too much on the outcome (blessings) of that adoption while skipping over the means of that adoption, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:1-14 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

I hope that once you read through how the Apostle Paul wrote of the Gospel in several letters, it becomes more clear why I take such an issue with the sterilization or isolation of the concept of “grace” apart from the Triune God who Saves.

Conclusion

I think this song is okay, but too vague and open for misinterpretation. The pronoun-game without a clear object is a pitfall that really should be avoided in writing, even artistic expressions of the Gospel. As with most of the songs coming out of CCM, we need more Gospel. Not just for the unbelievers that they might be granted saving faith, but also for the believers who need to grow and be encouraged in their Faith. That doesn’t come by artistic introspection or contemplation… faith only comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17).

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 | “Good Fight” by Unspoken

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

April 14, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Good Fight” by Unspoken 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.

Today’s song is presented as a song of encouragement. The singer in the song is cheering the listener on. At points, though, the singer seems to be God but not quite. Ultimately, this song seems to have inverted our relationship with God making it about God supporting our fight and our struggles (in general) rather than us preaching and teaching His Word. The “good fight” isn’t defined in this song. The point of the song isn’t the fight, but a generic appeal to perseverance and a blanket “you’re gonna make it” so keep striving.

VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Good Fight by Unspoken

Until you stop breathing, till you stop bleeding
Until your heart stops kick drum beating
When it’s hard times, when it’s long days
And the enemy is right up in your face
When your back’s against the ropes
And you’re feeling all alone

(chorus)
Keep fighting the good fight (never give up never give in)
Keep letting your light shine (holding it high as long as you live)
‘Cause I’m never gonna leave you
Always gonna see you through to the other side
Keep fighting the good, fighting the good
Fighting the good fight, good fight

Even in the roadblocks, even through the rough spots
When you feel you’re giving all that you got
I’m with you in the next step, giving you the next breath
I’ll be the voice saying you’re gonna make it
When you’re out there on you’re own
You are never alone

(chorus)

Just keep on singing, keep on dancing
Joy will be your banner and my love will be your anthem
You may never know what your tomorrow holds
But you can know that I am holding your tomorrow

Keep fighting the good fight
Keep letting your light shine

(chorus)

Publishing: © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing (ASCAP) / Tyrus Music (ASCAP)
Writer(s): Jon Lowry / Chad Mattson / Tyrus Morgan

Discussion

The perspective of the one singing the song is difficult for me to nail down. The chorus, second verse, and the Bridge seem to be speaking from God’s perspective, but the first verse doesn’t. The first verse is a form of personal commentary, describing our life as some epic struggle. Who is the enemy? Whose enemy? If this is one person encouraging another person, okay… but if this is God singing, it just doesn’t seem to fit. The overall focus of the song is too fixed onto the individual, the listener. I think that is the song’s fatal flaw, it urges the hearer to focus on themselves, their struggle, their fight, their perseverance, their works without a clear Gospel message of “It is Finished”. The song’s focus is upside down. While there are elements of truth offered (we are never alone, God holds our tomorrow, and each breath we breathe is by His grace) they are stacked in the wrong order… with us at the top.

The “good fight” is undefined. It’s left completely open to the interpretation of the hearer. So, while the song has a “keep fighting the good fight” push, in not defining what the good fight is it leaves the listener to define it for themselves and then be encouraged in it. Is every fight/struggle/trial “good”?

Fighting the Good Fight

Our text for understanding this phrase will be 1 Timothy. I encourage you, dear reader, to spend some time today or in the next couple of days just reading through it as a single letter rather than broken up into chapters and sub-headings. The Apostle Paul is sending instructions and encouragement to Timothy, because he will have to carry on Paul’s ministry without him very soon. Let that sink in… Paul isn’t just commenting on matters of the church, he is providing guidance that will last beyond his death, guidance from God the Holy Spirit about how the Church will continue after the Lord has issued the upward call for Paul. I’m going to focus on a few passages that lead up to what Paul’s charge for Timothy to fight the good fight. This will be, as it were, a fly over of 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:1-7 (ESV) | Warning Against False Teachers

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

After greeting Timothy, Paul dive right into the need to address false teaching. This issue is at the top of the to-do list, and it comes by way of reminder. Paul had already told Timothy when he was going to Macedonia, and now it is the first issue he addresses in his letter. This is of utmost importance. People have wandered away from sound doctrine and stewardship from God that is by faith. They’ve devoted themselves to myths (Jewish myths, Ancient Greek myths, Gnosticism, Stoicism, etc) endless genealogies (again, Jewish myths), and ultimately making confident assertions about things of which they have no understanding.

1 Timothy 1 (cont..) Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Here we see our first charge to Timothy to wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. Timothy is to take up Paul’s charge that Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. What is that good warfare? Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the sinners lost in unbelief that they might find Faith, repentance, forgiveness, and new life in Christ Jesus. The next portions of this letter start addressing conduct in the church, leadership, and worship.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV) | Pray for All People
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

He goes on to instruct how we are to pray and then gives instructions regarding general conduct and leadership roles in general. In Chapter 3, Paul gives specific instructions on Overseers (Elders) and Deacons. After which, Paul now take some time to remind Timothy of the purpose of his letter.

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (ESV) | The Mystery of Godliness
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God,a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

And so, again, what we see here is Paul’s central focus on the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the mystery of godliness. And, again, Paul shifts to give Timothy clear warning regarding false doctrines.

1 Timothy 4:1-11 (ESV) | Some Will Depart from the Faith
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11 Command and teach these things.

In Chapter 5, Paul gives specific instructions on matter of conduct within the church, how to treat the older men and women with respect, the care for widows and honor for elders. This portion carries over into the beginning of Chapter 6, where Paul addresses those who are under the yoke as bondservants. This is a continuation of what is being taught in Chapter 5, but we’ll pick up here:

1 Timothy 6 (ESV)
6 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.

False Teachers and True Contentment
Teach and urge these things.3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Fight the Good Fight of Faith
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession*, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Grace be with you.

It is clear that Paul’s charge to fight the good fight is to preach the Gospel, unstained and free from reproach, until the day of Christ’s return. So, is winning lawsuits or exposing the hypocrisy of the unbelievers “fighting the good fight”? Is championing affirmative action, or second amendment rights what Paul would consider “the good fight”? Is being accepted into a pagan society or having your Religious Preference honored by unbelievers “fighting the good fight”? While some of these things can be argued as “good”, these are not what Paul charged Timothy with in fighting the good fight. Preaching the Gospel to sinners, rebuking false teachers, and building up the Church, the Body of Christ, in sound doctrine, Resisting the doctrines of demons, myths, and false “knowledge” of this world… this is the good fight.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Start a Fire” by Unspoken

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.

Well, it looks like 20theCountdownMagazine is the most reliably updated music chart. Let’s take a look at the #3 song “Start a Fire” by Unspoken.

Music Video

Lyrics (via Soundlyrics.com)

This world can be cold and bitter
Feels like we’re in the dead of winter
Waiting on something better
But am I really gonna hide forever?

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
Let Your light shine, let Your light shine for all to see

(Chorus)
Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me

You only need a spark to start a whole blaze
It only takes a little faith
Let it start right here in this city
So these old walls will never be the same

Over and over again
I hear Your voice in my head
They need to know
I need to go
Spirit wont you fall on my heart now

(Chorus)

You are the fire You are the flame
You are the light on the darkest day
We have the hope we bear Your name
We carry the news that You have come to save
Only You can save

(Chorus)

The song is very catchy and motivational. The chorus is presented as a prayer or an anthem for the church to rally around something. It’s steeped in analogy without clarity.

Positive Elements

This song seems to be pulling from a couple of Biblical references, but only by borrowing the imagery of the analogies. The first is that of being a light of the world.

Matthew 5:1-16 (ESV) | The Sermon on the Mount
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Philippians 2:12-18 (ESV) | Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Jesus first spoke to the crowd in the Sermon on the mount, and notice He was declaring the Jews to be the city on a hill. He goes on to say that unless your righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees you will not see the Kingdom of Heaven. What gives? Well, Jesus is pointing out that as God’s chosen people, they were entrusted with the Law and the Prophets, the Word of God, given to man as a testimony of who He is. That the Law and the Prophets all point to Jesus as the Messiah. This is what Paul is pointing to in Philippians when he reminds them they are to shine as lights in the world. God is the light. Christ in us is the light of the world, He does the work (Solus Christus) and grants us the will to do the work for His good pleasure (Soli Deo Gloria).

This might be a bit generous, but when the song points to “letting my light shine” I’m assuming it is prompting the listener to do good works, so that others will see these good works and give Glory to God (NOT glory to us). However, we must understand that both the will to do the good works and the good works themselves are not from us, but from God the Holy Spirit, for our flesh works against the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). I believe that is what is meant by the first line in the chorus being “start a fire in my soul”.

The strongest point in the song is in the bridge, when we get the Gospel nugget of “we carry the news that You have come to save, only You can save”.

Concerns

The speaker and audience of the song flip-flop oddly, so the verses are a bit disjointed. If the singer is hearing the voice of God in his head, saying “let your light shine”, why is the message so cryptic? I try to be flexible on the artistic license thing for poetry and song lyrics, but we live in an age of the visible church where everyone seems perfectly comfortable saying things “in the Name of the Lord” without any discernment or fear of blasphemy.

I don’t like the line “they need to know, I need to go, Spirit won’t you fall on my heart now”. When combined with the request for God to start a fire within us, it seems to overlook the truth that the Holy Spirit is living within us as a promise for those who believe in Jesus as the Christ. Yes there are times when the Holy Spirit stirs us and grants Spiritual Gifts for His purposes in our lives, His presence is enough for us to do the works He has laid before us, namely, preaching the Gospel. Is it wrong to ask that God the Holy Spirit to move our hearts? No. I just don’t like leaving room for “presence” theology or for Christians to act like unless “the Spirit moves them” they don’t know what they should be doing.

2 Timothy 3:16 – 4:5 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work. 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The Chorus is an exaggerated call for emotional excitement.  The soul is sometimes a reference to our spiritual being, but it is more often a reference to the seat of our emotions, or our fleshly being. There is a lot of attention being given to the lighting of a fire, a spark to set a whole blaze, fanning into flames, and burn so brightly that all around can see. But this is all imagery… for what? What does it look like to have the Holy Spirit burning brightly within us? Let’s look to scripture.

2 Corinthians 4:1-15 (ESV) | The Light of the Gospel
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

As a motivational song, the goal is to “pump the audience up” to feel something in their hearts and souls to motivate them… to be a light. Paul points to what we preach, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, after writing this portion based solely on the lyrics, I thought I’d check out the video. I take issue with the video’s implication that somehow going to work faithfully, steadily, and dutifully was somehow hiding (first verse). That this fire being lit in our spirit will undoubtedly mean leaving our jobs (in the middle of work, like with the bike mechanic) because they just need to know that we have better things to do. Is that what Scripture teaches? Yes, Jesus personally called His disciples and they left their nets. Is that what all Christians are called to do? Paul taught otherwise, as did Peter, when they talked about bondservants serving their masters as if their service was to the Lord.

Conclusion

I’m starting to think that vagueness or self-motivation is what makes a song rise in the charts, even the Christian charts. This song doesn’t deal with repentance, and while there is a gospel nugget in there, it is not the focus, the focus is us “burning”. Obedience to the Scriptures and the Great Commission isn’t always going to be a “felt need”. The song is mostly just fluff, icing without a cake, gravy without biscuits or mashed potato. This song allows room for a discussion regarding the problems with seeker-mergent philosophy, by sharing what Scripture says (as I did above), but for the most part I’d just skip the song entirely. It is catchy, and well sung/played, but now that I’ve seen the video I’m all sorts of unimpressed by it. It falls under the “you can change the world” pep talk, really, ignoring that “you” cannot do anything and that Christ has already done it all, and “the world” is perishing and the role of the Church is to preach the Gospel to those in the world so that they might repent and come out of it.

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