Seduction of Christian Music
Introduction: This article is written so that people will not continue to get hurt by things that happen outside of God's will and righteousness in "Christian Music". The purpose of God's principles is always... love for man. He revealed His purposes to us to keep us happy, fulfilled, and living an abundant life in fellowship with Him. When people don't follow His principles, not only does it hurt them, but it can devastate others.
My heart breaks as I share thoughts in the following article. Not that Terry and I are perfect or always make the right choices, by any means, but, when Luther stood up against the organized and corrupt church and proclaimed that we were saved by grace alone, he wasn't being self-centered or arrogant. On the contrary, he was standing up for truth and freedom for the people that corruption was devastating. Truth was the only thing that could free the people from their bondage to corrupt "Christians". Many atrocities and injustices have been done in Christ's name throughout the centuries, and we must stand against sin, knowing we too are weak, but yet remain dedicated to God and following His Word at ALL costs.
As A.W. Tozer once wrote, unity and peace in the body of Christ is not always right. When sin enters any church or system, we must not follow the crowd just for the sake of peace. As Tozer saw the church corrupt itself by making peace at all costs, he said, "Truth is slain to provide a feast to celebrate the marriage of heaven and hell!" This misunderstanding about unity should not be allowed to continue to soil the garments of the bride of Christ!
Please know that I don't view myself as the righteous and those I mention in this article (unnamed) as the sinners. I am a sinner too ...thank God, saved by His grace through faith... but we must call each other into account as we represent our precious Savior and stop tolerating known and continual sin in the body of Christ... simply by calling it "mercy" or "unity"... especially among ambassadors of Christ through high profile "ministries". So, here it is...
I. Ministry vs. Entertainment
Terry and I approached the fairgrounds gate about 2 hours before we were to appear in concert. We were the Sunday afternoon Gospel Presentation at a local county fair. Since were usually singing for churches, this was a bit out of the ordinary for us. We weren't used to singing across from hot dog stands and Ferris wheels, but our 2 boys, Tyler and Travis, were delighted. And, of course, we had our fill of fun after the work was done that afternoon!
As we arrived at the entrance and stopped at the guard station, Terry said, Were the entertainers for this afternoon, where do we go to set up? The attendant directed us, and Terry proceeded to the main show tent. As we began in that direction, Travis protested immediately, Daddy, were not ENTERTAINERS...why did you say were entertainers?! Were ministers! We were amazed that he was so indignant and I answered calmly, Honey, WE know were ministers, but THEY think were entertainers. That's why daddy said that.
What impressionable little hearts! Terry and I have expressed many times to our boys that we are called by God to minister, not to entertain. Not that we don't enjoy entertainment. But there is a big difference! And I don't believe the difference is clear enough...especially to those of us who are in Christian music. Terry and I are the first ones to say, We've had to learn the hard way!
In the following pages, Id like to share some issues of discernment the Lord has taught us. Although I relate everything back to Christian music and those involved in it in one form or another, it can apply to many aspects of our lives in the Lord. As we look at these concerns, my prayer is the same as the Apostle Paul's for every Christian reading this article: that God would give us...the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:18), because these truths are not discernable apart from the Holy Spirits enlightenment.
I remember Terry and I coming to a very large and nationally well-respected church that, to most people, would be considered highly successful. We had heard some criticism about them, but we passed it off, wanting to believe the best of such a thriving ministry. Besides, we were honored they wanted us to sing for them, and it was certainly good for our resume. Bad move.
They were certainly picky about what they wanted us to sing. Then it became clear that they had very specific ideas of what we should and shouldn't say, and even the clothing we should wear (including the exact earrings!). Although we were a bit miffed, we honored all their requests, trying to please them. Perhaps we were even more willing to comply because of what we thought we were GAINING by being a part of their ministry...until we began to discern a few problems...
After the whole uncomfortable event was over and we began to analyze the presentation and content of the service, we realized we had egg on our face. We had bent over backwards and compromised for people that used us for their own selfish purposes and they didn't even have a Godly, Biblical message or goals! In fact, it became clear by the end that their teachings actually flew right in the face of the main core thrust of OUR ministry's message.
We felt deceived and violated. We had seemingly publicly condoned this ministry by joining them, and now we couldn't undo or explain our ignorance. The blunder was our own fault. We should have listened to the gentle and loving prodding of others we knew were godly and spiritually wise. The amazing thing was that we had made similar mistakes at an earlier occasion, but still fell into the trap.
Numerous principles were reiterated in our hearts through this situation and other experiences we've had, and I really want you to grasp them! They are life-giving truths from the Word of God that will keep us all out of not just these minor pitfalls within Christian music, but some of the more dangerous traps as well!
Preliminary Words of Wisdom Regarding Approval of Man:
#1) Don't bank on the majority being right!
Just because you've won the hearts of the crowds doesn't mean you're on track with God. In the same way, just because you aren't publicly well-known, doesn't reflect the value or validity of what you are doing. CROWDS ARE FICKLE!! Who knows this better than Jesus himself? The same people that sang Hosanna!, shouted Crucify him! just a week later. In fact, after Paul had been in the ministry for many years and had gained a great deal of wisdom and experience, he said in II Timothy 3:12, Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Our only true gauge for what's right is the Word of God and its principles, along with the Holy Spirits genuine leading. This can only come with quality and quantity prayer and study of Gods Word. Hebrews 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates
even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. And even Jesus himself had to get away alone to seek the fathers will (e.g. Matthew 14:22-31). How much more must WE have this need?!!
The popular way to go may likely be a different direction than where God will lead you. Follow Jesus, not the crowds! Even Jesus lost most of His followers at one point in His ministry. When He said, Eat my body and drink my blood. The crowds left Him and even the disciples were struggling! How much more will we be unpopular at times when we hear and obey God.
#2) Watch out for Satan's undercover bribes!
Deuteronomy 16:19 says, A bribe blinds the eyes of the wise. Did you get that? Even the WISE can be deceived into compromising if something is real desirable. Even the experienced and discerning can be enticed into a mouse-trap if they're hungry enough and see a great big, yummy piece of cheese. Hey, why do we think the Bible warns us not to give Satan a foothold. If it weren't something to watch out for, we wouldn't have been warned. But once we fall for the bait, we are blinded. We come under delusion and were blocked from seeing what those that truly follow Jesus are so concerned about.
Proverbs 23:1-8 says, When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is DECEPTIVE. Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Do not eat the food of a stingy man, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of man who is always THINKING about the cost. Eat and drink, he says to you, but his HEART is not with you. You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.
Proverbs 26:24-26 says, A malicious man DISGUISES himself with his lips, but in his HEART he harbors deceit. Though his speech is CHARMING, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be CONCEALED by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
How do we recognize deception and avoid the pitfalls of Satan's bribes? Psalm 106 gives us insight into our human frailties and how to deal with our desires so we aren't deceived by them.
In this chapter, we get a clear picture of many reasons why Gods people not only failed Him, but suffered the consequences of their sins. Verse 13 says that 1.) they did not wait for GODS counsel, 2.) They presumed they knew what was right, 3.) But they hadn't learned reverence for Gods Word.
King David committed the same sin of presumption when he was zealously bringing the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. In fact, II Samuel 6:5 says, David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. Everyone was sincerely worshiping God. But all of a sudden, Uzzah went to catch the ark when the oxen stumbled, and God struck him down and he died. What a shock it was, even to David, Gods anointed, and a man after Gods own heart.
Only later, after he cried out to God, did David understand the full impact of the sin he committed, and he admitted to the people that he had disobeyed Gods law. So they reverently read and obeyed, and then safely brought the ark the rest of the way to Jerusalem.
When opportunities are laid before us, we need to seek Gods will. In fact, later in this same passage, David is seen enquiring of the Lord each time the Philistines attacked Israel. And each time God had a different plan. David had learned the fear of the Lord through this unfortunate event, and he found that God has very specific plans for each and every situation were in.
#3) Associate with and support those you know are godly, and don't exalt someone simply on the basis of reputation, wealth, or talent!
I Corinthians 5:11-13 says, ...you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.
A few years ago, it became well-known that one of our Christian Music Stars got a divorce. Soon after the news was out, I found out this person was in concert nearby. The reports were that all went business as usual, and the concert was another great success. As time passed, I continued to hear positive reports of these concerts, but no explanation for the divorce. My question was: if a pastor got a divorce, would the congregation keep showing up without answers? Should they?
An alarm went off in my spirit when the body of Christ continued to stay in the dark about the reasons for the divorce of this public figure, but they kept supporting and attending the concerts. I really don't understand why we all didn't lovingly insist and expect an answer before continuing to support this singers ministry when we know that God hates divorce.
Soon, Terry and I happened to find out through reliable sources something that later became known. This person HAD fallen into an adulterous affair that led to the divorce and had already made plans to get remarried when the time was appropriate. Folks, I'm all for compassion and forgiveness, but only AFTER TRUE repentance...and godly sorrow (not just remorse from being caught and having a ruined reputation). Are we not called to uphold righteousness...or to hold each other accountable? Do stars get extra privileges? Are the famous above the requirements of Gods Word?
I'm stepping on some toes, I know. But I firmly believe I am speaking the heart of God in this matter. In fact, when God was warning the Israelites through Jeremiah of their pending judgment, He relayed this very message. He spoke about the Christian leaders of the day: ...among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from their wickedness! ...But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds (Jeremiah 23:14 & 22). The ministers were actually promoting their OWN agendas by giving power to ungodly people, and by so doing, they were leading Gods people astray by tolerating sin.
These Biblical principals are very strong words for those involved in Christian Music today! It is a rebuke to those who control the destiny of Christian music artists through marketing, promotion, radio airplay, concert venues, product sales, management and even organized honor ceremonies like the Dove Awards. If we don't hold those in Christian music accountable to integrity in their Christian walk, then we have no business empowering or promoting them, even if it is financially profitable for us. And as the Christian community and the body of Christ we should certainly not continue buying tickets to concerts and supporting sales of products by those that aren't walking the life their music portrays. That's not MY idea. Its GODS standard, and we are ALL accountable to it...IF we want the privilege of calling it Christian Music.
#4) Don't be unequally yoked!
II Corinthians 6:14-16 says, Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.
I was deeply grieved some time ago when I opened one of our Christian music magazines and found that a full page advertisement had actually been sold to an ungodly secular artist. God HAD been mentioned on her latest CD, but this persons lifestyle was well-known to oppose godly principles, and sex-appeal was definitely used in their sales strategies. I believe were called to love the ungodly, but the Bible clearly teaches us never to partner with them. And we should certainly never uplift them or give them a platform if we can at all help it. This will surely mislead some young and less discerning believers.
Perhaps it was a feather in the cap in the eyes of the magazines owners and editors that such a famous artist had interest in their periodical. But If we need to align ourselves with the secular stars to feel respected and valued, then we've gone a long ways away from the cross of Jesus Christ and the martyrs through the centuries (More than 150,000 Christians die for the sake of the gospel every year!). Proverbs 29:25 says, Fear of man will prove to be a snare...
We shouldn't need or ever seek approval of the ungodly. After all, have true Christians or the gospel message ever been well-received or esteemed by the world? Has the blatant pagan world ever enjoyed being around Christians...UNLESS they are worldly Christians? John 3:20 says, Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Deuteronomy 22:9 says, Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.
I believe we are giving mixed messages to the world and our tender, impressionable Christian young people as well as young believers! Our crops and fruit are being defiled! And not only that, were opening ourselves to the bondages of the enemy. Over and over, the Bible teaches us not to join with idolaters, or they will become a snare to us (see Joshua 23:12-13; Exodus 23:33; Judges 2:2-3 and there are many more). If we partner with someone who's motive and purpose is anything other than obedience to Gods will, its only a matter of time before it will not only hurt us, but others we touch.
Unfortunately, Terry and I became aware of a situation I share, not to bring distrust and suspicion among believers, but to call worldly Christian music artists into account. We became aware of a fairly successful group whose members weren't all walking with the Lord. A couple of members were known by their peers to frequent watching soft porn in their motel rooms prior to their concerts. But what was worse was that the other more godly members were unwilling to say much for fear of breaking up this groups future plans and success. So...they all continued to sing about Jesus, but they lived a dual life of compromise...ALL of them.
In the last few years, it has become crystal clear to me that being unequally yoked isn't referring to our relationship with only the world. It applies to aligning ourselves and joining with worldly Christians as well. II Timothy 3:1-5 teaches us that in the last days there are those that ...will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness, but denying His power. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. We aren't even supposed to associate with these people. Bad company CORRUPTS, period!
#5) Uphold righteousness at all costs!
Quite a few years ago, I remember a Christian singer and friend telling us of an opportunity to open for a big name Christian artist. This friend was very excited about this open door or big break. This was a dream come true. Certain future success was at this persons fingertips. The only problem...the big name Christian artist was living in adultery and our friend knew all about it. What's amazing to me is, contrary to our advice, this person went ahead as a part of the act, and what's worse is, even when numerous others became aware of the problem, the performance continued to go on...for years! And no one said anything.
Eli was a priest in the Old Testament
that went about his ministry duties business as usual. But I call him the ho-hum
priest because he didn't have the guts to uphold righteousness. He was a man-pleaser
and lacked the fear of the Lord. When his sons sinned with great abominations
against the Lord, Eli even REBUKED them, but did God give him credit for it?
No! God still judged Eli and his whole family! Why? Because, he had the power,
but didn't put a STOP to it! He was a bonified wimp. He didn't do what
was in Gods heart and mind (I Samuel 2:22-36), and eventually, he dearly suffered
the consequences! Let us heed this example given to us and seek to do what is
in Gods heart and mind and never, never tolerate continual sin and ungodliness.
III. Quality vs. Quantity
Most of us who give concerts have been tested by small crowds. Over the sixteen years Terry and I have been ministering full-time in music ministry together, we have sung in every kind of place you could imagine and for every size crowd. We've sung in front of a church of 10, a crowd of 22,000, and on TV for 48 million people at once. Combined, we've ministered in all 50 of the United States and 33 foreign countries. We give around 150 concerts every year now, but we are still constantly weighing our opportunities while listening to God. We have found that the finances and size of crowds and opportunities available cant be all that guides us. God has had to teach us this through the mistakes we've made.
You may be familiar with a man named Mordecai Ham. He was an evangelist who was called by God to preach itinerantly in churches early this century. One night, he wrote in his prayer journal of another somewhat discouraging meeting where only one little boy came forward to be saved. But he continued on, faithful to his calling. What Mordecai didn't realize at the time, was that the little boy that got saved that night grew up to be the famous evangelist, Billy Graham. What a rebuke to our limited and narrow human mind set.
Somehow, Gods value system is difficult for us to comprehend. We need to see through HIS eyes. Phillip did! He had a great revival happening. People were getting saved left and right, and then the Lord spoke to him. He heard, listened, and then he obeyed (see Acts 8:26-40).
He could've rejected the whole idea based on common sense alone, but he had conditioned his heart to listen and submit to God...no matter what the cost! So he followed the Holy Spirits direction and AFTER obeying, found that the whole purpose for leaving the great revival was just one man! The Ethiopian eunuch. Only God knows all the ways this one mans salvation has affected our world. And only GOD KNOWS why He directs us the way He does. We need to learn how to listen and hear His voice.
Perhaps we need to consider a few issues regarding making important ministry decisions:
#1) Be careful who & what you listen to!
Some time ago, Terry and I were talking with a very influential and highly respected Christian music figure. We were given some advice that made us feel very uncomfortable. The Holy Spirit seemed to flash bright red warning lights in our hearts. We were told, Don't say anything from the platform in your concerts that could offend anyone in your audiences. In order to attract the crowds you need to stay off of controversial or hurtful subjects like marriage and family relationships, abortion, racism, etc. Besides, you haven't been married long enough to help anyone's marriage, and you want to reach as many people as possible, right?!
It sounded spiritual...I mean, we had only been married 11 years, and we don't want to hurt anyone, and the more people we reach, the more people we can share Jesus with.
But there was a breakdown! As we pondered the advise, we realized it wasn't godly or biblical. The fact is, if you dilute your message to get the crowds, then, when you finally get to the masses, if you've lost your message, what good will it do. Besides, Jesus is our example, and His goal was never bigger crowds. His goal was to do the will of the Father and speak the words the Father gave Him.
In fact, at one point, Jesus' message was so offensive that the crowds left Him and all that was left were His disciples.
In regards to our message on marriage and parenting: Gods principles are true whether you've experienced them or not! Those of us who minister, though never perfect, CAN know the true calling and message God has given us to share. And He's the one we are ultimately accountable to! We cant let the enemy intimidate us into watering down our message or well loose our saltiness. Salt can hurt, but it heals. Salt grinds and irritates, but it preserves.
No matter WHO is giving us advice, how important they seem, or even how experienced they are, we must take it for what it is...human advice. We need to take what people say to God and ask HIM for wisdom and weigh everything against His Word. Even Peter, a fervent and zealous disciple of Christ for three concentrated and power-packed years, gave bad advice...to Jesus! In fact, Jesus immediately saw the source. Satan was using his strategy of ungodly sympathy (a temptation to entertain self-pity) through Peters words. But Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men (Matthew 16:23).
Satan tried to trick our Lord into feeling sorry for himself through a seemingly innocent source. But thankfully Jesus tuned into the Spirit of God, saw the foothold in Peters life that gave Satan the right to use him as a mouthpiece! He needed a new perspective... Peter needed a new mind set... he needed the mind set of God.
#2) Don't make decisions with human standards!
I have been a bit baffled over the administration of most of the Christian Music Industry:
Firstly, in a field where Spirituality, Character, and calling ought to precede and be valued above all other aspects; talent, good looks, and money seem to over-ride in all the decision-making. Prayer and seeking Gods will seems to be completely missing. Does this hold the integrity of its own title: Christian?
The word Christian in Webster's dictionary is defined: 1.) Of Jesus Christ or His Teachings, and 2.) Of or adhering to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Shouldn't we be making our decisions in the way Jesus taught us? Or are we violating the name Christian?
Secondly, many of the truly godly singers and musicians who have been called by God to minister have been avoided, and even sometimes dishonored and despised. Isn't something wrong when the disreputable are being honored, but the godly are struggling even just to make a living. This form of oppression and deception should never exist in the body of Christ!
God desires His people to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, set apart to carry out HIS will on earth (see I Peter 2:9). Quality is certainly not based on income, size, or any other earthly measurement. God has never been limited to OUR standards or value system.
I've been deeply convicted lately of an issue that I've realized should be a basic, square one, point A in our Christian walk, but somehow isn't for many of us. After the painful consequences of true obedience and submission of a great servant and prophet of God, Jeremiah said, I know, Lord, that a mans life is not his own, it is not for man to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23) And when Jeremiah complained of his traumatic circumstances and suffering, God said to him, If you have raced with men on foot, and they have worn you out, how can you compete with the horses (Jeremiah 12:5)
I'm not trying to bring a downer here about following Jesus. I happen to find it deeply fulfilling, but in a different way than the world views a good life. If someone ever told you Christianity is easy, they misled you. Following Christ is worth every bit of what it costs, but it COSTS!--Our lives! If we aren't taking up our cross daily to follow Him, we may not even be a Christian. Its up to God what we GET out of it. He has promised us many things in exchange for our lives, but it IS our lives He has to have. Our choices are no longer OUR choices. We have to follow HIS Word and HIS Spirit and do HIS will. If we don't die with Christ, we cant be raised with Him (Romans 6)
Many artists can relate to this: Terry and I continue to have innumerable people approach us and say, So, how can I get into Christian music?! I always say, Seek the Lord and serve Him right where you are, and He will show you. I firmly believe God WILL show them, IF He wants them there. His way may be harder, but I can promise you one thing: No one has ever regretted forsaking all to follow our precious Savior!
As Terry and I have pondered our calling and Gods mandates for us as believers, we have both had extraordinarily similar and recurring dreams about the whole Christian Music scene.
The Beach Party
In regards to the Christian Music Industry, I've had this recurring vision of a beach. I see a great number of Christians out on the beach playing and having a party. In the distance I see an even greater number of people out in the water drowning. The noise on the beach is so loud from the Christian party that's going on that they cant hear the screaming from those that are drowning. There are only a few that have noticed and have seen the urgency and feel called to respond to the situation. Those people are desperately trying to get help and others are rescuing the victims, but most Christians on the beach are too busy having fun and too distracted to listen to the few that see and care. Masses continue to drown.
This is a picture of the church AND our Christian music industry in this century! We've never had it better, yet were neglecting to see the urgency of our situation. In fact, I remember hearing a highly-respected and powerful Christian artist say in a condescending way right from the platform in front of thousands of people: I know there are a lot of Christians that are saying America is going down-hill, but its not so bad, there are still a lot of people in America that love Jesus.
Way to lull the church into an even DEEPER sleep than its already in! No, its time for an alarm to sound, a major blast, a great outcry from the inner depths of a church that sees the looming destruction. America is on self-destruct and those who call themselves Christians need to wake up, repent, get back into fellowship with Jesus and fulfill His call on their lives in these critical last days (see Revelation 3:19-22).
The Christian Cruise
At about the same time that I began dreaming of this Christian Beach Party, Terry began having a recurring dream of a Christian Cruise Boat. He said he saw many Christian people having a great time cruising on a boat together. They were singing and laughing and talking about the "good ole days", but all the while, the river was slowly drying up. People were outside of the boat in the river dying. But the music was so loud and the Christians so engulfed in their fun and the party that they remained self-focused and ignorant of the people outside the boat or the river losing water.
The Call of Every Christian
In Luke 11:23, Jesus said something we need to meditate on for a moment, He who does not gather with me scatters. God is not some kind of a heavenly butler that serves OUR needs and wants! We need to follow HIM and get into HIS plan and move in HIS power. A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ!
IF WERE NOT FOLLOWING HIS
PLAN, WERE A PART OF THE QUELLING OF HIS PLAN. Its not good enough to be
just a good person. We need to seek the Lord and sit at the foot of His throne
(as Jeremiah said even the prophets and priests of his day were not doing) and
wait on Him until He gives us our next orders. Otherwise, were simply serving
ourselves and our own agenda, and tearing down His in the process.
V. Idolatry vs. Worshiping God
I will likely rile someone at this point, because I believe idolatry is a major, deceptive stronghold that is yet to be pulled down in much of our Christian music system today. It is my humble opinion that we have basically adopted a worldly view in this area, and its been fueled by undercover bribes of, yes, fame and fortune! ...yes, power and greed (which the Bible clearly teaches is a form of idolatry)!
1.) What is People Worship?
Exalting people is not a new problem in the church today. It is an age-old trick of the enemy. He even tried to temp Jesus to fall into this trap. Human flesh has always wanted to BE worshiped and has always wanted to worship others more tangible than God.
The greatest example I can present to show a godly response to idolatry of people is in Acts 14:8-18, when the crowds in Lystra tried to worship Paul and Barnabas. They were so appalled at the crowd's misconception that they tore their clothes in an expression of unworthiness and honor to God. They could've failed the test and used the honor they were given, accepting Satan's bribe through flattery of fame and power. They could have cloaked their response with false humility, but still played the part out to benefit the kingdom, similar to Gideon's compromise by the display of his ephod.
But Paul and Barnabas refused the acclamations and directed the crowds attention to the true God. Its interesting that later, the very same crowd turned on them and tried to stone Paul to death. CROWDS ARE FICKLE!!
2.) Can Applause glorify God?
Often times our response to our crowds look like the age-old comedy routine. One hand is motioning, Oh, please. No applause. But at the same time, the other hand is gesturing, More applause, give me more...! Where is our integrity before God, who sees everything and knows our hearts?! Are we willing to prostitute ourselves for glory and the approval and affirmation of the crowds who can so quickly turn on us?!
Now, does this mean we cant receive applause or ever be publicly honored or acknowledged? No! But our focus should always be on Jesus and bringing glory to Him, not to ourselves, our own talents, strengths or popularity. I see no place in Christianity for celebrities or stars. Isaiah 61:3d says we will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of HIS splendor. Our testimonies and talents should lead people to worship GOD, not ourselves!
I love Ken Taylor's description of idols in I John 5:21, ...keep away from anything that might take Gods place in your hearts. In other words, God should be our #1 love and priority above ALL else. We are made to be a display of GODS glory, not our own. The world doesn't know any better, but WE, the Church, should. There is no room for prima donnas among believers; not singers, not evangelists, not Pastors, or any other high-profile Christians! Besides, very few of us can maturely handle all the accolades that come with being a Christian celebrity without becoming proud. In fact, I Timothy 3:6 warns us about uplifting immature believers to even just normal church leadership positions, much less national exploitation, ...or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.
Does this mean that there is no room for honoring each other? Absolutely not. There are many that should be honored, and that have handled admiration and exaltation well. But godly honor always takes on a realistic view and keeps a balanced perspective in reverence to God and in the fear of the Lord.
I thank God for people in prominent positions that have given glory to God. But there is an unhealthy, unrealistic adoration that is often cultivated for the sake of money and power, especially in concert settings and among Christian music stars. In fact, idolatry is one of the ways that the enemy lures us away from devotion to God (as we are about to study).
3.) Idolatry in the seductive clothes of Flattery
Jezebel knew that flattery would get her everywhere! She was an evil Prophetess that piously and deceitfully mislead Israel into tolerating immorality and idolatry so SHE could gain control of them. She even flattered and deceived her own husband, Ahab, by stroking him, affirming and defending his rights. She purposely sympathized with Ahab to encourage self-pity that would ultimately get her what SHE wanted!
She used weak-willed people, like Ahab, and naive, faithful followers to kill the TRUE prophets of God. In fact, her strategy was SO powerful, that she led over 10 million people into the defilement of Idolatry. Jezebels strategies are still alive and well today. The enemy hasn't stopped using her temptations and deceptive flatteries.
In Daniel 11:32, the prophet exposes this tactic of Satan in the last days. It says that with FLATTERY the enemy will CORRUPT those who are disobedient to the Lord, but the people who know God will FIRMLY RESIST him. Did you get that? Satan uses flattery to corrupt!!! No wonder Jezebel could lure over 10 million people away from devotion to God. Our flesh and pride wants to worship self and follow our own desires.
Those that the enemy can trip into disobedience and tempt with self-exaltation, HE WILL! The only way to escape the grip of idolatry is to KNOW AND OBEY GOD and FIRMLY RESIST the enemy!
Proverbs 27:21b says, ...but man is tested by the praise he receives. Not many can withstand this powerful undercurrent of flattery in the Christian Music Business!
TO USE THE NAME OF JESUS AND HIS PRECIOUS GOSPEL MESSAGE FOR SELF-EXALTATION, SELFISH AMBITION, OR GREED IS IDOLATRY, AND IT IS AN ABOMINATION TO GOD!!
James 4:6b says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And Jeremiah 17:5 & 7 says, Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength...but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
I love Jeremiah 9:23-24! It says, ...Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight...
If were honest, we all know we don't have what it takes in and of ourselves. Why do you think that many of the richest, smartest, most talented and successful people in the world are many times the most miserable? We know deep down that we desperately need a savior. And all throughout the scripture, God shows His delight in using the weak, so He can be glorified...so we KNOW its Him and not ourselves.
So why do we depend on or emphasize our talents so much? Why do we tally up the scores, calculate like misers, and scrutinize the details? Why do we put so much stock in the area of talent?
When King David counted his men, God was very displeased. God had never depended on David's abilities, wealth, wisdom, or strength in the past, so why should David be estimating the size of his army now? Only pride makes us do that! We want the credit, the glory and the benefits! Life, in the long run, will always show us we cant do it in our own strength...that is, if its going to have any eternal value.
1.) What if you're not talented enough?
I remember many years ago coming to know a gifted young woman that was definitely called by God and anointed for a singing music ministry. She knew it, but the enemy used numerous people throughout the years to discourage her efforts, and she was even told by some music industry people that she didn't have enough talent to cut it. When I saw her dilemma, I tried to encourage her to see that the people who said that to her didn't have a close relationship with the Lord, and were driven by the wrong values. She had almost completely thrown in the towel, but thank God she listened to the Holy Spirits calling and refused to listen to the lies of the enemy through those in the know!!. This anointed woman is now making a powerful impact through her singing ministry all across America in the strength of the Lord.
Terry and I believe in doing things with as much excellence as possible, but we know that its all done in vain if it is not anointed of God and ordained by His plan. Even if something succeeds, if its not born of the Spirit, its a waste of time at best. If someone is just talented, physically attractive, and successful and can make people laugh and cry (using human charisma), it makes no eternal difference. In fact, we can actually be a distraction from Gods agenda and even lead others astray if we aren't saying and doing what God wants, (as we established under the previous heading, The Call of Every Christian). What we need is Gods strength, anointing, and calling. Great talent has never brought anointing. And great talent should never validate a singing ministry. Ministry is birthed out of simple obedience to a call of God.
2. Talented, But Rejected
I recently became friends with a girl in music ministry with tremendous vocal abilities and a heart for the Lord. She had finally achieved her long-awaited and desired wish. One of the major Christian record companies in Nashville signed a record contract with her. What she hadn't understood, was that THEY wanted to be in control! While picking songs for the debut recording, they pressured her into doing four songs she didn't like. The A & R director said, If you don't do these songs, you're going to alienate the entire company and they wont get behind you. So, she reluctantly followed their plan.
As she continued her ministry, she found that those songs weren't working for her concerts and she was facing an identity crisis with her audiences. The messages were watered down and the style was not fitting for her. What's worse is that after sales for the recording didn't hit the mark, the company dumped her anyway and she was left wondering if she should even have a singing ministry!
This story could be repeated innumerable times, I'm sure. When talent and money is the focus and we are distracted by great opportunities instead of focusing on our calling and the anointing of the Lord, we open ourselves to many disappointments and deceptions. Jesus said that if we seek the things of the kingdom first, all the other things will come. What makes our ministries powerful isn't our talent, its His anointing.
3. Who does God use?
Amazingly, God anoints even the ungodly when He wants a task fulfilled. God is not bound by anything. He even used a donkey to speak to a prophet in the old testament. I have noted below a couple more examples:
God even left His anointing on Saul long after He revealed plans to raise up and anoint another King. Even after blatantly disobeying God, Saul kept Gods anointing for a season to fulfill Gods plan until David's time had come. And God poured out His Spirit on Saul, even when he was on his way to kill David, the newly anointed king. People even noted: Is Saul among the prophets?
King Cyrus was also anointed for a specific plan, but he didn't even acknowledge God. God often uses and even anoints those that are ungodly, much to my dismay and displeasure. Nevertheless, God has always been looking for someone to anoint that has HIS heart and mind! We see this in the raising up of both Samuel and David in the Old Testament.
I believe God is passing the baton on to a new generation of Christian musicians to carry on the anointing and ministry He has intended for the harvest in these last days! Unfortunately, some of the most talented will not answer the call and they'll remain in the flesh.
Matthew 6:24 says, No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. God has called us to be good stewards of every aspect of our lives, including our finances. But II Peter 2:19 says, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Money should never be the focus (or motive) that drives Christian Music. Currently, this paradox is one of the greatest pitfalls of the Christian Music Industry.
1.) Discerning our motives
When we serve money, it clearly will divide us from Gods will. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (see I Timothy 6:10), and greed is a form of idolatry (see Colossians 3:5).
Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15-23 against so-called Christians that aren't doing Gods will. Apparently, there will be some that even call Jesus Lord and have successful ministries that don't really know, love, or serve God. They will be wolves in sheep's clothing and will lead others astray...all to benefit their own plan. How do we know if our motives are pure and undivided?
The way Jesus said we will know false ministers of God is by their fruit. We need to look at the long-term fruit of our own lives and the lives of others. If being with others tends to inspire us to grow closer to God and develop a deeper love for Him and His Word and His will, those ministers are probably authentic. But if, by being with them, you are seeing a growing desire for the things of the world and signs of disunity and strife; and its harder for you to love God, His Word, His will and want to fellowship with Christians that love Jesus with all their hearts, then you know something isn't right!
It's a simple principle we're talking about here. By their fruit, you will know them. (Matthew 7:20)
2.) Aligning with money-slaves
I have other deep concerns regarding money and Christian music. From Genesis to Revelation, God emphasizes the same principle over and over again: You cant mix darkness and light; you cant join with or put yourself under the advice or counsel of the ungodly without being corrupted.
So, what if we sign a binding contract with a person or a company that has promised great things for our future, but they have a different foundational motive other than Gods will, message and ministry...such as...money! How does God view these types of alliances?
I believe we are in grave danger of being influenced, distracted or seduced away from Gods will when we yoke ourselves in this way. Perhaps we can be strong for awhile, but the principle and consequences of unequal yoking will inevitably come to pass. If we don't police ourselves in all these areas, I believe one of the results will be that Christian music will be seduced into Spiritual Music that will eventually include all kinds of vain philosophies. Another result will be our total lack of impact, though we are seemingly successful.
I wont go into a deep study on all the ways Christian music is scripturally meant to be used, but I feel it is critical that we are aware of Gods perspective. He created music for many purposes! I also believe few really understand its function and how it works. Generally, the church's understanding of music's function seems to be under one heading: Praise and Worship. I believe this reveals a very limited understanding of all that God intended music to be.
1.) Biblical Christian Music
In my studies, there are Biblical grounds for using music for many purposes. A list of some of music's functions in the Bible would be: to prophesy, teach, praise, exhort, admonish, and worship; to celebrate and even to accompany judgment; to silence the enemy and his tormenting spirits; to prepare the way for victory in war and also to accompany war and break down enemy strongholds. It's even used as a tool to express romantic and passionate love. (References are innumerable.)
These are some of music's functions and Gods purposes for creating music. But in order to keep the distinction, Christian Music, I believe we have to follow Biblical guidelines. If we don't, it shouldn't be labeled Christian. I think we get confused when we begin crossing over the lines. Some have even begun labeling just plain wholesome music as Christian, this reveals a growing problem in the definition of this word and what we as Christians should represent. THE PURPOSE AND FUNCTION OF MUSIC SHOULD DETERMINE IF ITS CHRISTIAN MUSIC OR NOT, and Gods perspective, found in His Word, has to be our plum line.
I enjoy listening to entertainers sing. I also enjoy many styles of music, though I have my favorites. But one of my deep concerns is when someone is publicly viewed and perceived as a minister because they sing Christian Music, but privately isn't and doesn't intend to be a minister. They ought to publicly call themselves an entertainer, and not allow themselves to be disguised under the ministry heading or Christian Music. This is deceptive and misleading.
The name Christian should absolutely and always carry with it and encompass the whole of the message and lifestyle of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Otherwise we must mark this moment in history as the time of the redefinition of what Christian now means. Up to this Time, Christian has meant dedicated follower and lover of Jesus Christ and His Word unto death.
2.) A Wishy-Washy Message
Jeremiah spoke a word from the Lord against wishy-washy and misleading ministers. He said, They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14). Ezekiel 13:10 gives a similar rebuke to people in ministry that minimized the current conditions of the day. They were covering up the truth with whitewash and making things seem O.K. when things were not okay! They were verbally anesthetizing everyone.
Don't get me wrong. I wish that there were even more people singing Christian music. But it is a high calling of God that carries an imperative message, just like pastoring, and should not to be taken lightly! It has a purpose and a function! And it should ALWAYS be done under the direction of God through His Word and Holy Spirits guidance. The reason is simple. We are going to be held accountable not just for our inner motives, but for others perceptions.
If we mislead people by our message or LACK of message, were liable for it! If we make people THINK we are ministering, then we BETTER BE saying what God is saying to His people or we are leading them astray. When we do music under the Christian heading, we are labeling ourselves and our message.
3.) Sex appeal in Christian Music?
A number of years ago, I became aware of a few Christian music stars and their life-styles. Though I had not been exposed to much of the Christian music business, I realized there were at least SOME individuals that were using Christian Music to get what THEY wanted. There were actually some well-respected leaders in the field that were concerned about the lack of sex appeal of one of their artists.
When I heard this more than once or twice, I realized that it was a serious matter. Believe it or not, one record company hired a coach that was actually trying to help an artist know how to stand on the platform in a sexier and more appealing way.
There are many individuals that want to be exploited and plenty that are willing to exploit! ...all for their own benefit. But folks, using Jesus and the Gospel for selfish motives is a fearful thing! When DO we begin to break the 3rd commandment?! When do we cross over the line to prostitute not only ourselves for selfish gain, but the name of Christ. What exactly IS taking the name of the Lord God in vain mean??
For some reason, we've gone so far away from what I believe Gods intentions are for Christian music, that much of the church doesn't even recognize these problems. The funny thing is, we would be appalled at the thought of a pastor or Bible teacher being concerned about his sex appeal so he could sell more books or tapes of his sermons. Wed also be more than disgusted at the thought of giving awards for Best Preacher of the Year or Greatest Sermon of the Year! I think the Levites would have a lot to teach us about Christian music if they could be here and see how far we've come.
To conclude, I believe there are a few basic items that we must consider in Christian music today in order to preserve Gods intentions for it and stay on the right path:
First, we need to check our motives. In I Corinthians 4:4-5 Paul says, My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me... He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. Although we can fool the people and even ourselves, ultimately, we are accountable to God.
Secondly, we need to seek to do and say what God desires. This requires faithful and fervent study of Gods Word and intercessory prayer. If we have grown cold, the only way to restore our love for God is through repentance. Our conscience and desires then can only be followed when God and His truth is our foundation, and His will is our goal.
Thirdly, lets live holy, undivided lives. If we seek His kingdom first, all these things will be added to us and we don't have to worry about the outcome. If we truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, he will bless us beyond comprehension! ...perhaps through heavenly treasures for eternity, instead of earthly and fading ones...
81995, Revised 2000, Revised 2001, Tylis Publishing, Inc. & Heart For The World, Inc.
Copyright © 1994 -2005 Heart for the World, Inc.