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EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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CHRISTIAN MUSIC IN THE LIGHT OF GOD'S WORD

Well done and thought provoking-
A Christian musician gives a Bible study on Music

 

The first music that we know of was made in Heaven. Ezekiel 28 records these words about Lucifer before he sinned:

Ezekiel 28:13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Lucifer, now Satan, was Heaven's musician. It has been said: To produce the sounds of praise, the winds of Heaven were blown across Lucifer's pipes and the glorious strains flowed forth. The purpose of music then was for the worship of the King of Heaven, the Creator, even the Lord Jesus Christ. All music was used to that end. There was no other reason for it except to worship the holiness of God.

Lucifer sinned and was cast out of Heaven (Isaiah 14, beginning at verse 12). He didn't leave alone; he took a third of the angels with him (Revelation 12:4). This great heavenly choir is gone forever from before the throne of God. Who then will offer up praises unto Him?

God created man in His image (Genesis 1:27), clothed him with glory, honor and light (Psalm 104:1-2), told him "to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28), and told him to worship no one but Him (Exodus 20:3- 6).

1 Chronicles 16 23 Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; show forth from day to day his salvation.

2 Chronicles 20 17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.
19 And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.

Psalm 7 17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

Psalm 9 11 Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.

Psalm 33 2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

Hebrews 2 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

Jesus, on His entry into Jerusalem the Sabbath before His death, was asked to quiet the praises of His worshippers.

Luke 19 gives us these words:

Luke 19:39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40 And he answer and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Scriptures are full of the command and the need to sing and make music unto the Lord. This is for good reason.

Psalm 22: 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Since it is true that God inhabited the praises of His people Israel, then surely the same is true for His church.

In Romans 2:28-29, Paul tells the Christian church in Rome:

Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

 

 

So then we are to understand that the Christian church has the obligation to sing unto the Lord, praises worthy of His acceptation. God never has accepted anything that was defiled. What is pleasing to Him is what is according to His dictates, which is the only place of safety for those He loves. God's people are to offer up holy strains of praise to a holy redeemer, from hearts that have been cut away from the world and the flesh. The praises are to be holy. Flesh cannot do this. It takes the presence of God's Spirit within man to accomplish this wonderful deed. Paul tells us in

Philippians 4: 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Now the mandate is for holy praises unto a holy God from holy people.

Leviticus 11: 44a For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy:
45 For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

1 Peter 1 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Is there then a difference between music that is holy and music that is not? Is the only difference in the lyrics as some maintain? If the question is asked of enough people within Christendom, quite a variety of guidelines will be revealed. It seems nearly all would draw a line dividing what they deem is acceptable and what is profane. Only in the last few years has there been a flourishing of hard rock groups singing Christian lyrics. Perhaps this group would not draw any lines, except that they seem to have little or no pleasure in the milder, historical sounds of the church. So then, this is our question: Is "all kinds" of music acceptable, or should it be restricted? And if so, to what?

Daniel 3:1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

All the commentators that I have read, which has been many, agree that Nebuchadnezzar and his image/statue are the type, the fore-runner of the anti-christ and his image of Revelation 13. There is no specification of any particular type of music. The mandate for idolatrous worship was squarely connected with "all kinds of music."

Satan (Lucifer) was the first musician as we understand Scripture. He knows the subject. He knows what moves the powers that be, for good or evil. Could it be said that Lucifer wrote the first song? Scripture doesn't say, but being that he was the first musician, perhaps he did. We don't know.

Barry Manilow wrote a song years ago in which the lyrics state:

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs

Of course, Manilow did not write the first song and the other claims would be a bit arrogant for one singer in a crowd. Who then would make such a statement-whether it is true or not?

John wrote in the second chapter of his first epistle:

I John 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

We must conclude that there are things that are of the Father and there are things that are not, but are of the world. Satan has been cast out of God's Heaven and is no longer granted the option of reflecting God's glorious light in his many stones and producing music that reflects the holiness and majesty of the Father and His dear Son. Being a "sore loser," he will have no one else to take up the practice either. He hates God. His objective is to prevent men from turning to God.

Job 1:7 and Job 2:2: 7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

1 Peter 5 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Are we then to be so ignorant of Satan's devices that we will employ the music of the world as an acceptable form of worship to a holy God? Is it possible that God is chagrined by much of the melodies that are sent in His direction? We refuse to allow the use of tobacco, liquor, and gambling in our churches; but we think God is pleased with the same music that is used in the beer halls and sin houses, if it pleases us.

So, Satan did, in fact, write the first song for the fallen race of Adam. And, Satan is still writing the songs for fallen men, including backslidden rebels at the church house singing silly songs of vain repetition accompanied by the pipes of Satan.

Nobody ever stops to notice that the styles of music used in the worship of God were first spawned in sin and carnality. These days, every new "lick" employed on a guitar or keyboard by the world's musicians soon shows up in the church. The question must be asked of our music: Did we learn it from the world, or did the world learn it from us?

In Bach's day, with the invention of the well-tempered clavichord, much new music was being formulated. It was "clean" square-cut, no lace praise. The world learned much music from the church. But in a few short years, the design of musical style left the organ bench in the church and began to show up in a host of places.

Some people try to excuse their choice of musical style with the claim that the medium is "generic;" it is the message that matters. Superficially, that sounds OK. But to those who exercise rational thought with the input of Scripture must reject such a claim. Elsewhere in this booklet, is given some evidence that there is definitely a problem with the medium. But in the light of Scripture, we are told that the things of the world are not of God and love for them and love for the Father do not reside in the same heart. So the question of where a style came from is a critical one.

Some might rebut, "Well, I don't see it that way." In his great hymn, "Amazing Grace," Isaac Watts wrote these immortal lines: "I once was lost, but now I'm found; 'Twas blind, but now I see." King David wrote in

Psalm 119: 11 Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.

John wrote in his first epistle chapter two:

I John 1:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Few people, especially in these days with all manner of profuse "music," would consider classical music "evil." However, something very basic to biblical Christianity needs to be pointed out. By the time Beethoven arrived and his contemporaries, music was written solely for the sake of the music and its effect, not with the higher goal of bringing holy praise to a holy God. We can still see this. All over the world, for the last couple centuries, classical music is accepted and loved by the unregenerate masses. Men who know not God are celebrated as the world's greatest musicians playing classical music. The music is utterly powerful, but impotent to turn the hearts of men toward a holy God.

Many years ago, I visited in a church for an afternoon organ concert. I was privileged to talk with the young man who was to perform. He told me, at his ripe age of 20, that it is hard for him to not get into the flesh with his music. This youth was playing classical church music. Here was a young man who understood the power of music—without it having to be the “evil Rock and Roll.”

What we are coming to is a matter requiring two-fold discernment. One has to do with our motives and intents and the other is the method. One fellow can sing or play with the skill of a maestro, great works of sacred music, and it be strictly the product of his fleshly abilities and not accompanied by the Spirit of God. Another fellow can play from a heart of gratitude and praise while employing any of the many styles from “all kinds of music.” He, while within himself may feel the power of serene sentiment or vigorous praise, is using tools designed for idolatry.

Having spent my life in music, I can attest to something else. There were times when I played and people were “moved,” but I knew within myself that I was not in a right relationship with God. Whether it was the power of the music, and or my skill in performance, or whether God overlooked my condition in order to work in the lives of others, I cannot say. What I am saying is that God is sovereign and does as He chooses, regardless of us.

In a church in South Carolina, I was playing the piano during the invitation. The pastor had delivered a powerful message, at least I thought so. We had gone through all four verses of the invitation hymn and nobody moved. I shifted gears and began to softly play the powerful little chorus, “Allelujah.” Within 2 minutes the altar was filled. Someone might say, it was simply coincidence that the freedom came when the song was changed. If that were the only time, or even one of two or three times, then I could say, maybe so. But this has been done time and again.

A church in Texas, known for its high volume of people at the altar, sings the same invitation song at every service. Rather, every morning service, one song is used and every evening service, another is used. These two songs are done briskly and vigorously. The reason is within the power of the music. They have admitted that singing the hymns like that brings more to the altar than slower, more restrained singing. What they did was harness the power of music to do the work that the all-powerful Holy Spirit is supposed to do. One might ask, If the people are not motivated by the Spirit of God to move—even without any music at all—then what are the results of being compelled by motivational music? Does the end really justify the means?

One must “worship in spirit and in truth.” Truth states:

Galatians 5 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Romans 8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

1 John 2 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

I know that I refer to 1 John 2 a lot. That’s because I believe that every Christian ought to memorize it and make it, at least in part, his creed. If these verses ruled the lives of God’s people, then the two “Great Commandments” Christ spoke in Matthew 20:37-40 would be the epitome of the Christian life.

The sad/glorious truth is found in.....

1 Corinthians 2 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

2 Pet. 2 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

I have been a pianist/organist for 40 years and have some classical training, “Country Gospel” experience, as well as a sprinkling of the gamut. I learned as a child on the piano stool the power of music to control the soul. In 1969, at a Van Cliburn recital, I experienced that same mesmerizing power under the sounds of Beethoven. (It doesn’t have to be “Rock and Roll” to have negative influence!) Countless times through the years, I’ve known the utter power of music.

Music has a power of its own. It can surface a host of emotions, just as a made-up play on television. However, its strongest powers are manifested like drugs—either “uppers” or “downers.” There is little difference, except that one goes in the mouth, nose or veins, and the other the ears. One is illegal and the other has the pocketbook of the world. Many people are addicted to music. Some can’t sleep without it. Others have to have it playing in their work place. Millions can not start the car without, in the same move, turning on its strains.

In 1975, I did an experiment on myself. I shut off the lights and sat in the “sweet spot” of my powerful stereo system and blasted rock and roll music at myself. After one hour, I pressed the power button and killed it. The silence seemed as loud as the thunderings from my system. Never have I been one to appreciate more than an occasional Rock tune, and that because of the flesh. I cannot say I enjoyed the experiment—except that my flesh has always liked the extreme abilities of a good system (crisp highs and accurately reproduced lows). Admittedly, that is strictly the lust of the flesh. I do not, nor did I at that time like Rock Music. Yet, with the silence, everything in me demanded I turn it back on and satisfy the craving.

Because of my general disdain for Rock and Roll, at a later time I tried the same experiment with Contemporary Christian Music (“sanctified” Rock and Roll). I also tried it with Country Gospel music—all the foot-tapping quartet greats. Same results. To be fair, I tried it then with sacred music. Surprise! The first thing I wanted to do was turn the volume down a bit. I have always liked being able to hear the highs and lows, particularly if it is a good recording of organ music. But even at that, moderation was being called for rather than abuse. Someone might say, “That doesn’t apply to me. I don’t blast myself with a powerful sound system.”

The several reasons that make that statement true do not disqualify the experiment. The point is that music outside of the bounds of sacredness creates an addiction or at least a fetish for it. Most Christians will choose music that is structured in the styles of the world over the sacred, any day of the week. “Canned” accompaniments prove this true. Most churches have a piano and organ, and at least moderately skilled musicians—good enough to support holy singing, for sure. But instead of that, the choice is for the rhythms of the pre-recorded tapes and of course a “professional” (worldly) sound.

 




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