Did you know that before he was thrown out of heaven, Lucifer (aka Satan) was the angel in charge of music? He may be an outcast, but he’s still in the music business. In Ephesians 2:2 he’s called the prince of the power of the air, the spirit…in the children of disobedience. One of his most effective tools is music.
We all know that music is powerful, and it can be inspiring, but if listening to it leads us to adopt wrong attitudes and develop harmful thinking patterns, it becomes a destructive force in our lives. Under the influence of some music, we may open ourselves to Satan’s subtle lies. It’s important to be sure our music standards line up with God’s Word.
Below are four steps you can take that will help you make wise decisions about music. Everyone’s preferences are different, but what matters is that the music styles we listen to support the Word of God and build us up. Everything we do should honor and glorify God, including the choices we make about music.
Step One: Research the Artist
1. The Artist’s Lifestyle
Cary Schmidt states in his book Music Matters: “Music produces a lifestyle.” Before you listen to that next song, take some time to learn more about the writers of the music and lyrics. Look at their associations and check out their appearance.
Each person has a unique style, and you can tell a lot about people by what they wear and how they carry themselves. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. This is a clear command to be different from the world. If an artist doesn’t look different from the world and doesn’t associate with people who support God, then that artist probably isn’t producing music that would be in a Christian’s best interest.
2. The Artist’s Intent
Consider these questions: “What is the artist trying to get people to believe or think through this particular song? Is this Christian artist producing music for self-gratification and personal glory, or for the purpose of pointing others to Christ and promoting His glory?”
This point is especially important in the realm of Christian music. Back in 2002, research was done on a Christian rock group that maintains a public display of Christianity by having Bible studies with distinguished fundamental pastors, but when it comes to concert time, things become much different. The members of the Christian rock group spray pentagram tattoos on themselves, employ the hard rock vocal style of Creed’s Scott Stapp, and on stage they’ve been known to act like crazy rock-‘n’-rollers.
If these artists’ intent was to truly point others to Christ based on their music, then why must they dress and play music in a way that relates to the world? Are they trying to build a bigger audience base? It’s God’s responsibility to draw more people to Him, but He wouldn’t use worldly ways to do that.
Step Two: Listen to the Beat
1. The Association of the Beat
To understand what makes rock ‘n’ roll what it is, let’s examine its specific characteristics. The first characteristic of rock music is the driving beat. The rhythm is the dominant sound. Many music therapists explain that it’s through our bodies that we first respond to the rhythm of music.
The second characteristic of rock music is the repetition and loud volume. Rock-‘n’-roll music consists of endless repetition of rhythmic, harmonic and melodic patterns. Steven Halpern, in his book Tuning the Human Instrument, states: “The loud volume, drums, and repetition of much of the contemporary rock genre bears a not-coincidental resemblance to trance music found in other parts of the world.”
Look at how Moses in the book of Exodus described the sounds he heard as he approached the Israelites’ camp upon his return after receiving the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 32:17–18 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he [Moses] said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
When Moses came back from a rewarding time with God, he found God’s chosen people participating in gross immorality, and they were engulfed with music described as “a noise of war.”
We must be careful about taking music that has good lyrics and pairing it with the beat of the world. In that instance, we end up with music that still appeals to the flesh and takes on the form of the world, but has good lyrics. This would be like going to a bar and ordering a beer. Since you don’t drink, nor would you ever drink, you dump out the beer and replace it with apple juice. You know that it’s apple juice and it won’t harm you, but its container gives a totally different impression.
2. The Purpose of the Beat
When deciding on what type of music is acceptable, be careful to avoid listening to music whose beat strives to satisfy the flesh:
Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
Worshipping God is not about an emotional breakthrough, it’s about giving reverence to God and recognizing Him for who He is. Dan Lucarini says in his book Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement:
“Is the rock music style used in so much CCM associated with any particular moral dimension?
I argue that it is clearly and unequivocally associated with immorality, especially promiscuous and adulterous sex, glorification of drugs, and rebellion against authority. But Dan, you must mean the secular godless lyrics, not the music. No, I mean the music style itself. Decades of rock music in our culture have permanently stamped that music style with the dimensions of immorality. Changing the lyrics and substituting Christian musicians cannot remove that stigma.”
When the beat of the song takes the form of something that’s negative, such as rock music, and appeals to our flesh in an uncontrolled way and gets us to focus on and do things that don’t please God, then we must abstain.
Step Three: Understand the Text
1. Do the Words Honor to God?
This principle mainly applies to secular songs. When listening to a song, ask: “Do the lyrics honor and glorify God or do they encourage me to think about something that doesn’t honor and glorify Him?”
Popular songs from big-time artists have lyrics that stir up lust and sinful thoughts toward others, and themes of cursing, drinking, drugs, and emotional unrest dominate many hit songs.
When thinking of worldly artists, it’s a no-brainer to know that their lyrics promote immorality, but if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves justifying their words and enjoying their music.
2. Do the Words Support God’s Message?
This is where it gets tricky. Satan understands that we know that worldly songs are not good, so he’ll get us to listen to songs that aren’t downright ungodly, but the underlying message still goes against God.
This is also where popular children’s videos come into play. I grew up watching popular kids’ movies and cartoons. Many of the most famous kids’ movies come from a magical place in Orlando, Florida. Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse!
If we aren’t careful, we can take those kids’ movies and assume that because they’re kids’ movies and geared toward a younger generation, the overall premise is safe and wholesome. The next time you play that kids’ CD or the latest and greatest DVD, I challenge you to listen closely to the words of their songs. Listen to the songs’ underlying messages, and try to figure out what they’re presenting. Yes, the messages may be subtle and may seem innocent at first, but many times the music from even the most wholesome kids’ programs encourages listeners to solve problems based upon their own rebellion or intuition. The songs begin to plant seeds in young viewers’ minds to make them think they can tackle problems themselves and shouldn’t let others tell them what to do.
Now, we shouldn’t live in a cardboard box and think that all kids’ movies are evil, but listeners should be discerning about what they allow to come into the gateway of their heart. Satan isn’t called the deceiver of the world for nothing!
Step Four: Check Your Heart
1. What is your intent in what you listen to? Are you seeking self-gratification or are you praising God?
It isn’t wrong to enjoy ourselves, but when we do something that gives us satisfaction outside the will of God, that’s a different story.
What is the will of God regarding our lives? We are to be filled with the spirit.
Ephesians 5:18–21 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
We need to abstain from music that would prohibit or have a negative impact upon the filling of the Spirit in our lives.
2. How is the music you choose to listen to affecting your inner life?
Cary Schmidt states in his book Music Matters: “Your music is intimately related to your spiritual battle. The choices you make when you turn on a CD or an iPod are intricately related to your inner life… Ultimately, your spiritual and emotional condition, as influenced by your music, will come out in your lifestyle.”
Going back to the story of Moses’ return to the Israelites’ camp after receiving the Ten Commandments, Exodus 32:17–19 states:
And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he [Moses] said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
The music of the people was directly related to what was in their hearts, and their actions were a reflection of what was going on in their hearts.
So ask yourself, “Does the music I choose to listen to benefit my spiritual walk with Lord or does it hinder it?”
In conclusion, when listening to music, or when doing anything in the Christian life, it’s not about a set of rules to follow; it’s about interpreting our choices in light of the Gospel. Before you flip on the radio or turn on your CD player or iPod, stop and see if the kind of music you’ve chosen is what God would be satisfied with based on the artist, the beat, and the lyrics. Above all else, don’t forget our purpose on earth as Christians, which is this:
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31