Monday, May 9, 2016
Music 18 - Prove All Things
The average American listens to hundreds of hours of music a year often with little more rationale for his choice than "I like it." Music is an emotional language and highly influential in our lives. Thus it behooves us to choose our music with much greater care than just the shallow reasoning of "I like it." Last week we examined three tests our personal music should pass before we allow it into our lives. Today I want to give you three additional thoughts to consider in this context.
First (or fourth, if you are following along from last week), might this music cause my brother to stumble? Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. (I Corinthians 8.13) I do not mean "offend" as in bother. If my music bothers you or your music bothers me – ruining my concentration, aggravating my peace and quiet, etc. – that does not mean this test has been failed. I mean "offend" as in causing another person's spiritual walk to be negatively affected.
Leadership is influence, and the more influence the Lord has allowed you to have over other people the more important it is that you abide by this. Let's take folk music for a brief example. There is a point at which folk slides into the beginnings of country. On the other edge country melds into rock, and on all sides it long ago edged into glorifications of alcohol and adultery. If I listen to folk music, and discuss it publicly in a positive manner it just may provoke in one who follows me a much poorer choice simply because they possess little discernment.
I am not saying that your life has to be held hostage by the immaturity of others. I am saying that you and I need to think about every influence we allow in our lives – not just from the standpoint of "Is this acceptable?" but also from the standpoint of "Will this influence a weaker brother to make a bad decision."
Along this line I confess I am mystified at what God's people will "like" with a Facebook button, especially God's people in positions of leadership. I am not advocating hypocrisy and a double life. I am however advocating that we think through what we praise or what we express affection for. It just may be that what some of us can sense in the way of spiritual boundaries others cannot see at all. If that's the case we are wise to avoid any actions or commendations or expressions that may spiritually damage a weaker brother's spiritual walk.
I can hear it now… "But, Pastor Brennan, I have Christian liberty!"
This is not about liberty; it is about discernment and influence. It is about putting another person's needs above my own preferences. It is about being conscious of their condition rather than my rights.
Second, is this music a weight holding me back from running my best race? Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12.1) Sin and weight are two different things. The former is the transgression of God's law. The latter is anything else that would otherwise be acceptable if it will hold me back from running a good race.
Bro. Hyles used to often use an illustration in this context of a footrace. Is it a sin to show up for a footrace in an overcoat and combat boots? No. But it would be a clear hindrance. The weight and encumbrance are unnecessary and actually detrimental.
The applications of this principle go far beyond my personal taste in music but they certainly apply there as well as elsewhere. For example, being a father is one of the great privileges of my life. …and talk about a race that needs run with patience, huh? I would be foolish to foster musical tastes that made my parenting job more difficult, that developed unhealthy appetites in my children, or that distracted me from my responsibility to bring my children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Lastly, is my choice in music excellent? "Well, duh, she won a Grammy." Um, no, you have missed my point. Paul expressed a fervent desire that the Philippian church would approve things that are excellent. (Philippians 1.10) Grammy's and Emmy's and Oscar's are the world's standard of excellence. God's standards are entirely different. My mother used to quote the little ditty
Good, better, best; Never let it rest
Till your good is better, And your better's best
Daniel is a superlative example of this. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him. (Daniel 6.3) It was not a question of a bad spirit; it was a question of differing grades of good spirit. Daniel's was not merely good. It was not even better. Daniel's spirit was downright excellent.
It is precisely at this point that we find the great error with the question that is so often hurled in musical debates, "Well, what's wrong with such-and-such a song or an artist like so-and-so? Huh? Just prove to me what is so wrong about them!" The question itself – while logically valid and almost always worth an answer for reasons of teaching and understanding – reveals an awful philosophical approach to choosing music. It assumes not just neutrality, but actual moral goodness on the part of the music in question. It assumes innocence, and then demands guilt be proven before a negative verdict can be rendered.
The problem is not with your right to ask such a question. The problem is that it essentially reduces to a minimum what is necessary to deem a song or an artist or a genre acceptable and then marches off into the sunset proclaiming victory. The Holy Spirit inspired Word of God explicitly calls for us not to be satisfied with the minimum, to skate by the edge as long as we stay within the lines. He calls for us to trade in our fleshly minimums for His maximums.
Excellent musical choices will never be arrived at by asking, "What's wrong with this?" They can only be arrived at by asking, "What's right with this?" Instead of demanding that someone show you the error of music seek to actively establish its spiritual health. Does this music make me want to be a better person? Does it increase my capacity to feel and express genuine love? Does it teach me something excellent? Does it create an excellent spirit in me? Does it draw people together? Does it bring comfort? Does it lend strength? Does it provoke me to good works? Does it cause my heart to well up in praise? Etc. etc.
I realize all six of these suggestions I have offered you over the last two weeks are subjective. But that's ok. The independent Baptist movement could do with a few less musical guru's approving everything for everyone. I am convinced that if you will actively seek to live by biblical principle under the guidance of the Holy Spirit He will lead you to choose correctly when it comes to music.
…but above all, take your personal music choices seriously. Throw out once and for all the simplistic and dangerous "I like it." Put your music to a sterner test than that.
Paul said it this say, Prove all things. Test absolutely everything. Assume nothing. And then, once you have painstakingly established your music's spiritual health, hold fast to that which is good. (I Thessalonians 5.21)