I was recently involved in a discussion about the ‘effect’ of secular (mainstream) music on the one’s Christian faith-basically should we as followers of Jesus be listening to and/or indulging in secular music. Some took the stance that it wasn’t an issue at all, that there is no real problem listening to secular music since ‘God created everything’ was typically the jabbing statement used in that defense. On the other side of the fence is the stance that secular music can be destructive for believers, not just because of the words in the songs but rather (and more importantly) because of the spirit by which it is created and the effect it has on our own spirits. Many will argue back and forth on this topic and of course it can be very subjective since every person is at their own place in their walk and we don’t want to be legalistic in our faith. But here is the thing. It’s not really about the type of music, or the style, or the volume of the music. This all comes down to one thing for us…
…For the Christian, it is a spiritual issue, not a secular issue. If being a Christian was merely a mental ascent-something we choose simply with our mind-then maybe we are having a different discussion but as it is, that is not the case. We are spiritual beings and when we become a Christian, a follower of Christ Jesus, we do so out of our repentance of our sin, our confession and faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior. When this happens, we should be receiving a new spirit (2 Cor 5:17) which then in turn results in us being literally ‘born anew’. We now have the spirit of the living God living on the inside of us which in turn begins to change our nature as we walk out our salvation in the process of continual sanctification. This new spirit inside of us does not mix with our flesh (or sin nature), it can’t be the two are diametrically opposed. The flesh (this sinful nature and body) wants opposite of what our new spirit (from God) wants. As we grow in our faith, we should continually be taking captive our thoughts (mind, will & emotions) and bringing them under the subjection to the new spirit inside of us. This is the fulfillment of 2 Peter 1:3-5 stating we have been give the ‘divine power’ of God inside of us to participate in the ‘divine nature’ and overcome/escape the corruption in this world caused by sin & evil desires (paraphrased). It’s a constant battle between us feeding and growing the Godly spirit inside of us and it waging war against the desires of our soul and body.
Now as this applies to secular music or mainstream music. The (new God) spirit inside of us wants to draw near to the Lord, to hear from the Lord, to move and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, to come into continual (renewing, refreshing, and revelational) communion with our Father in Heaven.
Our flesh (soul & body) wants opposite of that. Thus our flesh will typically want to draw near to such things as popular mainstream music, mainstream and secular television, secular books, secular and mainstream anything for that matter. Our spirit on the other hand should want to run from those things because they are not from the Father but from the World. Now does that mean we run away and coup ourselves up in a little 4’x4′ shack and hide from the world? Absolutely not. Does it mean we don’t live and function in a secular society? Nope. How can we? The apostle Peter calls us ‘aliens and strangers’ on this Earth. Why does he call us that? Because we are not from here and as the book of Hebrews states, we long for a better kingdom-a Heavenly one! We are called to live lives set apart from the world yet walking in among those in this world but belonging to another.
This whole subject (regardless of how subjective the topic is) comes down to an issue of the spirit within us! When our inner man delights in the things of this world and is comfortable in secular/mainstream lifestyle then we should be alarmed because something is wrong. The Word of God calls us to ‘come out from them and be separate’, to ‘purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’ (2 Cor 6:17, 7:1) Yes we will drive cars made by the world, yes we will live in houses made by the world, yes we will use things made by the those of the world, but those are inanimate objects which typically hold no spiritual value one way or the other. But when it comes to mainstream/worldly entertainment (activities we personally engage in) we need to check ourselves and seek to fill ourselves up with His Word, fellowship with believers, reaching the lost, enjoying the pure things in this world and the things which He has called us to.
There are those who seem to be defend some notion along the lines of ‘the music made me sin’ rather than addressing the question of ‘Is it appropriate for Christians to listen to secular music’. Others will condone all music because “any music today written and composed for the singular purpose of glorifying Jesus, ultimately has its roots in secular society”. I would agree that the music as written and sung today was founded by secular individuals but that is not the issue. None of this is really the issue.
The issue is the spirit within a person and what to what do we expose ourselves. This is the issue-not whether the music was classically composed or to what decibel level we play the music or to what style we prefer. The issue really isn’t even about music at all but rather, it’s about how do we live our lives on this Earth in response to the gracious gift of life within us once we are born again and saved from our sins. 1 John 2:15 says:
‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. For if anyone has a love for the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything that comes from the world; the lust of the eyes, the pride of life and the boasting of what one has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world, and the world with its desires will pass away. But he who does the will of God will live forever.’
Then over in James 4:4 it states,
‘You adulterous people. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity towards God. Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes and enemy of God.’
We as followers of Christ are not to be ‘of’ this world. We live in this world but we are not to be of it. We are not to look like it; not to smell like it, not to sound like it. We should radiate the spirit of Christ to the world. Our top priority in life should be to constantly maintain our communion with the Lord. That means keeping our lives free from the junk of this culture and the secular standards of the world so that we can clearly hear from our Father in Heaven. John 4:24 says the Father is spirit and true worshipers will worship Him in spirit and truth-to commune with him through the spirit. We don’t communicate with the Father through our flesh and emotions. That’s why it’s irrelevant the style of the music.or how emotionally stirred up we may get. How do we keep open these lines of communication? By keeping ourselves pure and unstained from the world.
I will give a word picture of sorts to try and provide some better explanation. It’s kind of like a piece of tracing paper. When we place that sheet of tracing paper over a picture we can clearly see the image beneath it. But what if we stack on 2 or 3 more sheets of tracing paper? The image becomes a bit more blurry. Or maybe we put on 10-15 more sheets. The image becomes almost completely unrecognizable. The original image represents God the Father. Each sheet of tracing paper represents sin and/or the amount of this world that we let seep into our lives. It blurs our view of God. The more sheets we stack on the less visibility we have and the less we can clearly hear what the Holy Spirit would say to us on a daily basis. We want to keep our lives as clean as possible-not because it affects our salvation but because it affects our relationship.
So to sum this up, secular music in itself holds nothing really for the one is of the Christian faith. Listening to an occasional song here and there will probably not harm you, no more than watching a run-of-the mill television show. Moderation is key in these areas as with all areas in our Christian walk but as stated previously, it’s not about counting songs, or stacking up how much we can view or listen to (or participate in) without going cold in our walk or being deemed ‘worldly’. It’s rather about the love we should have for our savior. How close to we want to be in our relationship with the Lord. How well do we want to be able to hear Him speak to us? How much do we long to radiate Christ in our lives? How much do we want the world to recognize that what we have on this inside of us is not some head knowledge of an historical figure nor is it some dried up religion from days gone by. No. What we have is the supernatural spirit of the living God Himself living inside of us and we should do everything in our power to foster that spirit and let it shine before a darkened and dreary world. As the Apostle Paul states,
‘…we should become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which we shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life.