Praise that Kills the Gospel

I’ve noticed a trend in some of today’s popular Christian music that disturbs me. There’s a song that’s been playing on our local “praise” station, where the artist sings his prayer to God: “Yeah, I want to believe, Jesus help me believe, that I am someone worth dying for.” In the end the artist turns to the listener and exhorts them “You gotta believe, ya you gotta believe, that you are someone worth dying for.”

Then there’s another popular song that came out awhile back. In one of the verses the singer says to God:

“Sometimes I believe that I can do anything
Yet other times I think I’ve got nothing good to bring
But You look at my heart and You tell me That I’ve got all You seek,
oh And it’s easy to believe.”

I was so bothered by this I actually wrote the artist expressing my concern and asking them what they could possibly mean by this. God looks at your heart and finds all that He is seeking for? Something is horribly backwards here. I never received a response.

I could give many examples, but I’ll just share one more.

I heard this song recently, sung by a young Christian man. I think I understand his heart in the song, but this isn’t the message that mends broken girls hearts eternally, and beside that it just isn’t a song that should be sung by a man.

“Well little girl fourteen, I wish that you could see

That beauty is within your heart

And you were made with such care, your skin, your body, and your hair

Are perfect just the way they are

There could never be a more beautiful you.”

Am I just nit-picking or being overly critical? Maybe you’re wondering what that problem is.

First, let me say that I am not questioning these artists’ sincerity or motives. It’s highly likely that they sincerely want to impact people for the Lord Jesus. But there is a critical, gospel-killing message in these songs, and I think it is very reflective of Christian culture today.

I’d like to address the lies (unintentional as they may have been) within these songs head on. If you listen to Christian radio then turn your discernment radar on high and be on the alert for lies about:

1. The nature of man’s heart.

When Jesus considered the hearts of those he died for, was He thinking “That person has a beautiful heart. That person is so beautiful, that I can’t handle eternity without them. Truly, that person is worth dying for.”

Let’s just look at scripture.

Eclessiastes 9:3 “The hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live.”

Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

Romans 3:12-16 “All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their path are ruin and misery.”

Whoa. Not a very nice summary.

Friends, the beauty of the gospel isn’t that Jesus died for people because they were so overwhelmingly attractive. That strips the gospel of both its offense and its power, and ruins its glory. The beauty of the gospel is that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).” Yes, even as blasphemy flooded our lips and our feet ran to destruction, Christ died.

Man is unworthy of salvation. Salvation is in fact the farthest thing from what we deserved. Hell is what the heart of man deserves. That is why Jesus is a merciful, great, and mighty Savior.

2. The self sufficiency of God.

I take no issue with songs that express God’s desire for people. God loves this world (John 3:16), and desires that no one would perish (2Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11). We who have been saved are Christ’s beloved bride, and there really is no language too strong or exuberant to describe the love He has for His church.

But beware of music which implies that God needs something that only humans can provide. He simply doesn’t. I think one of the dangers with all the songs lately about how wonderful and beautiful we are, is that it makes it seem like God worships us. In another song I’ve heard lately, the artist sings to God over and over again “Tell me, lest I forget who I am to you, who I am to you…” I’m not saying the song is bad, or even wrong. I understand the importance of finding our identity in Christ. I only want to point out the overwhelming tendency lately for songs to be men begging God to remind them how wonderful they are. I simply wish Christian music would return to being primarily about how desperate we are for an awesome and majestic God to show us who He is.

Simply put, we are the ones who desperately need God. God doesn’t need us. Rapper Shai Linne sings a refreshing song about the self sufficiency of God. I’ll share it at the bottom of this post.

3. The central focal point of the cross.

John Piper has pointed this out about the song “Above All.” It is a beautiful song with an unfortunate climax about Jesus death on the cross: “You took the fall and thought of me above all.”

Dear friend, man is not the pinnacle of the redemption story. Salvation itself is not the glory, though it points to it. To be a sinner saved by the blood of Christ is a beautiful thing, but there is something more beautiful than the saved sinner.

Jesus died not primarily with our glory in mind, but with the glory of His Father.

Read these words of Jesus:

John 12:27-29 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. ‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’”

John 17:17 “Father the hour has come (to die); glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”

R.C. Sproul notes that “The self-sacrifice of the Son is an act of loving obedience to the Father that reveals the love among the three Persons of the Trinity.

Indeed, in John 10:17 Jesus says “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.”

The gospel is great because God is great, not because we are. The cross shows us how sinful we are and what a merciful and spectacular Savior we have. We should not spend our worship musing about how wonderful we must be, but rather lifting up our glorious God who displayed His worth and saved sinners like us.

One thought on “Praise that Kills the Gospel”

  1. Yes, Sister! I have had those same thoughts again and again. Thank you for taking the time to write them boldly and carefully.

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