"Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (1Thessalonians 5:21-22). The scriptural directive here is clear: steer clear of every kind of evil and test all things [emphasis mine] to enjoy abundant living and eliminate harmful influences. Just as we must be extremely vigilant with unfiltered Internet offering pornography a click away, so too must we be on guard here.
Our directive is to use discernment when it comes to today's music by examining the lyrics and the lives of the artists. Anything and anyone condoning illicit sex, violence, rejection of authority, sensuality, drugs, profanity, immodesty, sexual perversion, and the occult must be avoided.
I remember when I was first converted I loved a catchy song by George Harrison titled "My Sweet Lord", thinking he was singing about Jesus. Chanting the chorus for months, I was in for a rude awakening when I discovered I was invoking and celebrating "Lord Krishna".
Music's Mesmerizing Power
I try to be a watchman on the wall living in the Nashville area, home to a steady buffet of concerts, shows, and of course the annual Bonnaroo extravaganza. I come from Cleveland, the city where the term "rock 'n' roll" was coined in 1955 and home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. I played drums for a decade in a rock band, "The Lost Souls," who recently released a CD of our greatest hits.
In my autobiography, Clap Your Hands!, I recalled one performance prior to my conversion:
"In supreme ecstasy, I sat on my percussion throne and knew that every eye in Cleveland Stadium was focused on me. For the next twenty-five minutes, I was in bliss. As the electric guitars vibrated through the powerful amplifiers, I helped to build each crescendo with rolling explosions of drum bursts and crashing symbols. Caught in the spell of raw, base emotion unleashed and translated to the semblance of a melodic line, the youthful audience began to sway with the rhythm and lose themselves increasingly in each song. Some were completely gone, possessed, dancing on their seats or in the aisles, jerking insanely to the frenzy of the electrically charged sounds. And I was the dance master, the drumstick my baton."
Early on I learned the mesmerizing power of music. Music can be neutral, but it can also convey great power. God created music but it is the devil that counterfeits it and often uses it to seduce people onto sinful paths.
When Moses descended with the Ten Commandments, he was enraged as he heard singing and saw idolatry with people dancing "in a frenzy" (Numbers 32:25).
This August there's going to be a music festival at Woodstock, New York, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic event. Amidst the romantic recollection of the nostalgic music fest, it’s critical to remember the reality of the massive gathering of 400,000 young people who celebrated musical artistry along with unrestrained nudity, promiscuity, and free-flowing drugs. Scores of the participants and performers met tragic, premature deaths.
The Bible makes it clear that Christians are not to conform to the culture and its seduction. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Musicians as Models
Besides the music, there is also the all-important area of performers' lifestyles influencing millions of vulnerable youth.
This month's Rolling Stone features a 7-page spread on platinum-selling artist, Tekashi69, a rapper who wears a $300,000 necklace celebrating his 15 hits. His songs have been streamed 2.6 billion times and he has 15 million Instagram followers. He's called "The Face of a Generation." Like Lady Gaga, he professes to be a Christian.
Tekashi69 was arrested three times last year for "assaulting a policeman" and "choking a 16-year-old." He's also been indicted for felonies including drug dealing, armed robbery, and two attempted murders.
Too many Christian parents say, "Hey, I’m not into hip-hop and rap, but I followed Elvis, Metallica, and the Stones so I'm open to my kids listening to their kind of music. I don't want to be legalistic."
Safeguards in a Serious Time
As a parent and grandparent, I offer some suggestions in these perilous times.
– Discern from a biblically informed perspective if the content of the music, the lifestyle of the artist, and the fruit of the music glorifies God.
– Discover if lyrics encourage behavior contrary to Scripture.
– Determine if the music's content subtly evokes sensual images inappropriate for our children.
– Decide if the music and musician may be a potential "stumbling block" to our children's spiritual growth in an impressionable time of their lives.
– Draw upon God's grace and wisdom in concert with pastors and other godly parents to keep communication strong; provide creative alternatives; plus, establish the importance of upholding God's Word: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you and you may live long on earth'" (Ephesians 6:1-3).
As God is preparing America for spiritual awakening, make a quality decision to embrace creative and inspirational music for joyful celebration and wholesome entertainment. Satan has his counterfeits but God is the Author of the authentic that lifts our spirits and honors Him.
Also read: A Christian's Secular Music