Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the parents and youth of my home church on the topic of listening to music for the glory of God. The parent/youth ministry is currently discussing the book, Wordliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. My message was something of an adaptation of a chapter I wrote for the book, called “God, My Heart, and Music.”
I started out by saying God gave us music as a gift to direct our attention to him. In the Bible, music is connected with worship, weddings, funerals, work, play, and war. The basic elements of rhythm, melody, and harmony aren’t inherently evil or sinful. Non-Christians can write beautiful songs that are good for us. Christians can write terrible songs that are bad for us.
So how can something so good become something bad? Two reasons. First, there’s a sinful world outside us. Music, like any gift, can be abused, misused, and used wrongly. Those who make music – artists, record companies, marketers – aren’t primarily interested in caring for our souls or helping us avoid worldliness. They want us to buy their music.
Second, there are sinful desires inside us. Just as people can write music to communicate sin, we can listen to music to feed sin. And music amplifies the deceptive voices of the world. Listening to music is never neutral, because our sinful hearts are involved (James 1:14-15). Listening to music without discernment and godly intent reveals a heart willing to flirt with the world. We get into trouble when we don’t THINK about the music we listen to.
I ended by offering six handles to help us think more concretely and biblically about the music we listen to.
1. Submission (Prov. 19:20)
If you’re living at home, that means submission to your parents. If you’re an adult, that means submission to those who are spiritually mature and know you best. Listening to music is not a right. It’s a privilege to be earned.
2. Content (Phil. 4:8)
If we listen regularly to ungodly lyrics, it’s only a matter of time until we become dull to sin or drawn by sin. Some Christians say they don’t know what songs are saying. If we don’t listen to what’s being said, why don’t we find out? Christians, more than anyone, should know what the songs we listen to are saying (James 3:8-10).
3. Associations (Prov. 22:3)
Because music can’t be held, touched, or seen, it always associates itself with the things that surround it: friends, concerts, clubs, radio stations, videos, websites, other artists. A “neutral” song can lead us to a variety of temptations.
4. Time (Prov. 13:20)
The more time you spend listening to music, the more it becomes a friend that will affect you. Is your music a wise friend or a fool?
5. Fruit (Prov. 14:14)
We should be aware of the kinds of emotions the music we listen to produces in us. How does it affect our relationships with others? What effect does it have on our attitudes, perspectives, and appearance? Is there any desire to deceive others about the music we listen to?
6. Conversion (2 Cor. 13:5)
An ongoing struggle with music and its effects could reveal that an individual has never been regenerated. Only a true worshiper of Jesus can appreciate music the way God intended it to be appreciated – not as an idol, but as a gift.
I ended by giving three ways to listen to music for God’s glory: intentionally, with others, and gratefully.
You can download or listen to the whole message at the Covenant Life website.