Wednesday, April 26, 2017

From Which Well Are We Drinking?


Allen Cagle has posted a good piece, Should We Sing That Song? [HT: Glenn Chatfield], on gauging the appropriateness of a song for corporate worship. I have mentioned elements of the major points in the past, but I wish to consider “Association and History” (given little attention in the selection process) by using two songs that have recently become popular in corporate worship.

O Come to the Altar Resurrecting
Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

(Chorus)
O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

(Chorus x2)

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t He wonderful
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Sing alleluia, Christ is risen
(Repeat)

(Chorus x2)

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you've found
The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now
The Savior knelt to wash our feet
Now at his feet we bow

The one who wore our sin and shame
Now robed in majesty
The radiance of perfect love
Now shines for all to see

(Chorus x2)
Your name, Your name is victory
All praise will rise to Christ our king

The fear that held us now gives way
To him who is our peace
His final breath upon the cross
Is now alive in me

(Chorus)

(Bridge x3)
By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare your victory
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me

The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
Our God has robbed the grave

(Chorus x2)

(Bridge)

The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me

Setting aside the gratuitous repetition, what do we learn? In the left column we are presented a song asking if we are hurting, overwhelmed, or thirsting for satisfaction after bad decisions made in life. In other words, we are told that we need a good therapist. In order to be that therapist, Jesus shed blood and rose again, and when we feel bad for doing something wrong, there is a Father who wants to hug us and make us feel better. In other words, we are offered a warm, cozy feeling with the encouragement to offer worship and praise for feeling better. Oh, and we are asked to tell others they can feel better, too.

The right column the songwriter at least attempts to show a humbled, yet glorified Savior, but in questionable language. Jesus’ crown was rightly changed from thorns to glory, but He never washed our feet: The song is improperly placing us in the Upper Room account. Moving on, He indeed took our sin and shame and is now robed in majesty; however, the radiance of love is not in His exaltation, but rather His humiliation and the cross, even as the apostle Paul wrote:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro 5:8)
In addition, the bridge teaches a confusion of justification and sanctification by equating them in a gradual process akin to Eastern Orthodox theosis. Resurrection does not happen in stages: one is either alive or dead. Again from the apostle Paul:
And you were dead in your transgressions and sins…. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Ep 2:1, 5)
Those in Christ are alive now, not being made alive. The process of spiritual enlivening is not prolonged or elongated, but an instantaneous and certain change from one state to another.

Songs communicate a message, and within the church the message must be true to Scripture. It is incumbent on the lyricist(s) to correctly convey what God reveals in His Word.

Why these two?

Some may wonder why I use these two songs in presenting my case. They come from the same source, Elevation Church, whose head pastor is Steven Furtick. That’s right, the Earl of Eisegesis himself is the teaching source for those writing this music. In fact, Furtick is listed on both songs as a lyricist. We can see how this is yet another example, along with Hillsong United, of bad lyrics derived from bad teaching, but dressed in catchy music and salted with enough correct wording to make it palatable.

The music and teaching of these havens of heterodoxy need to be avoided.  They make mockery of the gospel of the Lord Jesus and change the message of the cross in order to glorify the Christian—here by using the “rising from the ashes” phraseology like the mythical phoenix. No such thing is promised to the believer, but it fits the template of spiritual power and triumphalism being promoted by Steven Furtick and Brian Houston.

Christians are not the exalted ones. We are the despised and rejected, because our Lord was deemed so; and we are not greater than He.
Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long;
    We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (Ps 44:22)
By singing music that comes from these sources, we are affirming a theology that is antithetical to all our Lord and Savior accomplished in Himself. These teachers and their followers present a distorted picture of what Christ accomplished on the cross for our behalf.

Lighten up, will you?

I am certain some will consider my comments to be overly harsh, especially for “Resurrecting,” since I already acknowledged some correct content. Had the songwriters used biblical concepts throughout, there would be no issue; but as certainly as someone would grow sick or die if drinking from a poisoned well, so would those suffer who imbibe at the fount of a corrupt teacher or network. Discernment is needed when choosing worship resources.

Brethren, too often we offer trifles by trying to enter where we do not belong, labor where we have no work, and exalt what is to remain abased. Instead of salving guilty consciences or engaging in self-glory, perhaps lyricists (and their consumers, the congregants) should keep their eyes on the One of whom all Scripture speaks and remember with David:
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
    And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
    In Your light we see light. (Ps 36:8–9)

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Excellent analysis! Yet too many assemblies are using Furtick nonsense, including the assembly we left over 2 years ago BECAUSE the new "worship" leader bringing in this garbage was the final straw.