Flipping through my vast and broad Christian library of songs this week, I stopped when it came to the oh-so-familiar tune, “The Father’s House.” This is a popular song that I’ve belted out many times. It’s catchy, it’s upbeat, and it makes me feel great. But for some reason, this week I stopped to think about why it makes me feel great. I quickly pulled up the lyrics, and the second verse gave me pause:
Arrival’s not the endgame
The journey’s where You are
You never wanted perfect
You just wanted my heart
“Wait. Is that true?” I thought. It’s true, when God called me into his family, I was definitely not perfect. I’m still nowhere near perfect. But is that what God wants? Just my heart? Why then, does he want me to change, if he doesn’t want perfect? A few minutes of reflection led me to conclude that though catchy, short and upbeat, these lyrics are not only wrong, they are at odds with the Gospel and our response to the greatest gift we could ever be given.
Why aren’t we able to enter into relationship with God outside of Jesus? Romans 5 explains that without Jesus’ sacrifice, we are actually God’s enemies!
9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
We are only able to enter into the Father’s house because Jesus is perfect, and bore our punishment that we deserve in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). Why then, would we sing that God never wanted perfect when he provided the perfect sacrifice for us through his Son Jesus?
Back to Christian radio. If we are discerning, we will hear intimations of a false gospel in some of the mainstays of Christian hit music – a gospel that tells us, “Come as you are and stay as you are.” When we look at the Billboard Hot 100 for 2020, it is obvious which gospel sells. Among “The Father’s House,” lie many other songs even in the top 10 that are selling the same message.
It is interesting to contrast famous Christian singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle’s first hit with her most popular song. These lyrics are the chorus from “How Can It Be” (2015).
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be?
These words clearly emphasize the wonder and amazement at the love of God and salvation of sinners like us. The message in the much more popular, “You Say” (2018) seems to offer a similar theme on the surface, but even the first verse disagrees.
I keep fighting voices in my mind
That say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me
I will never measure up
Wait, did she just say she’s fighting the voices that tell her she’s not enough? The truth that the gospel illuminates for us is precisely that we are not enough! We need Jesus, we need the Holy Spirit, and we need God’s grace. Lauren, it’s not a lie that you will never measure up. You won’t! And that’s okay. Jesus is more than enough!
Why is it that the majority of songs on the Christian charts aren’t about God? Why are they affirming me, as a sinner, without explaining what Christ has done for me? I don’t know for sure, but perhaps it is that the message of the Gospel can be quite offensive. In order to receive it, we must recognize and acknowledge our own sinfulness in order to call on Jesus to purify us. For those of us who have already received that message, it is incomparably great news! But for those who aren’t ready to change, this is an impossible message to receive.
Is this the message that we want to send to unbelievers, a feel-good and false tonic of complete approval and affirmation? No! We want everyone to know the truth: we are sinners by choice, we are undeserving of salvation, but through faith in Christ alone and God’s grace, we are saved from the eternal punishment for our sins and allowed to have a relationship with our Creator.
We want everyone to know the truth: we are sinners by choice, we are undeserving of salvation, but through faith in Christ alone and God’s grace, we are saved from the eternal punishment for our sins and allowed to have a relationship with our Creator.
You may be thinking, “I’m trying to do the right thing by turning on Christian music because I don’t want my kids’ heads to be filled with sin-glorifying mainstream music, and now you’re telling me I shouldn’t listen to Christian music either?!” Not at all. Surely some of the greatest Christian hymns and songs have yet to be written. There are thousands of musicians and worshipers releasing songs daily that are true and glorifying to God. Some of my favorites include Sovereign Grace, The Getty’s, The Worship Initiative, and Gable Price & Friends.
A verse in Scripture that helps remind me of the purpose of singing worship songs is Colossians 3:16. These songs should be rooted in God’s Word, and produce thankfulness to God in our hearts. We should leave in awe of who God is and what he’s done, not thinking of ourselves.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
Most of the false lyrics we find in Christian music are subtle, hidden, and seem innocent enough. If we aren’t careful, we can begin to believe these messages that are made to please us, and not God. My suggestion is simply to consider the words we sing and listen to on the radio, and make sure they align with God’s Word. This will help us keep the Gospel at the forefront, and will help us to worship our King in both Spirit and Truth (John 4:24).
Lucy Hauser, Worship and Connections Leader