I may be showing my age, but I remember as a kid hearing the song “why should the devil have all the good music?”. I don’t remember much about the song… except that line… and didn’t really understand what it meant at the time.
When I was growing up…
My dad was trained as a chorister in South Africa, so my brothers and I grew up in a musical household. My parents had us listening to everything from classical and jazz, to Keith Green and Cliff Richard, and all the music played in our house was music of my parents choosing.
I was met with a slammed door!
One cleaning day in my teenage years I heard some music coming out of my big brothers’ room that I didn’t recognize. “What are you listening too??” I asked excitedly, enjoying the harmonies and beats he was playing. I was met with a slammed door! Later, I found out he confessed to collecting money left over from running errands for mum and used it to buy the latest Take 6 album.
He was disciplined, but my parents got it. The ‘acceptable genre’ list was expanded and we were now allowed to listen to more upbeat, contemporary music, and some secular music, depending on the choice of topic and words in the song. If the words in the music we wanted to listen to weren’t appropriate, then it wasn’t vetoed in our home.
Exploring musical tastes…
Growing up in Sydney, Australia I was immersed in Hillsong praise and worship. However, turning 18 and having more freedom over my choices of music, I started to feed my love for music that made me move. Music with more energy: Hip Hop, R&B.
NOW I was allowed to go to night clubs, and I went as often as I could! I wasn’t drinking, smoking, using profanity, or hooking up… I was just going for the music.
Music I could dance to!
More than just music!
I was still in church twice every weekend, enjoying praise and worship, but outside of church I mostly listened to secular music. While my innocence was protected by my naivety, I’m sure some of the references and innuendo in the lyrics made my parents cringe.
One day my mum gently warned me about the music I was listening to in the car. I gave her the standard line
“I’m not listening to the words, I just love the beat.”
She responded, “Maybe so, but the words are what is getting into your spirit.” I remembered that conversation years later. I had come off the dance floor in personal protest to the lyrics being sung in the song playing… But was shocked to realise that while I was not dancing to the song, I was still singing the words! This song that was totally disrespectful to women, that promoted all the things I didn’t support… and I was singing it!
The wisdom of mum’s words struck me and I quickly changed how much I went to clubs and the music I listened to. No more hip hop. No more R&B!
Furthering my understanding
Soon after, now in my early 20’s, I went on a trip to the USA to serve in a number of different ministries. I was inspired by the people I met who were much younger than me, serving in ministry full time, and were very conscious of what they consumed.
Books. Movies. Music.
It was all consciously filtered. Travelling in a car one day they put on a song with a beat that made me miss my old music. Surprised this mature Christian who had come from a life of drugs and gangs, and was now a leader in a discipleship program, would listen to this style of music, so I tuned in to hear the lyrics.
Imagine my surprise to hear it was Christian!!
I had never heard anything like it! Music with a great beat that glorified God… Christian Hip Hop!!
I felt like I had struck gold. Since then I’ve discovered a whole world of Christian Hip Hop and R&B, making it my mission to expose as many people to this genre as possible. “Is this Christian music??” I’m often asked the first time someone hears my playlist. It sure is!!
Becoming what you digest
We’ve come a long way since Cliff Richards sang the rhetorical question: Why should the devil have all the good music? And the fact is, he doesn’t! We are in an era where disciples of Christ have infiltrated every genre of music, using their talent and platform of influence to praise and glorify the God they serve. The combination of catchy beats, harmonious melodies, funky rhythms, and lyrics that declare truth is so much better than anything the world has to offer.
I think about Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8: “Summing it all up friends I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious- the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (The Message)
We become what we consume.
Physically, if you eat a lot of unhealthy food your body will not look or function as it should. Spiritually the same principle applies. If you consume a lot of music that is not positive, not uplifting, not Christ centred, your spirit will also become weak and unhealthy.
And why would we?
There is SO MUCH good music out there that will feed your faith, not your flesh. That declares who God is, who we are in Him, and what we can do through Him.
“…Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink…” Matthew 14: 29-30 (The Message).
Peter only began to sink when he shifted his focus from Jesus to the storm.
Music has the power to shift our focus. Good, or bad. We will be amazed at what God can allow us to do if our focus is on Him. If you are in a challenging season, struggling to stay positive or to keep your heads above the storm, examine what you are watching, reading, and listening to. Music is emotive. Lyrics are powerful. The truth is, today, the devil does not have all the good music. And if you listen to the right songs, songs that keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, you might just find yourself walking on water.
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