By Alan Ives
We are going to try and nail down how
to tell the difference between good and bad music, especially if the words are
O.K. How can I tell if something is sensual or not, if something is spiritual
or carnal? I think of a fellow that didn't know anything about music, and he said
to me: "When I read my Bible, when I pray, when I listen to preaching, the Holy
Spirit teaches and ministers to me and comforts me, rebukes, instructs, corrects
me--whatever it is that I need. But I can tell that the Holy Spirit of God is
working in me." And he said, "When somebody sings a song, I expect the Holy Spirit
to do the same thing through that song."
I had sung a blues arrangement of
"No One Ever Cares For Me Like Jesus," and he said, "Never sing that one in
church again." This was years ago.
This man could hardly play "She'll
Be Coming 'round the Mountain" on the harmonica, but he told me that, and I
promised him that I would never sing that song that way again.
This young man is responsible for
his whole family coming to Christ. And the entire time that I have known him,
he has spent time alone with the Lord and has put the Lord ahead of any friendship
that he has with another man.
When we're all done with this thing,
if too much is scrambled--I will try to make it simple--but if it is scrambled,
you can always just ask the Lord. Say, "Holy Spirit, teach me; is this song
good or bad?" If you have a question, ask the Lord. "Try the spirits" is what
1 John 4 says, "whether they be of God." You'll be able to tell. Some songs
are so bad you'll know immediately you ought not to listen to them. Others are
more difficult to tell. I still have questions about certain songs I listen
to. There are some songs that seem to have a good message, but something doesn't
seem right. We want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and if there is something
wrong in the song, we don't want to sing it.
Let's look at 1 Peter 5:8-9. "Be
sober; be vigilant; because your adversary, as a roaring lion, walketh about,
seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that
the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."
This is a message to Christians.
We must be careful, because, though Satan cannot take a child of God to Hell--and
praise God for that--he can take a child of God just about everywhere else,
if we let him.
I'll never forget something that
great preacher R.G. Lee said in the middle of a message in which he was preaching
on the crazy devil-possessed man of the Gadarenes. He talked of how Christ cast
the devils out and sent them into the swine. I remember him preaching very fervently:
"The devil will live in me if I let him; the devil will live in you if you let
him; but if you kick him out, he'll go and snook up to some dirty, lousy hog
and feel in good company. And that shows you that the devil's second choice
is a hog."
I never forgot that. I thought,
if I let my body, my spirit, and my thoughts be a place that harbor things that
side with Satan, what a mess I would be. I don't like the thought of that. This
book says that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and I want that. God
says I am to be holy, and I want my body to be holy. I long to be that way,
and the Holy Spirit within me longs to have me be that way, longs to have you
be that way.
It's a troublesome thought. When
I think of devils filling up a hog and how dirty that is, I think, why would
I ever want to be close to anything that would be comfortable in a hog? I thank
God someday we will be delivered from the body of this death, and we won't be
near anything that's dirty or unclean. You say, is that your own righteousness?
No, that's the Holy Spirit within us that tells us so that we want things to
be holy and pure. I never had those desires at all before I got saved, but I
In the area of music, I am careful,
because at one time it swallowed me up. The devil had my testimony so that no
one thought I was saved. For two years they couldn't even tell. Through sin,
the devil can swallow up our testimonies.
So we are to be sober and vigilant;
mark it down. Someone might say, "But that sounds like a tiring thing." Well,
maybe it is, but what it produces in the end is some liberty in Christ and a
lot of joy. It's worth it to look out for trouble, and music is a trouble area.
MARCH MUSIC VERSUS DANCE MUSIC
The devil is our adversary. He is
against us, because he is against God. This is the basis of march music. God
has given us wonderful march music, so the devil says, "If that is what God
is for, then I'm against it," and the devil puts the accent on a beat opposite
from that of march music. Dance music and march music are direct opposites,
because their basic beat is the opposite. Now there are other things involved,
which we will look at, but the devil is an opponent of everything that God is
for. If God is for good, the devil is for evil. If God says go to church and
listen to the Bible, the devil says go somewhere else and listen to something
else. I think that's obvious to folks who have gone to church for a long enough
There's a basic difference. A march
has the beat on one and three. ONE, two, THREE, four, ONE, two, THREE, four.
Dance music is one, TWO, three, FOUR, one, TWO, three, FOUR. You can hear that
old snare drum playing this difference.
The march type music is the soldier's
music. We're going to depict something military if we use the march rhythm.
If we use the dance rhythm, we're going to depict something that is opposed
to marching, something sensual. This is a basic element of music.
We are to prove all things and hold
fast that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21). Once we find good music, we need to
hang on to it, and we ought to abhor that which is evil. Ephesians 5:10 tells
us to prove that which is acceptable to the Lord. I want my music to be acceptable
to the Lord. I want Him to be pleased with it.
We are spirit, soul, and body, and
God has given us music to bless us spirit, soul, and body. Here's how it fits
together: There are only three parts to music, because God made music, and He
made music to be a blessing to man. 1 Thessalonians 5:23--"...and I pray God
your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ." All that we are is affected by music.
How does this work? The spirit deals
with our thoughts, and particularly our thoughts toward God. If you're not saved,
your spirit is dead; and you're not thinking about God. It will take someone
else to talk to you about the Lord to get you even to think about Him. Jesus
said to His disciples, "...the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit,
and they are life" (Jn. 6:63). In the words of God are life. That's how we get
eternal life; we are born again through the incorruptible seed. That has to
do with spiritual things.
MELODY, HARMONY, AND RHYTHM
How does that apply to music? Take
melody, one of the parts of music. Melody is for our spirit. It is to enable
us to commune with God. If I softly hum "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross," without
any particular rhythm or harmony, I make praise to the Lord. That song is a
prayer. I can help my spirit by humming a melody. Any piece of music that has
a decent melody, though it have no harmony or rhythm, may be used to commune
with God. You can think upon the Lord in your spirit. That is what melody is
Let's take our soul. That's where
our feelings, emotions, and affections are. In our soul we have attitudes and
feelings about the things we think about in our spirit. You say, "What is that?"
For instance, if I say "Mom," along with that thought that's spiritual, you
have a soulish feeling. You go, "Oh, Mom, that fuddy duddy thing," or you go,
"Oh, Mom, that's the best thing that ever was," or something in between those
two, maybe. If I say, "spinach!" or "barley green," that evokes a feeling, a
taste even. "Green peas." "Circus." You have a feeling that goes along with
the thought. That's what the soul is. Your ability to like or dislike things
is harbored in your soul. That's what gives you your personality, basically--what
you like and dislike, and how you react to all those things.
Harmony, on the other hand, is for
the soul. A lot of Gospel tunes are written in major keys; they are bright and
happy. As young children in grade school we are often taught that major chords
are happy, and minor chords are sad. If I play a whole series of minor chords
on the piano, you will soon be very weighted down and sorrowful. The minor chords
depict sadness. There is nothing wrong with minor chords in and of themselves,
but they must be balanced. If we are going to talk about how our Savior was
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we might want to use some minor
chords--but not a steady diet of them. You need to mix and balance them with
other types of chords.
If I sing "There Is A Land That
Is Fairer Than Day" in a major key, Heaven sounds like a wonderful place. But
if I change that to a minor key--keepingthe same rhythm and melody--all the
sudden Heaven doesn't sound like such a happy, wonderful place. The only thing
I have to change to effect this different mood is the harmony.
My grandfather had a cousin who
played piano in the theater. All he did was watch the silent films and try to
match the piano or organ music with what was happening on the film. There were
no words; all that was going to be expressed had to be expressed from the keyboard.
Sure enough, there was a guy with the moustache who wanted to marry the pretty
young lady with the long, blond hair. She didn't want anything to do with him,
though, so he wanted to get rid of her; and at that point along came the hero,
who was the man the pretty lady was in love with anyway. The hero was big and
strong, and he was a good guy. He was going to deliver the pretty lady from
Oil Can Harry. Before the movie was done the bad guy always figures out what
to do--if he can't have her, the train's going to get her, so he ties her up
to the railroad track. The hero can't rescue the heroine until he catches the
bad guy, because the bad guy is keeping him from saving the girl. All of this
went on without words. Everything was built up by the accompaniment on the piano.
Somewhere in the middle the bad guy is chasing after the good guy to try to
throw him over the cliff, and you have the chase music. It is in a minor key
because it's not a happy thing, and it moves along rapidly and grows increasingly
furious as the scene progresses.
Then they show you the railroad
track and the train is coming closer and closer, and the accompanist plays something
called a fully diminished seventh chord; and he keeps raising the chord a half
step to raise the tension. It's a scary type of chord, and it, too, is played
increasingly furious. Then suddenly it's back to the chase, and the chase music
starts; then back to the railroad track, and the music is higher this time and
more furious; then back to the chase; then back to the railroad track. The pace
of the music increases each time, building the drama in the hearts of the audience.
What this is called among musicians
is text painting. It is painting a picture with melodies, harmonies, and rhythms,
on purpose, to affect the way people respond to something. There are a lot of
people that make money watching television shows and writing music behind them.
When I was a boy, I would turn the sound down when I watched scary movies on
television; and lo, and behold, they were no longer scary. Think of some guy
minding his own business and walking down a dark alley (No one ever explains
why he is walking down a dark alley, probably because he is stupid!) all alone
at night. In the background you hear a minor chord building in intensity, and
you know something is going to happen any minute because of the music. If you
turn the sound off, the effect is ruined. It is the music that builds the drama,
that paints the picture. These musicians are painting a picture behind that
film, and that's big business.
They manipulate people's feelings
through chords, melodies, and rhythms. With all pieces of music the composer,
with his palate of sounds, paints pictures. He may even look at a painting and
write a song. He may look at the sea and the clouds and write a song about these.
He may look at a person and write "The Maid With the Flaxen Hair." He may look
at the stars and write about all of the planets. The composer paints a musical
picture from something he sees or feels.
The most noble thing that can be
done is to take the Scriptures and set them properly in music, painting a correct
and suitable picture.
THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS
We want to look at the Psalms for
a moment. Psalm 29:1-2--"Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord
glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship
the Lord in the beauty of holiness." It says to worship the Lord in the beauty
of holiness. Part of worship is praise and singing. What, then, does this Psalm
I heard that even when I was back
in the Methodist church, long before I was saved, and I thought, "What is that?"
First of all, our God is holy, and
He said that the definition of beauty is something that is holy. No young lady,
no matter how beautiful she may be thought of in her face, is beautiful if she
is not holy. No thing that man ever created, no matter how skillfully it was
crafted, is a beautiful work of art if it wasn't made to be holy. Beauty and
holiness go together.
Now this is true when it comes to
music and the playing of instruments. Every instrument was made to be played
beautifully. God gave the Jews music. God gave King David the ability to make
instruments, and the Jewish community today, though they are the enemies of
the Gospel, still have a shred of what King David had. Many of the classical
musicians are Jewish. If you want to hear how a violin should be played, listen
to a Jewish man play it. If you want to hear what an oboe should sound like,
listen to a Jewish man play that oboe.
The classical musicians strive to
play with the most beautiful tones they can on their instruments. Now, sad to
say, some of the music that is written for them is not holy music; and no matter
how well they play, it comes out rather strange. But if you want to find out
what a trumpet should sound like, listen to the first chair solo player in an
orchestra. Those people are so picky that they are fired if they miss a note
in a concert recording, and there are fifteen, twenty, seventy, seventy-five,
one hundred people waiting in line to try out for that place. They dare not
miss a note. As a matter of fact, some of them are fired at practices if they
don't play well enough.
I wish that I could say that we
could find that standard of excellence among Christians and say, "This is what
a voice should sound like; this is what a baritone horn should sound like; this
is what a bass clarinet should sound like; this is what a flute should sound
like." I'm not sure that we can find it. Sometimes Christians forget that David
was "cunning in playing," and we forget to put in the practice that David did.
Today we scarcely hear a saxophone
played right. We scarcely hear people sing right. How come? Because people don't
appreciate things that are holy. All appreciation for beauty goes right out
the door with it. So if someone sings with a poor tone, nobody seems to care.
Things that are made beautiful are
a picture of holy things. Now everything that man tries to make beautiful is
not holy, but it is at least a picture of holy things. We are to praise the
Lord in the beauty of holiness.
We are told that the Holy Spirit
that dwells in us is holy, so this is a picture of beauty. The Holy Spirit,
God, dwelling with man--that is beauty to the Lord.
The Holy Scripture, God's perfect
Word, is a perfect picture of beauty. What this Book does for my soul, for my
thoughts, for my life, and for all around me is amazing and wonderful. It is
holy, and it is beautiful.
Holy matrimony, as we call it, is
supposed to be holy. Hebrews 13:4 says "Marriage is honourable in all, and the
bed undefiled..." Marriage is a beautiful thing. It is a picture of holiness.
The Bible says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,
and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). The Bible tells me that I am to be
faithful to her no matter what. The Bible tells me to love, care for, and cherish
her, knowing that she is the weaker vessel. And if she ever lets me down, that
is just what the church does to Jesus Christ anyway; but if I love her yet,
that is a beautiful picture of how Christ loves us as His bride. Also, she may
be a picture of a church that is obedient to Christ, if she is obedient to her
husband, and if she reverences him. That's what God intends to take place in
a marriage, so that it is a beautiful picture of something far greater than
just the two of us becoming one flesh--of Christ and His church. Matrimony ought
to be holy.
This says something about the way
we are to worship the Lord. There ought to be some beauty in our singing, in
the depths of our spirit and soul, that what comes out might be pleasing unto
the Lord and a beautiful picture of holy things. It is to remind us of the Lord's
I went to Pittsburgh, Michigan,
(to play in an orchestra), and I was amazed at how slack I was when it came
to music. They did not allow a young person to blat one bad note on an instrument.
They could not pick it up and go "blah," even just for fun. They did not allow
it. Every note that came out was supposed to be pure. Of course there were mistakes
that we made, but Brother Rick Town send would never let a sour note be played
on purpose or in jest. He said, "No, they have to come out in praise of the
Lord." He was seeking to achieve some beauty in the playing to show forth the
That's part of text painting--putting
the right sound in the voice or instrument to make a picture of the Lord's holiness.
Turn to Psalm 66:1-2. "Make a joyful
noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise
glorious." Our music should be joyful. That means we can put joy into the music.
We can paint a picture of joy. "Sing forth the honour of his name." The music
should be honorable. Somehow we can put the Lord's honor into the music. "Make
his praise glorious." It doesn't say that this is text painting, but this is
what God is talking about. It is saying that when we praise God, it can be a
glorious praise. It should come from the heart, first of all; and if it does,
when we raise our voices and when we play our instruments, it should be our
very best effort to bring glory to the Lord's name. We can paint a picture of
a glorious Savior if we sing and play right.
This tells us something else. Music
can be dishonorable; music can be inglorious, and that's what is going on today,
GOOD RHYTHMS AND BAD RHYTHMS
I said we would talk about rhythm.
There are good rhythms and bad rhythms.
I want to show you a few more things
about text painting. Think of "How Firm A Foundation." "How firm a foundation,
ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your Faith in His excellent Word." If I play
that song with a twinkly, light, "Jingle Bell" touch, with a lot of high notes
and a carefree delivery, the mood is wrong for the words. It doesn't fit. The
traditional music for this song, on the other hand, is deep, heavy, forceful,
and it paints the proper picture of a solid foundation. That is text painting.
That is why the song is played with a full, rich, loud, undergirded type of
arrangement. It is talking about His excellent Word, about unshakable things
from God, so it is played with great majesty and power.
Consider "It Is Well With My Soul":
"And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled
back as a scroll, the trump shall resound..." This is talking about trumpets
and the coming of the Lord, and at that point in the song there is actually
a fanfare played with the keyboard. That's text painting. All the notes that
the pianist plays have a meaning. The timing, the notes, the rhythm--all have
meaning. You wouldn't want to put the fanfare at the point in the song which
says, "Though Satan should buffet..."! No one wants to herald the coming of
the devil. No, the fanfare is for the Lord.
We could think of so many songs
to illustrate this. Consider "Crown Him With Many Crowns," which is played with
a very royal, court-type, march manner because we are speaking of the Lord's
kingliness. Likewise, "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" is always sung with a
full, deep, stirring sound.
What if I'm going to speak of the
peace of God? Consider, for instance, "Peace, Peace, Wonderful Peace." You will
notice that the keys are played lightly and softly, in a restful, gentle manner.
Why? To depict the peace that the Lord gives. You wouldn't play that with a
heavy beat; you wouldn't jazz that up; it would ruin the picture! If you know
the words to any song--if it is peace, if it is meditation, if it is joy, if
it is the Lord's greatness--then look for that being painted with the music.
What happens when people take the
old hymns and add something to them that doesn't belong? The picture is ruined.
Consider "Who can cheer the heart like Jesus ... All that thrills my soul is
Jesus; He is more than life to me." The traditional music paints the picture
of quiet, spiritual joy, of the lovely abiding relationship between the saint
and his Savior. On the other hand, when that beautiful song is put to a modern
beat the picture is ruined.
The holy relationship between the
Christian and Christ cannot be depicted with the world's sensual love music.
Today they are trying to put the sixties sex music into "All That Thrills My
Soul Is Jesus," and it doesn't work! Somebody is painting a different picture
underneath that beautiful picture of the Lord who only can cheer the soul of
a man. They are thereby making light of it.
Let's face it. The things that those
sixties bands sang about was having girlfriends that usually didn't last for
more than a couple of weeks or months. (There is nothing in the Bible about
having a girlfriend, or dating, or going steady; that's just an American fad.)
By using sixties music with that grand old hymn, they put all that fickle, sensual,love-sicky,
puppy-dog, worldly stuff underneath "All That Thrills My Soul Is Jesus." His
love is not fickle; His love is not sensual; it's not that way! And those rhythms,
as harmless as some people seem to think they are, are not harmless.
Consider the boogie, and the blues,
which is just the boogie slowed down. These are very similar rhythms; only the
speed is different. The blues rhythm is found in the old ballads. Hundreds of
songs have been written to this "eight to the bar" rhythm. Have you ever heard
"I Am Weak But Thou Art Strong" played with a boogie beat? It is the jazzy,
Southern gospel style. It is the boogie. It is a dance rhythm. Southern gospel
musicians have destroyed a lot of the hymns of the faith by using that jazzy
When you put the accent on the wrong
beat, it is dance music, and it appeals to your flesh; and somebody can sell
more records to you because your flesh likes it! The rhythms appeal to your
flesh, and the people that make the records know that. They don't want to appeal
to the spiritual Christians who are walking with the Lord; they want to appeal
to people that don't walk with the Lord; because they know that more people
don't than do, and they want to sell more records. They make their living studying
what people are doing, and if there is one thing they know, it is that most
Christians are not walking with the Lord.
THE SNOWBALL EFFECT
Sooner or later Christians must
get rid of the wrong kind of music, or it will take them the wrong way. There
are good Christians who listen to the wrong music sometimes; but after they
are instructed, if they keep on listening to that and liking it, I know something
is not right. It's one way of finding out where they are at. You cannot feed
yourself on carnal music, and take it into yourself, without getting carnal.
Those who try to witness to folk
understand the power of rock and roll music, or the television blaring, or something
else going on in the background that draws you away from that spirit of being
concerned for someone's soul. It's because the appeal is to the flesh, to get
you out of the Spirit and into the flesh. The Bible says, "Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). If you don't
walk in the Spirit, you will fulfill the lusts of the flesh; and the Bible says
that "when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished,
bringeth forth death" (James 1:15).
I wouldn't care about any of these
things if it didn't cause harm to me and to you, but it does. It does. It always
does. It's just that it appears to be harmless when the sensual rhythms are
disguised somewhat. It leads you on to desiring more sensual rhythms, just like
anything else. It creates sensual appetites.
It's in every area of life. If you
take one sip of beer, you will take two, three. You start drinking the wines,
then the hard liquors. In the drug scene you go from the marijuana and the hash
to the hard drugs. It's a progression. "Earthly, sensual, devilish." A little
bit of evil to a lot more evil. The Bible warns the Christian to stay away from
vain babblings because "they will increase unto more ungodliness" (2 Timothy
2:16). They increase. It's the snowball effect. You put a little snowball at
the top of the hill and roll it awhile, and soon it will gather more snow and
more snow, and pretty soon you have a whole snowman, or an avalanche, or something
else much bigger than the snowball you started with. It's a snowball effect
when it comes to your body liking certain rhythms that are meant to stir up
The devil uses a progression to
draw people away from God and holiness. There was almost nobody from my sixties
generation that would sing a song about devil worship. As a matter of fact,
at the end of my rock and roll years, even though I was not saved, it was a
difficult thing for me to even sing about songs that mentioned the devil. I
could not understand what the Rolling Stones were doing singing about the devil.
I thought, "What does that have to do with hamburgers and French fries and girls
and beaches and Coca Cola and surfing and Woodies?" It did not compute, until
after I got saved and read the Bible and found that the devil has been trying
to get everybody to worship him. And he takes every generation as far as he
When you change the rhythm, you
tend to change the style that a person sings in. If you play "I Was Sinking
Deep In Sin" with a boogie blues background, you feel like singing with an Elvis
Presley style. It is hard to play carnal rhythms and sing spiritually.
Of the three aspects of music, it
is the rhythm that should be the least important. It is the spirit which is
the most important. Dance music is primarily for the body. It's not something
that appeals to the thoughts and spirit. It's not something, really, that appeals
to the feelings.
Another type of rhythm is syncopation.
This is Rumba-type music with the accent just off the beat, so it swings. And
when the music constantly swings and puts the accent off the beat, it is sensual.
Elvis Presley used to do this in all his songs. Peter, Paul, and Mary also used
the Rumba, but they played it slower and quieter. It is the same syncopated,
eight-to-the- bar, boogie rhythm. It appeals to people because it is sensual.
The west- coast surfing groups in the sixties used the same rhythms, only they
played them louder and faster. It was the same type of syncopated dance music,
and it enhanced the sexual appeal of the music. As the years have passed, the
music has gotten louder, faster, and more complex in some instances; but it
is the same basic type of beat.
If one has ever listened to an African
drum group play, he will understand that American rock musicians are just catching
up to the African rhythms.
In Africa, the heathen are able
to play "poly rhythms." Poly, of course, means many. They have all these drums
and other percussion instruments, rhythm instruments, that all make different
sounds, and they can hear them. They can make one rhythm with their feet, another
with their torso, some more with their arms, and some more with their fingers
and wrists, some more in their heads; and they can dance six or seven different
rhythms at one time. It is an amazing thing; however, it is all sensual; it's
all for the body; and it's all created by their ability to hear and put into
their bodies those dance rhythms that were created specifically to make their
bodies move in ways that are not polite. They make the body move to draw attention
to parts of the body in a way that is improper.
That is all that is happening in
the rock scene today. They are catching up to some of these African rhythms.
And, of course, the Satan worshipers have just turned the amplifiers up to the
fullest degree, and many of them do not know, musically, what they are doing
anymore. They are just making a lot of noise. Some of them are not even really
playing chords; there is not even any harmony or melody there, just a lot of
noise. There is nothing for the spirit, nothing for the soul; it is all for
the body. Now we have Rap music. What happened to the melody? It is gone. What
you don't know is that they have been doing this type of thing in Africa for
thousands of years, and there are recordings of that. They will go on sometimes
for hours. You talk about dance marathons! They dance until they drop over and
are possessed by devils, and then they get back up and they dance again.
What we have in America is a bunch
of young people that are so controlled by the devil that when you try to talk
with them about the Lord, they can't hear or understand you because of the music
which is raging within them. They are so controlled by an evil music that they
can't think about their soul and their spirit.
The gospel rock groups today are
not all noisy. There are variations because the devil knows what kind of music
you like and he attempts to reach you with your type of music. There is some
really noisy music for those who like that kind, and there is some not so noisy
music for those who like it quieter.
Think of it like this: On one side
you have God, and on the extreme opposite side you have the devil. The devil
is opposed to everything that has to do with God and wants to draw people away
from God and holiness. How does he do this? He works by degrees, by a progression.
Here's what happens. Ideally, everybody would be over on God's side, singing
and praising Him, seeking Him, fearing Him, finding favor with Him, pleasing
and serving Him. That's where everybody ought to be. On this side we have music
which is holy and pure, music which deals with man's spiritual nature.
Now let's say we add just a little
bit of sensual rhythm to a song. We make it just one degree away from truly
spiritual, holy music. It will appeal to a lot of Christians. Then we have some
other music that really is boogie, but we call it Southern gospel; and that
will appeal to a lot of Christians. They excuse it by saying it is just "down
home" music. No, it isn't. It's boogie woogie, but some Christians still think
it is O.K. Then there is the Contemporary Christian Music, which sounds like
it is being sung in a nightclub. Of course it is big business today, and it
is farther still away from painting a proper picture of our Lord.
REACH THE YOUNG PEOPLE WITH THEIR
Then there are those who use "Christian
rock" music. They say, "I believe we can reach the young people if we just play
their kind of music." I don't buy that, because before I was ever saved I went
to hear a rock and roll group singing dirty rock and roll songs and telling
me about the Lord Jesus in the songs. You know what I said? As a rock and roll
musician I said, "What are they doing playing my music? They are Christians."
I had better sense than to believe that they were doing any good. Yes, I went
to the concert, but I did not like it. And they all had long greasy hair. There
was one fellow, a big, tall fellow, who stood up with a Bible at the end of
the concert and preached. His hair was cut above his ears, and you know what?
I listened to him. Afterwards I didn't want to talk to the grubby band members.
I felt they were worse off than I was. I just looked at them and thought, "I
don't want to be like that." I talked to the tall fellow; and though I did not
get saved that night, I was impressed somewhat and I went home that night and
told my mother about it. It was only a year or two later that I got saved.
I don't buy that idea that we have
to look like and play our music like the world in order to reach them. If you
are trying to bring somebody to Christ, you have to show them that the Lord
is different than the world; and He is. He is holy, and this world is unholy.
Christian rock music does not paint a proper picture of the Savior. Even that
fellow, by his short hair and dress, painted a more proper picture of the Lord;
and I was willing, at least, to talk with him.
Then you have music that is sung
and played by supposed Christians, but it is not Christian music. Amy Grant
has done some of that. They call it "cross over" music. She sang a song with
one of the singers from the rock group Chicago.
Then you've got your regular country
western, and rock and roll, and big band music, and boogie woogie, and rag time,
and all the rest. It gets worse and worse and worse, and finally it's heavy
metal music; and, lo and behold, all the sudden we are worshiping the devil.
Nobody got over there with one hop. No, it is a progression. The devil wants
us to plug in anywhere along that line, and the flow always moves away from
God and holiness.
Where does the devil have you plugged
in today? I'll listen to anything that God will allow; but if God doesn't allow
it, I don't want it. I know that if I plug into music that is even one degree
off, the devil will try to get me two degrees off, then three, then four, then
five. The devil does not rest; he just keeps on. "Why don't you just move over
here a little."
A pastor once told me, "You know,
those black folks really have it; why don't you stick some of those rhythms
into your music. With your voice and your talent..." I thought, "Get thee behind
me." I didn't say that, but I just shook my head. The evangelist that was there
said, "Brother Ives, don't change your music."
I look at my music, and sometimes
I wonder, "Am I a degree off? Am I two degrees off? Am I just fooling myself,
Lord?" I want to be on the button.
Some people say, "Why do you make
the beat the deciding factor?" Because it controls the rest, the harmony and
melody; and that's the only place I can find, in or out of the Bible, to draw
the line. If someone says the beat is not the place to decide, then there is
Some say, "I don't like the volume."
Well, the Bible says to make a loud noise unto the Lord. You cannot use volume
to decide whether the song is good or not. Some people say, "I don't like the
speed of the song." There is nothing in the Bible that indicates how fast or
how slow to sing a song, as long as you sing it slow enough to understand the
words and be able to think what you are saying. Some say, "I don't like any
drums." There are drums in a marching band. There are high cymbals and loud
sounding cymbals in Psalm 150. There are timbrels in the Bible. You can't rule
out percussion instruments just because wrong rhythms can be played on them.
Wrong rhythms can be played on a piano, too. It is a semi- percussion instrument,
and so is the guitar, because it is struck; so is a harpsichord; so are bells.
The only place to draw the line is with the rhythm.
You say, "I don't like the style
that they are using." It is the rhythm that causes that style. You say, "I don't
like the chords they are playing." They are playing those chords because it
matches the rhythm. You say, "I don't think the people ought to clap their hands."
The Bible says, "Clap your hands, all ye people." It depends on how you clap
your hands-on beats one and three, or two and four! It goes without saying,
of course, that the words of a song must be right. Those we check up with the
Bible. But beyond that, it is the rhythm in the song that determines if it is
right or wrong.
I hope you understand this. When
you hear sensual, worldly rhythms in a song, just cut it off. It's not going
MUSIC IS A VOICE AND SHOULD GIVE
A CERTAIN SOUND
In 1 Corinthians 14 the Apostle
Paul makes reference to music while explaining what is right and wrong about
the way we talk, and whether or not we speak in tongues.
"And even things without life giving
sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how
shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain
sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter
by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?
for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices
in the world, and none of them is without signification" (1 Cor. 14:7-10).
Verse 7 says even a pipe or a harp
must be played distinctly. The more wrong notes you make, the less you can tell
what the song is. If I play "Jesus Loves Me" and start missing notes, you might
not be able to tell what I am playing. The voice is no longer distinct. We want
to hit the right note at the right time, or no one will know what we are trying
to say with the music.
Verse 8 mentions the uncertain sound.
If you are not sure of the right note, if you don't sing or play with the right
spirit, nobody is really sure what kind of a sound you are making; and they
will not rally to your cause. They will not believe what you have sung or played.
They must know what you are really trying to say. When it comes to God's soldier
music, nobody will rally to the cause of Christ and go win souls if you are
singing a song with a soul-saving message and music underneath that says "do
your own thing." Doing your own thing is the natural way of the sinner. You
cannot have a mixed message.
Who would want to waste their time
singing music that wouldn't rally anyone to the cause of Christ? Why sing gospel
music at all if it won't count for Heaven. The only other motives are money,
popularity, and fame--not good motives. God will say, "Wood, hay, and stubble,
Verse 9 says the message should
be "easy to be understood." If my music gets so complicated with so many voices,
pretty soon nobody will know what I am saying. If I drown out the singing, nobody
will know what I am trying to say. If I play a piano arrangement and change
so many notes that the hearers cannot tell what song I am playing, what good
am I doing? We need to be careful that what we are trying to say is easy to
Everybody is not a musical genius.
A Christian needs to be sure, first of all, that the message gets across so
that people will easily understand that you are exalting the Lord Jesus and
speaking of His sacrifice on Calvary being available to all that all might be
saved. It needs to be plain.
Verse 10 says every voice has signification.
This is true for music. Every group or band is trying to say something. Some
people say, "Music doesn't say anything; it just exists by itself." The word
"signification" means to signify something with signs or symbols. Every song
that you hear is trying to say something. When music plays, it is indeed symbolizing
something. It paints a picture. People that play the music the way they play
it are saying, "This statement is what I agree with." The song always tells
you to do something. It will excite you to action, either good or bad. Music
will signify something; it will imply something. It doesn't come out and say,
"Do bad; do evil." It will imply it. "Feel this way about it; think about it
this way." It leads you a certain way without coming right out and saying it.
Music is significant; it has meaning.
Don't ever let anyone tell you,
"Well, it's just music." That's what all the gospel rockers say. That's what
Stryper says about their music. "It's just music; it doesn't mean anything."
Yes, it does. They are a voice in this world, and they are not without signification.
They certainly do mean something. What they mean, if you can put it plainly,
is that you can be a Christian and live just as dirty as you want. That's about
as plain as you can put it. If you know the lives of these people, you would
not imitate them; you would not follow them, and you will never get any spiritual
help from them if you ever could find them or meet them. They are out there
making money, taking your bucks and fooling you because you think there is something
there that is Christian--but there isn't.
If I sang gospel rock, I would be
ashamed before my university professors who taught me better than that. They
knew the difference between the voices that are in the world. They knew that
sounds are supposed to be pure, and that music was supposed to contain beauty.
The classical composers, even the ones that were not saved, said that music
was for the refreshment of the soul and to portray the ennobling things of life.
Our Christian music should be understandable to the folks who hear it. The melody
should be clear, and the harmony and the rhythm should paint a picture of Christ.
If we use dirty rhythms, dirty harmonies,
and dirty melodies, we are not painting a proper picture of Christ. If we use
the sensual rhythms and harmonies that the world uses today, instead of painting
a picture of the pure, spotless Lamb of God, we will paint a perverted, fornicating
Christ. What we do with our music is very important.
Let me read you a poem, and I'm
done. What kind of a Christ is portrayed by the music that you hear? How and
what do you think of God when you listen to the music that you listen to?
Men's portraits of Jesus are many,
I've heard, But none can compare with that found in God's Word. My Savior, no
artist hath justly portrayed, But great are God's verses, God's truth there
displayed. 'Tis there I see Jesus on Calvary's tree, The Lamb of God once for
all slaughtered for me. His stripes for my healing, His wounds for my sin, The
blood there He spilled for my cleansing within.
agony born in His body that day
the weight of iniquities taken away.
taken away were transgressions of mine;
He made me pure by God's perfect design.
Son without spot, without sin, without blame
Golgotha's hill He bore the curse and the shame.
There He Who was righteous in my place was slain
freely give righteousness I could not gain.
paintings no cleansing for sin can I find;
rest for my spirit, nor peace for my mind,
there on the canvas of Scripture I see
Savior, my Ransom, who died to save me.
May we strive to have our music
to be as pure as the words of God and paint a picture of a wonderful, saving
Christ who shed His blood that our awful sins could be forgiven. I love the
Lord. He has completely changed me; and I want my music, and the music of all
Christians, to let others know of a Christ who is very pure, very wonderful.
BACK TO MOM OF 9'S PLACE
Ives is a man of God and a Christian musician. Together with his wife
Ellen he has produced some excellent music albums for God's people. Alan
knows music. He is highly trained both in secular and Christian styles
of music. Before conversion he played in a rock and roll band. The Ives
spend much of their time traveling to churches, preaching the Word of
God and ministering in music. They are in the Wyldewood
Baptist Church of Oshkosh, Wisconsin (Pastor Randy King). This
message was transcribed from an audio cassette. You can get in touch with
the Ives directly by writing Concord & Harmony, 328 Rosalia Street,
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901. Their home phone is (414) 231-4807.