Last time we saw from Romans 12:1 how Christian musicians are called to present their entire lives as worship, not simply their music. In the very next verse, Paul gives us more insight into that divine call.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2, ESV).
Every Christian musician has a call to be different from the world. There is supposed to be a difference between musicians who live for this age and those who have tasted of the life to come. But in what ways are we to be different from the world? The Apostle John sheds light on that question.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world" (1 John 2:15-16, ESV).
Here John identifies the "world" by inner attitudes of the heart-craving fulfillment of our appetites, envying those around us, and boasting in what we own. That way of thinking, and all that accompanies it, is opposed to God and absolutely incompatible with His nature and purposes for us. John draws us a picture in black and white, not shades of gray. What the world values and what is precious to God share no common ground.
That means the way we approach life, the possessions we cherish, the goals we pursue, our responses to change, the way we think about life-relationships, sex, food, travel, success, money, possessions, family, music-it all changes.
For musicians, I believe that distinguishes us from the world in at least four ways.
First, unlike the world, Christian musicians produce art for God's sake rather than for art's sake.
Art for art's sake implies that our ultimate aim in making music is aesthetic appeal, transcendent beauty, or musical preference as determined by the performer. We end up exalting and esteeming music. Success is measured by how well we fulfill our own desire for fascination, awe, or enjoyment in the music we create.
In contrast, Christian musicians make art for God's sake, with the understanding that there is a greater purpose to music than the sounds themselves. Should Christians be striving to make the best music they can? Of course. Is there anything wrong with creativity? Insofar as it's appropriate to the context, certainly not.
For example, a high level of novelty and creativity may be wonderful in a concert, but as an accompaniment to congregational singing it may distract from worship rather than promote it. But Christian musicians understand that music exists for God's glory and is a means of developing and deepening our relationship with Him.
"The Christian musician has no right whatsoever to assume that anything other than the mind of Christ and the Creatorhood of God should guide every note composed, arranged, played and sung. This is nothing other than good stewardship. The reason is simple: God the Creator has made it clear that function and worth, usefulness and integrity, are to be joined in every action." (Harold Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, p. 30)
Surely the usefulness of music includes but is not limited to eliciting and expressing feelings of comfort, joy, love and peace. God is not against our finding pleasure in music. However, like all gifts, it is intended to direct our attention and affections to God. We enjoy music because it dimly reflects the character, nature, beauty, and creativity of the One who gave it to us.
Next time we'll look at three more ways Christian musicians are set apart from the world.
This column was derived from a message that Bob gave at the Sovereign Grace Ministries "A Passion for the Glory of God" worship conference this past August. You can order tapes or CDs from this conference at the Sovereign Grace online store. "The Call of the Christian Musician" audio message: http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/worcon201.html
Bob's outline for "The Call of the Christian Musician" is available for downloading on the Sovereign Grace web site. You can download the outline here: http://www.pdinet.org/teaching/conferences/passion2002.html