Are you listening to what you’re listening to?
I confess. If there is one area where I blow it the most often, fall into sin, and get caught up into self, it’s “listening.” I’m a horrible listener. It’s a personal blind spot for me that I have to consciously work every day to overcome. I’ve discovered that there is no greater sense, God has given us, than the responsibility of listening. It’s one thing to hear, it’s another thing to listen. To listen implies obedience. Samuel tells Saul in a very pivotal verse, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1st Samuel 15:22)
Often, these words are translated in the text interchangeably. The proof you are listening is demonstrated in your actions and your walk. James tells us “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves…if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1:19, 22, 25)
I love to listen to Wade-O Radio. I love to hear what he hears and listen to what he listens to. Wade has a gift for hearing the best in Christian Hip-Hop, Caribbean Gospel, and Urban Music. When you combine that with his live mixes and artist testimonials, you get a unique, irreplaceable radio show that edifies the listeners and blesses the believer. My kids beg me to listen to Wade-O Radio when we get into the car. We listen to the show on our the way to church. If we are driving on a long trip, we listen practically every mile of the way.
Bad music vs. Good music
This now begs the question: “Why Do Christians Listen to “Bad” Music?” I realize this is a provocative question. It presumes that there is a discernible difference between “good” music and “bad” music; that I would have the audacity to challenge you as a reader to acknowledge and agree to a standard that designates and classifies some music as “good,” and other music as “bad.” It also implies that if you were to walk with me in this polemic, we will eventually come to a point of agreement (and possibly change) or disagreement (and separation). For how can two walk together unless they agree? (Amos 3:3)
Perhaps I should ask the question in a different way. “Why Do Christians Listen to “Secular” Music?” Now I’ve really got your attention. Historically, there have been a lot of heated debates and discussions around this question. But from a biblical perspective, the premise is very simple. It’s not a matter of freedom from legalism or entertainment value and appreciation of art, but rather pure and simple “godliness.” Ask yourself:Is this music on my iPod “godly?” Does this music lead to “godliness” or “carnality?” Am I edifying my spirit or am I enabling my flesh?
Paul, in his final written words to Timothy, expresses to him a stern warning regarding what he listens to: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2nd Timothy 2:15-16 KJV)
Characteristics of music
There are two characteristic of music that would help us establish a solid biblical foundation in defining good and bad music, that is the adjectives “profane” or “vain.” By description, something profane is “not concerned with religion or religious purposes” or “secular.” Secular music by definition is presumed to be “godless” and related to this temporal, present world. To be “vain” is to “have no real value” or to have or show “undue or excessive pride in one’s appearance or achievements,” “to be conceited.” If there are two adjectives that describe contemporary secular hip-hop, it’s “profane” and “vain.”
Paul tells Timothy to avoid this type of talk because it leads to ungodliness. He’s challenging him to suffer with him for the sake of the gospel, to be prepared to die for Christ and to work hard in the ministry, and to be “unashamed” before God because he rightly divides the word of truth. Therefore, we must be careful not to saturate ourselves with idle, godless music. Instead of changing lives and edifying the spirit, it becomes “cankerous” like “gangrene” or “cancer” in our lives; in other words, “death.”
Listen and Obey
Listening is a discipline that promises the greatest potential for blessing in your life, as well as the greatest hazard to your well-being. In Genesis 26:5, God promises to bless Abraham on the basis of listening. He states, “I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.” Satan’s greatest attack is to get you to listen to the lie rather than the truth. He would be happy and successful to just get u off focus and distracted. Eve was deceived, Adam disobeyed God, and man fell into sin because of their lack of discipline in listening. In Genesis 3:17, God tells Adam, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground.”
Listening is often a blind spot for many people; it’s a lack of discipline perhaps you don’t even realize you have. Many marriages are hanging in the balance purely on the basis of both partners being willing to listen and actually hear what the other person is saying. Many people walk in disobedience and rebellion because they have hardened their hearts and refuse to listen to the truth. Pride blocks us from hearing the spirit of God speak to us, so we can be changed. Hosea said of the Israelites that God rejected his people because they would not listen or obey (Hosea 9:17). Yet they were warned by Moses to listen carefully and obey God. He told them, “Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone.Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:4)
I challenge you from this point forward to be very discerning about who and what you listen to. Jesus says in Luke 8:18, “So pay attention to how you hear.” You have to listen to what you listening to, watch what you are watching, and think about what you’re thinking about. Hebrews 2:1 says, “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” As a believer, you choose whether or not you want to grow in Christ. You choose whether or not you want to be blessed or cursed. You choose whether you want to be fruitful or cankerous. Jesus says in Matthew 13:12, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
So it’s really your choice. “Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those who are discerning listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But sinners stumble and fall along the way.” (Hosea 14:9)
What constitutes bad and good music for you? Do you think Christians should ‘listen’ to what they’re listening to? Do you think that the music we listen to affects our witness as believers of Jesus Christ?