The Influences of Music
Music can be a sensitive issue for anybody, because it can be so personal, but the music we listen to, both in our worship to the Lord and in our personal lives, (according to Romans 12:2, our whole life should be a sacrifice to the Lord) is an important subject to look at if we desire to please the Lord. As we look at some Biblical principles and Bible verses that can very much be applied to everyday life, maybe we could consider our own choices of music. In this study, Lord willing, we’ll see how music can influence the thoughts, feelings, and also the behavior of its listeners.
The first thing we should consider is how much do we want to know God and are we willing to make sacrifices to be yielded to the Lord? I pray that the answer is that we all have the same desire as Paul in Philippians 3:10.( Phil 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”) If that is the case, then whatever we do will be yielded to Christ. Of course, we’re sinners and will not always be yielded to Christ, however the first step to knowing God, is to have a desire to know him, to always be in prayer to be abiding in that relationship to Christ, and finally, do our best to be yielded in that relationship. If there is anyone here who doesn’t know Christ as their personal savior, Jesus Christ said himself that you MUST be born again, or believe in the finished work of Christ and have everlasting life. It’s that simple. The only requirement for salvation is to believe and thou shalt be saved.
Let’s consider how music can influence our thoughts and our perception of something. (Smith, 2005) Think of the late 1890’s to the 1920’s when silent movies were popular. One particular scene that we can all picture in our heads is that of 2 women. The heroin enters onto the scene accompanied by joyful, upbeat and lively music while the female villain is accompanied with dark, evil, perhaps sultry music. The writers of this film certainly intended these 2 characters to have the perception of joyful and innocent or dark and sinister. The audience was given this idea without even having to be told. Music, by itself, has a very powerful way to suggest an atmosphere, emotion, attitude or behavior. Another way to look at this is when I was younger and not walking with the Lord, I was friends with a DJ. One night, he was going to be DJing at a club somewhere and wanted me to come. I went and had my fun and at some point I must’ve been gone. I came back and he told me “Man, you should’ve been here, I just had all the people up dancing and doing some crazy things!!” Just from the type of music he played, the result of that was just repulsive.
Secondly, think of the words to your favorite song. Are those words encouraging to YOUR spiritual walk? The words of the world’s music are, in all aspects, meaningless and empty, no matter the topic. Music and the lyrics can be used to encourage or discourage our walk with the Lord. The more we hear words, the more that we think about them (esp. when put to a melody) and therefore our thoughts are now influenced by the words of certain music. At my work, the radio is turned up kind of loud so that people can hear the music. Sometimes I hear the radio DJ come on and announce, maybe, an upcoming concert or some kind of event. He then announces that they will be giving away free tickets to this event. There is a catch with these free passes, if and when you hear a certain song being played between such and such a time, be the 50th caller and you’ll qualify for these tickets. Someone that really wants those tickets, chooses to be a slave to listening to that radio station for so many hours, not to mention that those tickets are not even a 100% guarantee.
The Bible tells us in numerous places that the mind is where the true struggle of the believer is.
Eph. 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
There are also numerous places in the Bible where we are encouraged to keep our mind focused on things above.
Colossians 3:2 “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Phil 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are HONEST, whatsoever things are JUST, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT; if there be any VIRTUE, and if there be any PRAISE, think on these things.”
Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Romans 7:25 “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
At the conclusion of the struggle of our 2 natures that Paul describes in Romans chapter 7, Paul is thankful that Christ has given him the intellect to know the differences among doing wrong and doing right, or discernment. Discernment is VERY important when we have decisions to make, especially in this particular area when there are SO many so-called “Christian” songs. A person that might not have a lot of discernment, won’t see any issues with listening to “Christian” rap, rock, country, metal and whatever else is out there being portrayed as Christ-honoring music. Discernment is difficult, for anybody, and we need to pray for wisdom and discernment in EVERY decision.
James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
The next part of music we’ll look at is the melody. There are songs written for the purpose of making us FEEL happy, sad, angry, or excited. There are even some songs that are intended to make us want to FEEL certain ways that the artist and songwriter wants their audience to feel. How often have you put on your favorite music when you feel a little down or when you feel excited? I think all of us here have. Our emotions are influenced by the type of music we listen to. Let’s try another experiment. Most likely, we’ve all seen a horror movie. We can all anticipate when something is about to happen and we “sit on the edge of our seat” simply by the music in the background. Try turning off the sound when you watch that movie. You won’t know if something is about to happen because the music won’t be there to influence your emotions. When I was in high school, we went on a trip to Arizona to march in a parade for a big football game event. There was a video made of the trip and everyone got a copy. One scene on this video was of the football team tackling each other and whatnot, and the music in the background was hard pounding heavy metal to give the audience the FEEL of aggression and hostility. That scene would be somewhat different if the music had been ballet or classical. Various styles of music have various effects on their perception of things and a person’s attitude.
On the other hand, one benefit of listening to music that is poised or calm, (rather than agitated or excited, which might detract from the message of reverence or praise to our God), along with scripture is that the Lord uses His scripture or hymns, like “Sweet HOUR of Prayer” to convict, HOUR?...of prayer, or maybe you’ve been encouraged by hymns like “Be Still My Soul” or even challenged by a hymn like “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord”. Not all of us here enjoy being convicted, but the more of a desire we have to grow in our relationship with God, the more we want to have that dross burned off. Some believers enjoy listening to modest music with words of honor to God, like “Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin; How shall me tongue describe it, where shall it’s praise begin…” and this, too, edifies and encourages our relationship to the Lord in the sense that our thoughts are pointed towards the majesty and glory of our wonderful, all sufficient creator. God’s word is powerful and whether we hear God’s word in a message from Pastor or in a song or hymn, His word speaks to our hearts, if we have a humble and tender heart. When we choose to be drawn closer to the Lord, the Lord is delighted and will draw nigh unto us, as we’re told in James 4:8a. There have been so many times when I have felt discouraged or sad or whatever else and I would put on some hymns or praise music and I will just feel SO encouraged. The words to the hymns that we sing in church or, of course, scripture verses are what encourage our spiritual growth, among other exercises, and as was mentioned earlier, if we have the same goal as the apostle Paul in Philippians, we’ll WANT to draw closer to the Lord.
If the words of a song can manipulate how and what we think about, and the music itself can influence our emotions, the way that music is arranged or the rhythm can influence our body.
According to the Bible, we are always being changed into God’s likeness and there are numerous places in the Bible that remind us that we are a new creation with a new nature. The types of behavior that are endorsed by the world’s music is, in all aspects, fleshly. In the Bible we are told to put on the new nature and walk in newness of life and to yield, not only our minds, but our bodies to Christ.
Eph 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Eph 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
Eph 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Putting on the new man means that NOTHING from that old man should be relevant to us. Although we fail at this over and over again, we need to remember to walk in newness of life because the devil uses whatever he can to distract us from our Lord and Savior. Music is one way, and a powerful way, that the Devil is using to pull more and more Christians away. We know that our struggle is in the mind, for the most part, and just being more aware of the distractions in our lives that could distract us from our walk with the Lord would be beneficial.
There is only 1 verse in the Bible where the Greek word from which the word rhythm comes from is used.
John 7:38 “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall FLOW rivers of living water.”
The word translated “flow” in this verse is the Greek word rheo which means to flow or to pulse. I’m sure that most of us here have heard of Rheumatoid arthritis. This basically hinders the flow of blood to the joints in your body. In neuroscience, rheobase, is a term that’s simply assigned to the brain when it sends an electric current to tell how much blood flow is needed for the muscle. I’m sure that we’ve all experienced a shock of some form. I remember when I was younger, and quite dumb in this instance. I was at a friend’s house and we were repairing an electrical outlet. Well, the wires were exposed and I think we all know what comes next. I decided to grab two of the wires and see what happened. I think it’s pretty obvious to us all that kind of exposure to electricity directly affects that part of the body, and in this case, my hand. For that few seconds, I had no control over my hand. We can see from this how the flow of electrical currents directly provokes our muscles to contract.
There can also be outside influences that control our muscles. Everybody here knows someone who has a little toddler running around. Toddlers don’t have a clue about the affects of music and yet when they hear a beat, they start to move around to that beat. We all think it’s cute, but it only proves that much more how much music can have an influence on us, physically. The Bible tells us to yield the members of our bodies, or to have control over ourselves. When we listen to music with a prominent back beat, we might not feel the effect directly, but have you ever found yourself tapping your foot or snapping or keeping the beat in some way? In this small way, the music is influencing part of our body.
This last section might not seem all that important. In music that has a prominent rhythm or upbeat pulse, the most important instrument to emphasize this beat, are the drums. A lot of people argue that drums don’t hurt anything and if used in the right circumstances, could serve as a benefit. I would like to suggest that even good music that have drums needs to be carefully considered. Perhaps a person with a strong stance on Christ honoring music hears a hymn variation that has a very light drum beat in the background. Over time that soft drum beat, not always, but might want to be heard more and more. What is a soft and light sounding drum beat to start, in time, might turn into a heavier sounding beat.
I think most of us are aware that drums were originally used in the tribes of Africa by the people to conjure up evil spirits and introduce everyone into a trance state of mind, or pretty much a hypnotic state.
Let me read a quote from a website I came across that speaks about the influence of rhythm and the way the drums were used.
“Studies have shown that vibrations from rhythmic sounds have a profound effect on brain activity. In shamanic traditions, drums were used in periodic rhythm to transport the shaman into other realms of reality. The vibrations from this constant rhythm affected the brain in a very specific manner, allowing the shaman to achieve an altered state of mind and journey out of his or her body .”
(Later on in this series we will see a little more about the occultic influence on rock music.)
The use of drums in music is not a wrong thing in and of itself, however , the way the drums are used or played does have an influence on us whether we know it or not. In fact, I have read a lot about today’s Christian rock groups being influenced by secular rock groups. (One of Relient K’s influences is Led Zeppelin) Secular rock groups are heavily influenced by the occult and to listen to Christian rock bands that look up to, and sometimes even duplicate the rhythms of these secular groups, is a danger that we need to be aware of. Let me read another quote.
"My true belief about Rock ‘n’ Roll — is this: I believe this kind of music is demonic . . . A lot of the BEATS in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo DRUMS." (Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard, p. 197)
The Bible says that we need to walk with our Lord circumspectly.
Eph. 5:15 “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,”
This is the starting phrase in which our parallel passage is found. The first thing that we are told is to walk circumspectly. The Greek word that is translated circumspectly means perfectly. This, of course, covers A LOT MORE than what we are focusing on here, but we need to be aware of the types of things in this world that would hinder us from having that perfect walk with the Lord.
As you can see, there is a lot about music that we can learn and, Lord willing, we will see in the next messages some examples of different types of music that is being justified as Christ honoring.
The issue of music in the Christian’s life is an area that is greatly effecting the church and individuals and therefore we need to pray for discernment and wisdom. James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.The Lord doesn’t mind when we ask for wisdom especially when we are seeking HIS will.