Alex Catchpole, London
Music can be something that is very beautiful and glorifying to God. It was used in the days of King David, 1 Chron. 15. 16; 2 Chron. 15. 13, and in the temple worship in the days of Solomon and onwards, 2 Chron. 29. 25-26. The psalms are full of invitations to take instruments and worship the Lord. When King Saul was suffering from an evil spirit coming upon him, David would come and play his harp to him to refresh him, 1 Sam. 16. 23. For these reasons we may conclude that music is something that is given by God to man for his benefit and blessing, and also for the glorification of God.
However, like many of the other good things that God has given man, music has often been abused and degraded, and used for purposes that are far from holy and glorifying to the Lord, or good for men. (For an example of what men have done with the good abilities that God gave them, both physically and mentally, see Gen. 11. 3-7 and James 2. 6-7.)
Music is very powerful, and influences our behaviour mainly in very subtle , but sometimes blatant, ways. I have always liked music, first being attracted by the tune or voice of the singer, and then listening carefully to the message of the song. As a teenager my favourite music was Reggae. This had its roots in the poor areas of Jamaica, and had three strong influences upon me.
1. It spoke a lot about oppression and the need to revolt against society.
2. Drug taking was propagated and encouraged.
3. Love and sex were often the subject of these records.
(It also had a subtle influence upon me to make me more open to the Rastafarian religion than any other, as this was referred to directly or indirectly.)
Because I liked this music I would often play it, and generally learned the words off by heart, singing them to myself over and over. The devil was well aware of the power of this medium and used music to fill my mind with a desire to revolt against society, take drugs and have sex. The general result of these influences is that the thought patterns propagated actually dominate the mental processes of those listening, establishing their lifestyle.
When I was a teenager I could not afford a walkman, but today many of the young people travel almost everywhere with these, listening to music, continually allowing their brains and emotions to be invaded by whatever thought patterns govern the songwriter. We have been very distressed when teaching the Bible to youngsters to hear them repeating words of songs they knew that are extremely sensual, drug related, violent, and sometimes overtly satanic.
Music effects the moods of people, depending on the message. It can make one angry, bitter, happy, etc. Some music is particularly designed for listening when certain drugs are taken, and has dangerous mind-bending effects. Christians ought to be aware of the nature of some the repetitive choruses which have monotonous melodies, which some have suggested are hypnotic in their character. Some seem to be very much like the chants used by those involved in Eastern religions, etc.
Bible examples of music being used in evil circumstances are when Herodious danced before her step-father, which would suggest the sensual nature of the music that may have been played on that occasion, Matt. 14. 1-12. Music has been used on very many occasions to stir up sensual emotions in people upon dance floors, etc., and has often led to the practising of what was imagined in the mind during the song. The people rising up to dance and sing when worshipping the golden calf in the wilderness, Exod. 32. 18-19, suggests the evil use of magic on that occasion and for many other satanic orgies that are still practised in our day and on a world-wide scale. God knows the many things that can fill our minds and influence us in an evil way, therefore He encourages us to set our minds on things above, Col. 3. 1-4, to meditate upon those things that are good and lovely, Eph. 5. 14-20, and to think upon whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, Phil 4. 8-9.
The things that we have considered affect initially the minds and then the actions of men. All men are tempted by one or more of the above mentioned things in a very real way at some time or another in their lives, and sometimes it is the case that they are overcome by them. There is a battle being waged for the control of our minds. The devil wants to fill them with smut, cravings, evil passions, intoxications which lead to the moral overthrow of men. On the other hand God, in His wisdom, beseeches us to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him, holy, acceptable, which is a reasonable service. If we do this, then we shall be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and we shall then prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God, Rom. 12. 1-2. Let us then, who love the Lord, gird up the loins of our mind, 1 Pet. 1. 13, flee these the things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Let us fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto we are also called, 1 Tim 6. 11-12
If any of the above has been a challenge to us, and we have a desire to give up any practice that we know to be wrong in our lives, whether it is mentioned above or not, here is some practical advice.
Reading 1 John 3. 3-10, we notice that a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ should never practise sin, as this identifies those that are of the devil. The Lord Jesus died to redeem us from iniquity and purify unto Himself a people zealous of good works, Titus 2. 14. The apostle Paul understood the significance of this and renounced any such things, judging them for what they are, the works of darknesss, thus desiring to have nothing further to do with them, 2 Cor. 4. 2. This is all involved in the act of repentance, detailed in 2 Cor. 7. 9-11. Here Paul refers back to the way the Christians at Corinth had been conducting themselves, 1 Cor. 5, allowing sin in the assembly, and even being somehow proud of it. After Paul's letter, 1 Corinthians, they were made very sorry, which led to repentance, 2 Cor. 7. 10. This then had the happy result of: a) making them careful; b) clearing themselves in the matter; c) causing them indignation that they were ever caught by the wiles of the devil; d) their being caused to fear, because of the displeasure they brought to God, and lest they should be caught out again; e) their having a zeal and vehement desire to do that which was right in the future; f) their not sparing themselves in self judgement. So that after deep exercise of heart their position was changed, and now they had proved themselves to be clear in the matter.
I would like to give two examples of how this worked in my case. Before I was saved I propagated revolutionary politics in Dominica, an island in the West Indies. When the Lord saved me, I sought to win for Christ those that I had previously perverted through Marxism. On one occasion I went to a wedding where were many of my friends that I had been witnessing to. In such an environment I took one sip of an alcoholic drink. One sip led to another until I was one of the most drunken persons at the wedding. Also on this occasion, as my senses were numbed, I smoked some marijuana. When we were about to leave the wedding we waited at the exit, and one of my friends pointed to me and said, 'Look at the Christian'. At that moment the reality of my sin struck me, and I realized how badly I had let the Lord and myself down. The next day 1 was in great sorrow, and did not eat until the evening. I realized then that I could not play around with these things, and decided that I would never drink alcohol in such a manner again, nor ever take any sort of drug.
When I returned home from Dominica to England, I had lots of ungodly music and revolutionary books. I knew that I had no need of these, and did not want anybody else to be polluted by them, so I threw them all away, Acts. 19. 18-20. If I had kept those books or music, they would have had a draining influence upon me, and perhaps if I was not very strong spiritually at any stage I may have been tempted to go back to them. Once they were in the dustbin, this was a witness that I had made a clean break with them.
We would also do well to memorize relevant passages from the word of God, that the Holy Spirit can bring to our minds to defend us against the attacks of the devil, Ps. 119. 9, Eph. 6. 17. The Lord Jesus gave us an excellent model for prayer, which included these words, 'lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil', Matt. 6. 13, which we would be advised to make part of our prayers, not as a vain repetition, but the expressions of our hearts' desires. When temptations seem overwhelming let us remember this promise, 'Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you', Jas. 4. 7-8.