Jesus doesn’t sell

Many of today’s “Christian” songs aren’t about Christ. Or even about God.

They are all about you. And me. Just like “secular” songs are.

It’s hard to find God on the radio.

I listened to our local Christian radio station one recent morning. The playlist included songs such as these:

Contemporary Christian songs

I Am Waiting – John Waller

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait …

The emphasis is on the songwriter, who is waiting, not on God, whose timing may differ from ours.

Or, this one:

Something Beautiful – Need to Breathe

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet
It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful …

“…this is my desire …” Not God’s desire, but mine. This is little more than pop psychology.

Does the songwriter really think God will let him drown? He doesn’t know God very well if he does. God may push us off the deep end, but He will provide the lifeboat. The Bible says so. In so many words.

I also heard this one:

Everything Comes Alive – We Are Messengers

In the mirror all that I see
Is Your grace looking back at me
I’m not the man that I used to be

You are the song, You are the song
Rising from my heart

Everything comes alive
Everything comes alive
Everything comes alive
In You

In the evening when my bones are tired
You’re my strength and my heart’s desire
You’re the light when the sun expires

I remember how far I’ve come
I’m not lost with You I’m home
I didn’t find You on my own

I’m made alive
Now I’m by Your side
I’ve come alive
I’ve come alive …

We assume that because this song plays on a Christian radio station, it’s about God. But God is not mentioned in the song. It could be about a girlfriend. Look at the lyrics that way. It could fit.

That thought also applies to this song:

How Sweet the Sound – Citizen Way

Yea though I walk through the valley
I know that You are always right beside me
And I will fear no evil
You’re my rock and my strength
You comfort me

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
I hear You singing over me
I once was lost but now I’m found
And it’s beautiful
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
It covers every part of me
My soul is silent, I am found
And it’s a beautiful sound
It’s a beautiful, beautiful sound …

Here’s another one that’s all about the singer, about you and me:

Fix My Eyes – For King & Country

I’d love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
to walk the walk I’m supposed to walk

And love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all …

It’s like I’m my own savior. I have to look in the right places and do the right things.

What if I am scared? Does that mean I’m not a Christian?

Here’s one more:

You Lead – I’ll Follow, Jamie Grace

I’ve got waves that are tossin’ me,
Crashin’ all over my beliefs,
And in all sincerity, Lord,
I wanna be yours,
So pull me out of this mess I’m in,
Cause I know I’m wanderin’
Lead my soul back home again,
I’ve always been yours,

And this world may push, may pull,
But your love it never fails,

You lead, I’ll follow, Your hands hold my tomorrow,
Your grip, Your grace, You know the way,
You guide me tenderly,
When you lead, I’ll follow,
Just light the way and I’ll go,
Cause I know what you got for me is more than I can see,
So lead me on, on, on and on,
Just lead me on, on, on and on …

At least she said “Lord” in the third line. Otherwise, this could be written about a boyfriend. (Do we worship our boyfriends/girlfriends? Be honest.)

It’s no wonder Christianity is hard to follow. It’s hard to find in today’s pop culture, even among Christians.

My college roommate put together a cassette (yes, a cassette) of songs from several artists written about four decades ago. Here’s a sample. Hint: You won’t hear any of these on the radio, or in a worship set on Sunday morning. Not because the music is old-fashioned – but because the lyrics actually challenge the thinking and lifestyle of followers of Christ.

For example:

Older Christian songs

Too Late – Amy Grant

… Oh, the time has come for making a decision,
And you say you’ve found the light.
But the talk is cheap when I see the way you’re living,
Walking in the night.

Well, it’s too late for walking in the middle,
Too late to try.
Yes, it’s too late for sitting in the balance,
No more middle line.

Oh, it’s too late for thinking you can walk the middle line.
Better get wise.

You may think that you can live by your feelings,
Different every night.
But an emotional religion will crumble at our feet,
We’re made to stand and fight.

Well, it’s too late for walking on fences,
Time to choose you side.
Yes, it’s too late for flirtin’ with the darkness,
Make up your mind.

Well, it’s too late for thinking you can walk the middle line
Better get wise …

Amy Grant wrote this before she went pop.

Keith Green is one of my favorite Christian artists. He died in a plane crash in 1982. Here are two of his best (in my opinion):

To Obey is Better than Sacrifice – Keith Green

To obey is better than sacrifice
I don’t need your money, I want your life
And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon
But you act like I’ll never return

Well you speak of grace and my love so sweet
How you thrive on milk but reject my meat
And I can’t help weeping at how it will be
If you keep on ignoring my words
Well you pray to prosper and succeed
But your flesh is something I just can’t feed

To obey is better than sacrifice
I want more than Sundays and Wednesday nights
‘Cause if you can’t come to me every day
Then don’t bother coming at all …

Or how about this one, written from Satan’s viewpoint. Blatantly:

No One Believes In Me Any More – Keith Green

Oh, my job keeps getting easier as time keeps slipping away
I can imitate the brightest light and make your night look just like day
I put some truth in every lie to tickle itching ears
You know I’m drawing people just like flies
‘Cause they like what they hear

I’m gaining power by the hour they’re falling by the score
You know, it’s getting very simple now
Since no one believes in me anymore

Oh, heaven’s just a state of mind; my books read on your shelf
And have you heard that God is dead? I made that one up myself
They dabble in magic spells; they get their fortunes read
You know they heard the truth but turned away
And they followed me instead

I used to have to sneak around but now they just open their doors
You know, no one’s watching for my tricks
Since no one believes in me anymore …

Another of my favorite musicians is Don Francisco, a true storyteller. If you want songs on how to live a Christian lifestyle, try these two:

I Don’t Care Where You’ve Been Sleeping – Don Francisco

I loved you long before the time your eyes first saw the day
And everything I’ve done has been to help you on the way
But you took all that you wanted then at last you took your leave,
And traded off a Kingdom for the lies that you believed

And although you’ve chosen darkness with its miseries and fears
Although you’ve gone so far from Me and wasted all these years
Even though my name’s been spattered by the mire in which you lie
I’d take you back this instant if you’d turn to Me and cry.

I don’t care where you’ve been sleeping, I don’t care who’s made your bed
I’ve already gave My life to set you free;
There’s no sin you could imagine that is stronger than my love,
And it’s all yours if you’ll come home again to Me …

Does that encourage you? It took me a long time to agree with that song, because I was judgmental of people living in sin. Until I realized that I’m living in sin too, even if my sins aren’t the specific ones this song mentions. And God loves me, even still.

Here’s a heart-stopper:

Steeple Song – Don Francisco

I don’t care how many buses you own
Or the size of your sanctuary
Doesn’t matter how steep
Your steeple is, if it’s sittin’ on a cemetery

I don’t care if you pave your parking lot
Or put pads upon your pews
What good is a picture perfect stage
If you’re missin’ all the cues

I don’t care if your pastor is super powered
And your program’s always new
What you need is love and truth
And men are gonna come to you

It doesn’t matter if you know the Bible
If it’s all just in your head
But the thing I need to ask you
Is have you done the things I said?

Do you love your wife?
For her and for and for your children
Are you layin’ down your life?
What about the others?

Are you livin’ as a servant
To your sisters and your brothers?
Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?
Do the widow and the orphan cry alone?

I don’t care if you pray for miracles
I don’t care if you speak with tongues
I don’t care if you’ve said you love Me
In every song you’ve sung

It doesn’t matter if your sacrifice of praise
Is loud enough to raise the dead
The thing I need to ask you
Is have you done the things I said? …

You won’t hear this one on a Sunday morning. But is it truth? I would say yes.

Finding Jesus

None of these songs on either list mentions the name of Jesus. Even on a Christian radio station or in a Christian worship service, it’s hard to find Jesus.

And we wonder why the United States is going to hell in a handbasket.

Jesus does not sell. That’s why radio doesn’t play Him, and why no one writes about Him (any more).

It’s all about me, and my effort to find Jesus and the meaning of life. It’s about overcoming my struggles. Emphasis on me.

It’s not about the Jesus of the Bible, who died on the cross to offer eternal life to whomever accepts that gift. We don’t sing about His attributes; we sing about our failures and shortcomings.

I don’t know about you, but I already know my failings. They are many. You don’t have to convince me I’m a sinner, or that my life isn’t what it should be.

Instead, give me hope. Give me a reason to “live like I’m not scared.” Tell me about heaven. Jesus Christ. His life. His death. His resurrection.

Why are those themes not compelling, even among Christians?

Let’s look up.

It’s not about me. Please. If it is about me, I’m in big trouble.

Thankfully, God wants us to find Him. But we have to look outside of ourselves to see Him. It’s not about us waiting for Him, but about Him waiting for us. To look up. We’ve got it all backwards.

In the words of Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California, “It’s not about you.”

No more pop psychology, please. Just show me a little faith. Something to believe in.


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