Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From the Inside Out

This past Lord's Day I was in a Reformed Baptist church and heard the Hillsong praise and worship song entitled, "From the Inside Out."  Since leaving the charismatic church in 2004/2005 I have primarily attended Reformed congregations where only hymns or psalms were sung.  I spoke to the pastor, and sought his permission to critique this song on my blog.  He revealed to me that there was at least one phrase in this song that he did not appreciate.  His suggestion in performing this critique is that we may find a way to transform this song espousing false doctrine into one which is biblically sound.  My desire is much simpler than that.  I propose that we scrap it, and stick with biblically sound music that has served the church well over the past centuries.

Here are the lyrics which I found freely on the internet.  I think "fair use" should allow me to copy them here for critiquing purposes.  My comments are in red.

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

The author's point here is that God's mercy and grace is everlasting and continues to forgive us of our sins.  This is true.  However, the danger we must guard ourselves against is an antinomian attitude that our sins do not matter and we may break God's law indiscriminately without any concern of recourse.  Consider this passage from Hebrews 6:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
(Hebrews 6:4-6)

So, we should be extremely cautious to have an attitude of, "I can sin the same sin a thousand times over, and I can always count on God's forgiveness."  You may just prove yourself to be reprobate if these thoughts are yours.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

Is God's "light" the only thing that never fades?  What about His Word?

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
(Isaiah 40:8)
Now, one may claim that God's Word is the "light."  However, this does not seem to be what is referenced in judging from the context of the rest of this song.  The "light" seems to be implied from the first verse as His mercy and grace.

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

This was the most troublesome verse to me when I heard this last Lord's Day.  First of all, we do not "give" God control of our heart and our soul.  He draws us to Himself.  To speak of giving Him control is to embrace an Arminian understanding of theology, hardly appropriate for a Reformed Baptist Church.  Secondly, what in the world does "consume me from the inside out Lord" mean?  Usually something that is consuming you from the inside out is a cancer.  It's a bad thing.  In trying to give the benefit of the doubt to this author I tried to think of any passage where consuming a person is referenced.  The best I could come up with is:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
(John 6:53)
So we are commanded to "consume" Christ.  But nowhere are we taught to pray that He would consume us.  Thirdly, what is the emphasis of this part of the song?  (and it is the main part that is repeated over and over again.)  "I give..."  "Consume me..."  "become my..."  Words such as I, me, or my are tell tell evidence of who this song is really about.  Is it about Christ, or is it about "me?"  "I" seem to be the primary subject in this song.  There is a brief mention of longing for God's justice.  Believe me.  We should be loathe to cry out for God's justice.  I suggest that the author stick with the mercy plea in the first stanza.  God's justice demands hell for all eternity over a single sin.  Praise God that Christ has fulfilled the justice on our behalf.  Lastly, the words of "my embrace" and "love you from the inside out" are syrupy "Jesus is my boyfriend" type of "love songs" that real men would never sing.

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

For someone intent on "losing myself" this author sure spends a lot of time singing about "myself."  

The rest of the lyrics are simply a repeat of what has already been said, typical of the "7-11" style of today's worship music (seven words sang 11 times).

Certainly not all hymns are praiseworthy either.  We must be discerning when we select what we will sing in worship to the Lord.  In critiquing a song such as this one, it becomes clear why some churches embrace exclusive Psalmody.  When only the Psalms are sung, we can be assured that every word is doctrinally sound.

I do not believe that it is necessary to sing only Psalms.  However, if we are singing songs that are outside the infallible Word of God, we must be diligent to make sure that those songs are faithful to the teaching of scripture and consistent with Reformed orthodox doctrine.  What we don't want to do is to bring false doctrine into the meeting of the saints.  We must constantly be on guard against that.  Most of today's music gives us ample "target practice" for critiques such as this one.  In my opinion, it is best left out of worship altogether.


Growing and Changing in Christ! said...

Agreed. Well put. There is no room for false doctrine singing. Misguided, yet well intentioned, worship is still not true worship. This issue should be raised more and certainly this is yet another call to closely guard sound doctrine and contend for the faith.

Chris Stokes said...

Wow, I am comfortable that you may disagree with the song, however by the grounds in which you most vehemently disagree, the discussion about I, you would discard Most of the Psalms.
By the way Isaiah 60:19 says God's Light is everlasting, but since it doesn't mention His word should we strip it out of the scripture?
In Judges Chapter 6 Gideon prepared an offering to the Angel of the Lord and HE had Gideon place it on a Rock, the when he touched the Offering a consuming fire came from Inside the Rock.
Jesus told the Pharisees to clean the inside of the Bowl first then the outside.
Isaiah speaks of the refining fire in which our impurities are cleansed as with the reference to refining silver. Revelations speaks of being refined of our impurities in Christs Consuming fire.
Finally I sing the song as I heard it the first time with a broken heart for my failings which have been thousands, and it is His Mercy and Grace that enables me to follow Him instead of wallow in a miserable existence in which I strive to be good enough for Him. For I believe he says that None of us are good, and our best is like filthy rags. I do not seek to abuse his grace for Paul was very clear about the one that would abuse grace by deliberately continuing to sin. However, I fail, even when I have no intention of it, Like Peter when he said he would die with Christ before he left Him, yet hours later he denied him 3 times. Or like Paul who proclaimed what a wretched sinner I am, for I do what I don't want to do and don't do what I want to do.

I think the song is just that humble, It cries out that I am that man a wretched sinner. Clean me up God and hold me for I am trying everyday to follow you and live in your glory and your Everlasting Light.

Maybe if it was set to a bar tune like Amazing Grace was and many of the other Hymns especially the ones by Martin Luther, you would have liked it. Pay a little homage and move on.

if you read revelation I think you may see that Heaven is going to be full of 7-11 songs for eternity.

Hope you grow to enjoy them

Chris Stokes

Mike Southerland said...

Just a couple of followup comments:

...on me "discarding most of the Psalms"

The Psalms are the infallible, inspired Word of God. Modern fluffy "praise songs" are not.

On the whole "bar tune" thing...that is a myth. Check out this site for a good article on it (I haven't reviewed the rest of the site, so I can't vouch for it):

I am happy to report that we joined the church where I originally heard this song. The song leader has made a concentrated effort to incorporate more sound lyrics in the songs he brings. There has been a major improvement since the time I wrote this. He has set some of the old hymns to modern tunes. Though I prefer the old ones, I have to write that off to preference. So I can't complain.

SusieQ said...

Though I don't agree with your analysis of this song, I do commend you for wanting to sing only Biblical songs. This is something I never really thought about until recently but God is now showing me. I actually found this post while trying to understand the wording of one line; I lead worship and we plan on singing this song Sunday, but I am trying to go through all the song lyrics and be sure I understand and agree with what I am singing.

Chris Stokes addressed most of the thoughts I had on reading your post. The one thing that hasn't been mentioned...The line that says "I give You control". I agree with you that God draws us to Himself. But the way I understand, and sing, this song, the control being talked about isn't a matter of our salvation, but of our sanctification. This too is through His Spirit and He finishes the work started in us, but I daily find myself holding on to things-sin, habits, idols-and surrender these to Him, giving Him "control" of that part of my life. My life is under His control, but He is always revealing ways that I'm trying to hold on to that control and need to give Him what is already His.

Chris said...

This is the loosest use of logic I have seen in a critique of a song ... I'm a reformed baptist too, but umm. It looks like you were just grabbing for rocks to throw, not really looking at what you were throwing. You assumed the worst possible connotations of each verse, but never even saw the potential glories sang about within this song.
What you mentioned about the first verse is a perfect case. You assume the author sins without regard to God's holiness, just regard to His grace. But if you were to even look for a truthful interpretation of it you could acknowledge that we all sin. We sin because we still dwell in our flesh. Or are you like the Wesleyans who think we are perfect upon Salvation?
You belittle the authors use of light extending forever. For one, this is a song. It is meant to be a little poetic. A little lyrical. Not as rigid as what your mind is use to, I suppose. I am reminded about the end of John's gospel. He talks about how if the Bible contained every word and story about Jesus, there wouldn't be enough books to fit it all. The author references 'light' but the assumption is all of God never fades. As if one song could speak to the majesty of God. I suppose we will have perfect songs in heaven. This song is good. It uses poetics to be sure. Which is below you; or above you. Depends where you're standing I suppose.
My advice, stop being such a skeptic. The logic you demonstrated here is exactly the same as what liberal scholars use to 'disprove' or 'muddle' the bible and it's legitimacy.

Mike Southerland said...

OK. I'm not sure why supposed Reformed Baptists keep coming to the defense of this song. John's poetic language at the end of his Gospel is inspired. This song certainly is not. Then "my logic" is the same as what liberal scholars use...blah, blah, blah. I believe, sir, that that is a logic technique of "name calling." So that when your argument lacks merit or you can't win your argument using reasonable objectives, then just call your opponent a "gunky head."

This same technique is used to call me a "Wesleyan." So, if you can get your readers to think that I am somehow less "reformed" than you, well, then you must obviously speak from the place of authority. You try and tie me to be linked with the Wesleyans, which I totally reject, obviously. But let's see if we can tie this song to a heretical group. I don't think it is really that tough. Plus, it is not name calling to point out who produced a particular song. It is simply a statement of fact (as opposed to my supposed "Wesleyan" connection). In the first sentence of this blog post I tell you who produced the song. It is from the illustrious "Hillsong" group. Hillsong is led by none other than Brian Houston, son of pedophile Frank Houston, who founded Hillsong. Both of these Houston "pastors" are/were (Frank Houston has passed away) heretical false teachers.

Here is one link to one of my favorite podcasts where Chris Rosebrough exposes the false teachings of Hillsong:
Hillsong Heresy, An Example Of

So then, I want to know, why do Reformed Baptists feel that they must go to the false teachers in order to find appropriate music for their church services? Are there no solid, orthodox hymns they may use? There are plenty. It's just that these hymns are not "relevant." They don't appeal to an itching ears culture like this Hillsong filth does.

BTW, for other reasons we are now in a Reformed Baptist church that does sing only hymns from the Trinity Hymnal. There is no "praise band" up on stage performing. There are no drums or electric guitars. There is a piano and an organ and a song leader who respectfully tells us the page number where we can view the lyrics, along with the music for those who can read it. Not everything we sing is 100 years old or older either. We have sung songs written by Keith Getty, James Montgomery Boice, and other more modern solidly orthodox believers.

If you want to hear Hillsong, go visit a seeker sensitive, charismatic heretical church. I'm sure they'll welcome you with open arms. But if you want to worship the true and living Christ, worship Him with sound doctrine.