The World of Music

Steve Viars August 2, 2003

- If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you know that towards the end of the flight, the captain comes over the loudspeaker and announces that the destination is near, and asks everyone to put their seatbacks and tray tables in their upright and locked position, to check their seatbelts one last time in preparation for the final descent and landing.
- that’s always a good point on the journey—you know you have a bit longer to travel, but at least the end’s in sight.
- friends, that’s where we are in the series we’ve been doing entitled Passionately Pursuing our God in Worship and Music.
- Lord willing, we’re going to land the worship and music plane next Sunday.
- but before we do, there are a couple of critical issues that we need to study to get a well-rounded picture of this topic.
- today’s question has to do with worldliness.
- is it possible to have music that is new, that is different, that is fresh and vibrant and meaningful to people in our day and culture...without it being worldly?
- can individuals and churches communicate in a meaningful and relevant way without having to compromise and surrender core values?
- or do you have to make a choice...between being relevant, effective, and worldly...
- or irrelevant, ineffective, but not worldly?

- now, you might say...well, to answer that we really have to define worldliness.
- that’s a good point...let me ask you some questions about that...

1.  Is worldliness a good thing?  Should Christians try to be worldly? 
- I assume you would say “no”.
2.  Does worldliness primarily have to do with behavior, or externals—or does it primarily have to do with the heart?
- and also, why would you answer the way you do?
3.  Could you look at a person without knowing them and determine if he or she is a worldly individual?
- could we go out into the parking lot and have everyone stand by the car you drove here today...and say...you’re worldly, you’re not...
- either because of the style of the car, or the color of the car, or the cost of the car...
- could we go around the auditorium today and make that determination on the way people are dressed?...
- that’s a worldly color...that’s a worldly style...that outfit is too expensive...that outfit is too dressy, or not dressy enough...
- could we make that determination on the basis of your bank account?

- I would assume that you’re answers to these kinds of questions would be “no”...
- worldliness is primarily an issue of the heart...and of course it will eventually be evidenced in a person’s behavior...
- but you can’t just look at externals and make absolute determinations about whether a person is worldly or not...
- so that brings us back around to our original question...what actually is it that makes something worldly...or what is the essence of worldliness?
- now, I’d also like to suggest this to you...there’s a lot at stake when it comes to this discussion....
1.  Because on the one hand, if something is worldly by biblical definitions, and we still embrace it as individuals or a church, then we will have lost the very uniqueness God desires for His people...and therefore we won’t glorify Him the way we should...and we won’t be effective in the life-changing ministry He’s given us...
2.  But on the other hand...if something isn’t worldly by biblical definitions, and we reject its use out of fear of change, or the fear of man, or indifference to ministry to people...then we might be sacrificing our effectiveness for reasons that will not stand up at the judgment seat of Christ.

- what we need are Three Keys to Relating to the World Without Being Worldly.
- and it won’t surprise you to hear me say...we can find such information in the pages of God’s Word.
- with that in mind, will you please open your Bible to I John chapter 2 – page 185 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.
- I’ve mentioned to you several times that one of the reasons I didn’t mind this series going for 11 weeks is because it touches on so many issues that are important whether you’re interested in music or not.
- surely that’s true here...because the believer’s relationship to the world is a fairly complex discussion...
- for example, Jesus said in the gospel of John in His high priestly prayer to the heavenly Father... John 17:14-18 - I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
- that statement ought to make us scratch our heads...clearly we’re to be in the world, but we’re not to be of the world.
- How can we put that all together?...these verses in I John chapter 2 can really help us...
- Read I John 2:15-17

- now here’s some ideas we can sink our teeth into...the first key is...


I.  Accurately Define Worldliness.


- let’s try to wring this passage out, and get all the truth God has given us here...
- clearly, there’s:
A.  The command
1 John 2:15 - Do not love the world nor the things in the world.
- now, here’s an important principle of Bible study...whenever you’re trying to understand or interpret something in God’s Word [or any other piece of literature for that matter], you need to separate the routine terms, from the non-routine ones...
- there’s only 11 words in that statement, and most of them are obvious...words like do, and not, and the, and in are straightforward...those are routine terms...
- but the non-routine ones...the ones that need more attention in this phrase are “love” and “world”
- let’s think about them.
1.  Do not love
- agape – strongest word in the Bible for love, includes the idea of sacrificing for the object of your attention.
- so John is talking to us about what you are devoted to in your heart, what you believe and adore, what you’ve organized your life around, what you are willing to sacrifice for...
- now you might want to pause and ask yourself---who or what do you really love?
- what is your life organized around?...where do you find joy?
- what thrills you?...what are you sacrificing for?

- the other “non-routine term” is...
2.  the world.
- now, here’s the challenge...
- the word “world” is used at least three ways in Scripture...
a.  the physical creation
- John 1:10 – ...the world was made by Him.
b.  the world of people
- John 3:16 – for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son
c.  the world system, or philosophies, or values
- Romans 12:2 – do not be conformed to this world...

- now, that information should help us a lot...which ‘world” do you think John is talking about when he says “do not love the world...”
- there’s no reason to believe he’s talking about the globe, or the physical creation...in fact, the argument in the next two verses makes it clear he’s not...
- he can’t be talking about the world of people..why?...because that would be in direct contradiction to what we know of God in John 3:16...
- that leaves us with the obvious choice...the world system, or values, or philosophies...
- the approach to life that fails to recognize God as the Creator, and the King, and the Lord, and the Redeemer...

- don’t love, don’t adore, don’t sacrifice for, don’t commit your life to ideas and philosophies that fail to give God the honor and allegiance due His name.
- that’s the command...but John also gives us...
B.  The significance.
- If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.
- we’re not playing tidily winks here—this is a life and death issue....why?
1.  Serving two masters is dangerous.
- why would John say so forcefully that you can’t love the world on one hand, and have the love of the Father in your heart at the same time?
- who is the source of the world’s philosophies and values? – our adversary the devil – and how is he described in Scripture?
- John 14:30 - I will not speak much more with you, for the prince of this world  is coming...
- Ephesians 2:2 - in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
- now there’s much more that could be said about satan’s place in this discussion, but for sake of time, let me encourage you not to make two mistakes when it comes to his place in all of this...
- please do not ever view satan as being on equal terms with God...that’s cosmic dualism...Satan’s is not God’s equal...
- God created him as a powerful angel and satan chose to rebel because he could not stand being in second place to the trinity...but the book of Job, as an example, makes it clear that satan can’t blow his nose without God’s permission...
- so please don’t ever view him as being all powerful...
- on the other hand...please don’t ever underestimate his desire to ruin your life and your testimony through you adopting beliefs and desires and behaviors that violate God’s Word.
- and here’s why---he craves your worship....he craves your adoration...he craves your attention...and he craves your devotion...
- we know that because in his third temptation of Christ, he laid aside all his pretensions and took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world...the kingdoms that one day the Father had promised to give Him from the foundation of the world at the culmination of His plan to redeem lost humanity through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ...
- and satan said...I have a better way...I have an easier way...
- I have a pain-free way...and I have an immediate way...
- Matthew 4:9 - and he said to Him, All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.

- and thank God, for the power and the model of your Savior who said...Matthew 4:10 - Then Jesus *?said to him, Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.
- and listen, there are always two very clear roads...God’s way, and the world’s way...
- and the question each of us has to ask is, who are we going to believe?   Who are we going to follow?...who are we going to love?
- serving two masters is dangerous...
- we could also say...
2.  Serving two masters is unsettling.
- do you remember what James said...James 1:8 - A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
- anyone who tries to love the world and the Father is going to have a life that is unpredictable, and inconsistent, and powerless....ultimately...
3.  Serving two masters is impossible.
- Matthew 6:24 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other...

- now, if you say, I buy all that, but I need some more help in order to really nail this definition of worldliness...that’s what the next verse does...[the command, the significance...]
C.  The explanation.
- please tell me...it’s very obvious...how is worldliness defined in verse 16?
1.  the lust of the flesh
2.  the lust of the eyes
3.  the pride of life

- in other words, this is fundamentally a matter of your heart...
- God has made us as desiring beings...
- and we can either choose to desire to love God, and to desire to serve God, and to desire to obey God, and organize our lives and priorities around his purposes or goals...
- or we can give in to lusts and pleasures that we know are contrary to God’s Word.
- now, please take that information back to the questions we asked in the introduction.
- is worldliness primarily a matter of behavior...of course not...behavior is eventually involved, but that if that is all we’re concerned about, we are being terribly superficial.
- that is also why we couldn’t go out into the parking lot and determine who is worldly and who isn’t...
- in fact, it’s even trickier than that...
- we could go out into the parking lot, and let’s say that two people pulled in side by side in identical cars...
- do you realize one could be a worldly person, and the other a godly person?
- the same is true of dress...let’s say we went around today and found two people dressed exactly alike...[develop]
- now, that is one of the fundamental errors that many believers make when discussing this topic...they don’t let the Bible itself define worldliness...
- they define it like this...if people in the world are currently doing it, it is worldly...
- the extreme of that would be the religious groups that would say [on the basis of this very concept]...
- if people in the world use electric motors, or gas-powered motors...we won’t, because we don’t want to be worldly...
- if men in the world have zippers on their pants, we won’t because we don’t want to be worldly...
- and I’m not seeking to be disrespectful to anyone or any church...I’m just simply saying...the essence of worldliness has to do with the heart...it has to do with why you’re doing what you’re doing...
- and if your choices are flowing out of a heart captivated by the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life...in other words you love the world...your behavioral choices will invariably be wrong...
- but if on the other hand, you have a genuine desire to love God, and serve Him, and minister for Him...the fact that something you’re doing is also done by people in the world does not automatically make it worldly.
- we have to let the Bible define its terms...and I John 2:16 does that for us if we let it.

- now one more issue under this point...[command, significance, explanation...]
D.  The pressure.
- let me return to a verse I mentioned a minute ago:
- Romans 12:1-2 - Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
- one paraphrase said it this way – Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.
- now, let me just pause and ask you this very important question...are you a worldly individual?
- and as we’ve explained, ultimately only you can answer that question...because other than God, you are the only one who knows your heart.
- and friend, I’m just asking you...are you a worldly individual?...have you allowed the world’s values, and beliefs, and standards, and desires, and goals, and lusts squeeze you into its mold?...[could talk about the guy hooked on internet chat rooms but claims to be a believer]...[could also develop the gospel...]...[could also develop – what if I’m a believer, but I’m worldly?...confession and repentance] 
[could also deal with the question – can I listen to secular music in my private life?}

- now, if you’ve examined your heart...you’ve dealt with the “God doesn’t want you to be of this world” part of the equation.
- and that’s important...but that still leaves a huge question...what about the “in the world part...”....see if this helps...


II.  Learn the Balance of Rejecting the Philosophies of the World While Loving the People of the World.


- this is one of the things I love about biblical Christianity---it stretches your brain.
- I mean think of it...on the one hand we’ve got I John 2:15...love not the world, neither the things that are in the world...if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him...
- and on the other hand, we have John 3:16 --- For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son...
- I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one... Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

- and let’s face it...the only way we are going to achieve that balance is through the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
- in his book that I’ve recommended to you several times, Milo Thompson speaks of:

Four possible ways of relating to the world:

- I don’t know if this was original with him or not, but I think these are very helpful.
A.  Rejection.
- withdrawal and isolation from the world.
- no social contact with the unsaved...
- believers are afraid to be around unbelievers lest they become contaminated...
- and the church becomes an angry fortress that hates people unlike them...
- they have no interest in the community and the community has no interest in them...
- so this position applies I John 2:15 not only to the philosophies of the world, but to the people of the world.

- and I believe that much of what falls under the heading of fundamental or evangelical Christianity falls under this heading.

B.  Immersion.
- this is the exact opposite of the first category...
- these folks say they know Christ, but they have adopted all the views and behaviors of the world...
- there is no difference between the way they live, and the way unbelievers live...
- so they have all kinds of unbelieving friends and acquaintances...but they aren’t having any impact on them...
- in fact, in some cases, the unbelievers don’t even know this person is a Christian...
- they might have some vague notion that the person goes to church...but that’s a strange oddity they tolerate since it doesn’t seem to impact any other aspect of the relationship.

C.  Split adaptation.
- these people attempt to have one foot in each world...
- they have their Christian friends, and their unsaved friends...
- and they’re like chameleons...they change depending on the people around them...
- so they have their church talk, their Christian talk...
- but then they have their world talk...
- and they just go back and forth...

- their Christian friends would be shocked to find out the way they act with their non-Christian friends and vice-versa.
- and this game can be pretty challenging to play...like the vaudeville movies where a guy is riding two ponies with a foot on each and then the ponies start to veer away from each other and the poor guys is stretched to the breaking point...that describes the way some Christians try to relate to the world and its just not working.

- now, let’s make some observations about those first three categories:  [as time allows]

1.  None of the three options are effective [if we’re defining effective as accomplishing anything for God]...
- if our mission is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ...
- and all the bad consequences to not living a purposeful life go with them...

2.  There are significant implications to the educational options parents and students face
- develop
- Scriptures don’t mandate one choice---but home-schoolers and Christian schoolers need to examine their motivation, and ask whether they are working to build relationships with those who do not know the Lord
- cf Christian schools ministering at Trinity Mission, different venues
- cf home schoolers participating in 4H

- cf. public schoolers saying they are there for a ministry, but they never get round to ministering...

3.  This impacts the way you think about our culture and our community
- is it a battlefield, or a mission field?

- one more option...

D.  Critical participation.
- this is the person who lives in the world but is not of the world...
- they love God, and they people who do not yet know God...
- they have rejected the world’s philosophies...their lives are distinct...
- but they carry themselves in a way that is kind, and wise, and winsome...

- and they don’t elevate their preferences because they want to be as effective as possible...
- [could mention interview Peter Jennings did with Bill Hybels]

- [could also use the example of the Left Behind series – using a form that many would consider to be worldly – a novel – but in fact it is a very effective way of communicating truth with our culture without compromising any biblical principles]

- now, where does that leave us?
- the third principle is this...


III.  Let this Balance Affect Your View of Music.


- much of the music in our world today fits under the heading of I John 2:16...
- it promotes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life...
- it does it in its words---that can be objectively evaluated...
- and some even does it in the music without the words---admittedly that is more subjective and harder to define, but the emphasis on the body and the emotions apart for the mind and heart is often way out of balance...

- so that kind of music is worldly, not because people in our world happen to be using it, but because it meets the definition of worldliness given to us in Scripture.
- however, there may be a number of things that the world happens to be doing musically that are not sinful...and are perfectly appropriate as long as the heart motivation is right.
- Milo Thompson makes that point in discussion Jesus ministering to the woman at the well in John 4 -

In John 4:1-26, Jesus is demonstrating what is pictured in critical participation.  He refuses to allow His preferences, tastes, traditions, or culture to stand in the way of doing the work of the Lord.  Yet He is not guilty of compromise.  It is often necessary in doing the Lord’s ministry to cross through preferential, traditional, and cultural barriers. 
If you stop and think about it, this is precisely what Jesus did when He left heaven’s glories (with its preferences, tastes, traditions, and culture – music, language, etc.) and came to identify with degenerate humankind and the culture of this world as a servant in human form to do the will of the Father in a cross-cultural experience (Phil. 2:5-9). 
Then still further, we see Jesus moving from one set of preferences, tastes, traditions, and culture in this world (Israelite) into another (Samaritan) here in John 4.  This experience involved a different ethnicity (4:3-6 - Samaritan), gender (4:7-10 - woman), morality (4:16-19 - prostitute), and religious practice (4:20-26).  These are all things that were taboos to the religionist and legalist of His day.
In the same fashion as Christ Jesus, Paul was committed to becoming all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:19-22).  This is not talking about changing doctrinal convictions and principles of Scripture.  It is talking about such matters as biblically permissible styles, preferences, tastes, traditions, and cultures, where necessary change for identification and communication is not compromise.
The church expects today’s missionaries to do well at this.  Yet the church in this country is struggling with these concepts, which is especially seen in the realm of music.
Most pastors and Christian leaders live in absolute fear of being labeled a compromiser by their peers.  Therefore, they often become much more stringent than the Scriptures, often adopting the minimal and most common denominators in preferences, tastes, traditions, and culture.  These are then elevated to the level of theology and made a test of fellowship, hoping then that no peer will have cause to accuse them of being a compromiser.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video