musical choices a function of the walk in the Spirit

My friend, Scott Dean, on making discerning choices with regard to music:

More comments on music [the link takes you to the original article]

“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”

I recently made a comment about God-honoring, flesh-mortifying music and wanted to follow up on that comment since I am almost certain there will be some misunderstanding. The verse that I included above from Galatians is somewhat of a life verse for me; that is, many years ago I came across that verse, memorized it, meditated on it, and discovered that it changed my understanding of how life works.

I began to understand that the Christian life is not a list of rules to follow, a creed to keep, a path to walk. Rather, the Christian life is a journey with the Holy Spirit walking inside the Christian. If we walk conscious of the Spirit’s direction and attune to His leading, we automatically avoid sin and those things which make “provision for the flesh.” The commands of Scripture then are like a mirror that show us that we are not walking in the Spirit rather than a list of rules that I try to keep. Keeping the rules comes naturally as one walks in the Spirit.

One of the great truths of Scripture that we naturally try to suppress is that the Holy Spirit and man’s old nature, the flesh, are opposed to each other. Those actions that I take yielded to the Spirit naturally oppose or mortify the flesh – these actions cause the flesh to be suppressed (see Romans 8:13). However, actions that I take to please my old man naturally quench the Spirit reducing His promptings to my spirit.

As a side note, I think that the key that the Pharisees failed to realize was that by trying to live the law of God in the flesh they were actually feeding their pride of life; that is, their human-centered efforts to keep God’s law actually displeased God because they were proud about their own attainments.

This Biblical understanding of the opposition of the flesh to the Spirit has helped me as I make decisions about what music to listen to. That music which feeds my flesh and suppresses the Spirit is wrong for me even though others may listen to it. That music which increases the influence of the Spirit in my life also has the effect of suppressing my flesh; I can sense it clearly.

Recently, I was discouraged (which violates God command to be strong and courageous and not be dismayed). I sensed that I was giving into my flesh in this matter. Then came a weekly habit that my family has of singing hymns together. The more I sang those hymns of praise and worship and doctrinal import, the more I realized the sinfulness of my discouraged attitude and realized the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. This kind of music is truly that music that mortifies the flesh and strengthens my spirit’s sensitivity to the Spirit.

On the other hand, I find that at times of backsliding I long for non-Christian, fleshly music that I have from my past. These same musical styles are very prevalent in so-called Christian music today. It is this type of music that dominates Mongolian churches, and I believe that it is no coincidence that Mongolian church members tend to be flesh-oriented, shallow, spiritually weak Christians. One simply cannot feed the flesh and the Spirit at the same time.

Please consider that music that you listen to and sing along with: is the music strengthening your sensitivity to the Spirit and heightening your abhorrence of sin? If you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Posted by Scott Dean at 8:46 AM (March 6, 2008)

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A few comments from Pastor Don:

It is vitally important that you catch the notion that musical discernment (or any lifestyle choices as a Christian) comes as a result of a walk in the Spirit rather than conformity of the will to a “code”. You don’t have the willpower to merely conform. You will set yourself up for failure. But if you walk in the Spirit, you will do the things of the Spirit.

If you walk in the Spirit, you will love the things of the Spirit, and, consequently, you will love spiritual music.