The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Faithless Worship Songs: ABIDE WITH ME by Matt Redman

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Faith is an activity of the soul.  It’s when your soul chooses to put its trust in a concept regardless of whether or not that concept can be confirmed through sensual data (see Faith Development: Basic Mechanics).  Because we’re used to relying on our senses to guide us in our relationships with other humans and in our interactions with the physical world we live in, we find relying on faith to be very challenging—especially when incoming sensual data seems to be contradicting the facts which our souls are trying to cling to.  If God feels far away to our emotions, does that mean that He really is?  If we can’t see, hear, or touch God, does that mean that He is not present with us?

Our Creators are not physical Beings who get about in physical bodies.  They are a totally different kind of Being than we are, and that means relating to Them requires a different approach than we use with other humans.  Relying on our senses simply doesn’t work when it comes to spiritual matters, because our senses were not designed with the capacity to guide us in such things.  If we want to know spiritual truths and commune with spiritual Beings, then we must use a spiritual approach, and that means choosing to embrace the facts that our Gods reveal to us regardless of what our senses are saying.  Is this easy?  No.  It’s a difficult skill to master, but it’s not like our Gods abandon us to figure it out on our own.  They are the Ones who teach us what faith is and how to exercise it.  Then They create countless opportunities for us to practice relying on faith in our personal lives.  As our faith grows stronger, They increase the level of challenge so that our skills will keep developing (see The Purpose of Spiritual Deserts).

Our Gods are gracious, patient, and infinitely wise Teachers.  Even though we humans often find faith development to be a terribly daunting task, They know how to break it down into doable steps for us.  If you can’t even lift five pounds and you try to lift a hundred, you’ll only end up injuring yourself. But a good coach can lead you through a progressive series of weight lifting challenges until you are able to reach your goal.  This is how our Gods work with us in every area of spiritual development: They only push us as hard as They know we can handle.  Often we feel that They’re overestimating our abilities, but in the end we learn that They are always correct in Their assessment of what we’re ready for.

Now if you’re serious about maturing spiritually, then you’re going to have to wrestle your way through a whole bunch of doubts.  Doubting does not indicate that you are failing—it indicates that the current challenge is tough enough to strengthen your faith.  If you want to increase your physical strength, you can’t just lift weights that are easy to lift.  At some point you have to move on to weights that require some strain to hoist.  In the same way, for faith to grow stronger, it has to groan its way through some difficult hoisting, and those groans take the form of doubts.  When you express doubt, you are expressing the conclusions that your senses are giving you, such as, “God feels far away, therefore He is.”  When those conclusions conflict with the truths that God has taught you, faith has an opportunity to go to work by saying something like: “God might feel far away, but I know He’s still here because He says He’s always with me.”  Developing faith comes down to your soul waffling between trusting in the things God has told you versus the things your earthsuit is screaming at you.  It’s how we grow, so every committed Christian must be willing to waffle.

The key to getting the most out of your faith workouts is to wait for God to create opportunities for you to practice embracing the truths that He wants you to develop more confidence in.  What you don’t want to do is start rehearsing lies about God out loud just because some other fellow happened to make a song out of them.  That other fellow is on his own journey with God and he’s probably stuck in a different place than you are.  When he puts some of his doubts to music, and you start singing them, you’re just losing ground.  You’re tossing aside any progress you might have made just so you can sing along with someone else’s faithless lyrics.  What’s the point?

When you pray, you need to be honest with God, and that means you talk to Him about the doubts that you have.  But when it comes to worshiping God through music, you need to be much more choosy about the lyrics that you sing.  Worshiping God is supposed to be about pleasing Him, and that means singing lyrics that reflect the soul attitudes which He says He likes, such as reverence, submission, dependency and trust.  When we sing lyrics which reflect soul attitudes of disrespect, domination, autonomy and doubt, we are not pleasing God.  Instead, we’re acting like we don’t care about His preferences, and unfortunately this is often the case.

In the Church today, you are surrounded with leaders who are encouraging you to show no respect for God’s preferences.  Many of those leaders are writing songs for you to sing and performing those songs on stage.  The problem is that while they call themselves “worship leaders,” they’re more like “rebellion leaders” because rebellion is what they’re modeling by encouraging you to join them in celebrating soul attitudes which God says He does not like.  In this post, we’re going to check out the lyrics to Matt Redman’s song Abide with Me.  The title alone should give you pause because the very fact that we’re asking God to abide with us means that we’re rejecting the fact that He’s always with us.

Because Christian leaders are not Gods, their theology is not perfect, and when they write songs about God, you’ll often notice them slipping in things that don’t sound right to you.  When this happens, you need to ask God for guidance, not just assume that the leaders are right and you’re wrong.  The fact that a guy has musical talent and a bunch of albums to his name doesn’t mean he has a better grip on truth than you do.  There are times in life when you’ll meet souls who claim to have been Christians a lot longer than you have, yet they’ll be way behind you in understanding basic truths.  This is what happens when we aren’t listening to God: we don’t just stop moving forward, we start sliding backwards.  Spiritual understanding is a gift, and if we don’t cherish the wisdom God gives us, He takes it back.  Since you don’t know what’s going on between other souls and God, you can’t trust other humans to be your spiritual guides in life. You can only trust God Himself, which is why we’re always telling you to go directly to Him for wisdom in life.

While he sticks with the generic title of God, Matt is clearly addressing Jesus in the lyrics of this song.  As is typical for Christians, Matt drops several hints that Jesus understands us better than Yahweh and the Holy Spirit—a claim which is absolutely not true and quite insulting to all three of our Gods.

[Verse 1] I have a home; Eternal home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first; You know our pain
But You show hope can rise again up from the grave

As a human, you are incapable of viewing reality from a non-human perspective.  When you look at a fish, you can’t begin to grasp how that fish experiences his own fishy existence.  Even if you were to build an android who could think for itself, you still wouldn’t be able to experience life as that robot.  Well, being so limited in your ability to see life through another creature’s eyes is a limitation that you have—it’s not a limitation that your Creators have.  But because you automatically project your personal limitations onto Them, you assume that They can’t really understand you since They’re not human beings.  Then you learn about Jesus strolling around the earth in human form.  In her idiocy, the Church tells you that Jesus actually ceased to be God in that moment and permanently morphed into some mysterious God-human hybrid.  She tells you that Jesus is now eternally “fully God and fully man.”  In other words, He’s become a created being like you.  Well, in your mind, this changes things.  When Jesus was fully God, you believed that He was too limited to grasp the incredible complexity that is you.  You believe that you’re such a confounding mystery that even an all-knowing God would have to stop being God in order to figure you out.  Are you hearing how pompous this theory is?  And yet this is what you’re taught to believe today: that Jesus is the only God who really gets you because He is an actual human.  He’s not just partly human—He’s fully man.  But we can’t stop there, or we’d sound blasphemous, so we say that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  Does this really fix the problem?  No, because as soon as you say Jesus is part created, you’re saying He’s less than God, and that’s total rot.

So what went wrong with Jesus?  Why is He the only God who we assign limited powers to?  The issue is not that Jesus chose to limit Himself when He showed up on earth as a human, because He didn’t limit Himself one iota.  The problem is that our limited minds work together with our raging egos to form the ridiculous conclusion that no God could pull off that good of a human act unless He was a literal human.  Well, that’s like saying we’re too smart to be conned by a good actor.  Since when are we so smart?  Humans effectively deceive each other all the time in this world.  We’re such gullible dopes, that we actually pay stage magicians on a regular basis to fool us with their sleight of hand.  And yet in the Church today, you’ll find “learned” men and women saying that the fact that Jesus actually ate food with His disciples is evidence that He was fully human.  You’ll hear them say that He was literally tempted by the devil, that He was truly desperate in Gethsemane, and that He was in overwhelming agony on the cross.  In other words, Jesus must be threatened, overwhelmed, and tempted by the same things we are.  We even go on to say that while Jesus was on earth, He was only on earth—He was not omnipresent like a true God would be.  We also say that He was not all-knowing or all-powerful, thus He got fatigued by performing miracles and He had to “learn obedience through suffering.”  Even though Jesus has clearly proven that His abilities infinitely exceed ours by the fact that He co-created this entire universe, we say, “Oh, but there’s no way He could seem so human to us unless He really had become one of us.  And if He’s really one of us, then He can no longer be a true God—He has to be a hybrid.”  As if this isn’t insulting enough, we then declare that being human is such an identity altering experience that even God can’t get over it, thus Jesus’ very Nature has been permanently altered by His brief tour through Israel.  But it’s okay, because He now qualifies as the only God who truly gets us.  Obviously Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are too dense to comprehend what’s it’s really like to be us.  Only Jesus understands, because He became one of us.  But of course Jesus isn’t a true God anymore, because a true God is uncreated and Jesus is a God-human hybrid.  So we have demoted Jesus to being a demigod, but naturally we feel that His gaining the ability to truly identify with us was more than worth Him losing His true God status.  This is how obnoxious we Christians are, because we are so hell-bent on the idea that we must be able to best our Gods in some area.  Since we can’t compete with Them in wisdom or power, we say that we’re such mystifying creatures to Them that They can’t really get into our heads without permanently altering who They are.  What a load of irreverent rot.

Jesus was not the first God to show up in human form.  Way back in Genesis, we read about Yahweh coming to visit Abraham in human form.  Yahweh even ate a meal, yet today we don’t try to say that Yahweh was forever altered by that experience.  Why not?  How come Yahweh can eat a meal, wear a tunic, and go for a walk without being demoted to a demigod?  Well, we seem to be taking our cues from the humans who our Gods interacted with when They showed up in human form. Abraham knew that he was talking to God Himself, and his language reflected that he did not in any way consider God to be less than God simply because He was showing up in a human form.  Since Abraham didn’t reduce Yahweh, we don’t either.  But Jesus is a different story.  The guys that Jesus hung out with were convinced that He really was just a man and they just wouldn’t accept the notion that He could be a truly Divine Being.  Because Peter, John, Paul, and the author of Hebrews all reduce Jesus, we do as well (see How the NT Epistles Define Christ: Not God, Just Another Flawed Human).  We’re just imitating other humans instead of talking to our Gods directly.  It’s because the New Testament writers associate the Holy Spirit with fire and wind that we’re still calling on Him to burn and blow today.  We’re never moving on to recognize Him as the magnificent Being that He is because we don’t find anyone in the biblical records moving on.  Well, this is stupid.  Why should we be imitating the foolishness of men and women who lived thousands of years ago?  Why should we let other humans put a cap on how far we can personally go with our Gods?

In Verse 1 of Abide With Me, Matt tells Jesus that because Jesus walked through this “broken world” before us modern day believers, He knows our pain.  No, this logic is garbage.  Jesus understands us because He is God Almighty, not because He chose to get into the faces of some Jews in a physical way.  It is because Jesus is not “fully man” that He is so capable of fully comprehending the human experience without actually becoming one of us.  And since being a true God is all that it takes to know everything about everything, Yahweh and the Holy Spirit also comprehend the human experience as well as Jesus does.  In fact, all three of our Creators understand the human experience even better than humans do because while we don’t understand why we do and feel much of what we do and feel, They understand us inside and out.

You see, it’s very derogatory for you to suggest that the only reason Jesus gets us is because He walked among us in human form for a while.  That’s the same as saying He was incapable of grasping the human experience before He showed up in Israel because, well, true Gods just aren’t that smart.  And while you’re insulting Jesus by saying He was cognitively incompetent before He morphed into one of us, you’re clearly saying that Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are still clueless as to what it means to be human since They never did what Jesus did.  Really??  Since when does a fleck like you even begin to understand everything our Gods have ever done with humans since the beginning of this world?  For all you know, Yahweh could be walking among us in human form right now.  The Holy Spirit could be that guy who lives three doors  down from you. Even the fool who wrote the book of Hebrews understood that humans are too dense to be able to tell when angels are walking among us disguised as humans.  And if we can’t even spot an angel, how are we going to see through one of God’s disguises?  The point is this: we are the limited ones.  Our Gods are not limited, and They do not need to become human before They can get us.  We really need to stop singling Jesus out as the only expert on humanity among our Gods.  It was a great gift that one of Gods should choose to interact with us in such a hands on way.  We’re hardly responding well to that gift by holding it up as evidence that Jesus was some kind of halfwit before He created a body for Himself.

In Verse 1 of his song, Matt says:

But You show hope can rise again up from the grave

Here’s more obnoxious language.  It’s extremely tiresome to all three of our Gods when we talk as if Jesus was our first exposure to concepts like salvation, hope, and love.  This is a total slam on Yahweh, who was both resurrecting people and showering the human race with hope and mercy long before anyone had ever heard of Christ.  And the very fact that we view Jesus’ death as some epic end of hope is yet more evidence of how much we are rejecting who He really is.  Jesus is GOD.  Watching Him gasp His last on a cross does not make Him any less God.  When we stop pretending that Jesus is a literal human, then we can start seeing His death more accurately.  Did Jesus really cease to be when He caused His earthsuit to go limp on that cross?  Of course not.  True Gods do not die like we do.  They don’t have souls that get stuck in Hell because They are the Ones who manage Hell.  As the omnipresent Being that He is, Jesus never really left His disciples—they only thought He had because they were refusing to see Him as the God that He is.

When you are refusing to recognize who Jesus really is, then the cross becomes a super traumatic, “Someone just killed God!” event.  And if you really think that human specks can destroy God Almighty, then, yes, you’re going to crash into despair when Jesus is laid away in a tomb, and you’re going to be totally astounded when He actually “comes back to life.”  But once you stop reducing Jesus in your mind, then you stop seeing His resurrection as a big sigh of relief and you realize that whether He chose to slip back into His earthsuit or not, He would still be God Almighty.

It’s because we’re refusing to embrace Jesus’ true identity that we talk as if His death and resurrection are what makes salvation available to us today.  But no, salvation has always been available to humans, and the way that we attain it has never changed.  It is by sincerely submitting to our Gods as the Supreme Authorities that They are that we attain salvation.  How well are we going to be submitting to Jesus if we are viewing Him as some half-God who was temporarily defeated by His own creations until He finally figured out a way to come back to life?  It is only because we’re putting our hope in the wrong things that we think we need Jesus to show us that “hope can rise again up from the grave.”  If we were really listening to Jesus, we’d know that hope cannot be killed by created beings because hope is given to us by our Gods. So far Abide With Me is making some insulting inferences about Christ and encouraging us to embrace an incorrect view of hope.  And because embracing lies will always weaken your grasp on truth, the chorus of this song is filled with a totally faithless cry for Jesus to actually be with us.

[Chorus] Abide with me; Abide with me
Don’t let me fall; And don’t let go
Walk with me; And never leave
Ever close God abide with me

This is horrible language.  First, you say that you don’t even think He’s with you by begging Him to “abide with me.”  Then you say that when He does show up and is holding your hand, you believe He’s the kind of God who wouldn’t bother to help you if you started to fall, thus you cry out “Don’t let me fall” and “Don’t let go.”  You then repeat your belief that He’s not even with you by crying out “Walk with me,” and then you reveal how fickle you think He is by asking Him to “never leave.”  You finally conclude by clarifying that you want God to walk “ever close”—as opposed to ten miles away.  Wow.  What Jesus are you talking to?  It’s certainly not the real One.  The real Jesus isn’t so uninterested in humanity that He’s always ditching them to go do something else.  The real Jesus doesn’t hold us at arm’s length with a disgusted look on His face, nor does He keep letting us fall and letting us go just for kicks.  Are you seeing the problem with this language?

What you believe about God’s Character shapes the kinds of requests you feel are necessary to make of Him, and vice versa.  God says that He loves you dearly and that He is always with you.  He says that He is intimately involved in your life, and that everything He does with you is with your spiritual best in mind.  If you really believed these things, would you be pleading for God to not leave you and to not ignore you?  No, you wouldn’t.  But confidence in these kinds of truths doesn’t just develop overnight.  It takes a whole lot of time and wrestling with doubts to develop enough faith in God’s love for you that you don’t feel the need to keep pleading for Him to abide with you.  Is Matt helping you get there?  No, he’s dragging you backwards by encouraging you to sing a song in which you practice talking to Jesus as if He has a very negative view of you.

Your beliefs shape your prayers, but your prayers also change your beliefs.  It’s a two way street, and this is why it’s so important that you be choosy about the kinds of worship songs you sing.  If you start begging God to abide with you over and over just when you’re starting to finally get a grip on the fact that He’s never going to leave you, do you know what will happen?  Those doubts that you spent so long wrestling with will begin to grow stronger again and soon your newfound confidence will be faltering.  This is what’s so bad about Christian leaders encouraging you to imitate them in rehearsing lies about God.  The more you hear yourself telling yourself and God that He can’t be counted on not to ditch you, the more you begin to believe that this is really true.

Prayer is extremely powerful, but its power has nothing to do with making God do what you want. That’s what foolish prayer warriors will tell you, because such souls are obsessed with dominating God (see Prayer Warriors: Disrespecting God & Proud of It).  But the true power of prayer is in the effect it has on you as it shapes your view of God.  This is why you want to learn to let God lead your prayers by stopping to listen to the promptings He gives your soul about what you should ask Him for and what truths you should focus on. When you leave God out of it and look to humans to direct your communication to God, you end up singing faithless songs like Abide With MeKeep begging God not to leave you, and you’ll only end up more and more certain that He will.  It’s by embracing the truths that God communicates to your soul that you grow confident in His love for you, and God is going to tell you that He is always with you, regardless of what your senses are telling you.

[Verse 2] There in the night; Gethsemane
Before the cross; Before the nails
Overwhelmed; Alone, You prayed
You met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Here in Verse 2, Matt once again has you addressing Jesus as a mere human being who was literally overwhelmed in Gethsemane.  Wow, Matt is really missing the point of that moment (see Know Your Bible Lesson 67: Fully God & Only God).  The purpose of Jesus’ stressed out human charade in Gethsemane was to model for us what total submission to God looks like.  First He set Himself up in a crisis that included all of the elements we humans find overwhelming: torture, humiliation, shunning, and death.  Then He modeled for us what total submission to God looks like by praying His famous prayer of “Not My will but Yours be done.”If Abide With Me was a song about submission to God, then yes, Gethsemane would be a relevant reference.   But this song is really about us wallowing in fears that Jesus—the only God who really gets us—cannot be counted on to stay with us, lead us, love us, or protect us

[Chorus] Abide with me; Abide with me
Don’t let me fall; And don’t let go
Walk with me; And never leave
Ever close God abide with me

After having us declare our total lack of confidence in Jesus for two choruses, Matt now does a 180 turn and has us making faith filled declarations that Jesus is actually a very loving God who we can count on to never leave us.

[Bridge] Oh, love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go

But we’re swift to pitch our newfound confidence out the window as we fall back into desperately pleading for Jesus to abide with us over and over and over again…

[Verse 3] And up ahead; Eternity
We’ll weep no more and sing for joy; abide with me
We’ll weep no more and sing for joy; abide with me

[Chorus] Abide with me; Abide with me
Don’t let me fall; And don’t let go
Walk with me; And never leave

Ever close God abide with me [x3]

We now finish the song by neurotically swinging back the other way and putting on an act of faith that rings more than a little false after we’ve made it quite clear that we have zero confidence in Jesus’ personal interest in us.

[Ending] Oh, love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go

Love that will not ever let me go [x3]

You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go [x2]

So is this really a song that you should sing?  Well, how serious are you about pleasing your Gods?  Jesus says that He is pleased by the soul attitude of trust, and you’re certainly not practicing much trust in this song.  It’s more like you’re refusing to embrace trust by singing lyrics which totally reject what Jesus says about Himself.  It’s hardly worshipful to say, “Hey, Jesus, I know You say You love me, but I don’t believe You.  I think You’re far more likely to ditch me so I’m now going to beg You not to be Your usual uncaring Self.  Aren’t You feeling blessed?”  This song is garbage.  Spiritual maturity is a very serious topic, and if you treat it like some game that you’ll only play when you’re in the mood, then the real Jesus is never going to invite you to know Him well.

For all their talk about the importance of fellowshipping together, Christians are infamous for treating their Gods terribly the moment they group up.  It’s during our corporate worship sessions that we bring out bombs like Abide With Me and act like we’re being oh so holy to slander all three of our Gods to music. Well, a catchy melody and flashing lights doesn’t suddenly make it okay for you to publicly reject truths that your Gods have taught you about who They are and how They operate.  Our Gods do not ditch us.  They aren’t so indifferent that we have to beg Them to care about us.  This song is filled with nasty insinuations about the Character of our loving Lords, and we even have the gall to make references to the cross in the midst of it.

In John 15:13, Jesus said: “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”  In Verse 2 of Abide With Me, we mentioned Jesus going through that ultimate act of love only to then beg Him to actually act loving.  How is this not insulting?  How little does Jesus mean to us if we’d speak to Him so nastily just so we can follow the lead of some guy with a guitar?  You see, in the end it comes down to an issue of loyalty.  Are you going to side with your Gods or with other Christians who are publicly insulting Them?  If you know you’re currently siding with the wrong team, own it and ask your Gods to help you get your priorities back where they should be.

FURTHER READING:
Faith in Crisis: How to Grow Through the Storm
How Your Powerful Prayers Are Wrecking Your Relationship with God
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them
Hymns That Lead Us Astray: There is Power in the Blood
Songs that God Hates: Holy Spirit Come Fill This Place

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