I was driving to work recently and, like a lot of Americans, skimming through radio stations for music to listen to on my commute. One song called “Stand By You” from Rachel Platten included the words “even if we can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through hell with you.” It is a catchy song, but if you’re a fan of it and you are having trouble finding heaven, let me take a few minutes of your time to tell you how to get there. The answer is by Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, who came to earth, died on the cross for our sins and rose again so that we might have the opportunity for eternal life with God (John 3:16-17, Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 10:9,13).
I suppose someone reading this may say well, this doesn’t apply to me, because I listen to God-fearing country music. If that is you, then let’s talk about songs such as “Where I Come From” by Alan Jackson. Sure, I like cornbread and chicken, and sitting on the front porch swinging, but Mr. Jackson also sings about people in his neck of the woods that are “workin’ hard to get to heaven.”
Friends, you cannot earn your way to heaven. The same Bible that shows us how to get to heaven also tells us there is nothing we can do to win our salvation:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).
Yes, the second chapter of James tells us that faith without works is dead, but this is not a contradiction of Scripture. Our works reveal or express our faith to others. Joel Ryan, a contributing writer to Crosswalk.com, puts it another way:
“Works do not justify us or make us righteous before God, nor are they the means to salvation. Rather, our deeds are the fruit that grows from one who is obedient to God’s commands and transformed by His grace.”
I have no idea where Rachel Platten is with the Lord, but I know that Alan Jackson professes to be a Christian. He has performed and recorded gospel songs, and during his 9/11-inspired “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning,” Mr. Jackson sings that he knows Jesus and that he talks to God. Jackson even works in a reference to faith, hope, and love as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13. I’m glad that is the case, and I’m pleased to hear many other country music artists profess to be Christians. Still, one has to wonder whether artists of any genre write lyrics based on things they learned in a church or some other place or worship. If that is the case, they need to study the scriptures. All of us need to study the scriptures.
While a Holy Spirit-inspired Paul was writing to Timothy when the apostle urged him to “study” the Word, we know from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture is given by God for things such as doctrine and correction. In other words, what was good for Timothy or some other reader is also good for you.
When we know what the Bible says, it makes it easier for us to understand a pastor’s sermon. It also makes it easier of us to spot a false gospel from a pastor and or Bible program. Even today, there are people standing behind pulpits and writing blogs that are spewing nonsense. Others are open to any and all lifestyles, and not in a ‘hate the sin, not the sinner’ kind of way. Meanwhile, Christian-music singers are renouncing their faith at the same time that others are writing lyrics as deep as a kiddie pool. This is why we need to know what God says in His Word and not just go with ‘thus sayeth the pastor.’
If you go shopping and you’ve never spent time in certain sections, then how would you know what is available, good, and right? It works the same with sermons, blogs, and songs. You can’t spot the baloney if you don’t spend any time looking at what is available to you for consumption.
Know what the Bible says. Understand what it is that you believe. Be ready with answers to any and all questions (1 Peter 3:15), and engage in conversation with people about all sorts of topics, even secular things. That’s what we do. You know, where I come from.