Video by DLM Christian Lifestyle

Music is deeply meaningful for many people of faith. But when it comes to secular music, many Christians grapple with difficult questions.

Is it okay to listen to non-Christian songs? How do we know which music aligns with our values?

In this guide, we’ll dig into what the Bible says about music and help you think critically about secular songs.

We’ll consider questions of music’s purpose and influence, and talk through practical ways to exercise discernment.

My goal isn’t to hand down a verdict but to equip you to make informed, spirit-led decisions.

Secular Music Can Lead to Sin…But Not Always

Secular Music Can Lead To Sin

The strongest argument against secular tunes is how they can negatively impact us. As one pastor observed:

“When I was listening to [popular artists], I noticed that my behavior was absolute nonsense…I was listening to toxic stuff that led me into temptation.”

Music that promotes sexuality, drugs, greed, or narcissism feeds your fleshly urges.

You will eventually find yourself slipping into sinful thought patterns or actions without noticing. Many Christians have testified that secular songs lead them down unhealthy thought patterns.

However, some believe writing off secular music entirely goes too far. Not all of it contains graphic lyrics or harmful messages.

Some are instrumentals with no words at all! So rather than lump everything into “bad” and “good” categories, you need to exercise discernment.

Listening to pop songs doesn’t automatically make you a sinner. But secular music does require careful discernment to avoid temptation.

God Gave Music an Exalted Purpose

God created music for a divine purpose

Why does this all matter so much? Because God created music for a divine purpose.

The Bible shows music as a way to encounter His presence, not just entertain us.

When King David played skillful songs on his lyre, he would relieve King Saul’s tormenting spirits (1 Samuel 16:14-23).

As one writer noted,

“If a sound made by a Spirit-filled musician can relieve demonic oppression, could sounds from demonized people bring torment?”

The spirituality of those making music matters tremendously. An ungodly artist may infuse songs – even ones without sinful lyrics – with darkness.

Most importantly, Scripture elevates music as a way to glorify the Lord. When praising God through song, we welcome His very presence to move among us (Psalm 22:3 NIV).

“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.”

The Book of Psalms, filled with worship music, reminds us that praising God remains music’s highest purpose.

Music holds an exalted, spiritual purpose – praise, encountering God’s presence, and spiritual warfare. Secular music often falls short or misses this holy purpose altogether.

Lyrics Reveal What Spirit a Song Aligns With

Song Lyrics Matter

Since music connects so closely to the spiritual realm, lyrics reveal what realm or “spirit” a song aligns with.

Many secular songs promote pride, lust, greed, substance abuse, and objectification.

Singing along desensitizes your conscience until sin hardly bothers you. On this, Scripture gives a stern warning:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)

Of course, not every non-Christian song contains evil lyrics. Some touch on universal struggles or express positive values – those that align with a Christian worldview.

Discernment determines which lyrics will nourish your spirit rather than harm it.

Since music is spiritual, lyrics reveal what realm a song aligns with – either life-giving goodness or dangerous evil. Christians must carefully discern lyrics.

To exercise such discernment, compare lyrics to Philippians 4:8 (ESV):

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

This gives excellent categories for evaluation. When lyrical content violates Biblical values of truth, purity, and justice, that should raise red flags.

Of course, you need not limit all music to expressly Christian genres. Instrumentals, ambient songs, or positive lyrics may still merit a listen, based on individual conscience.

But the overriding standard remains: Does this nourish my spirit, or starve it?

Embracing Discernment, Not Legalism

A Man Listens Music

In applying these principles, you must avoid judgmental attitudes that impose personal convictions onto others’ freedoms.

The New Testament condemns such legalism (Colossians 2:20-23). Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit leads each person to make wise choices for themselves.

What encourages life-giving intimacy with Jesus cannot follow a rigid formula. Plenty of grey exists here with room for the Holy Spirit to guide each person’s conscience differently.

Christians have freedom in Christ, so legalistically judging others’ musical choices is dangerous. But God’s Word and godly wisdom should always guide you.

Mature believers can engage selectively with culture without compromise, while weaker consciences may require greater protection to grow.

Biblically speaking, though, no one receives a free pass to thoughtlessly indulge fleshly impulses. Romans 12:2 (NIV) tells us to let God’s Spirit renew our minds and resist worldly conformity.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In all things, including entertainment, you must vigilantly walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

Discernment asks, Does this help me experience abundant love, joy, and peace…or undermine such Kingdom fruit?

Our call: prayerfully “test every spirit” (1 John 4:1) with each song.

Key Takeaways: Choosing Music Wisely

Choosing Music Wisely

To close, let’s review key principles for approaching secular songs:

  • Since God created music for spiritual purposes, secular songs often lack life-giving power or holy reverence. Tune your ears to discern which category a song falls into. Which realm does it align with?
  • Lyrics provide the quickest test for whether a song contradicts God’s truth and righteousness or affirms what Philippians 4:8 endorses. Beware lyrics glorifying sin which will deaden your conscience.
  • Remember that legalistically judging others’ musical freedoms is unbiblical. Focus on wisely guiding your own conscience under the Holy Spirit’s direction.
  • For worship leaders and mature Christians, engaging selectively with culture comes as a choice, not a given. Great responsibility exists not to open doors carelessly for yourself or weaker believers.

Music choices require diligent testing of the lyrics and spiritual discernment to walk in holiness.

The Lord will faithfully lead each of us to make decisions resonant with our life in the Kingdom!

Our chief goal: glorifying God with songs that edify.

Final Thoughts

I hope these principles spur you to experience the Lord in songs that resonate in your spirit.

Our good Father loves guiding us into choices that cultivate greater Christlikeness and joy if we ask for wisdom in faith (James 1:5)!

Feel free to share follow-up questions below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Seeking more wisdom? Here are some common questions on this topic:

Q. Are drums or guitars inappropriate to use in church worship?

A. Scripture nowhere forbids particular musical instruments. It condemns idolatrous pagan worship, not drums themselves, which ancient Israelites used.

God created all musical tools for our good; style matters far less than whether people encounter Jesus’ presence through them.

Q. What about Christian rap or rock – is that OK?

A. The Bible commends singing energetically plus playing skillful, creative instruments to praise God.

Christian rap often includes sound theology. Avoid judging musical styles themselves, but test lyrics to ensure they align with Truth and aid spiritual growth.

Q. Can background music while studying be unbiblical?

A. Instrumentals make studying less distracting for some people. Assessing words helps determine what feeds the flesh versus the Spirit. With no lyrics, music like chill lo-fi poses no inherent spiritual threat.

As always, pay attention to your conscience’s voice. If anything troubles your spirit as you listen, stop immediately.

Q. Couldn’t we justify almost any music by picking selective lyrics?

A. Proof-texting songs for “positive” lines within overall fleshly content is deceptive. This resembles only reading Bible verses that tickle our ears as truths we prefer.

Using selected lyrics to justify whole songs whose thrust feeds sin shows a blindness to their true agenda meant to influence us.

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