I love music.
I’m a musician and have music playing most of the day. I love listening to well-written songs, enjoy all different styles and genres, and I appreciate the craftsmanship and talent that goes into songwriting, mixing, and the whole creative process. In summary, if I had an obsession, it would be music.
But I know that music is incredibly influential and have seen how it affects the way I think, act, and feel.
This undeniable influence has made me re-evaluate the way I listen to music—particularly secular music.
Let’s explore four pitfalls of listening to secular music and how we can cultivate listening tastes that help rather than hinder our relationships with Christ.
1. Secular Music Can Cultivate an Unbiblical Worldview
When we immerse ourselves in music that promotes and upholds an unbiblical worldview, there is no way for us to not be negatively affected.
Our brains are already bombarded with a barrage of content rooted in a world-focused mindset, and it’s foolish for us to think that adding more to this barrage won’t damage and hinder our walk with the Lord.
As Romans 8:5-6 warns us, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
This means we should even beware of those songs with ‘just one line’ that isn’t good, because that one line is repeatedly telling our brains that the message it presents is okay.
We are in a battle against the world and our flesh, and if we want to be triumphant and pursue holiness, we need to be mindful of the world’s temptations.
Peter exhorts us, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
God calls us to holiness, and we should seek to cultivate a lifestyle that helps our pursuit of holiness rather than hindering it; this starts first and foremost with fostering a worldview that is aligned with Scripture.
2. Secular Music Can Fuel Ungodly Desires and Depression
We all wrestle with fleshly desires, and we all have weak spots. For some, that looks like anger, a love of the world, or lust, for others, that manifests as doubt, worry, and depression.
When you are going through a difficult season or struggling with a persistent temptation to sin, what goes into your mind plays a key part in how you handle those difficulties.
If your relationship with Christ is being hindered by apathy and resistance to His will, listening to music which fuels self-obsession, independence, and a desire for autonomy will only increase your spiritual deadness. When you are feeling depressed and anxious, heartbreak songs and moody music may seem to help, but ultimately that music only turns your focus inward instead of upwards to the only One who can help you break free from your worries and fears.
Similarly, while I’m sure we all agree that wholesome love songs have a good and beautiful place in our music lives, there are many ‘love’ songs that subtly undermine biblical values. Rather than the overtly unbiblical songs, it is the subtly warped and slightly off-track ones that are the most dangerous because they slip through the cracks of our conscience too easily. I know I’m guilty of this.
So, I want to encourage you to take note of how you feel, the temptations you’re struggling with, and the desires you’re cultivating. Be careful that the music you listen to isn’t fueling sinful thought patterns or behaviors.
As Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:16-17, we are to, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Over time, I have seen how my predominantly secular music listening habits have been unhelpful, increased my self-obsession, fostered discontentment, and hindered my walk with Christ.
Conversely, I have seen how training myself to revert to worship and God-glorifying music, diligently finding godly artists, and putting the emphasis on the music quality rather than the popularity status of the artist has positively affected my contentment, trust in Christ, and appetite for music that upholds biblical values.
Everyone will be affected differently, and I’m not advocating complete abstinence from listening to non-Christian artists: in fact, many so-called ‘Christian’ artists are far more off-track than secular artists.
What I am suggesting, however, is that we should be more discerning with what music and lyrics we allow ourselves to absorb and set our minds on.
3. Secular Music Can Diminish Your Appetite for Worship
We all know the phrase, “You are what you eat.” While that may not be completely true, it is true that “You are what you listen to.”
Your music tastes say a lot about your values and character. The entertainment you choose, the movies, music, and social media accounts you gravitate towards all reveal the state of your heart.
As we are told in Luke, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45).
And this doesn’t just apply to the words you speak, but also the words you sing along to, what you invest your heart and time into, and what you love.
If the majority of your music intake is secular, then your appetite for worship will undoubtedly be diminished.
When I listened predominantly to secular music, I struggled to enjoy listening to worship throughout the week. I genuinely loved worshipping at church, but it wasn’t my ‘go-to’ genre, and I often wasn’t drawn to it unless I was going through something difficult. The secular music I listened to was diminishing my appetite for worship.
As Christians, our highest calling is to worship God: that should be the paramount purpose of our lives, the one thing we are most drawn to, the primary reason for our existence. And yet, so often we choose to pour our lives and time into things that do no eternal good for our souls.
The struggle between our fleshly desires and our spiritual desires is real, and when we constantly feed our flesh, we make that struggle even harder.
As we are encouraged in Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Whichever appetite you feed is the one that will thrive.
Secular music isn’t all bad: many incredibly talented musicians write beautiful songs that uphold biblical morals. God created music, and because He has graciously gifted non-Christians and Christians alike with talents and creative abilities, secular music can be ok for us to listen to. However, we need to remember that even if the music we’re listening to isn’t bad, and even if it upholds biblical values, we still must ensure that this good music doesn’t overwhelm our appetite for worship.
Be aware of how much time you give to each genre and be willing to limit or change your listening habits if needed to increase your love of worship.
4. Secular Music Can Feed the Perceived Need to Be Worldly
We all struggle with peer pressure. While we may not want to be up on all the common pop knowledge, to know ‘who’s who’, to be familiar with the newest celebrities, listen to all the popular music, and follow the top influencers, none of us want to be totally in the dark about what our peers enjoy.
However, the sad truth is that most of our peers—even many who claim to be Christians—are in love with the world rather than with Christ.
Our culture celebrates almost every form of rebellion against God and when our choices of music and entertainment show that we are okay with that rebellion, we are choosing to align ourselves with the world and in opposition to our Savior.
In 1 John we are commanded, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” He further explains the ‘why’ behind this command to not love the world: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever,” (1 John 2:15-17).
As Christians, we are to be set apart, to be actively sanctified from the grip of sin. This is tough because as sinful humans we are naturally drawn to the world and all it offers us. We struggle to see Christ as more important, more valuable, and more fulfilling than everything the world holds as precious and essential for a happy life.
But the truth is, no matter how much of our time we invest in the world, we will never be truly happy or fully satisfied. Instead, we will find ourselves constantly wanting more, increasingly compromising to fit in, and sacrificing a healthy relationship with Christ for a dangerous alliance with the world.
Remember, it is good to be innocent about the sick, godless things of this world.
We should be worldly-wise: we should be aware of the state of the world, current ideologies, and what’s going on. But never feel like we must know all the top actors and actresses or be familiar with all the top artists or songs.
It pleases God when our highest priority is not to fit in with the ‘cool kids’ of the world and compromise to fit in with their tastes and lifestyles, but rather to glorify Him, pursue holiness, and discern what entertainment choices will help us grow in our walk with Christ and edify our minds and hearts.
Intentionally Seek God-Glorifying Artists to Replace Your Secular Music
So, if you want to limit your secular music intake, improve your listening habits, and cultivate an appetite that gravitates towards worship, you need to be intentional about finding great new artists to listen to.
There is a myriad of decent Christian artists out there to choose from. With the increased accessibility of music recording gear, social media promotion, and worldwide distribution, they are thankfully not that hard to find.
Curate a few new playlists you can get excited to listen to.
If you need ideas of where to start, maybe create one playlist that is just worship, one that is your favorite genre but with solid Christian artists, and another that is secular music that upholds biblical values and doesn’t cause you to compromise your standards.
When you get the urge to put on some music, train yourself to put on worship first. The more you invest in your appetite for worship, the more you will naturally be drawn to it. Meditate on the words, let the truths that are being sung speak to your heart, and craft a lifestyle of drawing close to Christ through music.
The blessings of creating this sort of appetite for close communion with Christ through music will not disappoint you.
You can be certain God will use the Christ-focused lyrics to encourage you about relevant situations you are going through, guide your eyes upwards to Him, and draw you closer to His heart of compassion and love for you.