Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | By: Zachary Bartels

It's Up to...WHO?

Got a new car recently. Well, it’s not new, but it’s new to me and I love it. First thing I did, of course, was rub every inch of leather with leather-specific Armor-All wipes, even though it was already spotless. Then I gathered together all my stuff for the glove box and console and all my chargers and wires and stuff. Then I went down to the den for five CDs to load up the disc changer.

About 2/3 of my listening time is regularly dedicated to music from my college days. This is not unusual, of course, and I’m lucky that I didn’t go to college in the seventies or eighties, but rather the mid-90s when music was flippin awesome. MxPx got one of the five slots, as did a Napster mix CD I made in about ’98 (“Just how far down do you wanna go? We could talk it out over a cup of joe...”) and one of my favorite albums of all time: Value Pac’s self-titled debut.

I still enjoy every song on the above record, but I can’t listen to them in the same way I did in ’96. Because these songs are all about Jesus and mankind and where the two intersect and I am now carrying with me the benefit/burden of many years of higher education en theologica. This colors my listening to every “Christian song,” whether hymn or hip hop.

Surprisingly, the lyrics of the high school punk rock band called Value Pac are far more orthodox and biblical than most of what you find in Christian music. In fact, all of the five Solas are present in force on this album. One of my favorite songs (which you can listen to here) is called One Way Out, and is one of the best pictures of the state of mankind and need for a Savior. It does not mention the cross, but other songs on the album do very specifically. All in all, it’s pretty solid for a song written by teenagers and comprised of power chords. And yet, the unrelenting doctrinal effect of evangelical youth group culture and pull-up-your-bootstraps American soteriology still gets the last word.

Verse 1
All alone in this world you don’t want it
Not anymore, oh no

The cares of this world can choke you out
Ya got no direction; you can’t find your way out
Trapped in the maze that you call life
Not gonna make it until you see the light so bright

These walls, you built them up yourself
Locked from the inside; can you break your way out?
Which way is up? Which way is down?
Walking in circles you can’t find your way around
Yeah, I know. Not the best prose. But theologically, pretty good stuff for a high school or college age kid to listen to. The total depravity of man is conveyed to some extend. The human condition is trapped in sin, pictured as walls that we ourselves have built. The only door (I’m inferring a bit here) is locked from the inside by me, but I am apparently unable/unwilling to unlock it as the only option considered is breaking my way out, which I am unable to do. The only possible means of escape is me seeing the light. So far, so good by my score card.
But Jesus will find you and He’ll never let you go
Jesus will find you
He won’t leave you standing all alone
He’s gonna find you and He’ll never let you down
Jesus will find you
He’ll help you out; whatcha gonna do?
Okay, some of you might not like the language “He’ll help you out” and would prefer “He’ll pull you out” or something more monergistic sounding, but when you consider that we’ve already established the hopelessly trapped nature of man, I think the statement is in keeping with Jesus’ own references to/pictures of helping trapped animals out of pits, etc. And if you give that a slide, we’ve got a solid chorus here.

I just returned from a week as camp pastor for 7th and 8th graders and I (as always) tried to drill into their heads that they didn’t find Jesus—if they’re saved, Jesus found them. And they aren’t holding their salvation in their hands—if they were, they’d drop it every time. Instead, they’re safe in Jesus’ hands! Amen and amen!
Verse 2 and Bridge
The ways of this world have let you down
You wanna make it, but you don’t know how
Losing this game someone called life
You’ve had enough you’ve had it for the last

So watch your back as you walk astray
Turn around and walk the other way
You only want to live for you
Someday I hope you get a clue
Here we have a call to repentance (literally, “Turn around and walk the other way” is a great definition of שׁוּב). Much like the prodigal son “came to himself” and returned to his father, we must “have enough” of what the world offers to fill the hole, have it for the last time, and—drawn by the Holy Spirit to the cross—repent and believe. Again I say, amen!

But that’s not the end of the tune. After one more go through the chorus of “Jesus will find you,” there’s one more line, a little tag as the last power chord fades away:

But it’s up to YOU!
Ex-squeeze me? Uh-baking powder? Did you not just spend an entire punk rawk song telling me just how not in my hands this whole thing is? I’ve got this vision in my head of the lead singer with awesomely dyed, spikey hair, penning this song at a skate park, reading it over and having a weird conflicting feeling. He’s presented the Gospel as the Bible does, but it doesn’t jibe with what he’s been taught most of his life: namely, the largely Pelagian notion that God casts one vote for our soul and the devil casts one, and we get the deciding vote. As if that democratic process were the kind of election St. Paul refers to repeatedly.

If only he’d just held that idea up against Scripture before tacking it on the end of his song about how sinful men and women are not only unable, but unwilling to turn to God until their eyes are opened, the cell of their sinful heart is torn down, they are raised from spiritual death to life . . . Yes, we must repent and believe. But thank God it’s not “up to me.”

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Zach
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 | By: Zachary Bartels