Gatekeepers

05.17.11 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[3]

Pure as the driven snow, pure like a summer rain

Pure as the sunlight that falls from heaven to my face,

Pure like the morning dew that touches the earth

Father I will live pure.

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“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains...And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths...”  Isaiah 2:2-3

There is a place on earth where I can touch heaven

Where I can leave the world, remember who I am,

Where I can stand on holy ground, where peace and comfort can be found

A sacred part of truth restored, there at the mountain of the Lord.

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I know little babies come from heaven

I know God made those tiny hands and hearts,

I know rainbows and roses are no accident

Neither are the sun, the moon, and stars,

So when I doubt, when there are things in life I just can’t figure out

I trust that God is in control and I hold on to the things I know.

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Last winter I took part in a research study done by the Gaylord College of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma on gatekeeping in radio programming, more specifically music programming.  The results were published a couple of weeks ago and as is often the case in such things some of the data were informative and some very predictable.  More on that later. 

Within mass media, gatekeepers are decision makers who must winnow down a larger number of potential messages to a few.  At a newspaper, the managing editor is the gatekeeper; in television a producer makes those decisions.  In radio the programming people have that responsibility. 

But in a sense, we’re all gatekeepers, whether it’s deciding what programs to let our kids watch on tv or choosing between Jif and Skippy at the supermarket.  Gatekeeping happens on several levels; before you choose which peanut butter to put in your shopping cart, the folks at Unilever and the Smucker Company had to decide which formulation to use in their various products – natural, regular, reduced fat, creamy, extra crunchy, with honey or without.  A distributor has to decide which products to carry and grocery store chain buyers decide what to stock in which store.  Each decision point in the process is like a gate, guarded by a decision-maker or gatekeeper. 

But what about spiritual gatekeeping?  How important is it to know what we’re ingesting spiritually?  What protects us from bad influences?  What is it that guards us against falling into error?

Well, several things.  In theory, the church should provide an environment where truth is taught and holy living is exemplified.  But increasingly, that’s not the case.  A lot of shallow theology and false teaching is being presented as truth.  Christian publishers?  Nope.  Christian record companies?  Try again.  None of these things alone are significant contributors to the problem but together they are capable of dumbing down true spirituality.  Simply put, the ultimate spiritual gatekeeper in your life is…you.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit illuminating our hearts to the truth of God’s Word.  Romans 12:17 says, “Take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”  That includes not only our thoughts but our actions and words as well.  The scripture says, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Roman 12:2); “bringing every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Do we possess the ability to be effective gatekeepers early in our Christian experience?  No, it’s a lifelong process, one theologians call ‘sanctification’.  (Hey, if you’re going to spend all that time and money to get an M.Div. you might as well throw around some five-syllable words.)  It’s the process of being made holy, that amazing transformation of grace, of becoming who the Word says we already are.  Gatekeeping in our spiritual lives involves discernment and wisdom, two qualities that develop as we follow Christ.  The Word tells us that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light.”  That’s why discerning truth from falsehood is hard sometimes, especially when the object in question appears to be Godly. 

Ephesians 5:15 says, “Therefore be very careful how you live and act. Let it not be as unwise men, but as wise.”  Some translations use the word ‘circumspect’ rather than ‘careful’.  I like that word because it’s more encompassing; it means to be watchful and well-considered.  It means, don’t overreact but be aware; don’t live your life trapped by suspicion or legalism, but test the spirits; don’t confuse liberty with license and don’t be swayed by questionable doctrine, easy-believism or cheap grace.  Despite the superficiality attached to it by the Christian pop culture, the Christian life isn’t a joyride.  It’s a long, difficult journey and effective gatekeeping along the way is essential to staying on course.

In the research study it was not surprising that the data showed two of the top factors among Christian music programmers in choosing songs were whether or not the artist is a Christian and the lyrical content.  In fact, Christian radio is a unique format because it is defined primarily by lyrical content rather than musical style. 

Which brings me to the lyrics at the top of the page.  They express the desire to live a holy life; they reassure us that there is comfort and strength at the mountain of the Lord; and they remind us that we can trust in the Lord even in the midst of circumstances that are beyond our understanding.  Only one problem.  They’re not from a new Darlene Zschech record or the latest Passion worship project; they were written by a nice, family-oriented guy from northern Idaho named Doug Walker.  Doug is well-known as a writer and musician in the Mormon Church and his songs have been recorded on many Latter Day Saint records.  Think of him as Salt Lake’s answer to Steven Curtis Chapman.  What?  You didn’t think Mormons had inspirational and contemporary “Christian” music?  Oh yeah.  And some of it’s not bad, except that, to quote Biblical researcher and author Kurt Van Gorden, “it is the verdict of both history and biblical theology that Joseph Smith’s religion is a polytheistic nightmare of garbled doctrines draped with the garment of Christian terminology.”

Gatekeepers aren’t in place to restrict anyone’s freedom; they’re there to filter out the things that don’t belong.  Like darkness masquerading as light.  Deception masquerading as truth.  And death masquerading as life.

“Pure”, “Mountain of the Lord” and “The Things I Know” music and lyrics by Doug Walker.  All songs © 2010 Stones In The River Music (ASCAP)

 

Comments

Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 05.19.11 Randy Negley commented

Thanks Cecil for the reminder to all of us that to have the spiritual discernment to "test the spirits" and walk the Christian life "circumspectly" we can only use one true filter, the word of God.
As you alluded toward, and I will challenge both myself and anyone else that may read this blog entry to answer this question for yourself;
How can you be sure that your "filters" are working properly as the gatekeepers to your heart, mind and be the proper Godly influence in your family if you are not reading God’s word the way you are called to do so?
The convicting answer is found here:
2 Timothy 2:15 (King James Version)
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

on 05.28.11 joey commented

"In fact, Christian radio is a unique format because it is defined primarily by lyrical content rather than musical style." from the 8th paragraph. wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! If a song was theologically sound and the artist was summa cum laude from thier favorite seminary, but made the rap songs and was african american, they would not be played on christian radio. the musical style has a lot to do with what is played and what is not played on christian radio. you do say "primarily", but that means, for the most part, and for the most part christian radio does not play rap, no matter how christological the lyrical content is!

on 06.09.11 Robear commented

excellent

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