As of January 2017, iTunes has 35-40 million song titles available. Spotify also offers over 30 million songs that range from Hip-Hop to Pop. Then there is Jazz, Rock, Country, Rap, Alternative, Grunge, Punk, Funk and the beat goes on. So, try to narrow your search to Christian music. The selection is less, but the range is similar. Only here, besides Southern Gospel, Praise and Worship hymns, and Bible Bluegrass, there is Christian R&B, Gospel Reggae, Christian Rap, Christian Rock, Christian Punk, etc. How do you pick "good" music? If it appeals to you, is it good? Is an old music style better than a new one? If it says "Christian" on the label is it automatically acceptable? Does beat matter?
Personal preference is certainly unreliable. Granted, you likely won’t listen to something that doesn’t appeal to you, but the "deceitfulness of our desires" is that what pleases us is not always necessarily good. Some of the most liked foods are the worst for you. Preferences are problematic at best.
Perhaps to older believers, modern music is "new" and therefore automatically off the charts of good and healthy. But "old" rhythms are not necessarily any better than a "new release." Although, many classic hymns were written years ago, the "age test" is not an absolute guide.
The right way to evaluate music is to compare it with the Word of God. He says, "Be filled with the Spirit; addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart" (Ephesians 5:18-19). To be filled with the Spirit is to let Him have control of your life and guide you by Scripture. Therefore, you must evaluate your life before you evaluate lyrics. The ability to decide what is good music depends on your willingness to surrender to the Lord and let His Word be your guide. Are you willing?
THE PRINCIPLE OF CONSISTENCY
Psalms: Are the lyrics Scriptural?
Music will be good and beneficial in the measure in which it agrees with Holy Scripture. Obviously, a country song about drinking would be against the Scripture that says "Do not get drunk with wine” (Ephesians 5:18). Likewise, a rap song about disobeying your parents would violate the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12).
What about a song of any genre with swearing or lyrics about sinful activities? God says, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be namedamong you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place” (Ephesians 5:3-4).
The same evaluation must be made of "Christian" lyrics. For example, there are numerous hymns by popular groups that are prayers to the Holy Spirit, prayers for believers to receive the Holy Spirit or they speak of being slain in the Spirit. There are no prayers in the Bible to the Holy Spirit as all prayers are to be directed to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Nor is there any teaching about being slain in the Spirit. Paul taught, “You also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13). Therefore, every true believer already received the Spirit at conversion. To ask for him again is an insult as he is already residing in the believer.
There are also a host of Christian Contemporary songs that need to be placed under the microscope of Scripture. There are plenty of songs with awesome tunes that move you emotionally. However, the language would hardly be reverent and sometimes it is sensual. There are some songs that if you read the lyrics or heard the tune, you might not know whether it was a hymn of praise to the Lord or a love song between a boyfriend and girlfriend. Admittedly, it takes both conviction and courage to evaluate your music from the standpoint of its spiritual and Biblical accuracy. However, as believers we are called to truth regardless of how appealing or catch the tune is.
THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTENT
Hymns: Do the lyrics honor God?
"Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God?" (1 Corinthians 10:31). The measure of the pleasure God receives from a song can guide you to a solid selection. Often, a new and repeated tune you hear during the week will fight its way into your mind at the Breaking of Bread. Would you welcome these lyrics as a way to express your worship to the Lord? Also, we should make music "to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). Therefore, would you be embarrassed to sing the song with the Lord Jesus present?
THE PRINCIPLE OF COMMITMENT
Spiritual songs: Do the lyrics convey principles that the Spirit can use in your life?
When God saved you, the Holy Spirit took up residence in you – not part of Him, all of Him! Now He is working in your life to guide you, use you, and make you in the likeness of God’s Son. When you sin, you sadden Him. Thus, the Bible says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:30). Spiritual songs are songs that are in line with Who He is and what His mission is in you. For example, "Take my life and let it be," fits just perfectly with His goal to consecrate you and use you for God.
THE PRINCIPLE OF CONSIDERATION
Speaking to one another: How will this music affect others?
At some point, your music choice will reach others through the beat, tune, or words. So, will unsaved people be drawn to your Savior and your gospel as a result of hearing your favorite music? Let’s be honest, some modern "Christian" music allow you to listen to groups that look and sound exactly like non-Christian groups and non-Christian music just because it is packaged as Christian or mentions God in the lyrics. But will it really make people notice that you are Christian and help you win souls for Christ?
Also, we must always be sensitive to our influence on other believers, old and young. If the lyrics or rhythm is going to steal their joy, defile their minds, lead them toward sin, or bother their consciences, far better to download a song of a different group. The progress of other believers is too valuable to sacrifice for your own musical pleasure. God says, "Give no offence, to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 10:32).
THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTENTMENT
Singing and making melody: How does this music affect me?
One of the biggest debates is over the style and beat of music. It is interesting to ask unsaved people what music is appropriate for a person claiming to be a Christian. Would they think the rhythm and style of your music is consistent with your testimony as a follower of Christ?
Some would try and argue that rhythm and style are neutral and are strictly a matter of personal preference. Many studies have been done to evaluate the effects of beat. According to the International Journal of Environmental Science and Development (Vol. 5, No. 5, October 2014), “Some reports indicate that music containing hard-core vibrations could be devastating to plants. Certain types of music can wreak havoc on plants. Even played at a low volume, heavy metal music can be very damaging to a sensitive plant. On the other hand, classical or devotional music enhances the plant growth.”
Clinical researchers at the U.C.L.A. School of Nursing in Los Angeles, and at Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta, found that premature babies gained weight faster and were able to use oxygen more efficiently when they listened to soothing music.Multiple studies have confirmed the “Mozart Effect” of positive impacts on IQ and cerebral development in young children. Do you not notice how music in a video can impact your own emotions and attitudes? Try exercising while listening to a funeral hymn or try going to sleep listening to an exciting upbeat tune. So, besides affecting other believers and unsaved souls, the beat and lyrics of your favorite music affect your moods, emotions and much more.
Please remember that one of the classic and most effective tools of Satan is “imitation.” This is where a product or activity is almost identical to something in the unsaved world, but it is dressed in “Biblical language” or packaged and marketed as “Christian.” Because it is sold at a “Christian website” or labeled as “Christian music” does not necessarily mean God would approve of it and that it won’t have a negative effect upon you.
The beauty and legitimacy of music is not determined by producers and artists nor by the ears of the hearer, but by the measure in which it conforms to the principles of the Word of God. So, go review your playlist on iTunes, Google Play, or whatever you use. It takes courage to evaluate your music preferences and perhaps you will have to make some tough decisions. But you can be sure it will be worth it for you, for others, and for the Lord if you take on these challenges and choices with the music you like!