CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Spiritual One Hit Wonders

Oct 22, 2016

One can find spiritual parallels with most things in life, so let me try one here, utilising pop music. There are many musical artists who have stood the test of time, while others have burst on the scene, only to burst out of the scene just as quickly. As to the former, let me mention a few.

The Rolling Stones first appeared way back in 1962, and they are still going strong. Imagine a rock and roll band that has been going for over 50 years! While there have been a few personnel changes, the stalwarts like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are still rocking, albeit as geriatric rockers.

The Beatles had a much shorter career (1960-1970), but were a gold mine for mega-hits. Between 1963 and 1969 they had 17 number one hits in the UK. Another supergroup which also went for a decade (1972-1982), Abba, turned out multiple hits in their stellar career.

And of course the King, as he is called, Elvis Presley, had nearly 20 number one hits and nearly 40 top ten hits before his death in 1977. However, artists like these can be contrasted with what are known as one hit wonders. These artists strike gold but once, then seem to disappear as quickly as they came on the scene.

Consider just a few of these one hit wonders. Here are ten of them: some of their songs made it to number one, while others went very high up the charts:

-“Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudeville Band, 1966
-“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, 1969
-“Venus” by Shocking Blue, 1970
-“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, 1970
-“My Sharona” by The Knack, 1979
-“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, 1983
-“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, 1988
-“Macarena” by Los Del Rio, 1996
-“Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega, 1999
-“Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men, 2000

one-hit-wondersEven if you are not a devotee of popular music, you likely would have heard many of these tunes, given how ubiquitous they were – and still are. Now I write all this not to provide a lesson in pop music, but as mentioned, to make a spiritual point. It occurred to me last night as I was reflecting on such matters that we have similar things happening with believers.

Some seem to be one hit wonders, who shine brightly but briefly, then disappear into the ether, while others seem to go from strength to strength, keeping the spiritual hits coming. As to the first group, it would primarily be a conversion experience we are referring to here.

They seem to have a crucial moment of coming to Christ, and maybe have a very emotional experience at a gospel meeting, but that is about it. An emotional response to an altar call, followed by putting up one’s hand or going down to the front is common enough for many folks.

But the question is, is that all there is to the Christian life? A one-time commitment to Christ at some public meeting, and then life goes back to normal? Asking Jesus to come into your heart, but never seeing any genuine change or transformation?

Of course in those cases one can rightly ask if these people have actually been truly saved. Was this genuine regeneration or just a flash in the pan religious experience, bearing no fruit and showing no evidence of a life-changing encounter with Christ?

Of course God alone knows the human heart, and those who are really his. But we get a lot of biblical material on this in the Parable of the Sower. This parable of Jesus, found in each of the Synoptic Gospels, could really be called the Parable of the Soils.

For it is the soil that determines whether the seed takes root and flourishes, or simply dies by the wayside. Many people receiving the seed may not have really been converted, so the cares of this world or persecution quickly snuffs out any chance of spiritual growth.

So these are the spiritual one hit wonders. Sadly there are millions of such people. They simply assume they are on the way to heaven because they raised their hand at a meeting twenty years ago. They may have sung ten choruses of “Just as I Am” but they left just as they were.

In contrast are those who have had a solid conversion experience, and then continue on in the lifelong process of spiritual growth and discipleship. Sure, they may have lapses and take detours and occasionally go backwards, but the whole trajectory of their Christian walk is basically onwards and upwards.

Theirs is not a one hit wonder, but a life of growth, of maturity, of continuous conformity to the image and likeness of Christ. If they fall, if they stumble, if they sin, they repent, they get back up, and they keep on marching. Theirs is not a one-off spiritual experience, but a lifelong walk of obedience and sanctification.

They are not perfect, but they keep pressing on. As Bob Dylan put it in “Pressing On”:

Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need when it all come from within
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been ?

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my lord.

Shake the dust off of your feet, don’t look back
Nothing can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptation’s not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein.

Or as the Apostle Paul put it in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

In the Christian life, it is not how you start that matters, but how you finish. Are you pressing on? Are you finishing strong? Or have you really just been a spiritual one hit wonder? If the latter, you may want to take some time out and get on your knees before God and let him search your heart.

Let me conclude with a few quotes from Follow Me by David Platt:

“People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians.”

“Churches are filled with supposed Christians who seem content to have casual association with Christ while giving nominal adherence to Christianity. Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus involves acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words. But this is not true. Disciples like Peter, Andrew, James, John…show us that the call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose our lives.”

“In a world where everything revolves around self – protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself – Jesus said, ‘Slay yourself’.”

[1251 words]

10 Responses to Spiritual One Hit Wonders

  • Hi Bill, another great serving of “real food & drink”. One of the side issues that I noted that you didn’t really touch on was ongoing Discipleship. I suspect that major revivals in the past like The Welsh Revival petered out fairly quickly because there weren’t the resources for follow up. Speaking from my own experience, I had an awesome mother and grandmother as a child. In my teenage and early adult years, I struggled badly. In my later adult years I went to Bible College. I remember many times leaving first year theology classes in tears, wishing there had been someone there to teach me “these basics” when I was a teenager. My life could have turned out so differently! I think that “one hit wonders” would not exist if more resources were put into ongoing discipleship. It is worth noting that Jesus’ Great Commision referred to making “disciples” not converts. Many thanks again Bill for all the study and research you’ve put into this article. It has given me cause for some serious introspection. I hope it does the same for others who follow your website. Many blessings and kind regards, Kelvin.

  • To paraphrase Paul Washer, “It’s not, ‘did you once repent?’, but, “are you still repenting daily?”
    So, it’s not, “did you once walk forward?”, but, “are you still walking forward?”
    I find comfort in the fact that I am still struggling against the spiritual forces of darkness, and my Adamic nature.

  • Wonderful. Being a Christian is about daily repentance.

  • I identify with Peter Spasic’s comments. Time is running out. If we’re going to be effective servants in The Kingdom, then we can’t afford to be carrying “spiritual baggage”. It’s the discipline of being a living sacrifice and keeping “short accounts” with Jesus Christ. WE CAN’T AFFORD TO DO OTHERWHISE. Bill, I know you have a huge work load with social justice issues to contend with. However, these Ministry/Teaching Essays that you manage to slip in from time to time, have mean’t a lot to me personally. “They have served as a great reality check”. Again, many thanks, and many blessings to you and your family, Kelvin.

  • Real Food – Real Drink!
    Loving + living these Cultural Watch Essays or Sermons (as in my case) my soon-to-be-old church cannot or will not provide.
    Praise God (down on my knees) for your amazing Ministry, Bill.

  • Interesting idea Bill. I have always thought of the mighty Mick Jagger as a geriatric rocker for some reason – like an “old wine-skinny”. I identify with Kelvins’ history. My grandmother died 4 years before I was born, was converted to Christ thru D L Moody in Cambridge 1882. My mother inherited her mothers’ heart faith and her deep weeping at the word of the Cross led to me seeing and believing the love God has for us. I marvel at His unchanging grace that in unending patience disciples all his true children thru thick and thin. Glory. Blessings brother Bill! I do enjoy your work here.

  • @Peter Spasic; Peter, thanks so much for this little comment, “I find comfort in the fact that I am still struggling against the spiritual forces of darkness, and my Adamic nature.”
    I’ve had real struggles against both for the full term of my Christianhood so far. Most of the time I think/feel that I’m alone, and perhaps failing.

  • I hope and pray that I have the opportunity to pass on my faith to another generation. I also hope that I actually have something of worth to give them.

  • “If you is, what you was, then you ain’t.”
    -(19th Century “Slave Preacher”) John Jasper, on genuine salvation must bear the fruit of a changed life. (See more here: http://stevenjcamp.blogspot.com.au/ )

    Mick Koster

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