BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS
#725 - "He's the Light of the World" by Dogs of Peace
Legendary musician Gordon Kennedy talks about how the theme of light wove itself through both this song and the new Dogs of Peace album 'Heel.'
 



Twenty years ago, Dogs of Peace released their influential album Speak. Industry veterans Gordon Kennedy, Jeff Balding, Blair Masters, John Hammond and Jimmie Sloas make up the band. Gordon Kennedy is known for co-writing the Grammy winning song "Change the World" by Eric Clapton, as well as writing songs for Garth Brooks, Don Henley, Ricky Skaggs, Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood, and he has worked with the classic Christian music bands Whiteheart and PFR.

Sharing the same passionate commitment to spreading the gospel through music, the band decided to reunite and create a new album Heel, released April, 2016.  I had the chance to speak with Gordon Kennedy about "He's the Light of the World."

Please tell me the personal story behind this song.

As you are listening to the album, you are perceiving the same things we were in writing the lyrics for the songs. There is a theme of light running through the songs. The first song of the new album that deals with light is this one. The way I write songs is that I stockpile chord progressions and melodies and song titles and lyrics on my phone and computer. At the point I purpose to write or co-write with somebody, we start to unearth those ideas and present them to each other. 

For me, it begins with a piece of music. I pick up my guitar the way people pick up their smartphones, by habit. I do that with a guitar almost every day of my life. Sometimes to practice or try out some new gear, but whatever reason I originally grabbed my guitar, I start writing songs and record them. For this song it started with music, and I had the melody in my head. 

When I knew we were making a new Dogs of Peace album, I selected this melody and guitar riff. For the lyrics, I've been noticing things happening in this most recent season of my life, dating back to making the "Mosaic" album with Ricky Skaggs, where the idea that Jesus is the Light of the world keeps coming up. When Ricky was making his album, a friend called him up and said he had a word from God for him. He had written down my name, Gordon, not knowing me personally, and gave Ricky this word that God gave him about coming out of making the type of music he had been making to make songs for God. He gave Ricky the Scripture verse Matthew 5:14 about how we are the light of the world, a city on a hill cannot be hidden. I told Ricky if you look up my name, Gordon, it means "a city on a hill." 

I think the idea and this message that is permeating this new album Heel may have been seeds planted making that album with Ricky, and the aftertaste of that album. It left a taste in my mouth to sing about His Light. It's like light itself, once it shows up, you can't hide it. It replaces everything else dark in the world. Whether it is music or whatever, this light will overcome. That ends up being a message that shows up on this album.

Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Matthew 4:16 (NKJV): "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned."

John 8:12 (NKJV): "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'"

John 12:46 (NKJV): "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness."

Matthew 5:14 (NKJV): "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."

1 John 1:5 (NKJV): "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."

What is the takeaway message?

John 8:12 and John 12:46 are the Bible verses that inspired the chorus of this song. A lot of times, I know if I have a song or not by virtue of writing the first verse. If I think I've opened up a door that everyone would like to walk up and go into because of what it says on the door, then maybe that's the first verse of the song. I had this picture in my head of standing in God's glory before Him, and of course it's going to be brilliant, and there will be Light. If there's light and I'm in the light, then there's going to be a shadow of myself. We use the cliché "a shadow of your former self," and this shadow is exactly that, a shadow of who I used to be before the gift that is Jesus. 

In His Light, I don't forget who I used to be, and that makes me grateful day after day. I can see that shadow, and if I want to I can remember every reason in my life that I need a Savior. That's what we are singing about in the first verse. The chorus is the sing-able way of saying John 8:12. In the second verse, since the Son has come up, I'll never be the same. It's been this way for my whole life, when the Name of Jesus comes up, I well up and His Name takes my breath away. The last verse sings about how He is Matchless. The guitar amplifier I used for this song is made by Matchless. God is winking at me throughout this song. The song sings about what happened to Jesus on the Cross and how brilliantly His light illuminates the path we are on now as believers. He's the light of the world.

I asked PFR's Joel Hanson, who sings the 2nd verse, Whiteheart's Rick Florian, who sings the 3rd verse, and the McCrary Sisters to provide guest vocals on the song. I hear Rick choking up on that 3rd verse. This was a passion project for us all. Something really special happened on this recording. The song itself became "a city on a hill." When we completed the record, a theme emerged. It's one of light. It keeps showing up time and time again on the record, the whole idea of you can't hide light. Jesus is going to go where it's dark because that's where He's needed more than anywhere else, so that's the theme of this record to me. It's light into the darkness. If nothing happens with this album other than it being an offering, then that alone is enough reason to do it. That's the heart behind the record. If it's an offering we put at His feet, then that's enough.

Lyrics:
Trembling At His Glory
I Look and I See
Only Earth before Me
That's The Shadow of Who I Used Be
Before the Light of the World

He's The Light Of The World
Shining It Into My Heart
He's The Light Of The World
Now I'll Never Walk In The Dark
He's The Light Of The World

Now The Son Has Come Up
I'll Never Be the Same
Feel My Spirit Rise Up
At The Sound Of His Name
He's The Light Of The World

He's The Light Of The World
Shining It Into My Heart
He's The Light Of The World
Now I'll Never Walk In The Dark
He's The Light Of The World

Jesus He Is Matchless
See The Wounds Of God's Wrath
Brilliant In The Chaos
Illuminating My Path
With The Light Of The World

He's The Light Of The World
Shining It Into My Heart
He's The Light Of The World
Now I'll Never Walk In The Dark
He's The Light Of The World


The name of the song, "He's The Light of the World," and the accompanying Bible passages highlight the difference between living in the darkness of the world, and living in the Light of the Prince of Heaven, Jesus. 1st John 1:7 and Charlie Peacock's famous song "In the Light" (recorded by dc Talk) tells us we can "walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."

That's the message of this song and this album. The ultimate free gift of grace is that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." That's cause for true community amongst God's sons and daughters and true fellowship with Him and one another as described in John's epistle. Jesus wants to give you Himself so you can share in His light of life and not walk in darkness. Before God created man, He created light. God sent Jesus so that we could have light return. As believers that's our story and also our challenge, to think about how we are reflecting the light of Jesus and how we are spending our time before we die.

Now that Jesus has ascended to Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, He tells us in His Word that through the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we are the light of the world, and a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). This song celebrates that amazing gift. Sing along in joy: "He's the Light of the World, shining it into my heart, He's the Light of the World. now I'll never walk in the dark." Amen to that!

Listen to the song below.
 


 

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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