This is a song about how the gospel rescues us from various kinds of struggle - doubt, guilt and shame, self-righteous striving, and pride. It is a song inspired by a couple of lines from Albert Midlane's obscure hymn "Sinner, Where Is Room for Doubting?" The gospel of Jesus' life and death as our only means of rescue from the penalty, power, and presence of sin is not just a message for non-Christians. The Christian life is characterized by struggle, or to use another biblical term, warfare. Though we are positionally righteous in Christ, we work out that righteousness in a glorious mystery as described in Philippians 2:12-12: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." The work of sanctification can be described as applying the gospel's transforming power to specific areas in our hearts where sin remains. That's what this song is all about - filling our minds and hearts so full of the gospel that there is no more room for our spiritual idolatry. The more captivated we become in Jesus - all He is for us and all He has done for us - the less we will run to idols for meaning, significance, and pleasure.
Posts Tagged ‘The Gospel’
In his classic book Knowing God, theologian J.I. Packer makes the following assertion about the fatherhood of God.
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God… Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.
In one of the Jesus' most moving parables, the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32; this could also be called the Parable of the Lost Sons), we see salvation portrayed as the restoration of a family, the reuniting of a wayward son with his loving Father. This song draws its inspiration from this parable and attempts to help us remember what kind of father we have in the Lord - a Father who patiently endured our waywardness, even though it cost Him the life of His own precious Son. The word "Dad" is used instead of Father intentionally. When Jesus prayed, He used the Aramaic word "Abba" which translated literally would mean either Papa or Daddy, and His use of this term to address God would have been controversial at the time. The word is meant to show us the intimacy that we can have with our creator - He need no longer be simply the God of the universe, He can become our Daddy through the redeeming work of His Son.
The doctrine of imputation is one of the most precious truths in all of Scripture yet it is often neglected or misunderstood. One pastor who understood the doctrine and wrote about it in poems and hymns is Augustus Toplady, one of the greatest English hymn writers. Scattered lines from throughout some of his poems have been edited and assembled, and new lines have been added to form one complete hymn which teaches what imputation is and demonstrates how it should move us to worship. The gospel has sometimes been called the "Great Exchange" because through faith in Jesus, God the Father takes our sin and its punishment and gives it to Jesus, and takes Jesus' perfect record of obedience (His righteousness) and gives it to us. Not only do we stand before God forgiven, but also clean and acceptable before Him because we have the very righteousness of Jesus. This truth gives us confidence, boldness, and joy as we approach God in worship now and in eternity.
God uses the raw power and life-sustaining abilities of rivers for several key metaphors throughout the Bible. Even from the very beginning of the Bible, in the account of creation, we see God setting Adam and Even in a garden that is fed and surrounded by four rivers. When man sinned and was banished from the garden, his access to these rivers and the precious tree of life fed by them was cut off. Psalm 36:8 compares experiencing the joys of a restored relationship with God to drinking our fill from a river – one with an inexhaustible supply. A river is also used as a picture for the extent and pollution of our sin. When God turned the Nile River to blood, fish and vegetation died because the water would no longer support life. This is a picture of what sin does – it pollutes, corrupts, and brings death. But even though sin flows from all of our hearts like a mighty river, the river of grace that God poured out in Jesus' blood is able to overwhelm it. The promise at the end of the book of revelation stands as a strong encouragement for all those who put their hope in Jesus: " Then [the angel] showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him."
Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) He is the only source of true and abiding life- both eternal life with God and a joyful and peaceful life now. This song reminds us not only of the overflowing offer of life given to all in the gospel, but of the ironic way that life was purchased - through the death of the life-giver. As the writer reminds us, forgiveness and peace with God (resulting in eternal life) is not gained by our efforts - our tears or prayers - but only by Jesus' atoning blood. Then what must a person do to receive the merits of His blood? The song answers with several verbs: believe, trust, and receive. Simply believe that Jesus' blood is the only payment that will suffice to cover the debt of your sin, and that Jesus' righteous life is the only life acceptable enough to allow you to stand before a holy God. This belief must move past agreement to actual trust. You must think and live in light of this truth, trusting that your acceptability before God is only based on Jesus' work, and you will experience what this song offers: life rich, eternal, and free!
Paul exhorts Christians to remember our former way of life and the mercy that God has shown us in Ephesians 2:12-13: "Remember that you were [once] separate from Christ, ... having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." It is a healthy Christian discipline to meditate on the manner of our conversion and the kind of life that God saved us from. This will cultivate gratitude and humility as we remember that our sins were so vile as to demand Jesus’ suffering and death as payment. There is perhaps no one better at remembering God's amazing mercy than John Newton. The famous hymn-writer was saved from imminent death, according to his own testimony, fourteen times, yet through most of those deliverances remained unmoved at God's patience and mercy. Having learned the Christian faith as a boy, he lived a dark life throughout his teen years, pursuing his own pleasures and excluding God from his thoughts. But even while he lived "secure in sin, sporting on destruction's brink," God touched John's heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and awakened Him to His spiritual poverty and brokenness before the Lord. When he realized that Jesus' death could cover even the blackest of his sins, "joy and wonder, love and shame" filled his heart as he embraced the forgiveness Jesus offers. May we see our own conversion in the picture that John Newton has drawn for us and also be filled with joy and wonder at the amazing mercy and grace God has shown us.
In the tradition of songs like “And Can It Be,” this song articulates a Christian’s journey from one who is “ignorant of grace” to one comes to know God’s grace shown at the cross, then to one who will forever weep and sing because of God’s mercy. In verse one we remember our spiritual condition before God called us - we did not understand the grace of God (Colossian 1:6) even while enjoying the benefits of God’s goodness to humanity in general (Matthew 5:45). We were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and needed new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). But God began his work when he opened our eyes to see our true condition before him and the wonder of grace that he would still give His Son for rebels like us. Because of the cross we need not shrink back before a holy God but may admire, love, and approach Him, thanking Him for giving us our savior, Jesus. And that thanksgiving will overflow into song as we forever remember the Lamb of God who was slain for us (Revelation 5:9).
A Christian is one who has been set free from the power and penalty of sin, both in this life and in the next, through the only means that God has given for such redemption, the substitutionary death of Jesus who took the awful punishment for sin that we deserved. (1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2) This central message of the Christian faith is our deepest delight and surest anchor and deserves to be on our hearts and lips every day. We should never tire of singing praise to Jesus who has redeemed us from our sin and guilt. Nothing can fill our hearts with gratitude like remembering how wicked we really are, the severity of punishment that our sins deserve before a holy God, and the love that God has shown us in giving His Son to endure our punishment for us. (Romans 5:8) Jesus has taken the “wormwood and the gall” (severe bitterness associated with judgment - see Jeremiah 9:15 for an example) for us and has completed the work of reconciliation; there is no way we can add to or subtract from its saving value. Let this closing thought be the theme song of our lives: “my Beloved, He is mine, for He has made me His.”
This is a hymn intended to be sung in private or family worship at the start of each day. It reminds us of the great truths of Romans 5:1 "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" and Romans 8:1 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" which we are so prone to forget. It is easy to begin our day living as if the gospel were not true; as if we needed to earn favor or acceptance from God by our performance. We demonstrate this attitude when we feel dejected by God, far from God, or are oblivious to God's presence with us. We must start our day preaching the truth to ourselves that we are accepted and free before God only because of what Jesus has done for us.
One of the things that continues to grip me about my Christian faith is that I am a Christian at all. God's patience toward me continues to leave me awed and amazed at his love. I see the same thing in Paul's testimony in 1 Timothy 1. Even after many years of faithful service to Jesus and a deep understanding of the richness of the gospel, Paul still calls himself a sinner, even the chief of sinners! But in the light of the cross he sees more than his own sinfulness; he also sees God's great mercy: "Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" (1 Tim 1:16). Using the language of abundance from v 14, this song is a tribute to God's grace to sinners – among whom each of us can say, "I am the foremost of all."