Christianity 201

April 6, 2014

Devotions from the Hymnbook

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.  (I John 1:7 NLT)

He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

How much worse punishment do you think is deserved by the person who walks all over God’s Son, who acts as if the blood of the covenant that made us holy is just ordinary blood, and who insults the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29 CEB)

As someone who has been responsible for helping to introduce modern worship at two different churches, I am very supportive of what many of today’s worship leaders and modern hymn-writers are doing, and believe very strongly in the “theology of ‘New Song'” as expressed in Isaiah 42:10 and other scriptures.  However, I’m also very appreciative of the richness in many of the old hymns.

The challenge with many of the hymns however is that they were written at a time when the style dictated following a certain format. Many started with a strong thought, but were evangelistic in nature, imploring and pleading with the hearer in successive verses to cross the line of faith before it is too late.  For that reason, some of the first verses of many of these hymns are worth remembering, but successive verses seem out of date, and also don’t conform to the nature of what we now call ‘vertical worship,’ that is songs directed directly to God.

Still, this morning I got to thinking about many of those first verses, especially in songs that could have application either to a communion service or Good Friday. These lines may be foreign to you, or familiar, but I hope they resonate with you.  If you’re under a certain age, I hope you’ll stick with this today.

He The Pearly Gates Will Open

Most of these songs focus intensely on the saving work of Christ on the cross. Many mention the blood of Jesus. Today, some preachers shy away from talking about the blood of Christ and people are uncomfortable singing “Are you washed in the blood.” There are very few contemporary books being written about the blood of Jesus.

Love divine, so great and wondrous
Deep and mighty, pure sublime;
Coming from the heart of Jesus
Just the same through tests of time

He the pearly will gates will enter
So that I may enter in
For he purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

Love divine, so great and wondrous
All my sins He then forgave
I will sing His praise forever
For His blood; His power to save.

My Savior First of All

This song takes an end-of-life perspective and also introduces the idea that in the age to come, Jesus will still be recognizable by the nail scars in his hands. Certainly when he appeared to Thomas — in what we describe as a ‘glorified body’ — Thomas was invited to see the scars in his side and his hands.

When my life work is ended
And I cross the swelling tide
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see
I shall my redeemer when I reach the other side
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

I shall know Him, I shall know Him
As redeemed by His side I shall stand
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

Glory to His Name

This is a rousing song that expresses thankfulness and praise for salvation. It’s a song of personal testimony that ends, “I am so wondrously saved from sin…”

Down at the cross where my Savior died
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried
There to my heart was the blood applied
Glory to His name

Once for All

This song has a strong basis in the book of Romans and is more doctrinal or theological, looking at our position in Christ. The chorus is more evangelistic than what we’re including here — it’s an invitation song, though a bit up-tempo — but two of the verses showcase the writing.

Free from the law, oh happy condition
Jesus has bled and there is remission
Cursed by the law, and bruised by the fall
Grace has redeemed us, once for all

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation
Jesus provides a perfect salvation
“Come unto me,” Oh hear His sweet call
Come and He saves us, once for all

Yes I Know

This one is actually the third verse of a more obscure piece that was revived a few years ago by the Gaither Gospel Series, a series of DVDs and CDs that provided a nostalgic return to hymns and gospel songs for an older generation. (See video below.)

In temptation He is near thee,
Holds the pow’rs of hell at bay;
Guides you to the path of safety,
Gives you grace for every day.

And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean,
And I know, yes, I know
Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.

In a few days we’ll return to this theme and look at a single hymn that chronicles the final hours of Jesus leading up to the cross.

Read more scripture verses relating to the blood of Jesus.

March 12, 2013

What Christ’s Blood Did and Didn’t Accomplish

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18 NIV)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Readers here at C201 are likely to encounter writing from the widest variety of sources.  I was intrigued by this post for a variety of reasons. First, its relevance to the season of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday we are approaching. Second,  Horace E. Smith is a bishop in the Apostolic Faith Church, a denomination we’ve never included here. Third, the article is about the blood of Christ and the author is, by trade a hematologist.  Here is the link for you to read this at source.  Note: This is part of a continuing series; if you wish to do a complete study on the blood of Christ, start with the link at the bottom.

Two Mistakes

People often make one of two mistakes when they think about the gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice of blood to redeem us. They are either romantic existentialists or religious moralists.

Existentialists live by their feelings, and they believe they deserve for God to give them a happy, prosperous life. The expectation of immediate gratification has crept into a few corners of the church. Some preachers proclaim a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that God’s chief purpose is to make his children happy and wealthy. People who buy what these preachers are selling have incredibly high expectations, and in fact, unrealistic expectations of God, and they become deeply disillusioned when God doesn’t dance to their tune.

The blood of Jesus promises us many things, but not health and wealth. It guarantees us entrance into the kingdom, and it provides peace during times of heartache and confusion. Jesus promises his presence in the midst of struggles, but he never promises the elimination of those struggles. Quite the opposite. When a man announced his loyalty to him, Jesus quickly saw that the man was an existentialist, and he needed a dose of reality. The man promised naively, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:57-58). Jesus always asks us to count the cost.

The second error, the mistake of religious moralism, is a very different problem. Some of us begin our Christian lives by trusting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but poor teaching, bad models, or indwelling sin causes us to think we can now earn God’s approval by doing enough right things. We live by the law, feeling powerful and righteous because we’ve done this or that good deed, and we’ve avoided this or that sin, so we can puff out our chests and prove that we’re acceptable.

To illustrate the damage done by moralistic rule keeping, Jesus told a story of a hated tax collector and a rule keeping Pharisee going to the temple to pray. He said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’ ” (Luke 18:10-12).

Tax collectors weren’t like our IRS agents. They were traitors. They were Jews who collaborated with the Romans to extort extra taxes from their own people. They were the most hated people in the land. It was easy for a Pharisee, who kept hundreds of extra laws every week in addition to the laws of the Bible, to feel superior to a despised tax collector. But the parable doesn’t end here.

Jesus said that a few feet away, the tax collector looked down in shame and beat his chest. He pleaded, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). To the astonishment of the people listening to Jesus that day, he concluded, “I tell you that this man [the repentant tax collector], rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Question:

What are some negative evidences of romantic existentialism in spiritual life?
What are some evidences of rule keeping moralism?
Is either of these a struggle for you?
If so, explain you answer

Read another article by Bishop Smith.  (Ten to choose from in this series, click each month to open the menu of weekly articles.)

September 7, 2010

Passing The Blessing Along

At the end of the day, the end of the month, the end of a life; we are being changed through Word and sacrament and encounter with the risen Christ.

It does not stop there however; we are changed to bring change to the lives of others.  We’re part of a “thread of grace,” or what others call a “chain of grace.”

This is a powerful worship song I first heard when its composer, Aaron Niequist was working at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids.   This video is an updated recording at Aaron’s current church, Willow Creek in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

In Jesus’ name I’ve been changed, I’ve been filled,
I’ve been found, I’ve been freed, I’ve been saved!
In Jesus’ blood I’ve been loved, I’ve been cleansed,
And redeemed, and released, rearranged

But how can I show You that I’m grateful?
You’ve been so generous to me.
How can I worship more than singing?
And live out Redemption’s melody.

I have been blessed – now I want to be a blessing
I have been loved – now I want to bring love
I’ve been invited – I want to share the invitation
I have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

In Jesus’ name we are changed, we are called,
We are chosen, adopted, and named!
In Jesus’ blood we are loved, we are healed,
We’re forgiven and free of our shame!

We want to show You that we’re thankful
Flooding Your world with hope and peace
Help us to worship more than singing
Giving Redemption hands and feet

We have been blessed – now we’re going to be a blessing
We have been loved – now we’re going to bring love
We’ve been invited – we’re going to share the invitation
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

Thank You for this new life, thank You for the invitation!
God, we want to live it loud enough to shake the nations in Your name!

We have been saved – we’re going to shout about the Savior
We have been found – we’re going to turn over every stone
We’ve been empowered – to love the world to Heaven
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change