In 1863 the Irish hymnwriter, Charitie Lees Bancroft wrote the hymn Before the Throne of God Above. The hymn was comprised of six verses. I want us to focus in on the fourth verse.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
What a joy it is to robustly sing worship songs that are pleasing to the ear and yet rich in biblical truth. Here is a line from the song from Chris Tomlin, All To Us,
Let the glory of your name
Be the passion of the church.
The modern era lost a great poet this week with the passing of Maya Angelou. Like other artists in history, Angelou used a medium to communicate a message to her audience. Her medium was primarily in the forms of poetry and prose. For the most part, her message communicated hope to her audience.
But as Christians, we must be wise in considering the message. Does it reveal truth? We should consider the messenger, but don’t let the message pass untested because of our admiration for the messenger. The same is true of the medium. Just because we might love poetry, does not mean that we turn an uncritical eye to the poem.
Growing up I think that every hymnal I ever picked up had the song Holy, Holy, Holy as hymn #1. Those who arranged the hymns understood that the exaltation of God and his character is the key component of worship.
For the same reason, the first post in the Learning from the Lyrics series begins with part of the second verse of this great hymn.
Holy, Holy, Holy! all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
On the evening before his death, Jesus prayed,
Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42).
What is this cup to which Jesus refers? It is the cup held in the hand of the Father in heaven. It is filled with his wrath and must be poured out for drink.
For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs (Psalm 75:8).
Sometimes we talk about questioning God. There are usually two reasons we question God. Some people question God as a way to accuse God. We volley questions which are really complaints. They usually look something like this, God, why did our didn’t you do (fill in the blank)?
These accusatory questions cannot equate God’s supposed character with some sort of activity or inactivity on God’s part. Perhaps the problem lies in a misunderstanding of God’s character. Or perhaps it is a problem with a false belief in the superiority of our reasoning. These questions could be stated in a declarative sentence that begin with something like this, If I were God…
Man’s original capacities included both the power not to sin and the power to sin. In Adam’s original sin, man lost the power not to sin and retained the power to sin — which he continues to exercise. In the fulfillment of grace, man will have the power to sin taken away and receive the highest of all, the power not to be able to sin.
Idolatry is our most basic sin, and in it an exchange is made: God reveals his truth about Himself, and we trade in that truth and walk out with a lie.
(Ligonier Ministries, March 2014)
The act of grace requires two separate parties. The grace act also necessitates that an act of sin be involved. Without sin there would be no need of grace.
In the Garden of Eden prior to the fall, Adam & Eve related to each other and to God in a state of innocence. They had no need of receiving or extending grace in either their marital relationship with each other or in their spiritual relationship with God. But once sin entered, grace became necessary to maintain any semblance of relationship.
Since we live in a thoroughly fallen world and are ourselves fallen, we cannot hope to be rightly related to God without grace. He extends grace to us and we receive grace from him. We also cannot hope to have relationships of fellowship without giving and receiving grace to and from each other.