Jesus

Before the Throne of God Above - September 2019

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Hang around Christians for long enough and you’re bound to hear a John Newton quote. Not only for writing Amazing Grace, the most recognizable song of the last 200 years, but also for beautifully and succinctly expressing some of the most relatable truths of the Christian life. Some have said that Gospel growth and maturity leads to a greater awareness of our sin and yet a deepening confidence in Christ. Of such an experience, Newton wrote late in life: “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” What simplicity.

And still, how often does the enemy seek to hold our sin in front of our face, accusing us of our inadequacy to stand before God? What makes this temptation often so effective is that the enemy’s lie is built on a half-truth. It’s true that we can’t stand before God in our own strength or effort, but the full truth is that for those united with Christ, we can stand before God in His righteousness! Look at Jude 1:24: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” What glory.

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In our discipleship class on the book of Revelation, we saw in chapter 4 how the eternal worship of God is Christ-centered. The centrality of Christ upon our everyday lives of worship means that though we see how great our sin is before a holy God, we trust in our greater Savior who stood in our place so we might stand in His (2 Cor 5:21). We don’t get bogged down into a pit of self-pity, but rather we look up to see our value as Christ’s ransomed possession. The centrality of Christ upon our corporate worship together means that every single week, we must liturgically walk through the Gospel in everything we do, say, sing, pray, preach, and see. Because the only way to respond to a holy God, to stand before Him, is through Christ. We must never dare to approach God apart from Christ.

Modern hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” helps us to remember that we can boldly approach the throne of grace in the name of our Great High Priest who pleads the case we could not plead for ourselves. In Him we are righteous, holy, accepted, and loved with an everlasting love. Let’s sing it boldly and joyfully!

- Jonathan

Before the Throne of God Above

Written by Charitie Lees Bancroft, Vikki Cook

Lyrics:

Before the throne of God above (Rev 5:7-15)
I have a strong and perfect plea (1 Tim 2:5; Jude 1:24)
A great High Priest whose name is love (Heb 4:14)
Who ever lives and pleads for me (Heb 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands (Is 49:16; Jn 10:28)
My name is written on His heart (Eph 1:4-6; Heb 12:23; Rev 21:27)
I know that while in heaven He stands (Rev 11:15)
No tongue can bid me thence depart (1 Cor 1:8) 

When Satan tempts me to despair (2 Cor 11:3; James 1:14-15)
And tells me of the guilt within (1 Thess 3:5; Rev 12:10)
Upward I look and see Him there (Heb 4:14; Jam 1:12; Rev 12:11)
Who made an end of all my sin (John 1:29; Gal 2:20; 1 Thess 3:13)
Because the sinless Savior died (Rom 3:25; Phil 2:8)
My sinful soul is counted free (John 8:36; 1 Pet 1:3)
For God the Just is satisfied (Rom 3:26)
To look on Him and pardon me (Rom 3:24-25)

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb (Lk 24:6-7; Rev 5:6; 17:14)
My perfect, spotless Righteousness (Rom 3:22; 2 Cor 5:21)
The great unchangeable I Am (Is 9:6; Jn 1:1, 10:30, 14:9-11; Hb 13:8)
The King of glory and of grace (Ps 24:8; John 1:14; Rev 19:16)
One with Himself, I cannot die (Jn 8:51; Rom 6:5; 1 Cor 1:9)
My soul is purchased by His blood (Rom 5:9; 1 Cor 6:20; 1 Pet 1:19)
My life is hid with Christ on high (John 6:37; Col 3:3; 1 Pet 1:4)
With Christ my Savior and my God (Mt 28:20; Rom 6:23; Jude 1:25)

© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship / CCLI #193208


This Life I Live - August 2019

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“Who are you going to live for today?” I like to ask my son this question at the start of a day. While I have to confess some skepticism at how much a 3-year old can process something so deep, at the same time, this practical commitment can be somewhat simple. We’ve gone over the many possible answers that really boil down into these three: yourself, others, or Christ. What I find interesting is that in this order, it’s really hard to get past number one. Let me just say, I am really good at serving myself. My natural inclination is to be first in line for ice cream… So is Nathan’s, for the record. But not only does such a selfish lifestyle never deliver on bringing real satisfaction, God’s Word has a lot to say about it (Ps 119:36; Phil 2:3; 1 Cor 10:24; Jam 3:16).

So what about “others”? Surely the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:31) to love our neighbors as ourselves is a great posture to live by. Should we love other people? Yes. Should we live by the opinions of others and idolize making them happy? No. Paul says if we live by the approval of others, we are not servants of Christ (Gal 1:10), ouch! God put loving others second for a reason, after loving God first. We love others out of our love for Christ. And we can only love anyone because God first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).

The heart of this question I ask my son is not to minimize love for others and love of self (which viewed rightly are both Biblical), but instead to maximize love for Christ, which is ultimate! And love for Christ necessarily leads to love of others and a godly love of self. We live for Christ. Why? Because we belong to Him. He has purchased our very lives with His blood. This is why the Bible calls Him our Redeemer. He has bought us out of slavery to sin and graciously calls us to follow Him. We live for Him as a response to what He has done for us. Will we do this perfectly? Of course not, but His power is made perfect in our weakness and His grace is sufficient for our deficiencies. And by His Spirit, He enables us to walk in a way that honors Him.

Still, this daily response that needs daily reminder. Who will you live for today? Modern hymn “This Life I Live” helps to set our minds and hearts on the proper response to God’s love for us in Christ.

- Jonathan

This Life I Live

Written by Michael Morrow

Lyrics:

This life I live is not my own (1 Cor 6:19)
For my Redeemer paid the price (1 Cor 6:20)
He took it to be his alone (John 10:28)
To be his treasure and his prize (1 Pet 2:9)
The things of earth I leave behind (Phil 3:7-8)
To live in worship of my King (Rom 12:1-2)
His is the right to rule my life (Eph 1:15-21; Tit 2:11-14)
Mine is the joy to live for him (Ps 16:11; Rom 5:1-5; Phil 4:4)

I died to sin upon the cross (Rom 6:11)
I’m bound to Jesus in his death (Gal 2:20)
The old is gone and now I must (2 Cor 5:17)
Rely on him for every breath (Pr 3:5-6; Jn 15:4-5; Phil 4:13,19)
With every footstep that I tread (Ps 119:105)
What mysteries he has in store (1 Cor 2:9)
I cannot know what lies ahead (2 Cor 5:7)
But know that he has gone before (Heb 4:14-16)

There is a voice that pierced the grave (John 11:43)
A power that rolled the stone away (Rom 8:11, 10:9)
A sound of life, I know I’m saved (John 5:24; Eph 1:13-14)
The voice of God has called my name (John 10:27)
So I will rise, and in the air (John 5:25-29, 6:40; 1 Thess 4:16-17)
Behold the glory of the King (Mt 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 3:18; Rev 5:13)
I will not fear to meet him there (Job 19:26-27; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Jn 3:1-2)
I know my life is hid with him (Col 3:3-4)

© 2009 Michael Morrow / CCLI #193208


Grace Alone - June 2019

Have you ever considered why jewelers show diamonds against a black cloth? Six years ago when God, in His great kindness, convinced Emily to marry me, I went shopping for her engagement ring. So my cousin, RUF campus minister, and I head on down to a jewelry store in downtown Atlanta. After telling him what I’m there for, the jeweler escorts us to his diamond case. All I can say is “wow!” I mean, these things are magnificent, each one sparkling brightly when the light strikes it at just the right angle. Picking out a few to take a closer look, he does something really interesting and places them on a black velvet cloth. This allows each diamond to not only sparkle all the brighter but gives us a chance to really catch all the detailed intricacies of what makes it so captivating.

It’s kind of like that with the Gospel. How beautiful is the good news that sinners can be reconciled to a holy God through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ? But when seen against the black stark backdrop of sin, the beauty of the Gospel shines all the brighter!

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You begin to see all the detailed intricacies of what it means that Christ gave His life for us. You can truly appreciate and glory in the grace of God to even allow sinners to approach a holy God through our great Savior. And you come to realize that Salvation is only ever by grace alone through faith alone, and not by anything you could ever do to earn it. In fact, you learn how inwardly (and often outwardly) you were running from God, and all along, it was God who moved you, by His Spirit, to believe and trust in Jesus. More personally, you learn how the Gospel can be applied to each aspect of your life, like a healing balm on your darkest areas of sin, and empower you to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

We must talk about sin because it makes the cross of Christ appear all the more glorious. And we must talk about grace because it increases all the more our view of God’s glory and sovereignty.

How much theology can be packed into a single song? In Grace Alone, Dustin Kensrue helps us look at the beauty of the Gospel against the backdrop of our sin. Notice the Father, Son, and Spirit progression as we explore the sweet doctrine of Salvation by grace alone.


Grace Alone

Written by Dustin Kensrue

Lyrics:

I was an orphan lost at the fall
Running away when I'd hear you call
But Father you worked your will
I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne
But Father you loved me still

And in love before you laid the world's foundation
You predestined to adopt me as your own
You have raised me up so high above my station
I'm a child of God by grace and grace alone

You left your home to seek out the lost
You knew the great and terrible cost
But Jesus your face was set
I worked my fingers down to the bone
But nothing I did could ever atone
But Jesus you paid my debt

By Your blood I have redemption and salvation
Lord you died that I might reap what you have sown
And you rose that I might be a new creation
I am born again by grace and grace alone

I was in darkness all of my life
I never knew the day from the night
But Spirit you made me see
I thought I knew the way on my own
Head full of rocks a heart made of stone
But Spirit you moved in me

And at your touch my sleeping spirit was awakened
On my darkened heart the light of Christ has shone
Called into a kingdom that cannot be shaken
Heaven's citizen by grace and grace alone

So I'll stand in faith by grace and grace alone
I will run the race by grace and grace alone
I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone
I will reach the end by grace and grace alone

© 2013 Dead Bird Theology, It's All About Jesus Music,
We Are Younger We Are Faster Music | CCLI License # 193208


Living Hope - Apr 2019

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

- 1 Peter 1:3


The other day I was helping my dad load some things in his car when he asked me to go inside and grab a few specific boxes. After walking through the front door, I froze, literally not being able to recall a word he’d just said! Something about some boxes, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember which ones or where they were… even though he had just told me 20 seconds ago!

Have you ever had Gospel amnesia? Not that you couldn’t explain the Gospel if asked, but maybe you’ve lost sight of what Jesus has done for you in the moments you needed most to remember it? Or maybe life’s routines have settled you in to a rhythm of security and provision that the wonder of the Gospel has faded? Or perhaps the cares and temptations of this world have given you a clouded view of your need for God’s transforming grace?

One of Israel’s besetting sins was the plague of forgetfulness. Moses was constantly on them saying, “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God” (Deut 8:11). When would they forget the Lord? Would it be in life’s most broken moments? Much more concerning was the temptation to forget God when life went well! So Moses warned that enjoying the gifts of their God while forgetting their God would ultimately be deadly for them. Instead, they must take care to remember what He had done for them. How he met their greatest need in their most hopeless moment, freeing them and feeding them.

As Christians, Jesus isn’t just the one we turn to when we have no other place to go, but He is the One we turn to every moment of every day. Because otherwise we will, no doubt, turn to ourselves or somewhere else for assurance and satisfaction. Will we have seasons of doubt and wandering? It’s likely. But that’s why we need to be constantly reminded of the Gospel. Constantly telling and retelling the wonders of God’s glorious grace in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Because we are so prone to forgetfulness.

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Our hope is a living hope because we have a living Savior! Our hope is a living hope because we were dead but have been made alive in Christ! Our hope is a living hope, because Christ is the very sustenance by which we live. As we need a constant reminder of the Gospel, one of the most vivid pictures we have is the sacrament of Communion. At the Table we feast on Christ for spiritual nourishment (John 6:54).

I rejoice also that God has provided songs for the church throughout the generations that tell and retell the central story of the Gospel: the depth of our need and that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose for sinners like you and me. As we sing “Living Hope” throughout Easter, remember. Remember that there was nothing you could do to save yourself, but God sovereignly and graciously called you by name and breathed new life into your dead soul. What great mercy and what boundless grace! Praise be to the One who set us free! This is a story that can’t be over-told. For there indeed is no other name by which we can be saved than Jesus Christ, our living Hope (Acts 4:12).

Living Hope

Written by Phil Wickham & Brian Johnson

Lyrics:

How great the chasm that lay between us
How high the mountain I could not climb
In desperation, I turned to heaven
And spoke Your name into the night
Then through the darkness, Your loving-kindness
Tore through the shadows of my soul
The work is finished, the end is written
Jesus Christ, my living Hope

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I'm Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living Hope

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There's salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living Hope

Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory!

© 2017 Phil Wickham Music, Simply Global Songs,
Sing My Songs, Bethel Music Publishing / CCLI #193208


My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness - Nov 2018

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

- Psalm 69:30


What are you thankful for? We toss this question around each November as we gather with family and friends… and turkey! But it’s also a key question to consider when talking about singing from the heart.

We often express thanks for family, for friends, for jobs, homes, health, and of course, food. The Bible certainly tells us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18), so thanking God for physical blessing is appropriate and right. In fact, Paul constantly commands thankfulness to permeate all areas of our lives (Eph 5:20; Col 2:17, 3:15-17, 4:2, etc).  

Still, as Christians, what are we to be most thankful for? You probably know the answer, but in the busyness of our lives and ironically, the joys or the sorrows of our lives, we often forget it. The greater testimony of Scripture is a posture of thanksgiving first and foremost for spiritual blessing- that God has already given us! (Eph 1:3) Over and above success in this life, Jesus teaches His disciples to rejoice that their names are written in Heaven! (Luke 10:20) When Paul thanks God in 1 Cor 15:57, he refers to a “victory” in Christ that is ultimate- that dwarfs all earthly blessing or earthly pain.

So what are the benefits of being thankful? Thankfulness is the key to remembering God’s character, His goodness, and faithfulness- remembering His mighty acts and ultimately redemptive work through Jesus. Forgetfulness was one of the biggest plagues of God’s people in the OT. But thankfulness helps us remember the Gospel when we’re so easily tempted to forget it. Whether physical blessing is plentiful or seemingly absent, thankfulness for our abundant spiritual blessing helps us magnify God in all circumstances.  

In October, Pastor Rountree preached on joy in the Lord, saying,  “every gift given to you connects you to the Giver…the most significant thing about the gift is that it should bring you back to rejoice in the Giver!... Our God is so engaged with us and committed to us in giving us things, if we just rejoice in the things and don’t see that the things are there to connect us to Him, we’re gonna miss the joy… What it really does is engage us to Christ forever, both body and soul.” Simply put, thankfulness is the path to joy.

This Getty hymn focuses our hearts and minds on the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7).

My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness

Written by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Lyrics:

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With power upon my heart

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly
Whose every promise is enough
For every step I take
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace
Whose every thought is love
For every day I have on earth
Is given by the King
So I will give my life, my all
To love and follow him

© 2003 Thankyou Music / CCLI #193208


Come Thou Fount - Sep 2018

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

- 1 Corinthians 13:12


This is one of the tried and true hymns of the church, sung by generation after generation. These beautifully poetic lyrics express a heart-felt dependence on the Lord for what He’s done, what He’s doing, and what He will do (Phil 1:6). Though this world seeks to pull us away from God, the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus has drawn us close, decisively securing our place as God’s children, redeemed by His blood (John 10:28).

Do you feel apathetic towards worshipping with God’s people? Ask for God to “tune your heart to sing His grace.” Do you doubt God’s goodness towards you? Look back and remember what Christ has done. Do you feel your heart wandering? Throw yourself on the mercy and grace of our good God. Believe the promise, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

A few years ago, I came across this lesser known 4th verse and immediately fell in love with it! Taking us on a journey as many of our hymns do, this final verse turns our affections towards the future, our heavenly hope in Christ. No longer will we suffer the stain of sin. No longer will we be prone to wander. No longer will we ache with pain. For will see the Lord face to face, with renewed hearts, worshipping in His presence (1 Cor 13:12). Oh, what joy! Indeed, come Thou Fount of every blessing.

What’s that word mean?

Ebenezer – “stone of help” from 1 Sam 7:12, a declaration and remembrance of God’s divine help

Interposed – to place in between, Jesus’ blood shields us from the righteous wrath of God

Fetter – A chain of restraint, expressing the desire for God’s grace to keep us ever so near to Him

Come Thou Fount

Written in 1758 by Robert Robinson
(4th Verse added by Bradford J. Brown)

Lyrics:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Oh, that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Full arrayed in the blood washed linen
How I'll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry
Take my ransomed soul away
Send Thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day

© Public Domain