A few years ago I authored a series of "Days of Praise" devotionals based on the words to favorite Christian hymns. Quoting the hymn lyrics, I showed how the authors often used much Scripture in their writing, and clustered their thoughts around Scriptural themes. By doing so I had hoped to help keep those grand old hymns alive, for they are so rich. (These were compiled in a book and companion CD, "How Firm a Foundation in Scripture and Song".) Many are abandoning this precious part of our Christian heritage. In this column, allow me to employ one such favorite hymn to help us reflect on the events we remember each Easter. Let me pick out a few phrases and put them in a creation context.
Charles Wesley penned some of the most majestic hymns, many of them containing synopses of the entire Christian message. Consider the "sermon" contained in his moving song,"And Can It Be?"
And can it be that I should gain,
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him, to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That thou my God, should'st die for me?
Scripture reveals many things we couldn't know otherwise. Before creation, even before time itself was created, the persons of the Triune Godhead planned it all. God decided to create man in perfection, even though He knew that man would reject God's authority, bringing upon himself the awful penalty for sin demanded by God's holiness. The only solution to the sin problem, the only way the just penalty for sin could be paid, was by death, and the only way condemned man could be reconciled to his Creator God was for the sinless God to die as man's substitute. This God's Son agreed to do out of His grace and love and mercy. Can it be, that He died for me? Amazing love!
T'is mystery all! the Immortal dies!
Who can explain this strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries,
To sound the depths of love divine;
T'is mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
In our finiteness we can't fully grasp these wonders. Angels don't understand them either. How could they understand, for in the plan of God the Immortal Creator of life dies. This contradiction is a grand mystery, yet a necessity if we are to be reconciled to God. Angels may be in close physical proximity to the Creator, and may have witnessed many of His actions, but they stand in awe of what they see and know and long to know more fully. As with them we long for more complete knowledge and gratefully believe what He has revealed in His Word.
He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
T'is mercy all, immense and free!
For, O my God, it found out me!
This is my favorite verse. I love to ponder what it meant for Him to leave Heaven's glories, forever take upon Himself the limitations of human flesh, just so He could rescue us from the ravages of our sin. His infinite grace and love drove Him to suffer a cruel death, even to experience separation from His loving Father. In Adam all of us choose rebellion and are helpless to save ourselves. We stand as convicted sinners, under punishment of death. But, O my God, His forgiveness extended to us all! Amazing love!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light:
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
A prisoner chained in his dungeon could be no more imprisoned than a sinner caught in sin's web. When we understand Gospel truth, that Christ died, was buried, and rose again; believe that our personal penalty has been paid; and beseech God for forgiveness, it is as if blinders fall from our eyes. We are a new creation, with a new heart sensitive to spiritual things and free to choose rightly and follow Him. Only the Creator of life could reinstall life into His lifeless body, but so He did. Just as He rose from the grave, in victory over sin and death, so we can rise with Him, and live out that victory.
No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, thru Christ my own.
We not only revel in the certain prospects of eternal life in Heaven, but enjoy the blessings of life with Him today, free from any dread of condemnation. Our filthy rags have been exchanged for the white robes of His righteousness. When God sees us, He sees only Christ's perfection. Our sin has been cast far away, to be remembered no more. We have access to God through Christ's work and in His name. Implementation of the Creator's full plan for creation may have been delayed by the entrance of sin and its penalty, but it will not be ultimately thwarted. It will culminate with a New Heaven and a New Earth where righteousness can dwell. Pain and suffering, the curse of sin dating all the way back to Eden, will be no more. Best of all, we will be with Him, freely receiving and responding to God's amazing love. How can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me?
This Easter season provides a wonderful opportunity to consider these blessed truths. May we all take time to remember that our great Creator, became our Savior. And now our risen Lord is our eternal King.