Monday, June 18, 2012

A Tale of Two Songs

Compare these two popular Christian hymns. Both songs speak of Christ and salvation, but there is a subtle but important soteriological difference between the two that should be noted:

Victory In Jesus
I heard an old, old story, How a Savior came from glory, How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning, then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
Rock of Ages:
Not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy law’s commands; could my zeal no respite (rest) know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.
Could you spot the difference?
The former song speaks of winning the victory through the repentance of our sins (i.e., works). While repentance is the appropriate response to the gospel - it is not the gospel. Unfortunately, the emphasis and moment of "victory" in this song is described as the hour I first believed and repented, not the hour that Christ bore our sins upon the cross. 
Contrarily, the latter song, Rock of Ages, speaks of raw, gritty, and scandalous grace. We bring nothing to the table except for our sin and rebellion. We are "naked," "helpless," and "foul" (appropriate descriptions). The author, Augustus Toplady - an 18th Century Calvinist Anglican, "gets it." His language is the language of someone who understands his own brokenness, and is therefore absolutely captured and amazed by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. 
I want to think, pray, preach, lead, and blog like that. I want the weight of my sin to crush me of my pride and my self-righteous tendencies. Then, I want to cry out in desperation with Augustus Toplady: "wash me Savior, or I die!"

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