Let the people renew their strength. – Isaiah 41:1
All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continues by itself. “Thou renewest the face of the year,” was the Psalmist’s utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labor, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth.
Neither can man’s life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the depletion of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the depletion of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances.
How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon him as the flowers wait upon the dew.
Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that hath not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven.
If we allow the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfillment of the promise, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”
Many people are familiar with the music of Dion (DiMucci) even if they do not realize it. In the early 60’s he had a several rock hits. Two of his biggest were, Runaround Sue andThe Wanderer. These songs made him a household name during this time, and in 1989 he was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame.
What many people do not know is that, similar to Bob Dylan, B.J. Thomas, and Kanye West, he later professed faith in Jesus and released a couple of CCM albums. Today, I want to take a look at his 1983 album, I Put Away My Idols. My hope is that, for those who remember it, it will be an enjoyable trip down memory lane, and for those of you not familiar with the album, that it will be an introduction worthy of your time. To do this, I would like to highlight four songs off the album. The lyrics for several of his Christian songs are not available online, so I hope to correct that on the last two songs we look at as well.
I Put Away My Idols
Let’s start with the title track, I Put Away My Idols. Much of the album has a similar upbeat rock feel like his earlier secular work, and this song is no exception. If you have heard any songs from this album, it would be this one.
I will not include all of the lyrics here since they are in the video, but I always enjoy songs that give us a glimpse into someone’s conversion story, and this song does just that.
I was living by my horoscope Taking pills to cope With my pain Rock and roll was my identity My whole security I made a name
He even gives a nod to Romans where we are told that the natural man serves the creation rather than the Creator.
Looking back over my years My story did unfold I worshipped people and their gifts Not the gift giver at all
But in the end, he hears the voice of the Shepherd.
Truly from above I heard a friend Truly now you must be born again I put away my idols I stripped away all the titles Money wrinkles and things do decay I put away my idols
They Won’t Tell You
Another favorite song of mine on this album is one which takes on the vanity of so much television programming. It was true in the 1980’s, and it is even more true today’ They Won’t Tell You.
Here are the lyrics. It is also a fun trip down 80’s TV memory lane.
Good morning America glad to tune you in Days of our lives It ran right to the end For your morning excitement You’ll catch The Price is Right Your midday romance You’ll find on The Edge of Night
And we’ll take a pause to tell you what you need To get through The Days of our Lives and to succeed A pill for pain, some soap to clean you up A brand new car and some coffee to fill your cup
But they won’t tell you what you need to know (They won’t tell you) Jesus paid the price to free your soul (Jesus freed you) The TV keeps you strung out on the pages of this world While the radio keeps you hooked on the rock n roll
I tell you, It don’t make no sense at all But it’s been that way ever since the fall Powers of darkness tryin’ to do you in Drivin’ you deeper and deeper into your sin
Now it’s time to turn on the evenin’ news But I’d rather hear Muddy Waters sing the blues You’ve gotta keep up to know what’s goin’ down Who’s winnin’ and losin’, which side’s gainin’ ground
A little bit later we’ll turn on some comic relief Hah, somethin’ funny to make you show your teeth A Fantasy Island to help you get away A celebrity show to see what they got to say
But you won’t find it on the Johnny Carson show (They won’t tell you) And Norman Lear won’t put you in the know (Jesus freed you) Archie Bunker, he will say goodbye when the season ends But Jesus will always be your friend
I tell you, There’s just one way to go Turn on your life, turn off the picture show Stand in the love and the light of reality Accept Him as Lord and He will set you free
But you won’t find it in the People magazine (They won’t tell you) The Truth, the Life, the One who makes you clean (Jesus freed you) Charlie’s Angels cannot save you From the darkness in this world Barnaby Jones, he cannot clue you in
I’ll tell you, They won’t tell you what you need to know (They won’t tell you) Jesus paid the price to free your soul (Jesus freed you) TV keeps you strung out on the pages of this world While the radio keeps you hooked on the rock n roll
Yeah, they won’t tell you (They won’t tell you) What you need to know (Jesus freed you) What you need to know
Give It Up and Surrender
Another toe-tapper on the album is called, Give It Up and Surrender. This song takes a look at the role of pride in the fall of Adam and Eve and in our lives as well.
Satan said, you can eat of the tree The fruit will open up your eyes Eve said that looks good to me I wanna be wise That is how all the trouble began As a matter of pride Man just had to have it his way And now he’s got to run and hide
Woah, Give it up and surrender Oh, give it up and be free Let that pride go and give up to God And repent of the tree
Yeah, God sent the Lord to help us along So that we might understand Just exactly how to know right from wrong And the weakness of man But still we turn our backs and run from it all As a matter of pride And when we do, we stumble and fall This could be a long hard ride
Woah, give it up and surrender Yeah, give it up and be free Let that pride go and give up to God Give it up, give it up, be free Let it go
Ah, now we get to the back of the book As we run God’s patience to the end But still he’s just and he’s true to His word His only Son He did send
Aw, but still we go against the will of the Lord In so much that we do But still His love and His mercy does a part Salvation for me and you
I said, give it up and surrender Give it up and be free Let that pride go and give up to God And repent of the tree (repeat)
Give it up and be free
Trust in the Lord
The final song I want to highlight is Trust in the Lord because, in the end, that is exactly what we need to do. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. What I like about this song, is how much of it is scripture set to music.
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways And He will make your path straight (Repeat)
Jonah got along in the belly of whale Daniel in the lion’s den I know a man who lived on faith to the very end
Now the good book says that without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe
You see, you trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways And He will make your path straight
Against all hope, father Abraham In hope he did believe God calls things that are not as though they were
Oh, now God said it, I believe it And that is good enough for me We do walk by faith and not by what we see
You see we trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways And He will make your path straight
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and it is certain of what we do not see Faith it surely comes by hearing the word of God you see God you see
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways And He will make your path straight (Repeat)
If you would like to listen to the album in its entirety, you can do so for free as a YouTube playlist here. Of course, nothing beats pulling a 12 inch vinyl record out of its sleeve and giving it a spin.
What about you? Do you have any memories of this album, or did you see Dion perform any of these songs in concert? Are there any other albums you would like to see highlighted as part of the CCM Backbeat? Let me know in the comments.
Among the many general causes of decline in grace, we may assign a principal place to spiritual pride and self-admiration. If our attainments in knowledge and giftedness, and even in grace, seduce us into a good opinion of ourselves, as if we were wise and good, we are already ensnared, in danger of falling every step we take, of mistaking the right path, and proceeding from bad to worse, without a power of correcting or even of discovering our deviations! That is, unless and until the Lord mercifully interposes, by restoring us to a spirit of humility, and dependence upon Himself. For God, who gives more grace to the humble, resists the proud! He beholds them with abhorrence, in proportion to the degree in which they admire themselves! It is the invariable law of His kingdom, that everyone who exalts himself—shall be abased!
True Christians, through the remaining evil of their hearts, and the subtle temptations of their enemy, are liable, not only to the workings of that pride which is common to our fallen nature, but to a certain kind of pride, which, though the most absurd and intolerable in any person, can only be found among those who make profession of the gospel. We have nothing but what we have received, and therefore to be proud of our titles, wealth, knowledge, success, or any temporal advantages by which the providence of God has distinguished us, is downright sinful! For those who confess themselves to be ‘sinners’, and therefore deserving of nothing but misery and wrath, to be proud of those peculiar blessings which are derived from the gospel of God’s grace, is a wickedness of which even the demons are not capable of!
The apostle Paul was so aware of his danger of being exalted above measure, through the abundant revelations and peculiar favors which the Lord had afforded him, that he says, “There was given me a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” He speaks of this sharp trial as a great mercy, because he saw that it was necessary, and designed to keep him humble and attentive to his own weakness.
Ministers who are honored with singular abilities and success, have great need of watchfulness and prayer on this account! Simple-hearted hearers are apt to admire their favorite preacher, taking it for granted that he is deeply affected himself with the truths, which, with so much apparent liberty and power, he proposes to them. While, perhaps, the poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause, and pleasing himself with the numbers and attention of those who hang upon his words!
Perhaps such thoughts will occasionally rise in the minds of the best ministers; but, if they are allowed, if they become habitual, and enter strongly into the idea he forms of his own importance; and if, while he professes to preach Jesus Christ, he is preaching himself, and seeking his own glory, he is guilty of high treason against the Majesty of Him in whose name he speaks! And sooner or later, the effects of his pride will be visible and noticed. Doctrinal errors, gross misconduct, an abatement of zeal, of gifts, of influence, are evils, always to be dreaded, when spiritual pride has gained an ascendancy, whether in public or in private life.
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7
Someone once asked me, “What is one topic that you know way too much about that has nothing to do with your career or education?” My immediate answer was, “80’s Christian music.” Actually, it goes back further than the 80’s. I am a collector of classic Christian vinyl records, and I listen to them regularly as well. As I write this, the Keith Green record in the picture above is filling the house with songs about the Christian life.
I owe a great debt to the Christian artists of the past. They were the soundtrack for my growth in Christ. They challenged me when I was complacent, and comforted me with the gospel when I fell short. I am no expert on the topic of Christian music, but I do enjoy talking about it. With that in mind, I will be starting a new feature on this blog called The CCM Backbeat. These will be occasional posts about the Christian music of the past. We will look at its successes and failures, review albums, talk about the artists struggles, and even take a look at whether an artist has remained strong in the faith or wandered away. All of this will be done with the intention of encouraging us in our fight of faith.
In recent years, there has been a steady decline in Christian music other than in the worship music genre. There are still some great artists out there doing great things, but there is a reason why radio stations like Air1 had to switch formats to more of a worship style. It is because there is not nearly as much good non-worship Christian music being produced.
Our culture is changing. This is why I believe it is worthwhile to highlight some of the music from the past. Sometimes, simply looking back only 30 or 40 years gives us a good benchmark to see how much society has changed. Some of those changes are for the better, and some of them for ill.
Christian music of the 70’s – 90’s was not perfect. There was plenty to lament even back then. As an example, I recently pulled out an album by Petra called Beat the System, as I was listening to it, I thought, “this is quality classic rock.” Then I remembered that when it came out, it was about two to three years behind the musical trends of the day. There were some trendsetters, as we will explore, but being a day late to the game was a common feature of much of the Christian music of the past. There were exception, of course, but we regularly wished for more quality music with better production value. As that came to fruition in later years, however, I believe we began to lose something even more important in much of the music: the message of the songs began to bow to our politically correct culture. Even if we do have better production value today, I am afraid we did not get what we wanted. I will talk about the exceptions to this statement in future posts, because Andrew Peterson and several other current artists need to be thanked for their contributions.
With this post, I want to take a look at a distinctive feature of the CCM music of the past. It was often fearless in speaking the truth. Sometimes it was done well, and, other times, it was done poorly. Sometimes the theology was strong. Other times, it was weak, but it rarely failed to make an attempt. Sometimes, the messages where so strong, or done with such a daring that the artists had their music kicked out Christian book stores; Larry Norman and Steve Taylor come to mind. That thought alone is hard to believe when we look at all the heterodox materials that are sold in many Christian bookstores today.
Let me close this inaugural CCM Backbeat post with a few examples of lyrics that would have never made it passed the cutting room floor today. As you read these lyrics, realize, you will never hear anything like this on a Lauren Daigle album.
Let’s start with the lyrics for a song called, Oh Buddha, by the Imperials, featuring the legendary Russ Taff, where they address false religions.
Well, Old Buddha was a man and I’m sure that he meant well But I pray for his disciples lest they wind up in hell And I’m sure that old Mohammed thought he knew the way But it won’t be Hare Krishna we stand before on The Judgment Day
No, it won’t be old Buddha that’s sitting on the throne And it won’t be old Mohammed that’s calling us Home And it won’t be Hare Krishna that plays that trumpet tune And we’re going to see The Son not Reverend Moon!
-The Imperials, Oh, Buddha
Or how about this song by Steve Taylor where he addresses churches abandoning the faith because they have itching ears and become nothing more than discotheques.
Sunday needs a pick me up? Here’s your chance Do you get tired of the same old square dance? Allemande right now All join hands Do-si-do to the promised boogieland Got no need for altar calls Sold the altar for the mirror balls Do you shuffle? do you twist? ’cause with a hot hits playlist, now we say
This disco used to be a cute cathedral Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year This disco used to be a cute cathedral Where we only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear
The song comes to a conclusion with these lines:
Sell your holy habitats This ship’s been deserted by sinking rats The exclusive place to go It’s where the pious pogo Don’t you know
-Steve Taylor, This Disco Used to be a Cute Cathedral
These artists were not afraid to address us when we grew lukewarm. I will never forget the the conviction I felt the first time I heard these lyrics by Keith Green
“oh, bless me, lord! Bless me, lord!” You know, it’s all I ever hear! No one aches, No one hurts, No one even sheds one tear But, he cries, He weeps, He bleeds, And he cares for your needs And you just lay back, And keep soaking it in Oh, can’t you see such sin?! ’cause he brings people to your door, And you turn them away As you smile and say, “god bless you! Be at peace!” And all heaven just weep, ’cause Jesus came to your door, You left him out on the streets … Oh, can’t you see such sin?! The world is sleeping in the dark, That the church just can’t fight, ’cause it’s asleep in the light! How can you be so dead?! When you’ve been so well fed. Jesus rose from the grave, And you! You can’t even get out of bed!
-Keith Green, Asleep in the Light
Let me end with these lyrics by Larry Norman. Norman had a direct audience with the rock and roll drug culture. This was a regular cause of consternation for many Christians of the 70’s and 80’s. Here are the lyrics he wrote after spending some time with Janis Joplin.
Sipping whiskey from a paper cup You drown your sorrows till you can’t stand up Take a look at what you’ve done to yourself Why don’t you put the bottle back on the shelf Yellow fingers from your cigarettes Your hands are shaking while your body sweats Why don’t you look into Jesus, He’s got the answer
He then turns his focus to those living the cheap sex and drug lifestyle. After reading these lines you will understand one reason why evangelicalism distanced themselves from him (parental guidance suggested).
Gonorrhea on Valentines Day And you’re still looking for the perfect lay You think rock and roll will set you free You’ll be deaf before your thirty three Shooting junk till your half insane Broken needle in your purple vein
Why don’t you look into Jesus, He’s got the answer
-Larry Norman: Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus
We will end here, but I hope this is enough to whet your appetite for future posts where we will look more in depth at these artists and albums. There are so many to talk about, but in the meantime, let us not be afraid to be bold with the truth we have been called to proclaim.
What are some of your favorite Christian songs or albums of the past? Let me know in the comments.
Burning indignation grips me, because of the wicked who have forsaken Your law. -Psalm 119:53
My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David’s cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed by all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel’s vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem.
It cannot but grieve gracious souls, to see what pains men take to go to Hell! Christians know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze! Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God’s holy law, which it is to every man’s highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society! Sin in others horrifies a believer, for it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”
Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity–the nails and spear. How can a believer behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart–do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, and the just God will have it–or repay His adversary to his face!
An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin’s fooleries–lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your enemy, and your Lord’s enemy–view it with detestation, for only so can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.
My nerves were shot. I could feel the stress coursing through my body, and I knew what was pulling the strings. All of the tension straining my soul was connected to the things of this world. I had been seeking my meaning in them, and their uncertain nature made everything I was standing upon precarious, which had caused me to collapse in fear. Though I did not know it at the time, those ties to the world needed to be severed, or I was going break.
It was then that I saw a man walking toward me. He was a smallish man with a stern face that made me question his intentions, but as he drew near, I saw kindness in his eyes that provided me with some relief. He looked at me, and he immediately saw my distress. The windows of my soul were open to him, and he could see that the treasure of my heart was man’s applause. He saw that earthly pleasures had my rapt attention and would not let me go.
He immediately showed me a picture of a man arrayed in full splendor. Never had I seen such an image. The portrait reached deep down into my soul. My lust grabbed a hold and refused to let go because I wanted to be that man. Then something happened. I saw that the man of splendor was disillusioned. He had everything for which I longed, but he was still unsatisfied. He cried, “Vanities of vanities. All is vanity.”
How could this be? The man in the picture had everything I knew would make me happy, and he was still unfulfilled. I felt myself take in a deep breath. Something that had been putting pressure on my chest broke free, and I felt my lungs begin to relax. With that, the small man was gone.
As I lay there pondering what had happened, I saw a man of great evil approach me, and he had, in his hands, all the treasures of the world. He, too, had everything that I desired and had been investing my life and soul to attain, but he was hideous. I could not tell if he reminded me more of Nero or Hitler. As I look upon the monster in front of me, a searing thought shot across my mind. “If the Lord of heaven and earth allows the greatest portion of the world’s treasure to be held by the vilest of men, his avowed enemies, then they must not be the greatest treasures man can possess.” If earthly riches were part of God’s greatest gifts, the wicked would have no part in them. As he was walking away, I noticed the tension running up and down the back of my neck start to relax, and the years of chronic pain in my head began to fade.
As I sat there beginning to wonder if I had been directing all my life pursuits toward the wrong things; another man came into view. This one was the exact opposite of the last man. He was godly. I saw 11 more standing at a distance behind him, and all of them wore the clothes of poverty. I saw them being mistreated. They had no desires for earthly power, riches, or fame. In fact, they had given up what they did have to possess something greater. As the man in front stood there looking at me, I saw joy in his eyes. He said, to me, “I count all things as dung compared to knowing Christ.” He smiled and walked away, and the others went with him.
I knew at that moment that these were the men used by God to lay the foundation of the Church. The Holy Spirit had used them to write down the very words of God for all subsequent generations, and the man in front had just called all that I was pursuing “dung.” At that moment, most of the strained nerves in my body that had been tethered to the false treasures began to snap, and, contrary to what I would have thought, as they snapped, they did not hurt. Instead, they loosened and began to regain their intended use. Feeling the life returning to my body, I stood to my feet, and then something even greater happened.
I saw a man approaching riding a white horse, and he was beautiful. I knew right away that he had sent the first three visitors. As I looked upon him, my joints felt loose, my muscles began to give way, and I went down to my knees. Everything about me began to come undone. His voice shook my soul with comfort, and he showed me his hands, his feet, and his side. Up until this point, I had been pursuing the world’s crown, and he showed me what that crown truly looked like by showing me the scars on his head.
He is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and he was despised and rejected by men. Foxes have dens, the birds of the air have nests, but he did not have a place to lay his head. If the treasures and esteem of this world were of eternal value, he would have had them. His beauty and worth emanated from his holiness, and the world’s riches had nothing to do with it. Compared to him, they were revolting and unnecessary.
At the sight of him, I felt something within me die. It was a former and perverse love for the things of the world. I knew in that moment that it was not wrong to possess them or use them; it was wrong to love them. The glorious cross of Jesus now stood between me and the world, and I no longer desired it, for the Pearl of Great Price overshadowed it. He then lifted me to stand in a strength not my own.
I had always known his scars provided the forgiveness of my sin, but I never realized how much they were calling me away from the things of the world. Seeing them, I felt everything within me begin to rest. My former pursuits are coming to an end. They are vain, and I now realize that my ambition for the things of the world made me my own tormentor. Through these visitors, Jesus poured contempt on the things of the world in comparison to him. He continues to lead me further out of the darkness into his marvelous light.
Now I am here to visit you. You, who have been striving after riches, power, fame, and sexual appeal. You, who are striving to increase them. You, who place your hope in keeping them. You, who fear to lose them. You, who find your delight in them. You, whose thoughts are continually upon them. You, whose conversation is always about them. Remember, they are unstable and cannot offer you the security and lasting pleasure you seek. Never forget that the Lord often allows his enemies to have the greatest portion of them. Keep in mind that his greatest servants rarely had any of the world’s goods, and they had everything in our Savior. Most importantly, look to Jesus and His cross to see how contemptuous they are compared to knowing him.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. – Proverbs 23:4
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. -1 Timothy 6:10
The following is a letter of John Newton to his 14 year old adopted daughter.
My Dear Betsy,
Sometimes, when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them—I have some painful feelings for you!
The other day I was at the harbor, and saw a ship launched; she slipped easily into the water; the people on board cheered; the ship looked clean and mirthful, she was freshly painted, and her colors flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity, “Poor ship!” I thought, “you are now in port and in safety; but before long you must go into the wild sea! Who can tell what storms you may meet with hereafter, and to what hazards you may be exposed! How weather-beaten you may be before you return to port again, or perhaps you may not return at all!”
Then my thoughts turned from the ship to my dear Betsy. The ship seemed to be an emblem of your present state, you are now, as it were, in a safe harbor; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance! But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command! There is hardly a day passes, in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care, I know you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers by which you might otherwise suffer and bring you, at last, safely to the haven of His eternal rest!
I hope you will seek Him while you are young—then you will be happy, and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this! Though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters, unless you love Him, and live in His fear and favor, you would be quite miserable! I think it would nearly break my heart; for, next to your dear mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you! But the Lord gave you to me and many a time upon my knees, I have given you back to Him. Therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall be His!
I am, with great tenderness, my dear child, Your very affectionate father
I understand something of your warfare. Paul describes his own case in few words, “Conflicts on the outside, fears on the inside.” Does not this comprehend all you would say? And how are you to know experimentally, either your own weakness, or the power, wisdom and grace of God, seasonably and sufficiently afforded, but by frequent and various trials? How are the graces of patience, resignation, meekness and faith, to be discovered and increased, but by the exercise of trials?
The Lord has chosen, called, and armed us for the fight! Shall we wish to be excused from the battle? Shall we not rather rejoice that we have the honor to appear in such a cause, under such a Captain, such a banner and in such a company?
God has graciously provided: a complete suit of armor, formidable weapons, precious balm to heal us—if we receive a wound, and precious cordials to revive us—when we are in danger of fainting!
Further, we are assured of the victory beforehand! O what a crown of glory is prepared for every conqueror, which Jesus, the righteous Judge, the gracious Savior—shall place upon every faithful head with His own hand!
So let us not be weary and faint, for in due season we shall reap! The time is short! In a little while, the struggle of indwelling sin, and all the conflicts surrounding us, shall be known no more!
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life! -Revelation 2:10
To the atheist, the conscience is the end product of a long line of evolutionary and social conditioning, so when it bothers them, they are not really guilty of anything. As James Sire puts it, they are really only guilty of guilt. Feelings of guilt are the problem, not a violation of moral principles.
This is why we live in a culture of therapy. The goal is to rid ourselves of the feeling of guilt instead of the guilt itself. Unfortunately, we see this way of thinking finding its way into many churches as sin and the cross of Christ are ignored and replaced with a “Christian” self-help regimen. Our culture only wants good vibes and talk of sin makes us feel bad. All we really need to learn to do is to forgive ourselves. James sire goes on to explain the biggest problem with this approach.
“In a universe where God is dead, people are not guilty of violating a moral law, they are only guilty of guilt, and that is a very serious, for nothing can be done about it. If one had sinned, there might be atonement. If one had broken a law, the lawmaker might forgive the criminal. But if one is only guilty of guilt, there is no way to solve the very personal problem. And that states the case of the nihilist, for no one can avoid acting as if moral values exist and as if there is some bar of justice that measures guilt by objective standards. But there is no bar of justice and we are left not in sin but in guilt. Very serious indeed.”
-James Sire, The Universe Next Door
Churches and “Christian” materials, that neglect sin, guilt, and the atonement, and only focus on the therapeutic, not only fail to help those in need, they lock them into a worldview where forgiveness is unattainable. Even under the name “Christian,” empty deceit can hold sway.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.–Colossians 2:8
Our Lord had no need to undertake the bearing of the cross except to attest and prove his obedience to the Father. But as for us, there are many reasons why we must pass our lives under a continual cross… We readily esteem our virtue above its due measure. And we do not doubt, whatever happens, that against all difficulties it will remain unbroken and unconquered. Hence we are lifted up to stupid and empty confidence in the flesh; and relying on it, we are then insolently proud against God himself, as if our own powers were sufficient without his grace.
He can best restrain this arrogance when he proves to us by experience not only that great incapacity but also the frailty under which we labor. Therefore, he afflicts us either with disgrace or poverty, or bereavement, or disease, or other calamities. Utterly unequal to bearing these, in so far as they touch us, we soon succumb to them. Thus humbled, we learn to call upon His power, which alone makes us stand fast under the weight of afflictions.
-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion-