If I Had a Thousand Tongues

Guilt was a raging fire, burning all of me
Leaving only ash scattered in the breeze
Everything I chased was a fantasy
But I loved my chains, and I could not see

Then came Your voice
And it spoke the name of Jesus
For You made the choice
And the Word became
The only power that frees us

If I had a thousand tongues I still couldn’t sing
In a thousand days the praise I should bring
For the thousand ways that you are deserving
Of all my praise-you’re eternally worthy

God of my salvation, God of new creation
You have made a way like only you can do
I am consecrated, I am recreated
I am now made holy, only in You
Only in You, only in You

Wherever sin has grown, Grace is greater still
I cannot escape from my Savior’s will
I won’t feed the lie that my sin has won
I’ve been crucified with the Risen Son

I will lift my voice
And shout the name of Jesus
For You made the choice
And on the cross you gave
The anguish that redeems us

If I had a thousand tongues I still couldn’t sing
In a thousand days the praise I should bring
For the thousand ways that you are deserving
Of all my praise-you’re eternally worthy

God of my salvation, God of new creation
You have made a way like only you can do
I am consecrated, I am recreated
I am now made holy, only in You
Only in You, only in You

You were betrayed and I’m forgiven
You were condemned and I am living
You were denied and I’m acknowledged by Your Word
I pound the nail, and You defend me
I crucify and Your wounds mend me
It is finished-the final words that death has heard

God of my salvation, God of new creation
You have made a way like only you can do
I am consecrated, I am recreated
I am now made holy, only in You

-Eric Scholtens

Edwards: For the Sake of Christ

“When we pray for grace for the sake of Christ, we should intend thereby to desire God to remember that ’twill be to his Son’s joy and happiness; for the bestowment of God’s grace upon us was the joy that was set before him, the reward he expected, that made him cheerfully subject himself to such torments. Our happiness was a thing he really desired, and made an agreement with God about, by which he was to undertake great labors…and the more of us obtain grace, and the more grace and happiness we obtain, the more pleasure and glory doth he enjoy. And therefore ’tis for his sake we may ask of God, for our grace is his joy.”

-Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies, as recorded by Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 313.

Edwards: Totally Dead

“When we say that all men by nature are altogether depraved and corrupted, and without the least grain of true holiness, children of wrath, nothing else can truly be intended but that every man is so of himself, as he is of nature. Nothing else is belonging to us but sin and misery, as we are in Adam; nothing but misery belongs to us according to the first covenant, that we are all under in our first state; and when we are born, nothing else is in us according to the first constitution of things….What he has given him now is according to a new and extraordinary way; ’tis being born again.”

-Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies, as recorded by Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 305.

Born Again

In the wake of all that sin has left destroyed
When the bitterness of guilt became more natural than joy
There is a King and He has come,
And all the darkness begins to fade
For over the grave Jesus has won,
And so begins the light of day, the light of day

We are reborn, the King of new Creation;
The Lord of our salvation is living again
We are reborn in Him who lives forever
And the pain of the death can never,
Ever conquer us for we are born again

When we clung to our own guilt, our lies, and pain
Jesus came into our night to be the life, the truth, the way
He was the Lamb there on the cross
That brought forgiveness and relief
Now out of the grave with all that was lost
He is the risen prince of peace, the risen prince of peace

It’s the end of human hopelessness, the end of desperation
It’s the end of all that’s broken; the beginning of salvation
It’s the promise of eternity; the hope in things we will someday see
And Jesus’ name is death’s humiliation

-Eric Scholtens

Strachan: Appreciating Complexity

The battle over Christmas music is the true culture war of our time. Here is the center of the debate: Can we listen to our favorite songs before December? I know purists on both sides. Personally, I try to resist playing such pieces before the season really kicks off. But there are certain tracks I cannot help but play—they are simply too beautiful. This is true of Handel’s Messiah. Composed in 1741, when Jonathan Edwards was at the peak of his vocation, the Messiah seems to me one of the greatest musical accomplishments of all time.

Whatever one’s precise opinions about the proper beginning of the Christmas season, to hear an orchestra at the height of its performance exhilarates the mind and moves the soul. This is especially true of “very complex tunes.” Most of us do not have a carefully trained ear to appreciate “a great many notes together.” But in heaven, Edwards suggests, we will hear “thousands of different ratios” and so listen to symphonic worship in perfect harmony.

A love for classical music is not a necessity for the Christian faith. But Edwards’s point is worth considering. The Trinity itself directs us to appreciate complexity—a complexity we would not have thought possible. A piece that brings many voices and instruments into harmony speaks to a richness, a depth of experience that transcends the power of even many voices singing one note together. Whatever our exact aesthetic interests in the afterlife, we can know that the praise of Christ in song will exceed by far anything we have heard on earth. Let us prepare ourselves to exalt God. Let us now, whether as professionals or amateurs, sing praise to God—in season or out.

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 309.

Strachan: The Trinity

It is hard to discover the spiritual realm. It is everywhere around us, but we cannot find a physical doorway into it. The way into the knowledge of God is the Word of God. The Word of God not only gives us revelation about spiritual beings, like angels and demons, it also allows us to traverse what Jonathan Edwards calls “glorious inlets” into the Godhead. We learn the very foundation of reality in Scripture: Father, Son, and Spirit. Knowledge of our three-in-one God promises to transform both our faith and our practice.

God is three persons, but God is one. We don’t hop between gods in our prayers. We pray to one God. Unlike the pagans of old, we do not believe that our lives depend on the clash between warring deities. We need not fear that the sea god’s quarrel with the sun god will submarine our life goals. The three persons of the Godhead are not clashing Titans; they are loving colaborers.

All around us, people pick and choose their spirituality. They think they can select a spiritual reality for themselves, and then direct their worship and needs accordingly. But we know this isn’t so. We love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe in unity in diversity because we find it in the Godhead. Some will tell us that our love of the Trinity is foolish, but we have left our foolish speculations behind. The Trinity is fact. The Trinity is truth. The Trinity gives us a foundation to stand on, and a loving, authoritative God to worship. Let us study the Trinity.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 308.

Strachan: Terrible Challenges

We need not find joy in bad circumstances. We should actively despise illness, disunity, conflict, death, and the other evils of a fallen world. Scripture never encourages us to think of the bitter fruits of darkness as good. Indeed, we should pray against these woes. We should seek happy, prosperous lives for our families, We should desire good for our congregations. We should exult when sickness departs and health dawns.

While there is no inherent good in what Jonathan Edwards calls “the miseries of this life,” it is profitable for Christians to contemplate them. This will not prove difficult for us; after all, we must all face trials. God does not withhold adversity from any believer. One way our earthly difficulties benefit us is this: They remind us how “sweet” God’s blessings are. Without any challenges, we would not know how joyous joy is, or how happy happiness is. This is true not only of temporary afflictions, but even of hell itself. How glorious is heaven by contrast!

Some Christians will undergo terrible challenges here on earth. Whether this is true for us or not, we may know that the pain we taste here will only amplify the “heavenly happiness” we will soon enjoy. This does not lead us to give thanks for sickness, unemployment, conflict, or death. It does lead us to give thanks to God, who uses even the worst things to give us the best things. Affliction may seem unending; but truly, the night will not last long. The morning is coming, and it will be all the sweeter for our suffering.

If the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 306.

Strachan: New Birth

Many people have an interest in “where are they now?” stories. That pop singer who once dominated the music business now sells hot peppers by the sea. The linebacker who ruled the middle of the field now carries mail in the suburbs. The classmate who barely said a word in class now has an online business selling handbags, and is a millionaire. We are fascinated by those who have everything, and lose it; and those who have nothing, but gain a great deal.

As Christians,we fall in the second category, praise God. We came into the world without any spiritual goodness to commend us to the Lord. Whatever our material circumstances, Jonathan Edwards reminds us that every last one of us truly gets only spiritual “sin and misery” from our ancestors. There is no way that parents can fail to pass on a “depraved and corrupted” nature to their children. Our families might know prosperity, or we might know poverty, but every child inherits only sin from Mom and Dad. It cannot be otherwise, much as our parents might want to break the curse for their kids.

How good it is to know that God overcomes our “first state.” He gives us a second birth through the Holy Spirit. The way to hell is old and common; the way to God is “new and extraordinary.” We have nothing from birth, but God gives us everything in Christ. It doesn’t matter much which career we enter, or what level of success we achieve in our vocation. The key matter for believers is not where we have been. It is who we are in Christ, and what he enables us to be, today and every day.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 305.

Strachan: Why God Made this Vast Universe

Secular scientists do very well for themselves writing popular books about “the wonder of the universe.” It is a strange thing, this brand of wonder, for it begins in nothingness and terminates in nothingness. There can be no order, no rhythm, no design to being that has no intelligence behind it. Secular “wonder” ends up being little more than interplanetary sightseeing. It’s there; we see it; it looks remarkable; then the show’s over.

God intends for this “great universe,” as Jonathan Edwards labels it, to impress us. God did not make a snow globe. He made “greatness of vast expanse” that exercises nearly “omnipotent power upon the imagination.” But the cosmos is not an end unto itself. When we investigate it, we are witnessing “but the shadows of greatness,” the dust trail of the magnificent being who made all we see and study.

Do not believe the secular myth that the universe came from nothing and is headed to nothing. There is a “vast expanse” beyond us because God is beyond us. There is “immense distance” in front of us because there is no limit to the divine being. There is “prodigious bulk” to observe because God is omnipresent, greater than we can measure. There is “rapid motion” in every millisecond because God is a being of action. The true story of all our exploration is not what appears wondrous to us in our telescope. The true story is about the one who is wondrous, and who made whole galaxies to dazzle us with his “power and wisdom.”

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. (Psalm 29:3-4)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 304.

Strachan: Someone to Help Us

It is a world-shaking experience to have someone stand up for us. I once heard a man named Robert Lewis tell about his son being bullied. When Lewis learned about it, he didnt go on the warpath. Instead, he called a meeting with his son and the bullies. Lewis stood up for his son, telling the other boys that they were not to harm him any longer. This example of fatherly courage has never left my memory.

Without Christ,we have no one to help us. Jesus is the holy man, the warrior King, who does not withhold his assistance. He “stands up” for his church, as Jonathan Edwards spells out. He is an enemy to the enemy of his people; he is a friend to the friendless. Jesus is not only willing to spend time with the bright and the beautiful. He also goes to the destitute, the unpopular, and the desperate. A strong Savior, he lifts them out of the depths; he adopts them as his own by his death and resurrection, and he glorifies them by calling them to dwell with him in heavenly places.

We must sometimes wait for justice. Christ has not completed his deliverance of his people. But do not misunderstand him or underestimate him. Jesus is a warrior. The Father sent him to do violence to the kingdom of darkness, and he will fulfill the mission. He has gone to war on our behalf, and he will engage the devil once more. He will not defeat his foes with chariots or guns or cannons or planes. He will defeat his enemies with a word. What hope, and what encouragement to action, this is for us.

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 303.