At the Cross (Joy Made Full)

An original worship song inspired by the hymn At the Cross by Isaac Watts and Ralph Erskine Hudson.

At the Cross (Joy Made Full)
Words and music by Isaac Watts, Ralph E. Hudson, Tim Northup

Who was that man upon the cross
Was He the King, the Saving One
Promised to come, to pay the cross
The sinner’s debt, with His own blood

Was it for crimes that were my own
He hung upon that cross alone
The greatest love, a grace unknown
That He should die the death I owed

At the cross I saw Heaven’s Light
Roll away the burden on my soul
There by faith I received my sight
Looking to the Son, my joy made full
Oh God

His spirit groaned and darkness came
Death carried Him to sin’s domain
But death could not the Son contain
He rose again up from the grave

At the cross I saw Heaven’s Light
Roll away the burden on my soul
There by faith I received my sight
Looking to the Son, my joy made full

At the cross I saw Heaven’s Light
Roll away the burden on my soul
There by faith I received my sight
Looking to the Son, my joy made full

At the cross I saw Heaven’s Light
Roll away the burden on my soul
There by faith I received my sight
Looking to the Son, my joy made full
Oh God

Looking to the Son, my joy made full
Oh God

 

Made In God’s Image

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:26-27, NKJV)

Every human has within their heart a deep, subconscious longing for eternity. The Scriptures declare that God made each and every human being in His own image—the image of the eternal God. Just a few verses later we read that God intended for the man and woman to live in the Garden, watching over and caring for the animals (Gen 1:28) and cultivating the ground (Gen 2:15), without any contract or conditions for that work to end. And in Genesis 3 we read that when the man and woman sinned against God, only then did God cast them out of that Garden, and one reason is so they could not eat from the tree of life and live forever (Gen 3:22-23).

Science says that humans are animals. They say this based on a combination of observable physical traits, biological drives, social norms, and genetic information. I don’t challenge those observations. But who developed the classifications? Humans. Which means those classifications are only as valid as the finite empirical evidence and soundness of logic from which those classifications are deduced.

Consider the following questions: where in the animal kingdom do we see groups of animals forming councils, writing constitutions, debating laws, and arguing about money? Where in the animal kingdom do we see groups of animals building hospitals, forming rescue services, and pursuing justice and equality? Where in the animal kingdom do we see groups of animals erecting exclusive boundaries, hoarding natural resources, exploiting the labor of others, and killing for any reason other than basic sustenance or debilitating sickness?

All of those things, good or bad, are uniquely human things. None of those things are animal things. Clearly, there is something unique about humanity, something not shared by any other living creature on the planet. What is it that makes humans uniquely human? It is that image of the eternal God written on our hearts, breathed into us by the eternal God Himself (Gen 2:7).

The Gospel of John explains the image of God in terms of light. Concerning Jesus, John wrote,

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men… That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world (John 1:4, 9).

Why did Jesus come? To bring the light into existence? No—the light already existed in Him. Jesus came to bring light to humankind. You see, every human has a darkness residing deep within their heart called sin. Sin is anything we do or don’t do that doesn’t line up with the standard of goodness defined by the attributes and actions of God. Humankind’s sinful rebellion against God began in the Garden when Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God and they rejected the instructions He gave them about what not to eat. And we see the outworking of that sin throughout human history in every evil action ever committed by humans. Humanism says people are basically good. However, history begs to differ, demonstrating time and time again how utter depraved the human race is when left to its own governance.

So, what are we to do with this desperate, unfulfilled longing for eternity? Go to Jesus. God loves us so much that, though we are sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). And his death on the cross paid the price of atonement for our sins with His blood. Not just once and having to be repeated annually, as the Old Testament rituals required, but once-for-all, as the Old Testament rituals looked forward to, finding their fulfillment in Christ.

For believers, our longing for eternity is satisfied in Jesus Christ. Because, as the Scriptures promise, when we believe in Him, we find life in His name (John 20:31).

In Everything Give Thanks

thankfulness.jpg

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for You. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NJKV)

The ancient city of Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman province Macedonia, making it a hotspot for Roman travel, trade, politics, and religion in the region. And when Paul preached in Thessalonica, he quickly encountered much hostility from local non-believers. After Paul left, the Thessalonians continued to experience similar hostility and persecution in the city. Against this backdrop of hostile daily life, we read Paul’s isntructions to the Thessalonian church.

Confession time. When God lets my life get uncomfortable, I get upset. Personally, my issue is anger. When life starts piling on the difficulties, even the small annoyances that I can usually shake off feel like red-hot iron pokers burning away sanity.

Maybe you’re like me and your issue is anger. Or maybe your struggle is with discouragement, doubt, and despair. Or, perhaps, when life closes in around you, you detach from the world and run away. Whatever your response, all of us at various times experience the pressures of life weighing heavily on us.

But imagine being a Thessalonian believer. You’re living in the center of a pagan world that worships their gods with gluttonous parties, drunkenness, wild orgies, and so forth. As a Thessalonian, you used to do those things, too. But now, as a believer in Jesus, He has set you free from those lifestyles of sin and you don’t do those things anymore. But your old friends aren’t ok with that. They won’t sell you food, clothes, or other necessities. They won’t socialize with you anymore. And if you start telling them about Jesus, they literally drag you and your family out of your house and beat you.

As a Thessalonian, your first pastor, Paul, and his ministry team were forced out of town by such hostility. But he has heard about your struggles and he has written you a letter, encouraging you to give thanks in everything. How absurd!

But Paul doesn’t say, “rise up and slaughter the offenders,” or “take them to court and squeeze every penny from them,” or “run for office and force Christian morals on society.” Those are the methods of men. They’re not our mission from God.

God’s will for us is to let Him transform our hearts and minds into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s mission for us is to go out, into all the unbelieving world, preaching the gospel and making disciples of the nations. Both God’s will and God’s mission require us to remember the single most important fact of every believer’s existence:

Jesus Christ died for our sins, saved us from death, and gives us eternal life.

It is this reality that enables us and impels us to be thankful at all times, in all things. One author explains the situation this way,

[Remember] Rom. 8:28, [how] all of which cooperate for good to God’s children and thus call forth our thanks to God. We need to learn this secret of the happy Christian life—thankfulness. If everything actually conspires to do us good, how can we do otherwise than always rejoice? [1]

Our thankfulness is not based on external circumstances. It flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we begin looking at life through the lens of salvation, we see God working through the hardship in this life to make us holy. That holiness grows in us, making us more like Jesus, focusing our hearts toward heaven, filling us with joy, and turning our frowns upside down.


[1] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937), 358.