Change my heart, O God: Impossible; and frankly silly

Inviting Jesus into your heart.” Where in the Bible does it say that? In the Bible we do indeed see God pouring his love into unregenerated hearts – in the natural, what other kind of heart is there? – but when God regenerates a sinner, this involves no invitation from the sinner to God, but is a unilateral sovereign divine merciful call. It’s called amazing grace.

Paul says the Spirit has been sent into our hearts to cry out “abba father”‘ (Romans 8:28). To be in the spirit, says Paul, is to be in Christ, and to be in Christ is to be in the Spirit. We don’t ask Jesus into our heart – dead hearts can’t invite.

Isaiah, says Martin Luther, calleth heaven his “seat,” and earth his “footstool,” but not his dwelling; therefore, when we long to seek after God, we shall be sure to find him with them that hear and keep his Word, as Christ saith, “He that keepeth my Word, I will come and dwell with him.” (Martin Luther, “Table Talk”). (Inviting Jesus into your aorta: Personal and Mystical Union at the White Horse Inn).

What is Revelation 3:20 about? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” If you think it’s addressed to sinners, it’s not. It’s addressed to Christians – not to the “world” whom Jesus does not pray for (John 17:9). Jesus knocks at the door that he may come to sup, to dwell, to lodge with those “who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28b); those whose hearts Jesus has already changed; in biblical language:  “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

So, if a Christian who has been reconciled to God, justified and saved, is a child of God, what do we make of this song so popular in churches, usually coming after – to change to a more solemn mood – the energetic ones?

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like You.

 

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like You

 

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

 

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

 

A few comments:

Change my heart, O God,

Make it ever true;

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like You.

If you ask God to change your heart, God has changed it already, because you would never want to ask such a question unless you had the desire to do so. Where did your desire originate? Not in you but in God, who  replaced your heart of stone with a heart of flesh. What a Christian should be singing is “strengthen my heart,” in other words strengthen the “inner man,” strengthen my inner being to be more like You.

Ephesians 3

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

You are the Potter,

I am the clay;

Mold me and make me,

This is what I pray

You’d better bet that you’re the clay. The question is do you know what clay does? It lies. It’s a passive lump. I am pretty sure that if you sing this song devoutly, you believe that the Potter looked down the corridors of time and saw that when He would ask you if he could turn you into one of his pots, you would do so. Wrong, because clay, by its very nature, cannot ask the Potter to mould it. Once, however, the Potter has chosen you for one his pots, lo, a miracle: you, clay ass that you once were, get a voice, and now you can ask God to continue to mould you, embellish you, make you more beautiful.

Romans 9

15 “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one” (Romans 9:15b – 25).

Please think about what you sing in church; and if you have thought about it, I pray that you understand what you are praying when you ask God to renew your mind-heart. Stop singing those silly songs, even if the music sends you. Unless you’re happy being mouldy.

“OneCaringJew: I’m thinking of you above all.”

OneDaringJew, it would be nice – and Christian to boot, if you cared more and dared less. Take the way you lash out at the songs we sing in church. You make such a fuss, and never know when to stop. You always say to us “enough alrready with all that sentimental drivel;” now we are saying, we’re pleading, with you, ENUF ALRRRREADY.”

I tell you what, just give me one more time to dare before I do the kind thing and care. You must understand, though; I wasn’t brought up with many social skills – what with orphanage and boarding school and a dysfunctional home. Anyhow bear with me one more time – we can all hope.

Why do so many Christian songs get it wrong? Here’s a song whose music transports me out of this world , and the words are poignantly true about the import of the crucifixion of our precious Lord. But then there’s one bit that goes and spoils it all by turning the crucified’s intention upside down. Here are the words.

Above all powers above all kings 

Above all nature and all created things

Above all wisdom and all the ways of man

You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms above all thrones

Above all wonders the world has ever known

Above all wealth and treasure of the earth

There’s no way to measure what You’re worth

Crucified laid behind a stone

You lived to die rejected and alone

Like a rose trampled on the ground

You took the fall and thought of me

Above all

All the “Above alls” are true except the last one, which the singer liiiiiingers over. 

You took the fall and thought of ME above all.” No, no, no, never. Who did Jesus think of above all? It should be obvious, but like many other passages in the scriptures, many Christians don’t see what is written on the page or spoken, loudly through the voice of the Son:

And speaking in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

I hope the songwriter meant “above all created things,” where “kingdoms” and “wisdom”  refer to man’s kingdoms and wisdom. But this is not clear. There are so many verses in John’s Gospel about Jesus’ relationship to His Father. Jesus’ main concern was to glorify His Father. But if the songwriter is a “unitarian” (God appears in three different modes, and so the Son and the Father are not two distinct persons (chollile “God forbid”) , but merely modes of God), then “above all” could only refer to creation.

Songwriters please be careful of sentimentality, and more important of biblical accuracy. And then I will be more caring.

“According to the Synoptics and Johannine Literature, the ultimate purpose of Christ’s death is to display the glory of God definitively. The Son glorifies the Father by doing the work of the Father, which is to accomplish effectively the salvation of those whom the Father gave him.”

(“For the Glory of the Father and the Salvation of His People: Definite Atonement in the Synoptics and Johannine Literature, MATTHEW S. HARMON.” In David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson. “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her.” Crossway, 2013. .

 

In the trade: The songs Arminians – and Calminians – love to sing

 

 

 

 

In You have won my heart, now I can trade my ashes in for beauty: How one does not come to faith in Christ, I examined the song, “At the foot of the cross.” I examine more closely the lines “You have won my heart” and “Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty,” and show how it exemplifies the Arminian/synergistic view of justification (obtaining a right standing before God).

 

When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith (monergism; mono “alone,” ergos “work”), while the Arminian says that man cooperates (synergism; syn “together,” ergos “work”) with God in that he is ultimately justified (made right with God) only when he turns to God, that is, wills to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates (born again) the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation.(See Calvinism and Arminianism).

 

A “Calminian” is someone who loves the story about the arch of heaven. As the believer approaches, he sees written above the arch, “All are welcome.” He passes through the arch into heaven. He turns around to wave farewell to the sorry stubborn lot who preferred to stay outside, and sees written above the inside of the arch “predestination.” Happy reconciliation.

 

I was in correspondence with a music leader of a church. With his permission, here is the conversation. He initially appears in agreement with my critique of the view I expressed in “At the foot of the cross.”

 

Music leader

 

“So many of the really good songs with good messages still have some dodgy words in them, even some of the hymns. Most modern song writers are not theologians and often words are chosen to fit the rhyme or the flow of the music (one of the reasons I still really love hymns). So do we go with the overarching message of a song and allow for poetic license or do we chuck it out because of a questionable word? I would say that if the incorrect word or words are clearly pointing at incorrect doctrine, chuck it out.” He then begins to tweak his tune and seems to repenting 180 degrees: “Can ‘you’ve won my heart” be interpreted any other way than “I’m giving Him my heart because I’m so impressed?’”

 

“When I was preparing for Ash Wednesday I came upon this verse in Isaiah  “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isa 61:3  KJV). It’s within the context of the passage that Jesus quoted and proclaimed Himself to be the fulfillment of Luke 4:18-21.” “I will give the benefit of the doubt to the possibility that the author of our communion song is referencing to this verse (Isaiah 61:3 previous paragraph), which would mean that her use of the word “trade” is simply alluding to an exchange of one thing for another and not a commercial transaction. I would then go back to my original interpretation of the words “…you have won my heart…”, as referring to Christ winning over sin and death, beating sin and rescuing me from death and not me giving my heart to Him as a prize since He is to be glorified because it was all His work.”

 

Me

 

“If it is understood that only after Jesus takes the heart of stone out of us and replaces it with a new one (like His), and in so doing makes us free to choose him (we choose Him because He first chose us), then “you’ve won my heart” does seem to be acceptable. But, unfortunately it is not understood that way (by the song writers as well as by most who sing it), which is proven by another line in the song (much worse), ‘I have traded…..'”

 

“Theology is nothing more than how we think about scripture. Poetic “license” in how we right our songs has to e faith to the scripture meaning. To play safe, why don’t we just use scripture for our lyrics, because scripture is always right. There are already thousands of beautiful songs that have scripture lyrics. It’s a great eye-opener scrutinising all the fluff on the buff of many of songs of “worship.” Makes one feel like a peeping tom.”

 

End of conversation.

 

The music leader conveys the impression that he has found a solution to what he considers a misunderstanding, and that when seen it the right light, “trade” may not be so bad after all.

 

A few more comments.

 

He is finding it hard to shuck off his Arminian coil, even though he had told me previously that he believes the monergistic doctrine that only after you are born again do you come to believe. The Arminian/synergistic view is (first you make a decision to have) faith then comes regeneration, which flies in the face of Ehesians 2: 1-10:

 

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.But3 God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this (refers to the whole previous chunk, namely, “by grace you have been saved through faith) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (My italics and emphasis).

 

“Dead,” in verse one; is that, I ask, merely “poetic license?” If so, the sinner cannot really be (spiritually) dead but still has enough life in him to blink or wave his limp poetic pinky, which is all that God, philosophy and poetics require for the sinner to retain the imaginary dignity of his free will. Is any “trade-off” possible between “really” dead and “poetically” dead? To answer that question, let’s return to the Arminian “trade.”

 

trade

 

1. the act or process of buying, selling, or exchanging commodities, at either wholesale or retail, within a country or between countries: domestic trade; foreign trade. 2. a purchase or sale; business deal or transaction. 3. an exchange of items, usually without payment of money.

 

The songwriter obviously has basic interpersonal communicative English skills, and thus should know what “trade” means. If so, how to explain the use of this inappropriate term in the song? It’s pretty obvious; she thinks like an Arminian and, being consistent, writes songs like an Arminian. I suggest she knew exactly what she was conveying, namely, an exchange effected ultimately by herself (God has voted for you, the devil against you, and you have the final vote).  What, though, does the Bible say? God didn’t traded anything, neither did (could) I. This, however, does not mean that I did not accept Jesus, but merely  that I did so only after God raised me from the dead and made me free to do so. The Arminian position is “God I accept your offer.”

 

On the monergistic view, therefore, there is everything wrong with “I traded.” Keep in mind that we are talking about justification (our “standing” before God), which is conditional on regeneration, faith, and repentance, in that logical order (which occur simultaneously). The dead “I” cannot be involved because it is unable to lift a darning finger or to reverse the lethal damage of the Fall. And this reversal is what justification is all about (as Martyn Lloyd Jones makes so clear in his teaching on Ephesians). Nor can there be any trade – a cooperative transaction. Justification is a unilateral divine sovereign act of love; a pure gift; like winning a lottery, but only better, because it’s rigged for you to win – big time. Also, you don’t need to buy a ticket, and more; your prize is far greater than your money or your life –

 

Or my wife. (“I’ll see you afterwards!”).

 

 

 

Worship and Wordship: What songs shall we sing in Church?

This is a follow-on from “You have won my heart, now I can trade my ashes in for beauty: How one does not come to faith in Christ.”

Here is a message I received from someone who leads the singing in his church. The specific song in question is “At the foot of the cross (Ashes for beauty).”

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received

And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death You bore for me

He says:

“On going through my music I have found a number of songs in my repertoire with the words ‘you’ve won my heart.’ So many of the really good songs with good messages still have some dodgy words in them, even some of the hymns. Most modern song writers are not theologians and often words are chosen to fit the rhyme or the flow of the music (one of the reasons I still really love hymns). My repertoire is getting smaller and smaller which is probably a good thing.”

“So do we go with the overuling message of a song and allow for poetic licence or do we chuck it out for a questionable word? I would say that if the incorrect word or words are clearly pointing at incorrect doctrine, chuck it out. Can ‘you’ve won my heart’ be interpreted any other way than ‘I’m giving Him my heart because I’m so impressed?'”

I publish my reply to him (with his permission).

If it is understood that only after Jesus takes the heart of stone out of us and replaces it with a new one (like His), and in so doing makes us free to choose him (we choose Him because He first chose us), then “you’ve won my heart” does seem ok. But, unfortunately it is not understood that way (by the song writers as well most who sing it), which is proven by another line in the song (much worse), “I have traded these ashes for beauty.”

Not at all. I can trade nothing. If anyone thinks that some kind of transaction is going on between himself and his Saviour, he’s in the wrong business.

You say most song writers are not theologians. Theology, however, is nothing more than how we think about scripture. Most professing Christians don’t want to think about scripture. That’s what they pay the pastor for.

Your “Poetic “licence”: whether it be in songs or sermons, poetic licence is tantamount to biblical licentiousness.

Scripture is always right. There are many beautiful songs that have scriptural lyrics.

It’s a great eye-opener peeping at all the fluff on the buff of much that is called worship. Start with WORDSHIP and you can’t go wrong.