It’s high time for the church to get back to basics.
Our Presbyterian friends – not from one of the more conservative branches – decided to exclude “In Christ Alone” from their new hymnal. Here’s what went down. The hymnal committee asked the song’s authors if they could take out a very offensive line: ‘Til on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. Here’s what the committee proposed: ‘Til on the cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified. We’ll give them ten points for rhyming, but beyond that their proposition was a bust. It represents a very disturbing trend. (Thankfully, the songwriters didn’t budge.) And don’t be too smug, all you fellow Baptists out there. We tend to jump on the same trains – just a little later than the mainline folks.
The committee chair explained that the “view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger” would communicate the wrong message about Christ’s death. It might scare people. It might be perceived as old-fashioned or even gross. Maybe the chair should read Romans 3:21-26. We would all agree with the claim that God’s love was magnified on Christ’s cross, but any attempt to separate God’s love from God’s justice strikes offensively at the heart of the gospel itself.
“Calm down, Pastor Charles,” you may be thinking. Here’s why I can’t. I just left our FBC Preschool Thanksgiving Feast. (I hope you’re blessed by these photos of Harper Orr, Caleb Phillips and their classmates.) The sounds of all those children singing were the sweetest sounds I’ve heard today, and – as I looked into their faces – I realized that you and I have a most holy obligation to keep gospel truth alive for their generation. It’s that simple. We must not lose the power and wonder of the cross.
Our Christian and Biblical heritage includes a lively commitment to what the Protestant Reformers called “Solus Christus” – Christ alone! Here’s what I think they meant by that: A. Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. (Jesus is the Christ!) B. Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of human history. All salvation – before and after Calvary – was accomplished only through the meritorious work of our Lord Jesus on the cross. C. Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord! Christ is the object of our faith. And that is why our faith matters at all – it is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The cross must be beautiful to us, because Jesus made it clear (John 14:6): “I am THE way, and the TRUTH, and THE life!”
What will happen if we cave on the cross? What will we serve up for these children who are looking to us for the truth of Christ alone?
- We will affirm for them what the wider culture already affirms: There really are no absolutes. There really is no truth to be found.
- We will help them exchange the only real joy that can ever be found for a pursuit of immediate gratification that can never be satisfied.
- We will give them free reign to make up their own belief system, and to live according to the impulse of the moment.
- We will spur them on to think more of personal satisfaction than genuine faithfulness.
- We will tell them that their lives are accidents, and that there really is no God who rules and reigns.
In a nutshell, we will rob our children of their only hope.
Unless that sounds like a good plan to you, I urge you to join me in keeping “Christ Alone” very much alive in and through the preaching and ministries of this great congregation. I’m thankful for you as a partner to that end.