This will be the first hymn I have done this year that isn’t a traditional hymn, and more of a modern hymn. I haven’t done one yet to drive a point home! So many Christians now-a-days think that traditional, older hymns are boring – or out-of-date. But they are so beautiful, so well thought out, and so deep. Praise and worship songs are, in many ways, today’s answer to a new style. However, I want to be purposeful in showcasing the older hymns. So, let’s look at “In Christ Alone.”
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
One of the reasons I like this song so much is that it again speaks as a sermon in, and of, itself. That is the beauty of hymns, when written expertly, speak to a deeper truth than the words themselves. When we sing hymns, or songs, often times we simply follow the tune and rhythm. A good song follows a story, it draws you into it’s truth. A good hymn speaks words of truth – of the Truth. In Christ Alone brings us along through the life of Christ, the One who came to take away our sins!
Throughout the entire song we hear the words of the title, “in Christ alone.” It is a mantra reminding us what the foundation of our faith is. It isn’t our work. It isn’t our repentance. Not our prayers, or desires. It isn’t how good – or bad – we are. It isn’t us working along with God. It is not some kind of cooperative work that gets our salvation worked out. No – it is in Christ alone. In Him alone do we find the power. The imagery is biblical, the words emotive – it brings a little more light to the awesome might, and amazing Will of our Lord and Savior.
I am a bit of a theology nerd (Adam 4D: theology nerd) and this song touches on a number of profound theological truths that you may not register at first. Historically, the Truths that we take as obvious about Christ and the faith have not always been so. For instance, the Truth that Christ was 100% God, and yet 100% man was settled, in part, during the Council of Ephesus (431AD). “Christ, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe…” It is this Christ that could die a perfectly sinless life (as 100% God), while also providing the perfect atoning sacrifice for a sinful man (100% human). He was a true gift of Love, and pure righteousness. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…” Many read this to be an emphatic expression of God’s care for the world. I think it can be more explicitly read as “in this way, God showed His love for the world, that He gave His one and only Son.” In this way meaning as a man, as a servant, as a perfect example of what God called His people to be. This Jesus took on flesh, to die a perfect absolution for His people – His called people.
And yet… this sacrifice… this willing sacrifice… He was scorned, shamed, hated for His words… hated for His miracles… As another hymn laments, “ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” This was the life He came to lead. He knew what He was getting into – He had seen this day from the inception of all days. Yet, even after all the misdirected hatred, even after the betrayal… after the abandonment of His closest disciples… after the whipping, and the mocking… after the nails… after the excruciating and indescribable pain… After all of that, He never once used a fraction of His power to call down even the smallest legion of angels to rescue Him. He took the sins of His chosen upon Himself… and He exclaimed “it is finished.”
One of my favorite things to do is to connect a text to readers in a way that many may not know. Take the phrase “it is finished” for instance. We read this and think, “yea, it is here that Christ has finished His duty to save us. He is letting those in attendance to His death see that He has finally died.” But no, there is more to that phrase. Remember that this event happened in history. It happened with language – real language – and real people who lived in a real time in history with cultural context. The Greek words used to recall Christ’s final words would have been very common to the reader of the time. They were used on a constant basis in the court room. They described a full payment. A debt was owed, and Jesus just exclaimed that that had been paid in full. Full restitution had been made… Just let that sink in… Christ was literally telling the Gospel. He was the very first to proclaim it! The Good News was proclaimed by that News that the Gospel is speaking of!
But the song, and the history books, don’t end there! The ground could not hold Jesus. Not even close. While His body would be laid there for a time – He bursts forth into a new day, a new dawn! Sin has lost its sting! Sin has lost its grip on the elect of God. It is but a memory. It may always tug at our flesh – but it has no real grip anymore. Christ has now brought in the beginning of the Kingdom of God. We now live in the time of the “already and not yet.” Christ’s reign has begun on earth, but its culmination has not yet come. But we are seeing glimpses. We have His Word recorded – and sustained through His power for millennium! We have the Spirit – Who attests to Him and His work in the world and on the Cross! We have Christ, a risen and living Christ – who intercedes for us at the right hand of God! Honestly, what else do we need??
Now finally… we reach that glorious last verse… If this verse doesn’t shoot right through you in an inexplicable joy, then I don’t know what will!
No guilt in life…
No fear in death…
THIS… this… is the power of Christ in me…
From life’s first cry to final breath… Jesus commands
NO power of hell…
NO scheme of man…
Shall EVER pluck me
from His hand…
Until He returns, OR
Calls me home…. HERE
In the power of Christ
You cannot put this truth into better words. You cannot explain this joy with a better phrasing. You cannot show such power with a better image. Let me finish tonight with a question. It is a question that I must admit I don’t ask myself enough – but it is an important question that should shape our day-to-day lives. Do we live like this is true? Do I live a life that seeks a foundation in Christ alone?
When I wake up to a screaming kid, or a barking dog, do I praise God?
“He is my light, my strength, my song!”
When I am getting ready for my day – whether it be one of work, or one of relaxation, do I preach this gospel to myself?
“And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me!”
When trials assail you from the left and right. When the world piles annoyances, temptations, frustrating coworkers, irritating situations, loud children, and so much more… do I remind myself that God is eternally in control?
“No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand!”
When all seems lost – when we lose that one we love – do we sing the truth of His sacrifice to ourselves, to our friends, to our family?
“Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand!”
Brothers and sisters. This is what we are called to every day. To live each day as for Christ, not for yourself. Not for your boss. Not even for your family. When every day is lived for Christ, then every day is lived to it’s fullest. Amen?