By not being saved until my early thirties, I see that despite whether it was before or after my spiritual regeneration, I have always been one of God’s precious elect (Eph 1.4), and during my long journey to the moment of justification He worked actively for years to lead me to my life’s most significant event. It is crystal clear to me that God used a variety of people (primarily my wife, Katie and my good friend, Bryan Rhoden), events, miserable failures, and even music to draw me to Himself (John 6.44).
I had made an intellectual assent to the truths of the Gospel over a decade prior to my conversion, but I stumbled for years upon years with surrendering to Christ. What’s scary is that for most of those years I had convinced myself that the intellectual assent was enough, not realizing what I blindly lacked was spiritual and internal. The understanding of what it means to be free from the bondage of sin and to become a slave to righteousness (Rom 6.17-18) had alluded me.
In the last few years leading up to my conversion God mightily used the worship music at my local church, Scott’s Hill Baptist, to soften my cold, hard, intellectual heart. In most cases, it was the simplicity of the truths in the lyrics that began breaking down psychological barriers in my heart and mind. I had been over-thinking God for years–focusing on the concept of Jesus, rather than the person of Jesus.
This is not saying that music was the foundation of my effectual calling, rather it played a significant role. Jesus Christ paid the price for my justification (Col 2.13-14). The Word of God convicted me of sin (Acts 16.14, Heb 4.12). The Holy Spirit regenerated my heart (Ti 3.5). Now, my life is being sanctified through the Holy Spirit’s work (1 Peter 1.2). These truths are the lifeblood of genuine conversion.
The Songs (in no particular order)
Most of these songs were instrumental in bringing me to the Savior but a few were used as part of my early sanctification.
My original intentions were to write how each of these songs affected me prior to salvation, but I found that as I wrote, I couldn’t help but discuss them from this side of justification. The teachings within these songs flooded into my life during my awakening and even though I’ve written them below from a post-salvation perspective, they were all weighing heavy on my heart, and my need for them to become my reality was exposed by the Word of God.
1. Grace So Glorious by Elevation Worship
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MVM4ss9OFo” title=”grace-so-glorious-elevation-worship”]
Favorite Lyrics: “Immortal day the veil was torn; When mercy donned a crown of thorns; As law gave way to liberty; And freedom for humanity; With a grace so glorious…Crowned in glory to glory; Worthy is the Lord Of all the glory forever; Holy is the Lord.”
Biblical Relevance: Ephesians 1.6-8 says, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”
Personal Relevance: This is quite possibly my favorite song ever. It has everything from solid soteriology to a proper view of God’s holiness. And for those of you who enjoy hymns, it’s written in a stanza/refrain format. God used this song mightily in my life to not only show me how great He is, but to reveal the unfathomable depths of what He accomplished for me. My Savior, crowned in glory, truly bestowed on me a grace so glorious, and it has saved me from my sin.
2. Blessed Be the Name of the Lord by Tree63
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgOwc2kN-3I” title=”Blessed-be-the-name-of-the-Lord”]
Favorite Lyrics: “You give and take away, you give and take away…Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Biblical Relevance: This song is taken straight out of Job 1.21 where Job, in the midst of a turmoil many of us will never experience cries out, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Personal Relevance: My road to regeneration was one full of trials, failures, and significant losses, many of which were of my own doing. To look at Job, who in his righteous suffering was still able to say, “Blessed is the name of the Lord,” put all of my trials in perspective. My circumstances should never dictate my response to God. And as a side note, I often put a slight change to the lyrics when singing it, “You give and take away, you take away and give.” This is not the prosperity gospel where if I give $10 I get $1000 in return–what I’m writing about are spiritual blessings beyond what we could experience without suffering. So yes, sometimes God strips us of our worldly clout, but He often gives back so much more in eternal value.
3. It is Well by Todd Fields (and Horatio Spafford)
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtETJU5FV40″ title=”It-is-Well-With-My-Soul”]
- It is well, it is well; through the storm I am held; It is well, it is well with my soul
- My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought; My sin, not in part but the whole; Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul
- God has won, Christ prevailed; It is well, it is well with my soul
Biblical Relevance: Jude 1.24 says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” Just like Peter (Lk 22.31-32), our faith can be tested but true saving faith will never fail. Colossians 2.13-14 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Personal Relevance: I spent so many years of my life going through failure after failure after failure: moral failure, career failure, and failure at life in general. When I surrendered my intellect, my emotions, and my will to Jesus Christ, I received a faith that would never fail. And this isn’t to say that earthly failures won’t still come my way through suffering and persecution, but I can now rejoice when I sing, “It is Well” because it truly is. I know I will be sustained and my faith will endure whatever this world throws at me. Who wouldn’t want that kind of peace?
4. Our God by Chris Tomlin
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01Yj7H-eSjM” title=”our-God”]
Favorite Lyrics: “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us. And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.”
Biblical Relevance: In Romans 8.31, 38 Paul writes, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Personal Relevance: With this song, as good as the lyrics are, it was more about the joy I saw on the faces of genuine believers as they worshiped through this song. It was apparent to me that they had something I didn’t. I was pretending, and this song helped bring that to light.When you sing this song, you can’t help but to sing out what you truly believe.
5. One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TItyYhfwClM” title=”one-thing-remains-your-love-never-fails”]
Favorite Lyrics: “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…Its stronger than the power of the grave, and constant in the trial and the change…My debt is paid! There’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love.”
Biblical Relevance: In Romans 8.38-39 Paul writes, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Personal Relevance: God’s love remains constant. Just as with a parent to a child, that love may serve many purposes such as discipline, comfort, protection, and foresight, but it never changes and it never fails. I realize our church culture puts a lot of emphasis on God’s love and often times His other attributes are forgotten, but that doesn’t make His love any less real to the genuine believer. I know that because I am in Christ, I can rest in knowing that everything I encounter, in this life and the next, is because of God’s unchanging love for me.
6. Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOkImV2cJDg” title=”whom-shall-i-fear-god-of-angel-armies”]
Favorite Lyrics: “The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine, the God of angel armies is always by my side.”
Biblical Relevance: Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26.52-53)? The author of Hebrews writes in 13.5, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
Personal Relevance: The word used for “leave” in Hebrews 13.5 is not the typical word used to reference the proximity of one thing to another–it’s more than that. The word used here means to uphold or sustain. I brought so many failures with me to the cross–utter and complete failures, I was face-down in filth. To know that I now serve a Savior, who commands the entire universe–armies of angels included, who will never again let me completely fail is a life-changing realization. Thank God He finally showed me that reality.
7. Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6smGew7dGto” title=”clear-the-stage”]
Favorite Lyrics: “Anything I put before my God is an idol. Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol. Anything that I give all my love is an idol.”
Biblical Relevance: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20.3).
Personal Relevance: This song came out about a year or so after my conversion and it is one of the most underrated worship songs out there (not to mention the video is fantastic). I can’t believe all the people I talk to you have never heard this song. During the time of its release I had begun to do what Dr. Harris talks about when he speaks of “cleaning out one room at a time” in regards to conquering and putting away sin in our lives.
I was cleaning house, so to speak, and I was focusing hard on one specific area at a time. This song gave me an understandable definition of an idol. I have had plenty of idols in my life–believe me on that one; but for the first time ever, I didn’t want them in my life. This song helped put idols in perspective for me and gave me some great house cleaning questions to ask about the the “things” in my life.
8. Mighty to Save by Jeremy Camp
[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVeQoHdIDEE” title=”Mighty-to-Save”]
Favorite Lyrics: Savior he can move the mountains; My God is mighty to save; He is mighty to save; Forever author of salvation; He rose and conquered the grave; Jesus conquered the grave
Biblical Relevance: God’s power in salvation is found in Ephesians 2.4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Romans 6.9 says, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” This is just one of many Scripture references to Christ’s victory over the grave. See also 1 Corinthians 15.55-57 and 2 Timothy 1.8-10.
Personal Relevance: This song became a favorite of mine in the year immediately following my conversion. Prior to salvation I had been around church my entire life and even had a bachelors degree in Biblical studies so I came into salvation with an above-average “knowledge” of the Scriptures compared to most new Christians. But one thing I never understood until that day (and the weeks following) was the incredible power it takes to bring a dead, rotting, husk of a soul to life. God cupped my lifeless spiritual heart in His hands, a heart that was defective from birth, a heart that had never pumped a drop of spiritual life to any of my other faculties, and he took that heart and with the kindest and gentlest of squeezes, brought it to life for the very first time.
Beloved, that is power! And if our God is powerful enough to breathe life into the decaying–into spiritual zombies, then he is far powerful enough to deal with any of our worries. If you’ve experienced that power in your life, trust it in everything–it is the greatest personal assurance you can have.