A Bad Hymn
Every so often, the discussion will reemerge about how there is bad theology in many of the praise songs used by the modern church. It’s true. There is. Yet, the same can be said for some of the most beloved hymns in more traditionally structured churches.
Consider the “theology” from this hymn:
I’m satisfied with just a cottage below.
A little silver, and a little gold.
BUT . . . in that city where the ransomed will shine . . .
I want a GOLD one that’s SILVER LINED!!
How pathetically materialistic and narcissistic. Later, the same hymn insists, “I want a MANSION, a ROBE, and a CROWN!!” It’s horrific.
Another hymn, one my mother loved and one that sounded good to me as a kid until I actually thought it through, is titled, “He Lives.” It did not take me long to realize that the subjective nature of the hymn’s message invalidated the very thing it was attempting to assert.
The core assertion of the hymn “He Lives” is exactly that. Jesus lives and he is active in myriad ways, doing this and that, leading me here and there, walking with me and talking with me. The hymn posits the question, “How do I know these things?”
“You ask me how I know he lives. He lives within my heart.”
Despite the sweet melody and the spiritual-sounding lyric, such subjective logic or reasoning is not how we know Jesus lives.
A Better Line of Reasoning
The apostle Peter exhorts us to be prepared at all times to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that lies within us.1 Saying, “Well, I just know … I just feel it in my heart,” is not a satisfying answer. Indeed, it is one of the worst responses we can possibly offer, as Jeremiah says the heart is deceitful above all things.2 We would be foolish to embrace any concept on which our eternity depends simply because another person feels it in their heart.
If you ask me how I know he lives, I’ll tell you it is because the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is an objective fact of human history. This reality holds true regardless of what you, or I, or anyone else feels about it. After three days Jesus rose from the grave and presented himself for forty days, offering proofs and speaking of God’s kingdom.3
Just from the recordings in scripture, we know of numerous post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, appearances with credible witnesses who were willing to surrender their lives rather than recant the truth of what they saw. These witnesses range in number from a single person, to pairs of people, to dozens, to over five hundred at one time.4 He is, at this moment, seated at the right hand of the Father,5 and it is from there that he lives and makes intercession for us.6
How does that reality produce a “hope that lies within me?”
I believe it is because of one of the most beautiful things that fell from Jesus lips, when he said, “Because I live, you shall live.”7 The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of my own resurrection. Jesus conquered death, and through his victory, I will conquer death as well.
…in Christ shall all be made alive.
– 1 Corinthians 15:22b, ESV
My Resurrection and Yours
Having established the fact of Jesus resurrection, the apostle Paul turns his attention to the resurrection of the Christ-follower. Read his words and let that “hope that lies within you” blossom!
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
– 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, ESV
…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
– 1 Corinthians 15:52-55, ESV
Christ is raised from the dead, and it through his resurrection that we are justified, made righteous, having conferred upon us the gift of eternal life, life to be lived in the glorious presence of the one who created all that exists with the breath of his voice. In this, we are at peace with the one against whom we made war with our sinfulness.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Romans 5:1, ESV
The resurrection of Jesus is the core, the hub of the Christ-follower’s faith. Without it, we are lost, liars, losers.8 But with it, we are super-conquerors,9 made new in the likeness of Christ.10 We are buried with Jesus in baptism so that just as he was raised from the dead, we too can walk in newness of life.11
This is not theological wordplay. This is a call to embrace the reality of what has happened to us. We have “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”12 It is the new self, the self that is raised with Christ with the new mind and new passions, that “seeks first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.”13
1. 1 Peter 3:15
2. Jeremiah 17:9
3. Acts 1:3
4. Matthew 28:8-10
5. Romans 8:34
6. Hebrews 7:25
7. John 14:19
8. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
9. Romans 8:37
10. Colossians 3;10
11. Romans 6:4
12. Ephesians 4:24
13. Matthew 6:33