Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).
February 3, 2015. Today, we will be taking a look at song #13 on the Top 20 Songs at 20theCountdownMagazine website, “Because He Lives (Amen)” by Matt Maher. The song has an anthemic vibe (typical of Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin), a catchy tune, and Matt’s vocals are strong. It is cleverly written to get those who know the Hymn to fill in the gaps in the message automatically. Sadly, for those who don’t know what was conveyed in the hymn, the song doesn’t stand on its own. The hymn didn’t tell the full story (no repentance and a little bit self-focused), but it did a much better job than this song does.
Lyrics (via K-Love)
There is an allusion to the Hymn “Because He Lives“, which is a good song. The best thing about this song by Matt Maher is that it reminds older Christians of that hymn. Unfortunately, if you’ve grown up in contemporary worship… you probably have never heard of that song. I’m thinking this is why Bill & Gloria Gaither are included in the list of writers.
Had I seen the list of 7 writers before seeing the lyrics of the song, I would have been greatly disappointed by the vagueness and brevity of the message of the songs. Such a vague song. Never identifying who the Son is, or the Father. No mention of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This song simply can’t wait to jump to “me”.
The second verse is very odd to me. While we are born dead in sins and transgressions, we aren’t yet in the grave. Before we are regenerated by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we walked in our sin, transgressions, and death. The line “He rolled the stone away” is odd, too, at least in this verse if we are to connect it to our sinful state… are we placing ourselves in the resurrection of Jesus? In the Baptism, we do join (by faith) in His death and resurrection… but is that being properly conveyed here? I don’t think so. I don’t mean to impune the intent the song’s writers, but the brevity of the song and this verse makes clarity tough to achieve. If you cannot be clear with the analogy, either write more verse(s) or dump the analogy and declare the Gospel outright.
I also struggle with the use of the word “Mercy” calling our name. Grace and Mercy are not interchangeable terms in the New Testament. Since this verse is alluding to Ephesians 2, let’s look at the passage.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith
2 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. 4 But 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 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.
So why use “Mercy call my name”? The song doesn’t preach Law or repentance. When we preach Grace, we include the need for the atonement. Society sees “grace” and they think of a temporary reprieve, but the payment is still due. That is fitting; however, in the case of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the payment has already been made. We still need only confess our sinful state and repent from our sins and receive the Grace of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and this we do on a daily basis for as long as we continue living in these sinful bodies. Mercy comes after the judgment, it doesn’t skip it. While I may be splitting hairs a bit, I feel like keeping the terms and concepts of Grace and Mercy in their proper places in Scripture.
The world is eating up the lawless version of God’s love and mercy, and churches are crumbling under the pressure of “church growth” and “seeker sensitivity”. With the recent news of another megachurch declaring unrepentant sexual immorality to be an acceptable lifestyle for Christians, I think of this song being played on the radio or even in the worship service at such a church. Let’s sing about the self-esteem building side of the Gospel without mentioning the Law which identifies sin in our lives. Ultimately, the song is too vague to be given a pass. It’s a somewhat random collection of ideas that point to the Gospel, but they are not articulated well… and I’m comparing it to a short hymn. Did this song really take 7 writers?
Jude 1:20-25 (ESV) 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 24 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, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,