DiM | “The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson

Presentation1CCM Edition.

July 14, 2017. Today we’ll be taking a look at “The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson which currently sits at #17 on 20TheCountdownMagazine but was requested by a reader, so I thought we’d cover 2 songs this week.

Musically, this song is very well done. Lyrically… it has an odd way of talking about the Gospel without actually sharing the Gospel. Quite frustrating. The target audience is unclear, so for someone who already has a clear understanding of distinguishing Law and Gospel, it can be given a best-construction that serves as a reminder to rightly distinguish between law and Gospel. Outside of that, it’s a vague appeal to something called “the Gospel” but could be used by any church of any denomination to define what that Gospel is. I don’t like that kind of vagueness. Listen with discernment.

Official Lyric Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTdFEZhjiko]

Lyrics (via YouTube)

A restless generation, we’re turning over every stone
Hoping to find salvation in a world that’s left us cold
Can we get back to the altar, back to the arms of our first love?
There’s only one way to the father and he’s calling out to us

To the captive it looks like freedom
To the orphan it feels like home
To the skeptic it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the Gospel that makes a way

It’s the cure for our condition, it’s the good news for us all It’s greater than religion,
it’s the power of the cross
So can we get back to the altar, back to the arms of our first love?
There’s only one way to the father and he’s calling out to us

To the captive it looks like freedom
To the orphan it feels like home
To the skeptic it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the Gospel that makes a way

In my own life it means forgiveness, when I know I deserved the fall
It called me out of my darkness, and carried me to the cross
In a moment my eyes were opened, in that moment my heart was changed
Like a blinding light in the dead of night it’s the gospel

To the captive it looks like freedom
To the orphan it feels like home
To the skeptic it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the gospel that makes a way

Lyric video directed by Tanner Johnston. Creative Direction by Brad Moist. Music produced & mixed by Bryan Fowler for Fabmusic. Mastered by Ambient Digital. Written by Ryan Stevenson, Bryan Fowler & Toby McKeehan. Spoken word passage written by Baxter Kruger from the book Patmos. ©2017 Gotee Records, Inc.

Discussion

As mentioned earlier, I’m confused as to whom this song is being targeted. Is it for the unbeliever? Is it for the believer who has doubt or has been led astray? Is it for the believer who isn’t sure how to help his/her neighbor? I think this last category is probably where we can force the song and give it a best possible construction, but that is us working meaning into the song. Overall, as long as we are providing the right definition of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually is, what this song says is fairly good despite being oddly worded in a few places. Let’s work through the song’s lyric.

Verse 1. So, the first 2 lines suggest the target audience is “seekers”, unbelievers supposedly looking for salvation. But the reference to returning back to the altar and the arms of our first love suggests it might be pulling from the Christ’s message to the church in Ephesus, “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:2-7 ESV). So, this language of returning to the altar seems to be aiming at making a sacrament of the whole “altar call” thing of Finneyism. Either come to the front to “accept Jesus into your heart” or come to the front to “rededicate your hearts to God”… it’s not found in Scripture. I’d much rather view this as a call to the Lord’s Supper, where we eat and drink the Gospel.

Chorus. Here’s where we get some of the odd coded references to the Gospel. It’s set up to say that the Gospel sets captives free, and it does but not as something apart from Christ. The “Gospel” is the “Good News” of what Christ has done for us. So, yes, He has set us captives free, He  has purchased us with His blood adopting us into His Kingdom/Household. Christ has done all of this for us, and this is the Gospel. I really don’t like the sanitizing of the state of our sin. It serves only to undercut the Law and in doing so it dims the brightness of the Gospel. We aren’t merely suffering from “broken hearts” or “in a mess” we are wretched.

Verse 2. It’s the cure for my condition… yes it is. The song hasn’t made that condition clear. The condition is dead. We are dead in sins, condemned under the Law. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He has brought us to life by His Grace through Faith in Him.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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— 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. 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—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Also, can we please stop falsely pitting the Gospel against Religion? Stop it. Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. Our worship and our doctrine is tied up to the Word of God and that is true Religion. False religion is the problem, the religion of the old Adam (sinful man) fueled by the temptations of the doctrine of demons, “did God really say”. Every form of this “not religion but _____” cliché needs to die.

Verse 3. In my own life it means forgiveness? Forgiveness of sins is the central point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It’s the point of the Gospel for the whole world, though not all will believe it.

John 1:29-34 (ESV) The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John 3:16-20 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

The same with the reference to “my darkness”. I’m not a fan of this subjective treatment of sin, it leaves too much room for dumbing down the problem to only an emotional/temporal concern rather than an eternal one.

Conclusion

I was very hard on some of the elements of this song, but overall I still think it is salvageable at least for easy listening. Discernment is key here, especially since we have another example of talking about the greatness of this thing we call “the Gospel” without clearly proclaiming Law and Gospel. I’m tired of muting of sin as “mistakes” or “a mess” that we see in these popular songs. It’s been the norm for so long, I really don’t fault these guys individually for making these errors in malice.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t rely on folks knowing what the Gospel is when attempting to teach the Gospel. Learn to articulate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I’ve failed in sharing how that is done from Scriptures, do let me know.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

 

One thought on “DiM | “The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson

  1. I still find his subtly spoken lines in the middle of the song misleading, “You don’t have to receive Christ, He’s already received you.” (My paraphrase). I like the rest of the song but he is allowing the unknowing listener to believe he/she’s OK. It leans toward a degree of universalism which goes along with many popular media targeted at Christians and Christ seekers that sells them short. Minimally, it requires we who know scripture to actively discern every line we hear on Christian radio, book or movie we allow to influence us. Please, let us all be Bereans 24/7.

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