CCM Radio Edition.
October 24, 2017. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Word of Life” by Jeremy Camp which currently sits at #5 on the20theCountdownMagazine.
Generally speaking, I’m a fan of Jeremy Camp’s music. This song gets a Disapproval for a couple of reasons, the most prominent is the synergism in the lyric, that it isn’t Christ alone saving us, we have to do something. The other problem is the implied notion that there is something more that we must do beyond being brought to eternal life in Jesus Christ our LORD. This is a song of revivalism, which places the emphasis on “what I’m going to do once God moves in me”.
JeremyCampVEVO (Lyric Video)
Lyrics (via K~Love)
Speak to my weary heart
Strengthen my broken parts
Lead me to Your open arms
Word of truth
Illuminate all these lies
The enemy speaks inside
In freedom I will rise
‘Cause You called me out from the grave
So I can live like I’ve been changed
There is a new song in my soul
And it begins
When I breathe in
Your word of life
Spirit of God
Take me to a deeper place
Take me out of what is safe
I will not be afraid
Spirit of God
Fill me with joy again
Springing up from within
It cannot be contained
The old has gone away
Only Your love remains
I am alive today
‘Cause You called me out
Publishing: Only In You Publishing (ASCAP) (admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / EGH Music Publishing / Be Essential Songs (BMI) (Admin. at EssentialMusicPublishing.com) / Colby Wedgeworth Music / Fair Trade Music Publishing (ASCAP) (Admin. by Music Services)
Writer(s): Written by Jeremy Camp, Ethan Hulse, and Colby Wedgeworth
Okay, so let’s begin our discussion with who the intended target audience might be. There are no clear articulations of Law and Gospel, repentance and the forgiveness of sin. There are poetic references to salvation themes, so my guess is that this song is aimed at the weary Christian. So, before we go verse-by-verse, what is it that weary Christians need to hear the most? The clear Gospel of Jesus Christ, preached to them and for them. Which leaves us with a problem… no clear Gospel in this song. There are allusions to Gospel themes, I’ll grant the song as much, but when we are beaten-down and weary, we need clarity, assurance, and rest that can only be found in Christ Jesus.
Verse 1. The first verse is setting up our ‘weary Christian’ target audience. The setup is emotional, which leaves it open to any interpretation of what it means to be a weary Christian. That’s not a problem yet, I just want to acknowledge the writing here. The song opens with a desire for someone to speak directly to the singer’s weary heart. Strengthen my broken parts is vague, but it works lyrically and poetically, so we need to see where this is going. Lead me to Your open arms is also vague, and follows more of the romantic mysticism we get in CCM and Evangelical/Contemporary Worship (CoWo) these days. So, the first three lines have set up the relationship paradigm of understanding our need for a Savior and how we are to relate to Him. It’s a poor picture that relies too heavily on emotionalism rather than the clear Word of Truth we see in Scriptures. While there is a right way of speaking about our relationship with God, this approach brings a lot of baggage with it. What does it mean to be “led into Christ’s open arms”? This relationship metaphor bears a sense of proximity that is unhelpful in understanding Christ, and ultimately has to be turned into an “emotional proximity” which is purely subjective and easily manipulated by circumstance, fatigue, temperature, and disco lights. Christ gave us a Promise in the Great Commission that we need to bear in mind whenever someone tries to invoke the relationship metaphor of needing to be “close to God”.
Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Christ promised to be with us always, to the end of the age. That’s a promise that remains true whether we feel it or not. As far as a rescue mechanic might go, or “best construction”, we’d have to de-mystify the subjective emotionalism and translate Lead me to Your open arms into “Remind me of Your Gospel”, and understand Speak to my weary heart as something the Holy Spirit does WITH the preaching or reading of the Word of God, not as an appeal for an unmitigated direct revelation experience.
The next line in the song is Word of Truth, which is being treated as a Name of God that can be applied to Christ and the Written Word of God as the Revelation of Christ. I’d like to have it made more explicit, though, God works through the means of His Word to deliver the Grace, Forgiveness, Faith secured for us on the cross. So, we can work to insert this understanding here, that the singer is telling us we need to be in God’s Word looking for the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ for the answer to our weariness and broken parts (I really hope this isn’t a stand-in for sin). The song, however, continues in a mystical/poetic form with the request that the Word of Truth Illuminate all these lies The enemy speaks inside. The best thing we can do with this is to ground it in Scripture and the role of God the Holy Spirit.
John 16:13-15 (ESV) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
I really want to highlight what Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, that He will not speak on his own authority. The Holy Spirit testifies and Glorifies the Son, Jesus, our LORD and Savior. The Holy Spirit delivers us faith in Christ Jesus, and He does this primarily through the means of the Preached Word. Romans 10:17 (ESV) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The wording of the lies the enemy speaks inside is troublesome. If you have a poor understanding of sin, the “enemy” is only going to be demons, evil spirits, tempting us to sin. But Scripture makes it clear that our very flesh is sinful, constantly desiring to do evil.
Romans 7:21-25 (ESV) So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There is a really bad habit with pop evangelicalism of flipping Law and Gospel inside out, they externalize sin (the devil keeps trying to make me do something I don’t truly want to do) and internalize the search for God through our emotional proximity to Him. What we should be doing is recognizing that it is our hearts of flesh that are sinful and tempting us to sin and looking to the external Word of God for His Grace and Forgiveness.
The final line of the verse bothers me, In freedom I will rise. Within the context of this first verse, we have nothing to anchor this line. Rise from what, a weary heart? from the lies of the enemy inside? Is this an appeal to Christ’s Return? The Resurrection? Or is this just a part of the “I can do this” revivalism?
Chorus. ‘Cause You called me out from the grave -yes! So I can live like I’ve been changed -no! I mean, living differently is an outflow of having been granted saving faith and eternal life in Christ Jesus, but it’s not the reason God called us from the grave. We’re still playing around in metaphors in the lyric of the song, so there is the whole matter of the simul, the already and the not-yet. Eternity is the focus, the reason behind Christ calling us from the grave. And He will do it literally for all who fall asleep in Christ in the Resurrection into eternity.
1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The problem of this so being anchored in this temporal life is that it places the focus back onto the believer’s ability to “live a changed life”, it places the focus back onto the law. The Gospel carries us into eternity in Christ Jesus. Don’t let folks turn the Gospel into only a “fresh start” where you’re supposed to finish the rest on your own.
Galatians 5:2-5 (ESV) Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Now, I’m not speaking against the notion that our lives should bear fruit. I’m saying that’s not the focus of the Gospel, it is an outflow of the Gospel. Saving Faith will bear fruit because God’s Word has Promised. So love and serve your neighbor, share the Gospel with peace, joy, and thanksgiving. Walk humbly before God in repentance, waiting for the Day of Christ’s return. Don’t make ‘doing good works’ the point of your having been saved. There is a new song in my soul And it begins When I breathe in Your word of life these are words that don’t convey any clear meaning. It’s part of the poetic mysticism, spiritualizing everything leaving it up to the listener to figure out what it means and how to apply this to their own lives. The new song in my soul could be a reference to having regenerate spirits by Grace through Faith in Christ Jesus. If that’s the case, though, the song is there even when we’re run down, weary, and have “broken parts” and even when we feel far away from God. As we discussed earlier, regardless of how we feel, Christ has promised to be with us, so He is. Let’s look at another passage:
Romans 6:3-5 (ESV) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
The Apostle Paul taught that we are united with Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptism. The reference to “breathing in the word of Life” is a metaphor within a metaphor, that is not really helpful. I think it’s pointing to the Holy Spirit delivering saving Faith to those who are in Christ, but it’s buried several layers deep in metaphor. Lyrically, I think it’s building to the start of the second verse, too.
Verse 2. Spirit of God take me to a deeper place… again with the proximity relationship metaphor thingy. The mystic is always looking for deeply hidden truths, secrets, revelations, etc. The romantic mystic is looking for deeper relationship, connectedness, togetherness, but it always gets internalized emotionally. It also suggest a progression beyond salvation, a constant climbing of some ladder to get to God, to reach that next level of “Christian”. Dear, Christian, stop climbing ladders. Christ has done it all. It is finished. He IS our propitiation, our reconciliation, our adoption into the Kingdom of Heaven has already been won by His Blood. There is no “deeper” in our right-standing with God. It is in Christ, and that is more than enough. Your good works aren’t for God or for your position with Him, they are for your neighbor.
Take me out of what is safe I will not be afraid… Well, we have to deal in the subjective with this metaphorical language, otherwise we’re left wondering, “didn’t this song start out with you being weary and broken? Shouldn’t we stay in a safe place, securely in Christ Jesus?” Frankly, it feels like the start of this verse is an homage to Oceans (where feet may fail). Suddenly, the metaphor is now of our external circumstances, sort of a “get me out of my comfort zone” language to go do good works, don’t be safe, take risks, I will fear no evil sort of stuff. The Gospel is sort of a charging station where you get healed up, and then you’ve gotta get “out there” and “fight the good fight”. It’s a terrible way to consider the Christian Life or what it means to be In Christ Jesus. Christ isn’t just a charging station, He IS our Sabbath Rest, He IS our Salvation, He IS our bulwark, our Shield, our safe place.
The second half of the verse returns to the internalized, emotional metaphor, looking for joy (emotional version) that cannot be contained springing up from within. I cannot help but see this being presented as a condition that follows stepping out of the safe places and not being afraid. It’s the wrong focus. This is Revivalism, folks.
So, I hope I’ve at least explained where I see the problems in this lyric and where we can look in Scripture for a corrective lens. Believers need to be pointed to Christ, not just as an example of what they should be trying to emulate, but as their Savior, their propitiation, their reconciliation, and their Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4). For now, I’d like to leave you with an encouragement written by the Apostle Paul, to the Colossians.
Colossians 2:6-23 (ESV) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 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. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
In Christ Jesus,