Another Reason to Sing About the Cross

I just finished reading Where Wrath and Mercy Meet, edited by David Peterson. It’s taken from a series of messages given at Oak Hill College in the summer of 2000. They were a response to current challenges to the view that Jesus receiving the punishment we deserved at the cross. Otherwise known as the doctrine of penal substitution. Parts of the book were a little too technical for me, but I especially appreciated the last chapter by Paul Weston, and the appendix by Alan Stibbs.

Dr. Stibbs’ contribution came from a message he gave 50 years ago on the need to recover the doctrine of justification by faith in preaching. I think his words can be applied to worship leaders as well, and are more relevant today than they were fifty years ago. Here’s how he ended his message:

“[M]any are disturbed and sometimes tormented by inner misgiving. They resort for relief either to the psychoanalyst and his psychotherapy or to confession to, and absolution by, the priest. The widespread prevalence of both these practices provides objective evidence that men are still hungry for, and in many cases far from enjoying, inner assurance. It is ours to declare that such full assurance of peace with God, of sufficient grace to face the uncertainties of this life, and of sure in the life beyond, is only to be possessed, and is meant fully to be enjoyed, by those who are justified by faith. For none can give the heart of sinful man true peace except the justifying Savior. This is exclusively His prerogative; and this glory He will not give to another. Is it not time, therefore, that over against the well-meaning but ultimately insufficient ministries of the psychologist and the priest those who know the truth of the gospel of saving grace should set the renewed preaching of justification by faith?” (p. 175)

As we seek to help our congregations deal with their fears, insecurities, guilt, anxiety, and emptiness, we can tempted to think that only psychologists, psychiatrists, and man-made religious activities can solve their “real” problems. We can also be tempted to pick songs that make them feel good over songs that are good for them. We can choose lyrics that fail to acknowledge the seriousness of our sin, the depths of our problem, or the greatness of the salvation we’ve received in Christ. We can also focus so much on managing the musical flow, establishing the right groove, and creating the right atmosphere, that we forget what will really set them free.

We have no better way to serve those we lead than by reminding them of this reality: “[T]hat Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgement for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory. (J.I. Packer, Celebrating the Saving Work of God, p. 105) That is a truth worth defending. That is a truth worth singing about. That is a truth worth living and dying for.
What hope we’ve received through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ! What deliverance! What freedom! What grace! Yet one more reason why I want to be sure that our song diet contains consistent references to, explanations of, and wonder at the glorious gospel. If you’re looking for songs, a good place to start is Songs for the Cross Centered Life. You can also check out the songs by Keith and Kristyn Getty, Indelible Grace, or search for other Sovereign Grace songs on the cross.

“For none can give the heart of sinful man true peace except the justifying Savior.” Amen.

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4 Responses to Another Reason to Sing About the Cross

  1. Tom January 10, 2008 at 9:31 AM #

    Thanks for a great reminder, Bob. The temptations you described in the fourth paragraph are so real and have been particularly challenging to me lately. So, I appreciate this encouragement to press on in a consistently cross-centered ministry. God bless.

  2. Wally Joiner January 10, 2008 at 10:38 AM #


    Your ratings are gon’a drop if you keep talking like that. “This is a hard saying.” Tell a man anything except that his fig-leaf righteousness is offensive to God and you can both be spiritual and be friends. The narrow way has few on it for a reason. It is not that the gospel does not make sense, but that man will not give up his imaginary righteousness. One thing to note from Jesus’ words in Matthew 7,is that those that will say, “But Lord did we not preach (…lead worship, etc.) in your name…”, those that will hear, “Depart from Me, I never knew you,”, is that they take the controversy to the very throne of God, contending for the imaginary merit of their works, before the Lamb of God Himself.

    The rebellion and ignorance runs deep! Only new creations can see the folly of the fig leaf.

    Sorry about your ratings, but keep it up. God will protect us from Cain’s descendants.


  3. Gabriel Gagnon January 10, 2008 at 11:54 PM #

    Hey Bob, we never go at the foot of the cross enough. That is the true battle, staying a tthe foot of the cross.
    Keep it up!

  4. Stephen Jones January 16, 2008 at 12:14 PM #

    Thanks for the links to some of today’s artists that are publishing this kind of music. I am a local church pastor, and we are looking for ways to expand our repertoire of God-glorifying, cross-centered music.

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