White As Snow – The Modern Post (2012, Grace Alone)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

The phrase “pillars of the faith” comes to mind first as I begin to reflect upon this modern gem of a song.  There are several reasons for using this term, but first, allow me to introduce to you The Modern Post.

Actually, if you’ve been following this blog for at least a couple of months, you’ll recognize that I am drawing from the old well in at least three different ways: first, the song was written and first recorded by Jon Foreman (who I wrote about last fall) in 2006; second, the lead singer of The Modern Post is Dustin Kensrue (who I used last Christmas); and finally, this band is another product of the Mars Hill Worship network (who I covered via Future of Forestry last November).

There are several other good music products coming out of Mars Hill these days that I may get to over the course of time, but you can check them all out for yourself, if you like.  The Modern Post is exactly what the title states: modern.  They are self-described as “upbeat, synth-laden and bass-heavy sound that leads the congregation to praise the creator with freedom and joy.”  So if you’re ready to get your happy-grunge-worship on, then have a listen to “White As Snow.”  If the music is not to your liking, still consider the words, for they have quickly become as memorable, anchorable and central as some of the greatest hymns of all time.

Have mercy on me, oh God
According to Your unfailing love
According to Your great compassion
Blot out my transgressions

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God
Restore in me the joy of Your salvation

Wash me white as snow
And I will be made whole

The sacrifices of our God are a broken and a contrite heart
Against You and You alone have I sinned

OK, back to the “pillars of the faith” part.  There are a few quintessential truths and patterns that the Christian faith stand upon.  If you removed even one of the them, the entire structure would collapse.  Deity of Christ, Trinity, the resurrection, and grace alone would be a few examples of these pillars (head coverings and dancing would not).  Another one that rises up out of this tune is the authentic repentance of the believer in Christ – both in the beginning of our faith journey and continually moving forward.

“White As Snow” is lyrically a direct quotation of Psalm 51, which captures the heart of David after he is finally convicted of his sin with Bathsheba.  Thus, it is a Scriptural example of what it looks like to be genuinely contrite and repentant towards God.  It’s as simple as this: the real grace of God always produces a desire for real purity before God.  Because He has incredibly gifted us with His righteousness; therefore, we are intended and designed to respond with humility and passion for His holiness.  “Wash me white as snow!” is our heart cry as a people consumed with the saturated grace of the cross.

If you have moved towards the Gospel by just mentally assenting its validity or accepting it as a license to live life however you want to, since you believe you have your fire insurance, then you’ve missed what Jesus really meant for you to gain and you have a shaky pillar underneath your feet.  You haven’t swam to the deep end of the pool yet, my friend.

Examine the Bible and see that each time grace is mentioned, that it is coupled with an intense, direct command to live your life in light of the light of God and the pattern that He has set for us through Christ.  The brilliance of God’s expectations of us is that He offers His Spirit to us in order to accomplish this perfect response to His mercy.  David doesn’t say to God, “I will wash my own heart white as snow for you, God.”  No.  He asks God to do it for him.

Our attempt to live out a Christian life must be paramountly focused on a daily, even hourly, dependence upon His strength.  We do this by living in constant meditation upon His grace for us through Christ and letting that beautiful gift naturally bleed into a heart that wants to and is capable of being more and more like Jesus.

A song like this is like a daily multi-vitamin for me that reminds me to keep this focus, to stand upon the pillar of responding correctly to proper grace.  Confess my sins – because I don’t love them anymore – for I love the God who has and is making me whiter than snow!  What does God expect of us?  What can we give to the almighty Being of the universe?  According to His love letter to us (the Bible) it is a repentant heart.  Let your daily playlist reflect songs such as this one that emulates what God is so excited to see from us – constant restoration of the Joy of our salvation!

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Equally Skilled – Jon Foreman (2007, Fall EP)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

OK, I have settled down a little bit after Monday’s dive into the loud and the abrasive.  Today I venture back into the world of the unplugged and introspective sounds that dominate my playlists.

Jon Foreman is the frontman for the popular Christian band, Switchfoot.  And he has also produced some solo music that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  In his Fall EP, there is a song called “Equally Skilled” that we will be examining today.

Telling the story of sin and judgment in a song is always a precarious undertaking.  You either water down the truth too much or risk offending too many people (or both, if you’re really talented).  But Foreman does an excellent job of juggling his presentation and the whole truth in a powerful way.  He does this by beginning with the finger contritely pointed at himself:

How miserable I am, I feel like a fruit-picker who arrived here after the harvest
There’s nothing here at all…That could placate my hunger                                             We’re all murderers and thieves, setting traps here for even our brothers

And both of our hands are equally skilled at doing evil,                                                  Equally skilled at bribing the judges
Equally skilled at perverting justice
Both of our hands

This first verse reminds me of Romans 3:10-20, where Paul argues that all of us are guilty of sin and no one has any righteousness of their own to offer.  Foreman develops this   theology by poetically reminding us that we all possess two hands that are equally skilled at committing any level of evil, if we let ourselves follow our own sinful nature.  Any one of us is capable of becoming a Hitler or a Charles Manson.  The next verse turns down an even darker path:

The day of justice comes and is even now swiftly arriving,
Don’t trust anyone at all, not your best friend  or even your wife;
For the son hates the father, the daughter despises even her mother.
Look, your enemies arrive right in the room of your very household.

Not only are things bad, but they will be getting worse as approach Armageddon.  Jesus warned his disciples about the coming persecution and trials that await His followers and culminate in the End Times.  In Matthew 10:16:-25, Jesus reminds His men that they are sent as sheep among wolves and that this world will betray Christians in the Last Days in the worst ways: from the inside out.  Our own families, trusted friends and fellow church members will turn against us.  Therefore, their hands are equally skilled, as well.

But just as soon as you think the doom and gloom tune is about to end, Jon Foreman changes keys and lifts us up to a higher vantage point – so that we can finally see more than just what lies in this valley of sin and death:

No, don’t gloat over me…though I fall, I will rise again
Though I sit here in darkness – the Lord, the Lord alone, He will be my light
I will be patient as the Lord punishes me for the wrongs I’ve done against Him
After that He’ll take my case, bringing me to light and the justice
For all I have suffered

So, this interesting final verse captures both a solemn view of current judgment and future grace.  He seems to be communicating both humility and hope.  We deserve the consequences of our actions in this life; AND we, as Christians, are called to suffer for the sake of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  But our stories end with a God whose Hands are equally skilled as well:

And both of His hands are equally skilled at ruining evil,
Equally skilled at judging the judges
Equally skilled administering justice
Both of His hands, Both of His hands
Are equally skilled at showing me mercy
Equally skilled at loving the loveless
Equally skilled administering justice
Both of His hands, Both of His hands

It is a beautiful tale of how God will both satisfy justice bringing judgment to its final, rightful conclusion AND He will deliver mercy and redemption to those who have not earned it.  His hands, or His attributes, are perfectly balanced and capable for all of these things!  I am so often reminded of how evil this world is, how evil my heart can be at times, and how truly amazing our God is in the midst of it all.  I am so grateful that He is “Equally Skilled” at both Love and Justice.