Ash Wednesday and Lent season is almost upon us. Catholic and non-Catholic believers have much to glean from this tradition, if applied in the right way. Sojourn Church and worship leaders are embracing the value of these events and so I offer this song for the purpose of heart preparation.
Jamie Barnes is on staff with Sojourn and also writes his own music. This song was inspired by an old hymn by the great hymn writer, John Newton. Ash Wednesday is not a means of salvation, but rather an opportunity to remember how incredibly damned and dead we are without our Savior – Jesus. Ashes to ashes. The Bible exemplifies and calls us to lament and be sorrowful over our sin.
And Lent is a brief season for us to practice sacrifice (electronics, comfort foods, luxuries, etc.) in order to invigorate our prayer lives and reflect upon Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. It is good and fitting to find music that compliments these pursuits, so that our hearts and minds are prepared for maximizing these exercises. Listen:
Approach my soul, the mercy seat
Where Holy One and helpless meet
There fall before my Judges’ feet
Thy promise is my only plea, O God
Send wings to lift the clutch of sin
You who dwell between the cherubim
From war without and fear within
Relieve the grief from the shoulders of crumbling men
O God—Pour out your mercy to me
My God, Oh what striking love to bleed.
Fashion my heart in your alchemy
With the brass to front the devil’s perjury
And surefire grace my Jesus speaks
I must. I will. I do believe. O Lord.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for Christians to marinate within the core Gospel truths over and over again. Ash Wednesday is all about focusing on how close we came to spiritual death and destruction and how incredible it is to be saved by God. Lent is a time to sharpen our ability to be living within the grace of Gospel truth as we exercise restraint from worldly things (good things or not so good things) in order to make more room for meditating on Christ. Lent is a great idea any time of year, but especially helpful as it leads us towards the passion of Christ and Easter Sunday.
John Newton understood this and I believe Jamie Barnes does as well with this song. In addition, we could learn a lot about being a harmonious group of brothers and sisters in Christ – doing honorable traditions together for the sake of purifying Christ’s bride. God wants us to practice His life within us together.
Paul reminded the church in Rome about these things as it pertained to a controversial issue related to eating food sacrificed to idols:
“So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’ Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”
Le me encourage all of us to see these days as an opportunity for better Gospel-centeredness, better self-control, and better Christian community living. And let us allow songs like this one to lead the way for our souls to better embrace the Mercy Seat.