It Is Well with My Soul
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
What is going on in your heart, mind, and spirit as you read these lyrics from the classic hymn, It Is Well? The answer to that question may depend on a number of factors, including how secure one is in one’s belief in God’s promise of salvation, and how intensely one understands the true nature of one’s sin.
There are many people who do not feel it is well with their souls because they struggle with feelings of insecurity in the area of God’s full forgiveness and acceptance. They struggle with the enormity of grace it took to redeem them. They understand, at least in some measure, the degree of their wickedness and repeated failures, and feel unable to securely cling to the truth that God has fully and freely forgiven them. They say (and I can’t number the times I have heard this from people who have come to me for spiritual counsel), “I know that God is forgiving, but I can’t believe He can forgive all I have done, and how I keep repeating the same sins.” Or they say, “I know God is loving, but you don’t know how unlovely I am. I feel He can love everyone but me.”
There is so much to say about these common deceptions the enemy uses to beat people back from the love and fellowship the Lord has promised them in the finished work of Jesus we , but don’t have the room to discuss them today, other than to say that the word of God tells us these deceptions are not true.* Over and over God declares His unfailing love and His full and free forgiveness for those who trust Him. He calls us to believe Him and His Word not the seeds of doubt and deception the enemy sows in our minds, and the condemnation he spews in our ears. What we all need is to let the truth of these lyrics wash over us with the power of the Scriptures from which they are drawn—the whole of our sin, not just a part of it, has been nailed to the cross of our precious Redeemer, Jesus, paid in full, it is finished, we are free! Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!!!
But there is also a second impediment to the feeling of bliss in this glorious thought. While one group struggles under the weight of the reality of their unworthiness, another segment (and probably the majority of us) have not taken our sins seriously enough. We do not realize the depths of our depravity. We measure ourselves against Hitler or Ted Bundy or the guy down the street who beats his wife, and we feel pretty good about ourselves. We feel like we have lived at least a 51/49 existence (if we’re trying to be modest) so the cross of Christ just makes up the difference for the part of us that doesn’t hit the mark, giving us the boost we need to make it through those pearly gates.
We have no real idea how lost we were before we came to faith in Him, how much our sins offend a holy God, and how helpless we are to save ourselves. Ask anyone on the street why they think God will let them into heaven, and they will probably default to, “I think I’ve done more good than bad. I’ve tried to live a good life.” Sadly, even a lot of professing Christians have a sort of tally system in the back of their minds which they probably aren’t aware of, nor would they want to admit to, but which guides how they assess themselves and others. We fare much better in our own minds than we are in the eyes of a Holy God.
But Scripture lays out quite plainly that we are dead spiritually, helpless, powerless to save ourselves. We’re not just sick, needing healing, we are spiritually dead, needing resurrection—a dead man can do nothing for himself. And our righteousness is likened to filthy rags. We’re not talking about a little schmutz; in the Scriptures’ original language what we are told is our good works are like menstrual rags and poop. I’m sorry if such plain language is offensive, but that how it was understood by the original readers, and that’s only slightly offensive in comparison to the offense Holy God takes to our sin. What is the grossest, most noxious and unpleasant thing you can think of? That is a drop in the bucket in comparison to how odious our sin is to God. We need to more vividly understand God’s holiness and, by comparison, the dark depravity of our sin, only then can we grasp how great is our salvation.
If we had even the slightest inkling of how utterly offensive our sin is to God we wouldn’t dabble in it like we do. We wouldn’t play around the edges of it like we do. We would repudiate it, flee from it, guard ourselves from any hint of contagion of it like we would the direst of enemies, pray against it with sweating brow, and repent with tears if we ever succumb to it’s lure. The fact that this offended Deity would actually pay for our terrible sin Himself should stun us into amazed gratitude and joyous worship.
Those who begin to grasp the peril they were in before salvation, the magnitude of the stench in the nostrils of a Holy God their sin is, and the price that was paid that God would rescue them Himself will have hearts that will fairly burst from their chests at the bliss of this glorious thought of all God has done for them. Ask the Lord to help you understand more the depth of your sin, the fullness of your salvation, and the wonders of His unfailing love for you so you may be able to worship Him with greater fervor, and walk before Him with greater intensity and purity.
*If you or a loved one are struggling with assurance of your salvation, let me recommend these books: Kept for Jesus, by Sam Storms; Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, by J.D. Greear; and The Assurance of Our Salvation, by M. Lloyd-Jones.