Glory, Hallelujah, Amen
As I was listening to this anthem, the thought that came to my mind was: “This could only truly be sung by someone who was redeemed and knew it.” Yes, anyone can sing the words, and people do just that Sunday after Sunday—singing words they don’t really mean, have experienced, or understand. But if we are going to sing an anthem like this with the spirit of what it is proclaiming, and do so from the depths of our hearts, we must do so as someone who has been redeemed and knows so.
Jesus, when explaining the meaning of the incident where the woman anointed Him with perfume and tears, said, “Those who have been forgiven much, love much.” In other words, this woman had been redeemed and forgiven, and knew it. She realized the contrast between what she was and where she was heading, and who she had become and where her eternal destination now lay. Her gratitude overflowed in an exuberant, yet a broken and humble way. There was no holding in the wellspring of joy and gratitude flowing from her soul.
We may not have been saved from demons or out of a life of prostitution, but each of us were saved from a life of depravity and a destination of destruction. The issue is, the farther we come from that point of initially understanding our sin and need for a Savior, the dimmer our memory grows of what we were saved from—if we ever understood it at all.
Many of us were saved as children, and perhaps never descended to the dregs before the Lord called us to Himself and saved us. We were not only eternally saved, we were spared from descending to the pit and mire from which others were pulled. For those who weren’t as stained by experience, it is easy to forget that our souls were just as dead, just a depraved, just as doomed as the derelict in the gutter. Jesus had a lot of choice words for the religious and pious whose self-righteousness got in the way of humbling themselves before Him, and seeing their need for His salvation. In many ways these “pristine” “saints” were just as Jesus declared them, “Whitewashed tombs,” looking good on the outside, while full of decay and corruption on the inside. We need to be careful that no pride, nor any us/them mentality creeps in when comparing ourselves to our spiritual siblings who were redeemed out of lives that were messier than ours.
This is not to say that people who come to Christ as children are not saved or are second class, this is to say that often there is a danger that they will not realize that they have been “forgiven much,” as well. They don’t understand that their hearts were every bit as much in need of thorough cleansing, unrelenting mercy, boundless grace, and costly redemption as someone who has been called out of the most shameful of life styles. Each of us must at some point come to realize that we, too, have been “forgiven much,” if we are to “love much” with the kind of passion that overflows with humble adoration, extravagant worship, lavish sacrifice and exalting praise.
Even those who have come out of some pretty devastating pasts can forget from whence they came. Our pasts were never meant to hold us down and make us relive the shame, but they are to be occasionally revisited from the perspective that our past was a place of bondage from which we have been fully redeemed, then celebrate that redemption. The Israelites made it through the desert to the Promised Land, and they dwelled in that blessed place for centuries, yet they never forgot Egypt. God didn’t want them to. In fact, He ordained regular commemorations of their release from slavery. They were to remember their sorrow and bitterness through the bitter herbs and salty dip they ate each year at the Passover observance. God wanted them to remember that they didn’t get to the Promised Land on their own. They weren’t there because they deserved to be, but because He redeemed them, protected them, taught them, led them, provided for them, and loved them.
In a similar way, it would be good for us to regularly take time to reflect on where we would be if not for God’s grace and provision. What would our lives be like without His redemption, His provision, His presence, and His promises of an eternity with Him? We would be “without hope and without God”, heading to an eternity of destruction and misery. But we have been redeemed!
As our understanding of the impact of our redemption deepens, our gratitude and joy will naturally overflow with expression. Sometimes we will express it as spoken praise or thanksgiving, songs of joy and worship, or acts of humility and sacrifice. Sometimes these expressions will be spontaneous and other time very carefully and deliberately planned. Someone has said, “Songs of the redeemed are purposeful, never mindless. They are songs that memorialize the majesty of our great God.”
The way that we, the redeemed, keep our praises from being purposeless and mindless is to regularly and intentionally prepare our hearts to proclaim His praises. By spending time in His presence, reflecting on what He has done for us, and who He is, we renew our wonder for the gift that He is, and the gifts He has given to us. Meaningful praise will flow naturally from that kind of prepared heart.