Wineskins Archive

December 3, 2013

Are You Trying? (Feb 2013)

Filed under: — @ 3:50 pm and

By Lora Chandler

It crept in and we didn’t even notice. Maybe we sensed it, but we hesitated to bring it up. After all, in this postmodern world, a person can’t take a stand in any issue without being labeled. Sometimes the labels are downright unkind — things like judgmental, harsh, legalistic, ultra-conservative, insensitive, demanding, rigid, disapproving, and condemning. At the risk of being awarded one of those labels, I’m asking the question: What has happened to mind-directed and heartfelt conviction in those who claim a faithful walk with Jesus? Conviction these days has become so weak and insipid that it affects even our hymns. We praise God with fervor, but we don’t commit ourselves to more than praise.

When I was a child, Jesus Loves Me, was a favorite hymn. In our hymn book at the bottom of the page underneath the song were printed the words, “favorite hymn of China.” I was impressed by that as a child. I thought how amazing it was that foreign peoples in a country so distant from my own loved the same hymn that I loved. Throughout my life, I have discovered that Jesus Loves Me is a favorite hymn of all believers. The fact that He loves us has great bearing on the strength of our faith. Years ago, when I first came to understand that my salvation had nothing to do with how good a person I was, the impact of God’s grace and His great love for me, for all people, was overwhelming. A person can’t come to an understanding of God’s grace without having a life-changing response of the heart. It seems to me that how we respond to the grace of our precious Savior is a paramount definer of our walk with Him.

I remember so well how my sisters (six of them!) and I sang together as we worked, played and worshiped together every week. Jesus Loves Me was always part of our repertoire. When we came to the fifth and last verse, we sang with conviction, “Jesus, take this heart of mine. Make it pure and wholly thine. Thou has bled and died for me. I will henceforth live for Thee.” (emphasis, mine) There was strength in singing those words. “I will henceforth live” is a strong statement. It is a vow, a vow that confirms full surrender, wholehearted discipleship and a dying of self in order to live for Jesus. I suppose some folks could sing it without feeling that aspect of it, but I couldn’t. To make such a vow, even in a hymn, is powerful.

Last Sunday, our worship director led Jesus Loves Me, from our new hymn book, Songs of Faith and Praise. The song only has three verses now and there’s no mention of it being a favorite hymn of China. When we came to the last verse, I stopped singing as I realized that I can no longer sing that verse with the same feeling of conviction. The lyrics now read, “Jesus take this heart of mine. Make it pure and wholly Thine. On the cross, You died for me. I will try to live for Thee.” In our postmodern, nothing is really certain, it-may-be-true-for-you-but-not-necessarily-for-me world, we can only try to live for Jesus. It’s a bit ironic that we still sing the words “wholly Thine” but we follow it up with “try.” I fail to see how a person can wholly belong to Jesus, but only try to live for Him.

Faith is something that proves us. It is a conviction of the heart that draws us close to God and causes us to obey the command of Jesus to “follow” Him, not, “try to follow” Him. I think it is time we stopped teaching that everyone is awesome and everyone is okay and nothing is really necessary. It’s true that everyone is loved by God. Everyone is loved by Jesus Christ. However, the everlasting mercy and grace they offer didn’t come to us because we tried to live good lives. They came to us because we believed, because we died to self and chose to live in Him. I look forward to a time when we will sing with conviction words that require something of us, words that cause resolve and devotion, words that plot our direction and course in the path of Jesus’ footsteps. Joy and strength of purpose come from a life wholly devoted to Jesus. Inner conflict and uncertainty is what results when we are only “trying.”

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