God’s Love, not mine

I here inaugurate a periodical, sporadical, and occasional series on Hymns that mean a lot to me. All of these will have a link to a page with MIDI accompaniment to the entire Trinity Hymnal (it’s a little groovier if you imagine a nice rhumba or bossa nova synth beat in the background).

As a first entry, I must cite a hymn that was instrumental in my, um, recommittment? (In terms of Heb 6 I believe I was a Christian all along). For a while in grad school, I was in a spiritual funk (partly due to loss of my undergraduate fellowship of InterVarsity friends). Comparing myself to the attitude and demeanor of brothers at my home church, and Rock Church (Baltimore), etc., I was feeling guilty for not feeling emotional towards God (Albino Shaq may remember in particular a certain lunch at Claim Jumper where we discussed this at length). Did I really love God? Was I really saved, or just faking it?

Well, God’s answer came to me one Sunday in the Fall of ’94, at Faith Christian Fellowship Church, Pen Lucy (Baltimore) MD (the PCA I had been attending with The Forester and some others at the end of my undergrad). I was down in MD visiting college buddies over a random weekend. One hymn that Sunday morning: O Love That Will Not Let Me Go. Singing those words for the first time, I realized that I cannot love God, except with love that he gives to me. I needed to stop worrying about manipulating my emotions to be like what I think somebody else thinks they should be, and just be thankful for His sacrifice, by whatever means His Holy Spirit stirs up in me to respond. And at that moment, the Holy Spirit moved me to sit down and cry in church (that’s a cataclysmic deal for me).

Ever since, I have always turned to this hymn as an incredibly concise statement of how God first loved us, and how we cannot lean on our own understanding or trust in our own strength or attain our own righteousness. We must count all of those as dung, and cling only to God’s works for salvation.

As a few side notes, I played this hymn, solo violin, at Dacia’s memorial service, since it also expresses well (the title, at least) how God maintains his claim on his elect, despite our rebellious struggling, which was a comforting thought to me during a tempest of questions and doubts about the state of Dacia’s soul. dscn6638.jpgAlso, mom made and framed this hymn for me (with calligraphy and gold-highlighted music that looks like a medieval highlighted scroll–here’s a picture of it). And at my wedding, this hymn formed the framework of my Dad’s toast. All cherished memories. I wish my church would sing it more often.

Anyhoo, here is a link to the music for the hymn, which you can listen to as you read my favorite three stanzas right here.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

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19 Responses

  1. I well remember that Sunday morning at Faith Christian Fellowship. I was sitting right next to you, had no idea that you were being affected by the worship, and suddenly you started bawling. It was sweet. God’s timing isn’t ours — but it is sure, and He had you marked that morning. I feel very privileged to have caught a glimpse.

    And so now, every time I hear this hymn, I think of it as yours. I don’t know if I ever heard it before that morning — if so, it hadn’t made an impression. But every time I’ve heard it since then, my mind can’t help but call it yours.

  2. Whenever I hear this hymn, and I do on occasion on a Sunday evening program (the only one I listen to on our local Moody station) and on a CD, I think of you playing this at Dacia’s memorial. For me, it will always be Dacia’s hymn. E was commenting on a newer musical version (I think) recently and I protested, saying that I would never be happy with any change to it.

  3. Dad has the CD with the new tune, and there’s a young couple at church that must have it too, because on Wed. nights they kept choosing it for their songleading, having everybody turn to TH #708, but sing the new tune. I can’t say I blame them, because objectively speaking, the tune is nothing special, only slightly better than most of its era (imagine any hymn tune as background music to a carousel — the better it works, the more sure you can be it’s late-1800s!), but of course it has sentimental value for me.

  4. I do? What CD?

  5. Some CCM thing, you told me about it before, how you were surprised to run across the words, but a different tune. Or maybe it was T or E’s.

  6. Are you perhaps thinking of the Indelible Grace CD? Some PCA folks from Nashville, I think, took a bunch of great old hymns (a few “classics” but the rest just really great not-so-popular ones) and put them to new music. If this isn’t the one you’re thinking of, you should definitely check them out (they’ve put out a few CDs now…)

  7. I finally uploaded a picture of the calligraphy…

  8. Words that have changed my life forever…

    I am not ashamed of the gospel…for in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last.

    “You cannot earn your salvation, but Christ earned it for you.”

    Not what my hands have done
    Can save my guilty soul;
    Not what my toiling flesh has borne
    Can make my spirit whole.
    Not what I feel or do
    Can give me peace with God;
    Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
    Can bear my awful load.

    Thy work alone, O Christ,
    Can ease this weight of sin;
    Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
    Can give me peace within.
    Thy love to me, O God,
    Not mine, O Lord to thee,
    Can rid me of this dark unrest
    And set my spirit free.

    Thy grace alone, O God,
    To me can pardon speak;
    Thy pow’r alone, O Son of God,
    Can this sore bondage break.
    No other work, save thine,
    No other blood will do;
    No strength, save that which is divine,
    Can bear me safely through.

    I bless the Christ of God;
    I rest on love divine;
    And with unfalt’ring lip and heart
    I call this Saviour mine.
    This cross dispels each doubt;
    I bury in his tomb
    Each thought of unbelief and fear,
    Each ling’ring shade of gloom.

    I praise the God of grace;
    I trust his truth and might;
    He calls me his, I call him mine,
    My God, my joy, my light.
    ‘Tis he who saveth me,
    And freely pardon gives;
    I love because he loveth me,
    I live because he lives.

    Rock of Ages, cleft for me
    Let me hide myself in thee;
    Let the water and the blood,
    From thy riven side which flowed,
    Be of sin the double cure,
    Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.

    Not the labors of my hands
    Can fulfil thy law’s demands;
    Could my zeal no respite know,
    Could my tears for ever flow,
    All for sin could not atone;
    Thou must save, and thou alone.

    Nothing in my hand I bring,
    Simply to thy cross I cling;
    Naked, come to thee for dress,
    Helpless, look to thee for grace;
    Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
    Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

    While I draw this fleeting breath,
    When mine eyelids close in death,
    When I soar to worlds unknown,
    See thee on thy judgment throne,
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in thee.

  9. Did I really love God? Was I really saved, or just faking it?

    Loving God is the first commandment (in summary, of course). This we don’t do, otherwise why the need for substitutionary atonement. So, really, really loving God is something that we will only gradually aproximate as we are more and more sanctified. Only the FV guys (who think that your obedience to this first summarized commandment is a sine qua non for salvation) and those that think that forced love sucks (who think you must love God out of your own depraved strength prior to regeneration) disagree with this assertion. Just think how close you came (and currently are via assorted aquaintances) to these heresies. Reminds me of the not-ready-for-primetime: “I think you are not far from the kingdom of hell, my son”. It also reminds me of this much quoted verse: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

  10. What does sine qua non mean?

  11. Thanks for that Echo. Those are great words as well.

    Do you (does your church) typically use the traditional tune, or the more modern KYXY-ballad one? (Oopx, I just revealed my preference!)

  12. sine qua non “that without which not” in other words faith plus obedience are that without which there is no salvation.

  13. You mean for Rock of Ages? You mean do they use 499 or 500? 499, traditional. Alas. I love the tune of 500.

  14. Bruce,

    I’d like to introduce you to my friend. His name is “requirement”. But you can’t shake his hand, because he’s a word. But I’ve gotten to know him very well, and have used him frequently with splendid results. He’s very helpful, doing lots of tasks which previously had required slow, cumbersome friends like Latin phrases. “Requirement” is much more efficient. Hehehe…

    E

  15. Love the hymn. Two of my personal favorites, which for me elicit emotional responses as well, are “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” (remember singing all the parts in college chapel) and “Oh Love of God”.

    Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade,
    To write the love of God above,
    Would drain the ocean dry.
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.

    O love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

  16. Re: 14

    I’d like to introduce you to my friend. His name is “requirement”. But you can’t shake his hand, because he’s a word. But I’ve gotten to know him very well, and have used him frequently with splendid results. He’s very helpful, doing lots of tasks which previously had required slow, cumbersome friends like Latin phrases. “Requirement” is much more efficient. Hehehe…

    Did you come to this insight in an a priori or an a posteriori manner? Just wondering.

  17. Biased a priori.

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  19. […] got the axe, but “Joy to the World”? “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”? My personal favorite hymn didn’t make it (it is “because it is so intensely personal” — perhaps also […]

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