Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Basement Tapes: When He Comes for You

Time for another song from the Basement Tapes.

This one is called "When He Comes for You," and what it lacks in mature theology, it more than makes up for with a kind of heavy-handed evangelism.  It was written in the late '80s, when I was at the height of my earnest legalism, not yet comprehending the doctrines of grace.

Click here to listen to the song.

Here's the "Inside Baseball" if you're curious:

I loved the melody of this song, and crafted the words to fit it, which is not the way I wrote most of my songs--usually the concepts of the music and the lyrics developed at the same time.  In this case I had been writing on a different theme and was dissatisfied with the way it was progressing, so I crafted another lyric to fit the preexistent melody.

I played all the instruments in the recording, including the electronic drum machine; in the '80s, that was the best we could do without a live drummer, even though the cymbals are a little overbearing.  Backing vocalists were Mark and Jamye Wilson, Ivan and Tina Wheeler, and Christie Tompkins.

Regarding the video, I knew that if I tried to find images appropriate for this song, it would probably never get finished, so it's presented here only with some changing colors and lyrics.

Friday, March 20, 2015


I've been noticing lately the bleak historical record of how quickly God's people fall short of practical righteousness; that is, God does something spectacular on behalf of His people, after which He commands them to obey His laws, and in a shorter period of time you can imagine, they are falling--no, stampeding--away from Him.

Two quick examples, though there are many more:

God appears to King Solomon in a dream, and asks him to name anything he wants, and God will give it to him.  Solomon famously asks for wisdom.  And God replies, "Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.  And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days" (1 Kings 3:11b-13 NKJV).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Significant Passages #4: Galatians 5:2-4

This one is for all of you out there who believe that God requires you to do good works or obey His law in order for you to earn salvation.  If you trust in the hope that somehow your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds (and also hope that God is satisfied with a record of 51% obedience!), please read this carefully.

In my last post we read that salvation comes by grace through faith--and that even faith itself is a gift from God.  What do we bring to the table as our part of the transaction?  Nothing but sin!

In the passage that I've chosen from Galatians today, the Apostle Paul is admonishing believers who had at first received salvation by grace through faith, but now they were trying to complete that salvation by what they thought were meritorious works of the law.  That is, certain Jews had taught them that they needed to become circumcised in order to remain in God's pleasure.

This "circumcision" was a shorthand way of saying that to continue in God's favor, they must obey the Old Testament law.  We don't stumble over that too much in America today, but we do stumble over other laws, of our own creating.  Our form of legalism takes shape kind of like this: "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't dance, don't chew, and don't hang out with them that do."  A thousand tiny laws to bow the backs of the ones who trust in their own righteousness, instead of that which is freely found in Jesus Christ.

And what's the purpose?  To earn by our own works a righteousness that makes God indebted to us.  This is perhaps a subtle point, but here it is nonetheless: We trust in a righteousness of our own efforts, in order to force the hand of God.  "I have fulfilled Your law; now You must let me enter Heaven."

That's a rather long preamble for this series, but finally we arrive at Galatians 5:

Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
 In trying to earn their own salvation, the Galatians found themselves in the position not of somebody to whom God owed a debt; instead, they find themselves in debt to a harsher master yet: the whole law!  In trying to earn their own favor before God, they found themselves fallen from the only place of favor that exists before God: His grace.

Please don't make this critical mistake; it's a matter of life and death.  Please don't let Christ "profit you nothing."  Jesus is the way--the only way--to Heaven.  Repent from your sin-stained acts of self-righteousness, and take upon you the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is the clothing of all the saints.  Don't try to hide your sins from the eyes of the Holy One; let Him take them from you and bear them Himself upon His Cross.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Significant Passages #3: Ephesians 2:8-10

This significant passage has become to me the bedrock of my hope for salvation--the place where my hope for eternity stands or falls.  And like the other significant passages I have listed so far, I didn't discover it until many years after I first expressed faith in Jesus Christ ... but it was active in me unawares.

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads thus:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
We have been saved by the grace of God--the mercy, the unearned favor of God.  It is His mercy, completely undeserved by you or me, that saves us.

But what about works?  Works of righteousness, offered to God as a form of obedient sacrifice--isn't that what God requires?  In a word, no.

As the reformers would say, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Then what about faith?  Isn't that the meritorious work that God demands?  Again, no.

We are saved through faith indeed--but see the verse again: We are saved through faith, but "that not of yourselves ... it is the gift of God," and the verse specifically declares, "not of works."

So where do works come in? See verse 10:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Good works are not the cause of our salvation, they are the result of our salvation.