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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Future

Listen to any modern praise music and you'll likely see a running theme. "We really love God." And that's fine. Some are the shallow "Jesus is my boyfriend" kind of songs. Others are much better about what God means to me and what He has done for me. Okay. But when you compare modern praise music with older hymns, you might notice a missing component. It is what the world scornfully refers to as "pie in the sky" and what all of the New Testament writers seem to embrace with joy and wonder. It is the future.

Paul said, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21) Perhaps that most succinctly expresses what I'm trying to say. "To live is Christ" is here and now. It is the every day, the walk, where the rubber meets the road. And, indeed, it is good. But "to die" ... now that's future. That's not today, not this moment, not here and now. And, yet, it is gain. In the passage where Paul says this sentence he wrestles with his preference. "I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account." (Phil 1:23-24) And it seems to me that we in the Church have largely lost this taste for the "then" in favor of the "here and now".

The hymns are full of this future look. Consider.
How Great Thou Art
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"

Be Still, My Soul
Be still, my soul! The hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone -
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul! When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Rock of Ages
While I draw this final breath, when my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown, And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.

Be Thou My Vision
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

The Solid Rock
When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.

It Is Well With My Soul
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll:
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so" - it is well with my soul.
A running theme. So many of the hymns had this forward look, this longing for the day when "we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) Sure, there is a lot of "here and now" and there ought to be. But have we lost a sense of what's to come? Do we still love His appearing? Are we so enamored with life here that we're not particularly keen to get to that new place, that end of this life that is the beginning of eternity with Him? I fear it is so. I hope it is not. Because for me to die is gain. And for us there is a special crown of righteousness for "all who love His appearing" (2 Tim 4:8). And, hey, who doesn't love crowns?

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