Friday, April 14, 2006

Idolatry: He thought of ME above all

Michael W. Smith sings, Crucified, laid behind a stone, He lived to die, rejected and alone. Like a rose trampled on the ground, He took the fall, and thought of me above all.

More bothering to me than the fact that the lyrics to this song are so far from right is the fact that we sing it in WORSHIP at churches. Why are we singing that Jesus thought of ME above ALL? He surely didn't. He thought of God's glory. Jesus was driven to the cross and murdered there, but in dying, He felt love for those even who were murdering Him. He knew that this sacrifice was necessary for the salvation of the lost(Heb 9:16-18,22), yet at the same time, He thought of God through it all. Above all, He was serving His father; He knew that this is what God willed for Him to do. Even when Peter told Him not to let it happen, Jesus rebuked him - saying that Peter was focused on MAN'S rather than GOD's interests (Matt 16:22-23).

So yes, He thought of "me" above Himself, because had He wanted to, He could've used an enormous display of power and through some miracle stopped the crucifixion, but He didn't (Matt 26:52-53). He loves God most of all, and through this act knew that God would be shown to be a loving and merciful God, giving up the Human He most values, His only begotten Son, to death so that the veil of division between fallen mankind and pure holiness would be torn(Matt 27:50-51), and no longer would we need a "high priest" in the temple to go to the Holy of Holies for us, but being covered by the one and only High Priest(Heb 6:19-20), we can now enter the presence of God without certain death (Lev 16:2).

To sing, "He thought of ME above all" is to turn the worship inward, to say to yourself "I'm so valuable, I'm so lovely, I'm so irresistable that God's Son died for ME and I was in His thoughts ABOVE ALL!" If we sing this in the spirit of worship that Christ's love for humanity and obedience to God outweighed His own desire not to die, then yes, we worship a God whose Son is sinless and Who forgives and loves with ultimate grace. Otherwise, we are worshiping ourselves when we sing this song, which is idol worship, and we ourselves are the idols.


1.) For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. 18 Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. Heb 9:16-18

2.)All things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Heb 9:22

3.) 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." 23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Matt 16:22-23

4.) Then Jesus said* to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? Matt 26:52-53

5.)And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom Matt 27:50-51

6.) This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek Heb 6:19-20

7.) The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. Lev 16:2


Blogger j.wo said...

Oooo...Good post, Jonathan. Thanks for bringing a lot into perspective. We know EXACTLY where we stand when Christ is kept as our focus. :)

Fri Apr 14, 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

amen. Christ thought of God's glory above all. it seems like songs and books like these try to draw people in by making them feel important when really the whole point of Christ, who is blameless, dying on the cross for his children is to humble us and bring us back to God.
we are so undeserving of God's grace.

Fri Apr 14, 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Bradley said...

Balanced Post! – I liked how you took your stand here. Making qualifying statements to the effect of admitting that there is a SENSE in which Jesus thought about us above all: the sense in which, in that moment of his crucifixion (or rather, in his entire incarnation), he thought of our redemption above his comfort.

The Ultimate Sense Matters Most – But even this breaks down when we are willing to admit that our redemption was mainly meant to bring him Glory, thus even this "focus" on us and our redemption at the cross was, in the ULTIMATE sense, GOD-centered.

The Temporal Sense, When Taken Ultimately, Makes God not God – Therefore, while it's legit to say that there is a sense in which God thought of us above himself (the sense in which Jesus, being God, thought of our redemption as more valuable than his physical comfort at the cross--and the whole incarnation for that matter), in the more ultimate sense, his thinking about us is self-centered. Here's the kicker: it would be unjust any other way. If God ever ULTIMATELY thought of us more than himself, this would be blasphemy, and it would ruin God's moral perfection. As Piper say's, God cannot be an idolater.

Lyrical Ambiguity + The False Gospel of Self Esteem = Warranted Concern

Unfortunately, we can never tell whether Michael W. Smith (or whoever writes worship songs with similar lyrics) are conceiving God's love for us in the legit sense or the idolatrous sense (not to mention all those who hear). Also, to add to that, the false gospel of self-esteem is so prevalent in our day, it is hard to not see lyrics like this as the result of this false gospel.

P.S. - There is one song that I feel confident that the writer means it in the idolatrous sense. I'll give you the lyrics first and the worship band second:

"IF only my one heart was all you'd gain from all it cost, well I know you would have still been there with a reason to willingly offer your life."

So, Jesus' suffering (Jesus being infinitely more valuable than any sinner deserving nothing but eternal punishment for cosmic rebellion) he presumes would have been "worth" only his one soul. Good trade? or Blasphemy?

Let the reader judge.

(Song: Kutless, Sea of Faces)

Unfortunately, the rest of the song is really good, but this one line turns what would otherwise be an awesome God-centered song into...well...frankly...into blasphemy.

Fri Apr 14, 11:53:00 PM  
Blogger Kenan said...

Mega dittos, Jonathan!Good post.
You have well articulated what I have thought about this "worship" song. I cringe every time I hear the line in particular.
Did Christ think of us? Indeed. But, He did not think of us above all. He thought of God and His glory above all.

Sat Apr 15, 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger Bradley said...

One more thing: Before we get too judgmental on our brothers in Christ, we should take this as an occasion to recognize the likelihood that all of us carry idolatrous notions of God in ways we are unable to detect in our fallen state. To say these thoughts are idolatrous is not the same as saying that Kutless (or the one who wrote the lyrics) is himself, an Idolater with a capitol “I” (no true Christian can be, in essence, an idolater or this would contradict the gospel which sets us free from the bondage of idolatry, but we all have idolatrous tendencies because of the residue of sin in our hearts, even though we have been made new in Christ). In other words, although I (and you too J-Dub) am using very strong language (blasphemous idolatry), I don’t doubt for a moment that it’s possible that I myself have been guilty of blasphemous idolatry in a similar sense. There are many people who have had false ideas about God and made statements which might technically be labeled as “blasphemous,” or “heresy” who might love God more than I do. It’s easy to detect on others, hard to detect in ourselves.


Sat Apr 15, 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Most of that song is powerful and God-centered. I remember the first time I heard it and sang it in worship. I was enjoying the focus on God's exaltation and Christ's greatness, then when it came to that last line I almost chocked.

In a church I was in previously we changed the last line to, "You rose again, above all," instead of "and thought of me above all."

Sat Apr 15, 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger Kenan said...

I like that emendation, Mark.

Sun Apr 16, 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jake Brand said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tue Apr 18, 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jake Brand said...

I'm sorry to hear that you are so full of hatred. I will pray that God will open your eyes to the beauty of this song so that you will be able to fully worship Him the way that you were meant to.

Tue Apr 18, 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Nathan White said...

Full of hatred? Wow, that came out of left field.

Good post. I've also noticed how many 'worship' songs that are sung in many churches today talk more about us and less about God. In fact, I'm trying to get to that subject in my own writings, choosing to hit on the secular music topic first: Secular Music: Harmless Entertainment, or Dangerous for the Redeemed? P2

Grace to you brother~

Tue Apr 18, 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger Nunzia said...

really interesting way to look at things.. hope you had a blessed Easter. It is all about HIM!

Thu Apr 20, 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Baconlover said...

When I was thirteen I was in love with Michael W. Smith. I thought he might divorce his wife and marry me if we met. In retrospect I realize that he was in his coked-out days and I was in my mushroom phase, so things never would have worked out.

Thu Apr 20, 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Lorie said...

Three things:
1) I have had that PRECISE issue with that song since it came out. Thanks for expressing it so elegantly.

2) Bradley needs to get his own blog. Those were some LONG comments. :)

3) His COKED-OUT days?! What?! Is this true?


Fri Apr 21, 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Coke would be an understatement. Bradley has traveled to the inner regions of the amazon to find the most euphoric drug ever made, and if it wasn't for salvation he would probably still be a serial killer.

Okay he didn't really do that, but he DOES have his own blog! ANd if you think his comments are long, you should check out his posts! :)

Fri Apr 21, 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger bethy31 said...

I don't think Michael W. Smith wrote the song..I know Lenny LeBlanc has it on his CD and I thought he wrote it. In our church, we sing, "And you're still the King, above all."

Jonathan..what's going on with your interview process...sorry I missed you..I'm at my new job now!

Fri Apr 28, 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Kari said...

Great post! I haven't checked your blog in some time and I see I've been missing out! It's funny cause a friend and I were just talking about this song and the lack of God-centered worship the other day. Nice to know there are others out there with a passion for God's glory! Keep up the posts. I enjoy thought-provoking issues over here in Uganda. :)

Sun Apr 30, 03:17:00 PM  

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