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The Songs We Sing



Sunday, January 31, 2010 pm        The Songs We Sing

AT CALVARY

 Tonight, we examine the words of another song.   The song I have chosen this evening deals with the death of our Lord and our response to it.

It was written by William R. Newell (1868-1956) who was born in Ohio and put to music by Daniel B. Towner.  Newell wrote this song about his own life.  According to one resource, he was a “troubled and wayward teenager”.  His concerned father wrote to the president of Moody Bible institute and pleaded with them to enroll him.  The college was somewhat hesitant, because it was intended for serious Bible students.  However they agreed with the provision that Newell would meet every day with the president and take his studies seriously.  There was still some struggles and Newell did not graduate from the Institute.  HOWEVER years later, he returned as an instructor at Moody Bible Institute and eventually became assistant superintendent.  http://www.faithclipart.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/at-calvary-the-song-and-the-story.html

The song was published in 1895 at about 27 years of age while he was a teacher at the Moody Institute.  It is said that one day as he was on his way to teach a class, he was considering what Jesus suffered at Calvary and what it meant to him as a sinner.  He stepped into an empty class room and wrote down the words on an envelope.  Later that day he handed the poem to Daniel B. Towner, music director at Moody.  An hour later, Towner had the tune.

While we question Newell and Towner’s understanding of God’s plan of salvation, the message of this hymn is still scriptural with proper understanding of our salvation.

 I.                     Vs. 1 - My former life

a.        Years I spent in vanity and pride – times past were about fulfilling my own selfish desires.  What a waste! From time to time we need to recall what we used to be like.  Not to repeat that state or dwell on it, but rather to remind ourselves of what we have escaped.  Our goal is to learn from it.
The realization of what I was is frequently mentioned in the Bible – Colossians 3:5-7 speaks of things we are to put to death, ways “in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”
 1 Peter 4:3 says, “We have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries…”
1 Cor. 6:11 says, “And such were some of you.”

b.       Caring not my Lord was crucified – spiritual pursuits were not an interest.  Far too many just don’t care about what Jesus has done for us! 

c.        Knowing not it was for me he died – not necessarily a statement that we had never heard of Jesus, but we had not given it serious thought.
Consider Paul who recounted his past in 1 Corinthians 15:9 says, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
1 Tim. 1:12-15 also describes Paul’s former life and his conclusion, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

d.       At Calvary – the term Calvary has reference to the place where Jesus died.  Mentioned only in Luke 23:33 which says, “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him…”  The word means skull (kranion, e.g. cranium) and is so clarified in the other 3 gospels.  For example Matthew 27:33 says, “And when they had come to the place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a skull. Calvary is based upon the Latin Vulgate for skull (Calvaria); Golgotha is the corresponding Aramaic word.
The point obviously is a realization of the significance of that event.

e.       One more thought: This verse could just as easily apply to one who has slipped BACK into the world by not living the godly life.   Heb. 10:29 speaking of those who have abandoned their brethren among other things, they have, “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace.”

 II.                    Vs. 2 - By God’s Word  -

a.        A verse that describes one convicted of his sins.  That is one of the powers of His word.

b.       By God’s Word at last my sin I learned.
2 Tim. 3:16-17 identifies some of what the word of God can do.  It can convict and teach.
 Heb.  4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Romans 1:16 speaks of the power of the gospel to save.

c.        Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned – a realization of one’s truly lost condition.
In Acts 9:6 when Paul realized what he had done it says, “So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do YOU want me to do?’”
Acts 16:29, the Philippians jailer came in “and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas,…”
Even Felix trembled at the message – Acts 24:25.

d.       Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary
As in the case of Felix, trembling at your lost condition is NOT enough to save you.  It softens the heart, but you still have to respond.
In Acts 2:37 they were cut to the heart. 
Luke 18:13, the tax collector said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Before one can be saved he must REPENT!  Like the prodigal son – Luke 15:17.
He must also turn to the cross –Col. 1:20,  Galatians 3:27 tells us we come in contact with Him and His blood.

 III.                Vs. 3 – My life in Him

a.        This verse describes how our lives have changed and are now devoted to Him.

b.       Now I’ve given to Jesus everything – know that He will accept nothing less.
Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Matt. 10:37-38 calls for us to put Him before others, including our family and to take up our cross (be willing to bear whatever) for Him.
This is one of those things that is easy to say, but doing it is far more difficult.  Is He REALLY first in our lives?  IF we honestly examine ourselves, do we put ANYTHING before Him?

c.        Now I gladly own Him as my King – When Peter preached on Pentecost, he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Ac. 2:36).   To be Lord is to be our ruler.  But His rule is more than that of a mere master.  He is our KING – 1 Tim. 1:17 says, “Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Tim. 6:15 describes Him as, “the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
IF I gladly make Jesus my King, I am going to submit to His reign!

d.       Now my ratured soul can only sing of Calvary – when our lives are absorbed in His life there will be peace and joy.  It causes us to spring forth in song and praise to Him – Heb. 13:15, Col. 3:16
The word rapture is defined as “a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion.” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).  We need not think of it in the premillenial sense so prevalent today.  May our souls be enraptured with joy at the thought of what Jesus has done for us,  our privilege to serve Him and the thought of being with Him when this life is over. 1 Pet. 1:13, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Also Romans 8:18

 IV.                Vs. 4 – Reminding myself

a.        In the final verse we find some of the things we ought to think about from time to time which can keep us humble, grateful and hopeful.

b.       O, the love that drew salvation’s plan.  Can we ever fully comprehend the greatness of God’s love?  John 3:16 says it all.  Titus 3:4 says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared.”
1 John 4: 9–11, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

c.        O, the grace that brought it down to man – The message of grace is God’s part in our salvation.  He has done everything necessary to make salvation possible.
Ephesians 2:8-9, “By grace you have been saved through faith…”
Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
,”

d.       O, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary – the Bible only mentions a gulf once.  It is found in Luke 16:26 in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  Abraham explains why Lazarus cannot cool his tongue with a drop of water saying, “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”  The parable deals with the divide between the saved and the lost.  Jesus, AT CALVARY, bridged that divide.  
Ephesians 2:15–16, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

 V.                  Chorus – What Calvary means to me

a.        Consider the effect the cross can have on one who surrenders his life to Christ.  The Chorus continues to remind us of some of these things.

b.       Mercy there was great – there is NO greater mercy than what Jesus did for us at the cross and God’s acceptance of His sacrifice for our sins.

c.        Grace was free – the idea of grace is favor, unmerited favor.  Again its greatest demonstration was at Calvary.  Ephesians 2:4–7, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

d.       Pardon there was multiplied to me – When we think of pardon we think of being forgiven of something we ARE guilty of.  We receive forgiveness.  That is what Calvary did for us – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

e.       There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary – or freedom.  At the cross we find freedom from the bondage of our sins. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

 This song is a reminder of just how wonderful the cross is.  That does not mean we glory in the physical cross itself, OR the place where Jesus was crucified and died (Calvary), but rather we glory in what happened on that cross and how it has and can transform our lives.  As Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  Let us often think of what Calvary means to us.