One of my biggest quests in life is to keep writing new songs about the cross. Every time I release an album I’m keen for it to contain at least one song that centres around that theme. On the latest collection there are actually three songs that do this – You Alone Can Rescue, This is How we Know, and Remembrance (a communion song). I’m really grateful that it turned out this way. As a worship leader I want to make sure that practically every time we sing together, we journey to Calvary. The centrality of the cross is crucial to our faith, and essential in our worship.
The cross is the ultimate display of love. 1 John 3:16
tell us it is the very reason we know what love is. I had wanted to write a song around that verse for a while. The breakthrough seemed to come when Beth and I fused this famous ‘3:16
’ verse with the even more well known one from the gospel of John – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son
.’ Joined together, these verses tell us of a love that sends, and a love that surrenders. The Father sent His beloved Son, and the Son surrendered His life. It was a costly love. Oswald Chambers expresses it powerfully:
'The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God.' (from My Utmost for His Highest)
The wonder of this love should never grow old in us, and our salvation songs should never run dry. We look through the hymns of old and see that these past worship writers never tired of the cross. Time after time they paused at Calvary and found something fresh to say. One worshipper talked of how it towers over the wrecks of time. Another wrote of how sorrow and love flow mingled together in that place. More recently, a worship songwriter spoke of how hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails were surrendered.
There are so many ways to look at the cross – so many different angles from which we can view the mysteries and mercies of that place. Each new song can be a window through which we glimpse something afresh. We might begin by delving into the magnitude of all that happened upon the cross. We find themes such as sacrifice, atonement, substitution and redemption. Behind each of these rather grand words is a bible study waiting to happen, and a song waiting to be sung. Next we may look at all the attributes and qualities we see fused together in this place – love, mercy, majesty, kindness, goodness, servanthood, obedience, holiness, and so on. As we begin to breathe in the wonders of this place, there is just so much to sing about.
The starting place is always the bible, but there are some great teaching books which might help you navigate the scriptures on this theme. For starters perhaps check out Tom Smail’s Windows On The Cross
, N.T.Wright’s The Crown And The Fire
, or John Stott’s book The Cross of Christ
. I’ll end with a great illuminating quote from that last book:
The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We… put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God… puts himself where we deserve to be.
(The Cross of Christ
, p. 160)
Let us join with Isaac Watts and all these poetic worshippers who have gone before us, and survey the wondrous cross, from all of it’s different angles.