This week at my Corps, I was introduced to a song that was new to me from the Red Songbook: #409–Before Thy Face, Dear Lord by Herbert Booth. Perhaps it’s new to you too, or maybe it’s an old familiar refrain, but in either case the words present a wonderful challenge for Spiritual introspection.
The song begins by recognizing our place of standing before the Lord, our dear Savior who knows us full well.
Before thy face, dear Lord,
Myself I want to see;
And while I every question sing,
I want to answer thee.
Verse two looks back, asking where we may have failed to maintain a closeness to Jesus and his powerful, effectual work in our lives.
Am I what I once was?
Have I that ground maintained
Wherein I walked in power with thee,
And thou my soul sustained?
Verse three asks us to search our hearts for any hardness to sin or worldliness.
Have I a truthful heart,
A conscience keen to feel
The baseness of a false excuse,
The touch of aught unreal?
Verse four seeks to shake us from our complacency; it asks us to remember the heights to which Christ’s love has driven us in his service, and to wonder if our heart’s fiery zeal for his ways has burned low.
Have I the zeal I had
When thou didst me ordain
To preach thy word and seek the lost,
Or do I feel it pain?
The final verse calls us to trust anew in the Lord’s ability to keep us from sin and selfishness, from complacency and conceit.
O Lord, if I am wrong,
I will not grieve thee more
By doubting thy great love and power
To make and keep me pure.
Throughout the song, the chorus continually forces us to confront who we are today, and to ask, “Jesus, am I living as the person that you made me to be?”
While I speak to thee,
Lord, thy goodness show;
Am I what I ought to be?
O Savior, let me know.
Living Up to What We’ve Already Attained
Saul’s conversion along the road to Damascus.
In Philippians 3, Paul’s describes his worldly credentials, but then quickly makes clear his utter abandonment of any identity tied to that which is outside of Christ. In verses 7-11, he quite vehemently denounces those things by which he used to value himself as garbage (σκύβαλον/skubalon: literally rubbish, dung, refuse) and he beautifully expresses the new hope he’s found in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Yet even in this he refrains from boasting, expressing instead his weakness and neediness in verse 12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
It seems clear from the text that there are some in Philippi who are contradicting Paul’s teaching of Jesus’ power being made available to the believer through faith. He apparently speaks to this conflict again in verse 15, and then completes his argument in verse 16 by saying, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Far from being an excuse to settle, Paul is actually exhorting the Philippians to remember the ways that God’s power has already been revealed in their community, and to rededicate themselves to living in that same power–today!
The Greek in verse 16 is actually infused with the idea of marching as a disciplined platoon of soldiers back to a previously known height or achievement. Paul is saying, “Remember what God has already done among you! Are you still living in that great power? Remind yourselves of the wonderful work he did in your hearts and lives when you first gave yourselves to him completely! Live like that again today–spur one another on to live at those heights again!”
Am I What I Ought to Be?
Jesus stands knocking at the door of his Church (Rev. 3:20).
My prayer for all of us Salvos is the same today. I pray that our identities would be so rooted in Christ–in who he says we are–that we would be quick to remember all that he has done in our hearts and live to honor him today. I pray that we might all remember the greatest zeal we’ve ever had for our lost brothers and sisters, and live like that today. I pray that we might be moved again with the most powerful sense of compassion God has ever blessed us with, and live that love out today. I pray that we would all remember the baptism of fire that was ours through the Holy Spirit, when we worshiped in truth and served wholeheartedly, and live like that again today!
It is my hope that the songs and prayers of the saints who have gone before us will spur each one of us on to the great height to which Christ lifted our souls when we first found his great love. I hope those memories will drive us to our knees, in a secret place. I hope that we will remember even now, in our heart of hearts, the sweetness of Jesus’ loving presence, and the power of his Holy Spirit to strip us of our sinful nature and remake us into his wonderful likeness. I hope we will be an Army that is quick to repent of our failures, and regularly asks the Lord, “Are we still the Army that you raised us up to be?”
I pray that we will all open the doors of our Corps and our hearts and ask the Lord to speak to us anew!
- Do you have a regular habit of prayerful introspection?
- How do you stay intentional about ensuring your heart is tender and receptive to the Lord?
- Have you ever felt complacency creeping in to your heart and ministry? What do you do to combat this tendency?
- What things do you think The SA needs to repent of and release in order to return to our God given calling and mission?