Celebrate with me, because Tenth Avenue North recently surprise-released an EP! Whee!
Their cover art is super cool too, but I couldn’t find a big enough image of it to put on here. You’ll just have to look it up for yourself.
Anyway. One song on their new EP is called Forgive Me, and I just started listening to it and immediately knew I needed to write about it.
This message is so important, you guys. What they’re singing about is TRUTH, and it’s something we don’t talk about in church, but it’s so important for understanding who Christ is and what he’s done for us.
Watch it here:
When listening to Christian music, there’s a lot of rejoicing. (And rejoicing – intentionally being glad and erupting in praise and overflow of the heart because of God’s goodness and kindness – is good. Very, very good.)
“I’m forgiven! Because you were forsaken!” “Praise the Lord! I saw the light!” “I am redeemed! You set me free!”
We sing a lot about freedom and forgiveness and the light and glory that we rejoice in. And those things are good.
But I also get the feeling that we can’t feel the full weight of that light that we’ve been invited into unless we go back and remember the darkness that we walked in, drank in, were.
This is one thing that the church doesn’t talk about, that I feel is pretty important to discuss – who we were before Christ. Because when all you hear is that you’re a “good person”, maybe with a “servant’s heart”, who “God loves and has a great plan for, Jeremiah 29:11, yo”, etc., the Gospel becomes not a very big deal.
When you hear those things over and over again, you start thinking that you’re not really that bad of a person, and maybe you don’t need this Jesus guy as bad as some people do *coughcough*. It’s great that he died for your sins, like that’s cool and stuff, but you don’t really feel the change and it’s not really that big of a deal to you.
That’s what we – or, at least, I – get to thinking if I am not reminded of how absolutely filthy I am.
I bought this song because I have a certain taste in music and this song totally fits it. But when I actually listened to the lyrics, it broke my heart because of how true it has been in my life.
I hear You calling out my name, Lord
But I can’t look You in the eye
So I, I just stay away
I have gotten into arguments with God over my sins. Legitimate arguments. Like, God, I’m getting a feeling that you don’t want me in this, but I want it so please change your will arguments. And no, God, I am right in this and you are wrong and please just LEAVE ME ALONE arguments. About William & Mary. About people I wanted to ignore and not show kindness to. About people that I wanted to retain affections for. Even when I could hear God saying no to all of these.
I tried and tasted what’s forbidden
And it filled me with delight
But now I’m still hungry inside
I have never once heard someone address this in a song before. Sure, people talk about stumbling and falling and being caught in Jesus’ grace, but what they don’t talk about is what giving in to temptation feels like. They don’t talk about what it feels like to be up to our eyeballs IN sin, they only talk about what it’s like to get out of it and stay out.
Here’s what giving in to our temptations feels like, from someone who has done so too many times to count:
It feels good.
It isn’t worth the shame that follows, but in the moment, it fills with delight. And then emptiness follows.
Why don’t people address the nature of sin, that tempts us like cool ocean waves but then pulls us in to try and drown us in the undertow? Why don’t we talk about that? Are we afraid to?
The mercy and the avalanche grace means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING unless we realize exactly what chains it is freeing us from.
Let’s bring those chains out into the open. We all need freedom from them. Nobody’s getting out of here alive. There is simply not enough time for us to build a facade of perfection – of looking spiritual and righteous – over them. That’s not going to set you free, friend.
We’ve all been drinking poison, and brushing your teeth to hide the smell isn’t going to fix you – it’s just going to make the poisoned people around you feel even more alone.
Be honest. Do me a favor and talk about that deep, dark sin you’re trying to hide. (If something immediately came to mind just now, yes, it’s that one.) Get it out in the air. Tell someone. I don’t care who. If you’re too ashamed, tell God. Like, right now tell him as you’re reading this.
Now that it’s all out in the open that we’re all here in the same boat and poisoned and dirty and dying, let’s get to the good part:
Forgive me, forgive me, Lord
For living like I’m not Yours
I forget how kind You are
This is the part where we get on our knees and give up the ugly parts – the sins, and the worldly works we’ve been using to cover them up, and perhaps some pride we’ve gathered in convincing ourselves that we’re doing things well even while sin is going on underneath. This is where our hearts are broken and we know what we deserve and we ask God to spare us from that.
God is kind.
I cannot emphasize this enough. God is kind. I have finally accepted the fact that God is kind, kind enough even for me.
I always had this fear that God would get annoyed with me and leave me alone, un-save me somehow. I have this fear with most of my friends as well. It’s this weird, deep-seated thing. I avoid conflict and being annoying in any way because I’m afraid of people slowly growing to despise me and then ditching me, and I used to believe that God worked this way, too.
Because of this, I’m probably the world’s most annoying Christian. I would argue with God, never talk about him in front of my friends, and take every negative word the Bible said personally. (Jeremiah was the WORST.)
But he didn’t once give up on me. And now I know, or am trying harder to know and believe, that he is what he says he is. Because if he’s true to his Word, that changes things.
He’s KIND. He’s not just nice. KIND. (There’s a passage in Romans about it that I couldn’t find. Sorry, mate.) He’s singing over you and me right now, and he absolutely delights in us. He made us on purpose, and whether you’re seeking him or questioning him or doubting him, he’s rejoicing right now.
God is the happiest, regardless, but YOU make him so glad that he sings over you day and night. His love for you is never impatient or tired or annoyed. And he wants you in his kingdom. He wants to be reunited with you.
That’s what we forget, in a nutshell. We forget how kind he is. We forget who he is. All this is is a giant case of amnesia that would be remedied if only we would believe that he’s saved us.
And then, here’s what we struggle with when we’ve grown up in church and haven’t drunk sin as deeply:
I thought You were holding out on me now
To keep me from being free
How could I have been so wrong?
“Life with Jesus begins now and lasts forever,” says the L of the Life In Six Words Gospel (which you can watch here).
Life with Jesus means we don’t have to be afraid of messing up anymore. (Can I just – YESSSSSS. Because I mess up A LOT.)
Life with Jesus means we don’t have to count on anything in this world to make us feel complete. (Nothing at all. Husband, wife, kids, job, friends, college, WHATEVER.)
Life with Jesus means we don’t have to expect perfection from others, and we don’t have to expect perfection from ourselves. (We should strive to be holy, and help our friends do the same. But – if you let this truth become reality – your social and personal life is going to be so much less of a burden.)
These are why life with Jesus is the free life. And we’re freed from that messy sin that held us down.
Ah, Christian-born-and-bred friends, I am praying that you and I would know this better. Because I know I don’t always live the free life as a Christian, even though it’s the freest.
This confession that Tenth Avenue North has given a voice and melody to, one that we all need to be saying to God, asking him to forgive me and give me new eyes –
that’s what we need to have Jesus come into our lives.
And THEN we erupt in triumphant praise.
Because Jesus has taken all of our idolatry and lust and bitterness and hatred and doubt. All of it. All that we’ve done and all that we will do. He took it all with him to the cross.
It’s all been washed away with Jesus’ very innocent blood.
And, because of that, we sing.