Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's no 'Space In Between Us'

I've embedded a video here by the group Building 429. I like the group, but I admit that I'm actually posting this because of the lyrics in this particular song that I don't like. It's not my intention at all to put down the writers or performers of the song. My purpose here is to make a point about how some well-meaning teachings in the church - even teachings that include some grace in it (the song speaks of grace) - can actually represent a deficient version of the gospel that keeps Christians from understanding and walking in the fullness of Christ's life and God's grace. Please - again - I'm not trying to put anyone down here. This popular song (on Christian radio) is simply useful to me in illustrating a point.

The chorus of the song goes:
All I really want to do is to fall into
The emptiness that is
The space in between us
To break this division
All I really want to do is to fall into
The emptiness that is
The space in between us
Erase it and bring us together again
Why would I say that words like these represent a deficient gospel? Well, let me ask you, what space is there - really - between you and God? What division? What emptiness? Are you really apart from God and need to be brought back together with Him again? Is that what the New Covenant scriptures really tell us about ourselves?

Ephesians 2:13 says that we have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ. Hebrews 10:19-23 says that it's by His blood that we have boldness to "enter the Most Holy Place" and that we can experientially "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." 1 Corinthians 6:17 says that we have been made one spirit with Him.

The gospel - the good news - is that we have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! (Romans 1:16-17, 2 Cor 5:21). Were we made righteous by our own good works? Were we brought near to God by our own works? Of course not! Therefore, if we sin, can those works make us unrighteous again, or keep us away from God? Of course not! It's all by the blood of Jesus, and not by how well or poorly we've performed. Think about it - when you've sinned, which is bigger - your sin or God's grace? Grace always wins, friends!

We sell ourselves short - our new-creation spirits - when we think anything we do separates us from God. Worse than that, we sell God's very gospel itself short. Is His gospel what He says it is, or isn't it!

There is a very important reason why I always want to always help people become established in all of this. If we, as Christians who have been brought near to God by the blood of Jesus, think there's a space or a gulf or a gap in between us and God, then we'll live as if there's a space or a gulf or a gap in between us and God. Instead of living as who we truly are - accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6), having peace with God (Rom 5:1) - we'll live as if we're separated from Him and as if He's angry with us or is waiting for US to do something to get ourselves "right with Him" - when it was never up to us in the first place (!), and, more importantly, when we never lost our right standing and our union with Him anyway!

Grace, the blood of Jesus, the NEW covenant, the NEW life we received in Christ - all of this changed EVERYTHING! There's no more separation from God. There's no more walking on eggshells, trying to keep ourselves in right standing with God. There's no more fear of Him hiding His face from us. His grace has accomplished everything that is needed. As we grow in our understanding of who we truly are in Him by grace alone through faith, we can trust more and more that God's grace and our daily renewing of our minds to all the wonderful truth of the Good News of the New Covenant - will continuously be at work in us, keeping us securely in Him.

Don't hope for what you already have! And don't wish for some space to be filled when there's no space there in the first place!

Related post: Jesus will never take you back


  1. Thanks for this post Joel, Anne and I appreciate what you do and eagerly reach for any hand of help in becoming more established in the truth of Gods grace. The main thing that lingers with me from the religeous teachings my wife and I have come from is the feeling that there is a gulf between me and God, that He is keeping me at a distance because I stink. I know there isn't a gulf between us, and I hear you and other blessed brothers and sisters in Christ when you all say the wonderful things you do on the subject, but its hard to feel close. I'm trying to learn how to not rely on the physical feelings, or outward works/signs that I have been taught are proof of Gods presence. Thanks again for this post, every word is a step closer to complete freedom.

  2. I find that there is a small, repeat, small niche for some who are about to become Christians...I call them seeker songs...but I agree 'big much' (my daughter would say this when she was young...with your post.

    I was at one time a prayer and worship (leader) for Prayer night....a handful would come together sing and pray. After encountering the Greatness of the Gospel sans deficient....I ended chucking 2/3rds of the song book....they had nice licks...but lies when it came to lyrics.

    I heard my daughter a couple of Sundays ago singing as she was about to go to tradsville with her mother....'Give us clean Hands...Give us clean hearts' I challenged her if that was what she really believed in this stage of her walk. She didn't like me much....I spoke it love. Oh well..

  3. Ron,

    What you're saying here is, I believe, a huge problem throughout the church - the teaching or the overall implication that we're dirt, we're mud, we're slime, we're worms... and unless we get our acts together, there's a huge gulf between us and God. We must constantly be at work bridging the gap.

    At salvation we say that God bridges the gap with the Cross, but then after that it seems we're left with a huge gap again! It's sad.

    The new covenant is completely different. It's completely new. It's good news, and for some reason I'm not so sure the church has caught on to that! We have new life, we're in union with God, our sin has been taken away. We're free!

    As for feeling close to God... I've had some thoughts about this lately, and I was thinking about it as I was typing this post, as well as when I was looking at the post I linked to in this. I don't have all my thoughts gathered together but I'm thinking I'll lay it out in writing and see what comes out and probably post it.

    My initial thoughts are that feeling close, and feeling loved, are an effect, or a result, of knowing the truth and being established in it, and that takes time, especially in a world in which so many things point us away from the truth of God's love and faithfulness. We have a lot of unlearning and relearning to do.

    In a loving marriage, I feel love from my wife when I know that she loves me, from the way she treats me and the things she says and does to show her love. Over time, even in any given moment when she's not actually doing or saying something to me, I still know her love and sense it, because I've come to know her love and I have faith in her love for me.

    In the same way, we have a perfect Father who is always loving to us. He is always close to us. As we grow to know Him more and more, we trust the loving things He has done - Jesus becoming man and dying on the cross, God giving us life and breath and grace and His spirit, doing loving and kind things to us through other people, and so on and so on. Over time, as we appropriate the truth of His love through the many ways in which He has truly shown it to us, I think we "feel" more and more loved, and more and more close to Him. But even when we don't see the signs or the works, or feel the feelings, we know by faith that He loves us.

    I'm still kind of thinking this through, as far as how to present it, but I guess that's the gist of my thoughts right now.

  4. WC,

    I understand the niche you're talking about. I do think that in our gatherings there is a place for that kind of teaching for the seekers among us.

    The sad thing is when this type of song is sung by Christians. Kind of like that song your daughter was singing, I remember I used to sing songs like "create in me a clean heart" and "take not thy Holy Spirit from me." I finally came to appropriate the New Covenant reality that in Christ I've received a new, clean heart and that God will never take His Spirit away from me!

    So I can also understand your chucking away of so many songs. It's been a while since I've been in a 'worship service,' but I last remember myself shaking my head so many times at the lyrics that seemed to me to miss the whole point of the gospel.

    In the car with my wife the other day we were listening to a certain song on the radio. I sang along with it, except I changed the words into words that represented what I believed to be the actual truth. She looked at me but didn't say anything. I don't know if she was thinking, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense..." or if she was thinking, "Why must you always do that!" ;)

  5. Joel, that's a great explanation of why we don't always sense God's love, and why we do more and more the as we understand and believe the gospel more and more.

    Great post as well, when we visit churches I often find myself making up my own true words to sing in place of the lies hehe. I think we just did the clean hands one last week as a matter of fact! Those are easy ones to change, just switch to past tense...

  6. Hee Hee, we change lyrics fact, Day After Day really says, "You are the reason I give my very best." Oh, puhleaze!! We changed it to, "I am the reason you gave your very best!!" We don't sing stupid stuff and we don't listen to it, either. On the radio or from our pastor. NO WAY!!!

  7. Ya Joel...why must you autta do that! Because you have found your freedom in Christ.

    I love those songs...where they say...I wanna live for you Lord....well you and I both know it cannot be done...we live 'from' Him who is our life.

    Sad when we have become the theological music

  8. This all reminds me of something I've done with the kids' "bedtime prayers." I like to sit down with them for just a few minutes and chat about the day, what's happening, how was school, etc, and pray. They're usually too hyper to make anything formal out of it - probably a good thing... :) But somehow they usually fall right asleep afterward!

    Anyway, I grew up on:
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the Lord my soul will keep...

    Well I changed it to:
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I know the Lord my soul will keep...

    It's nothing major... I mean it's a repetitious prayer and I'm teaching them to pray more from the heart, but in this case it's provided me with an opportunity to share with them the rock solid relationship they have with the Lord all because of His grace. They never have to fear that 'their soul He won't keep,' but rather I'm teaching them that they're secure in Him.

    As for being the theological music police... LOL... I try to be careful to approach it tenderly, if I approach it at all. :) I realize the sacredness of the cows, and it takes more than the changing of lyrics to help others understand truth. But yeah, I dealt with it a lot during my time on the radio! At times... rarely to sometimes... I would make a comment before or after a song that essentially contradicted what the song actually said, but I'd disguise it oh so cleverly... LOL. There are soooo many I could bring up right now! Suffice it to say, there ended up being other parts of my job that I liked much better than playing music!