Last week in Jesus Didn’t Die For Nothing we discussed how sometimes prayers and songs which get engrained in our Christian culture do more harm than good. Today I’d like to look at one of those Christian songs that I can no longer sing all the words to.
This song is originally in Portuguese, but if you don’t speak Portuguese you may still think of some popular songs in your language which have similar words. I’m no longer very familiar with the most popular Christian songs in English, after living in Brazil for five years. Yet I remember that when I lived in the US, I also found I couldn’t sing some of the songs that came on the Christian radio station. This song is called “A Heart Like Yours,” and you can find the original Portuguese lyrics here.
“Lord if you look inside of me, you won’t find anything good.”
The song starts with the words
“Lord if you look
inside of me,
you won’t find
Sometimes I think when we sing lyrics like these, we are remembering when we encountered God and realized our need for salvation. We saw our utter inability to save ourselves and our need for redemption. The words of the song remind us of how we felt in that early encounter with God.
The problem is that this song is written for Christians, not unbelievers. When I hear these lyrics, I immediately think of Paul’s prayer in Philemon 1:6
Philemon 1:6 (NKJV) that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Do you remember in last week’s post how I shared about a time period when I went to church almost every night but felt frustrated and ineffectual in my faith? If the sharing of our faith becomes effective when we acknowledge every good thing which is in us in Christ, then it becomes ineffective when we deny that there’s anything good in us!
Is The Holy Spirit Good? Does He Live In You?
Saying that God “won’t find anything good” in me may sound humble. Yet it doesn’t honor God for Christians to sing this. Scripture teaches that unless we have the Holy Spirit inside us, we don’t even belong to God!
Romans 8:9 (NKJV) But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Let’s ask a question. Is the Holy Spirit good? Of course! So is it appropriate for people who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them to pray “God if you look in me, you won’t find anything good?” Does such a prayer honor the Holy Spirit? To say “nothing good dwells in me” would be to deny that the Holy Spirit dwells in me, which would be to deny my salvation!
If I think that “nothing good” is in me, I’m also going to have a hard time seeing the good and the gifts that God has put in my brothers and sisters in Christ! We need to acknowledge every good thing that is in us in Christ, and also every good thing that is in our brothers and sisters. We honor the Holy Spirit by recognizing and focusing on his work in men.
We need to focus on what God has done in us and for us, not on what Satan is doing or on our failures. So many times the church is telling Christians what’s wrong instead of what’s right. But the reason we call our message the “gospel” (meaning “good news”) is because Jesus made things right!
Some may ask “didn’t Paul say that nothing good was in him?” Yes, he did say that in Romans 7:18. Yet Paul was describing what it was like to live under the law and by the flesh (mere human ability) in Romans 7. He then goes on to contrast that life with living by the Spirit, as we read in Romans 8:9. Romans declares that if we belong to God we are not of the flesh, but have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
“Lord I Need Your Forgiveness So Much. Give Me A New Heart!”
The lyrics continue:
“But one desire I have,
to be transformed.
I need your forgiveness so much,
Give me a new heart.”
As Christians we should certainly desire to be transformed so that we reflect Jesus’ nature to other people. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. But the way we are transformed and progress in Christ is by standing on gospel truth. And gospel truth says that we who are in Christ have already received a new heart and been forgiven once and for all!
Colossians 2:13 (NRSV) And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses…
Ezekiel 36:26 (NRSV) A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel’s prophecy has been fulfilled in us! If you are in Christ you are a new creation and have received a new heart.
Remember what Dan Mohler said. “Pride resists, humility receives.” We are transformed as we receive God’s once-and-for-all forgiveness and a new heart, then continue to stand on these truths. Instead of singing “I need your forgiveness” we should sing “I’ve received your forgiveness.” Instead of “give me a new heart” we should sing “Thank you, Lord, for this new heart!”
I now realize “No wonder I once felt so frustrated even though I was going to church every night! I couldn’t make much progress because as long as I kept singing such songs, there would never be a point where I just totally received God’s forgiveness, thanked him for the new heart he gave me, and honored his work in me by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Here’s a better song, also with original lyrics in Portuguese. Rather than saying “There’s nothing good in me,” this song points out how much God values us:
I can’t go out of your sight
All I can do is imagine
The riches that exist inside of you
I can only admire gold
But as I look at you I worship God
Your soul is a good that will never age
Sin can’t cover up
The mark of Jesus that’s on you
What you did or didn’t do
Doesn’t change the beginning, God chose you
Your value isn’t in what you have
Or know how to do
This is God’s mystery with you.
You’re a mirror that reflects the image of the Lord
Don’t cry if the world hasn’t yet noticed
Because God sees your value
You are precious, rarer than the finest gold
Even if you’ve given up, God never will
He’s here to lift you if the world knocks you down