Why should I gain from his reward?

It is Easter again! A time when hear the same old story: the story of that rugged cross. That story that matters more than any other story in human history! The story that brought good news to such wretched people like us. Even though a cross was such a shameful symbol of execution, it has been for ages been used as the symbol of Christianity. It is on the Cross of Christ, where a beautiful exchange took place: Jesus died our death that we could live his life, bore all our sin that we could be set free, endured all God’s wrath on our behalf that we could stand before the throne of God above.

To help me think of the Cross, I have greatly reflected on Stuart Townend’s hymn How deep the father’s love for us. In this hymn, written in 1995, Stuart helps us to greatly think on the Cross of Christ, see how we were actively involved in Christ’s death and wonder why we should gain from its reward.

Someone commenting on this song said:

“What I appreciate most about this song is that it connects the love of God to Jesus Christ, specifically, to his death on the cross. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” doesn’t turn God’s love into something intangible, something mushy, something that is simply a matter of emotion. Rather, the lyrics draw us to the centre of God’s love in Christ, which is the cross.

Thus, by focusing on this centre, the song helps us understand Paul’s prayer for Ephesians “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”“

In the first Stanza, Stuart calls us to ponder on how deep God’s love for us – that he gave the sinless to die for the sinful. This love is worth a thought. It is beyond all measure, as Stuart notes in these lines:

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

In the second half of the stanza, he ponders on Jesus’ cry on the Cross. We read from the gospel writers, that Jesus uttered loud cry to the Father: “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) This cry of dereliction, was as a result of the father turning his face away from Jesus as he bore the sins of the world. The result of this punishment, Stuart notes in this great hymn, was to bring many sons to glory!

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

The gospel writers emphasises the irony of the crucifixion. Jesus was mocked by passersby, by priests, by soldiers and even by robbers crucified with him. They sneered him to display his power, which he claimed to have, by saving himself from the cross. However, we know the truth that if Jesus saved himself, he could not have saved us. Our sin was on his shoulders, as Stuart notes in the following stanza of this cross-centred song:

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

Substitution this was! I deserved what he got. He died in my place. See how the following lines of the song helpfully puts it:

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

Paul writing to Corinthians said: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. This too is what Stuart calls us to sing:

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

See in the last stanza how Stuart helpfully uses a powerful question to challenge us to think more of the achievement of the cross. Here is one line that lingers in my mind at times when I go to bed, and when I wake up: “Why should I gain from His reward?” It is a good stanza to remember during those ‘Oh, what a wretched man I am moments’ that we all experience from time to time…

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

I loved how someone helpfully reflected on this hymn:

This hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love” teach the basics of our faith. The stanzas discuss not only the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the love of God and sin of man. In my opinion, the last lines of the hymn are some of the finest words ever penned, as we sing, “But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.” Those words bring the worshiper’s mind back to the fact of his/her own sin, but also the glorious salvation brought about by Jesus Christ.



Lyrics: How Deep The Father’s Love For Us lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group.
Songwriter: Stuart Townend

And it can’t be that I should Gain…

I believe that conversion is solely God’s work in a life of every individual. Unless God calls the dead and brings them to life, no one else can. Charles Wesly hymn And it Can’t it be communicates this truth so well. He is believed to have written it after his conversion. Every time I sing and meditate on this hymn, my heart bursts with joy for God’s grace in salvation. It is a hymn full of assurance of new birth and the fullness of grace from Christ in a believer’s life.

Wesly in the first stanza starts with an amazement that we who caused Jesus’ death should benefit from it. How can that be? The conclusion of the verse answers this with a refrain that it’s amazing love that Jesus, our Lord and our God, should die for us.

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
for me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

In the second stanza, Wesly marvels at the mystery that the immortal dies. We know immortality and death do not mix or be placed together, and thus it is a mystery to all.  And the conclusion , Wesly noted, was mercy all and that should fill our hearts with adoration.

‘Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
let angel minds enquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
let angel minds enquire no more.

In the third stanza, Wesley recounts the infinite grace and mercy of Christ’s love and humility in the incarnation, death, and finding of lost sinners. [i] Christ died “for me” is repeated three times in the first stanza, and in this third stanza the mercy of God is said to have “found out me!” twice.  The personal emphasis is even more evident in stanzas 4 to 6.

He left his Father’s throne above –
so free, so infinite his grace –
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me!

I like how Wesly in the fourth stanza turns his attention to the bondage of his own sin and the freedom he found in Christ. Note how he puts it, ‘…my chains fell off, my heart was free…’ Wesley’s view of his pre-conversion state was that of an “imprisoned spirit” bound by both sin and nature. He draws on the imagery of a prisoner bound by chains in a dungeon.[ii]  This is an apt image of the state of mankind as described in Ephesians 2:1-3.

‘And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.’

It hardly needs more exposition than its own words express clearly;

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray –
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

Wesley begins his final stanza with words which reflect a familiarity with Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus.” He explores the results of Christ’s amazing and merciful work: there is no condemnation for those made alive in Christ and clothed in his righteousness. Instead of condemnation, we can boldly approach eternal throne through Christ, our own, and get the crown kept for us.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
alive in him, my living head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ, my own
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

This is a wonderful hymn that tells clearly God’s work of conversion of sinners, well quoted in stanza 3 as ‘Adam’s helpless race’. Even though the language of the hymn is profoundly personal, it also deeply biblical and theological. We can join Wesly in praising God for his amazing love: reconciling us to himself in Christ!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3)



[i] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/charles-wesleys-and-can-it-be-background-and-scriptural-allusions/

[ii] https://pastorhistorian.com/2010/10/07/and-can-it-be-a-theological-and-devotional-analysis/

Lyrics: Jubilate Hymns version of And can it be that I should gain Charles Wesley (1707 – 1788)




Before the Throne of God Above…

Picture yourself in heaven on the judgement day, standing before the Throne of God. The righteous and just God asks you to give an account of your life and why he should allow you in heaven, and all you do is pointing at Jesus. God looks on Jesus and is satisfied to pardon you!

This is the picture that is powerfully captured in one of my favourite hymns, Before the Throne of God Above. The author, Charitie Lees Bancroft, had initially named the hymn ‘Advocate’ who is Jesus who lives and pleads for us sinners. The hymn powerfully reminds us that Jesus, the great High Priest whose name is love, is our advocate before the father. It is a hymn that was written more than a hundred years ago and expresses the joy and peace of a person assured in the grace of Christ.

The hymn in all its three stanzas expresses beauty and power of knowing that we are safe in Christ. It is a hymn well and firmly grounded in Scripture. Every line is drawn out of, or toward, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The hymn is full of strong teachings. Every line makes me burst with joy for what God has done for me in Christ.

I love the second stanza. It ministers greatly to me as I keep struggling with sin in this fallen world. Every time I sing it, I am encouraged to move on and fight the temptation from the devil to despair. This is how someone commented concerning the hymn;

I am struck by the opening phrases of the second stanza. Who among us has not felt the accusatory voice of Satan when we are aware of our sin?   While the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit would lead us to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness, the accuser’s voice desires only to discourage us and lead us into a paralyzing sense of hopelessness.   We desperately need the reminder that God really does “look on Him (Jesus) and pardon me.”

Writing on the same hymn, another blogger noted that in verse 2, the composer may have had the following Bible scriptures in mind:

Luke 22:31-32a: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (“When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,” st. 2)

Acts 7:55-56: “But [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (“Upward I look and see Him there,” st. 2)

Col. 2:13-14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (“Who made an end to all my sin,” st. 2)

Roman 3:24-26: “. . . and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (“God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me,” v. 2)

Knowing that Jesus is our advocate is a great assurance that needs to be woven into the fabric of our faith. What a joy to know that we have an advocate who not only pleads our case but also accepts the penalty for our crime.   The truths of this hymn are so timeless. Additionally, the tune of the song can be easily sung congregationally in our churches.

Below is the Lyrics of the hymn. It’s worth reading it for in it are great truths of Jesus our Advocate;

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me


Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God




Why I love Singing Hymns…

I like hymns. I like singing them and thinking about the truths they contain. I like it when we sing hymns in church, joining fellow believers in the congregation in praising God for what he has done for us in Christ. Singing time in the church gives me another chance to fellowship with fellow believers as we remind one another of what God has done for us in Christ.

Besides the creeds, hymns have preserved and communicated great theological truths to generations. Due to their rhythmic and poetic style, hymns are memorable and keep ministering gospel truths to hearts of people of different ages, races and times in history.

The Bible urges us to sing. The Psalmist tens of times call people to sing; O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation (Psalm 95:1). Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1-2).

Singing helps us to remember God’s words to us, encourage one another and carry His truth through the mountains and the valleys of this life. Apostle Paul notes; Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Thinking of hymns, we can’t help but praise God for gifting hymn writers who have preserved gospel truths in memorable hymns through the ages. Think of the immortal hymns like Amazing Grace, Just as I am…, And it can’t be that I should Gain…, Its well with my soul…, How Great Thou Art…, What a Friend we have in Jesus…, It’s so Sweet to Trust in Jesus… and the list is endless.

Sadly, most of our modern Christian songs are highly based on appealing to emotions, lacking any depth in gospel truths. Others have biblical phrases that are taken out of context with even some scripted from people’s ideas rather than from God’s infallible Word.

In our time and age, we need to encourage many to sing hymns, even if that means changing the tunes of the old hymns to more contemporary melodies. Below are some reasons why I think we should keep singing hymns in our churches;

  1. Hymns communicates and preserves the Gospel 

Christian hymns have preserved gospel truths from generations to generations. Most of the hymns we sing today were composed by people who believed in the gospel and composed them to help people to think more of what God has achieved for us in Christ. Great hymns make it clear that the Jesus died on the cross on our behalf for our salvation.

  1. Hymns help us Worship God, both privately and publicly

We sing hymns in church to praise God for what he has done, he is doing and he will do. We sing hymns to remind ourselves and one another to keep loving the Lord and to keep holding on to the faith. We sing hymns to express our satisfaction in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Hymns help us to praise God in private, and in public.

  1. Hymns are memorable thus an easy tool to communicate truth

Hymns are easy to remember and stick in our minds for years. I remember songs I used to sing in my church 10 years ago. When I hear certain hymns, they bring back great memories of Christians who introduced me to the gospel. The best thing about hymns is that they help us think over great truths of the gospel again and again.

  1. Hymns play big role in our Christian growth

Hymns have helped me in my growth and sanctification. There are times when my heart has leapt with joy after thinking about certain truths I have listened in a hymn. Through singing or listening to hymns, I have been encouraged to keep fighting sin, to keep holding on to the faith in Jesus and to keep looking at the cross.

  1. Hymns affirm Christian truths and doctrines

Just like the creeds, hymns have affirmed great biblical truths that the church believes. I love singing hymns that affirm Scriptures alone as our supreme authority. These hymns also make it clear that it is by grace alone that we have been saved through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.


In the coming posts, I will share several hymns that I like and the truths contained in them that warm my heart every time I listen, watch and sing them.

The Parable of the Forgiving Father

The parable of the prodigal son was told by Jesus as a response to Pharisees and the scribes who grumbled that he was receiving sinners and eating with them. It is a fascinating story with unexpected forgiveness of a lost son.

The immoral son who needs forgiveness

The parable is about a father who had two sons, with the young one asking for his share of the property. He goes in a far country and there he squanders everything in reckless living. He began to be in need. He hired himself out and is sent to the fields to feed pigs. The Bible says that no one gave him anything and he longed to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate. What a sad story!

Jesus said that the man came to his senses, and decided to go back to his father. This young man fell at the mercy of his father, is ready to be treated as one of his father’s servants.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:17-19)

The forgiving Father

The second half of the Parable is more intriguing. What will his father do? If I was the father, how would I have reacted? Is such sin forgivable? What is expected here is anger, punishment and possibly rejection from his father. The parable at this point takes a different twist as we see from the father reaction towards the lost son;

The lost son arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24)

Is this how sinners are rewarded or celebrated? What is the point of all the father is doing here? It is surprising that the father shows extraordinary compassion, affection and acceptance to his younger son. Worth noting is that the father does not bring up the past, he is simply overwhelmed by the joy that his son has returned. There is a celebration. Not only is this father forgiving, but he wants his son to have joy and fulfilment in him.

The ‘moral’ son who needs forgiveness

The older son after hearing all that the father has done to his ‘lost but found’ brother, he became very angry and would not join in the celebration. This older brother thinks of himself a very good person who always obeys his father. His thinking of being ‘good and moral’ turns him into an angry, stubborn, entitled, bitter and resentful son. It is sad to note here that this son feels entitled to more than his lost brother, and that his father owes him a lot.

His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15:28-32)

This parable concludes by noting that both brothers needed the fathers’ forgiveness: one for his immorality and one for his ‘morality’. I love how Life Explored Course summarizes the lesson from this parable;

The younger brother comes back to his father humbly, knowing he deserves nothing. Like the young brother, whatever we have done wrong, we ought to ‘go back’ to the father, acknowledge what we have done and throw ourselves on his mercy.

The older brother is a warning, particularly to people who think of themselves as very good, moral or religious people, that we should beware of coming to God with a sense of entitlement. God doesn’t owe us anything; we owe him everything.


Praising God for the Protestant Reformation

Dear God, thank you for the Protestant Reformation we are celebrating this year. We thank you for the great truths from your Word that were contained in the 95 theses nailed by Martin Luther at the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg 500 years ago. We praise you that the Reformation brought to life many gospel truths from the Holy Scriptures that church leaders and church traditions had ignored. Thank you for many who stood for truth, most of whom choose to die rather than deny the good news of the gospel. We pray that you will equip us today to be ready to suffer for the gospel and you will give us joy to endure, as you helped the apostles and the many reformers who were killed for standing for the gospel.

Thank you that you gave us your Word, the Bible, as our supreme authority. We pray that you will help us in this age where preference and experience are highly esteemed, that we will find Scripture alone as the highest and final authority in our churches and even in our lives. Help us that in our pulpits your Word will be proclaimed since when your Word is preached, you speak. Help us that we will grope where the Word is to find Christ. We pray that you will remind and equip preachers of your Word to proclaim it faithfully, remembering that Christ still reigns through his Word, read and preached. We acknowledge that when the Word is faithfully preached, truly the Word will do everything as it was in the times of the early church and even during the Reformation.

We are grateful that we can access your inspired Word in different languages, remembering many who gave up their lives to see Bible translated into common man’s language. We pray that you will continue equipping many Bible translators who by your grace are translating your Holy Scriptures to make them accessible to many local languages all over the world. Dear God, we pray that many will come to the knowledge of you and of our Saviour Jesus Christ through the reading and preaching of the Bible in their own local language.

Almighty Father, we thank you for the good news of Jesus and what his death on the Cross accomplished for us. Thank you that through the gospel, your righteousness was revealed. We acknowledge that you have saved us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We pray that you will help us to see grace alone as the only hope for resurrecting spiritually dead sinners.

Lord, please help us to have faith in Jesus and to see faith alone as the only instrument by which we are joined to Christ and justified by the imputation of his righteousness. Save us from trying to earn your salvation through our good works. Help us that because of our justification in Christ, we will bear fruits and do good works, loving one another and keeping the hope for eternal life.

We pray that at this age of scepticism, we will see Christ alone as the only atoning sacrifice for sin, and you alone God as the ultimate object of our worship. We thank you and celebrate the wonders you have done for us in Christ Jesus. We pray that our churches will treasure the holiest gospel of the glory and grace of God and that we will gather every week to hear your Word preached and to exercise our faith in you in prayer. Help us to remember that you are highly glorified in us when we are most satisfied in you.

We pray like Luther, that you will help us to remember that you’re not angry with us anymore when we believe and put our faith in Jesus, and thus we can stand on our head for joy! Thank you that the gospel is the source of comfort and hope for us who believe in the midst of the struggles of life.

Now to you who is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.




If Only I…

Often, we feel our lives would be complete if only we had someone or something. We find ourselves wishing ‘If only I had a good family…, If only I had a good house…, If only I had a good car…, If only I had a good phone…, If only…’

Thousands of years ago, the Bible tells us that God delivered Israelites from their slavery in Egypt to the promised land. On their way to the promised land, they craved for the things they left in Egypt. “If only we had meat to eat. We were better off in Egypt. Why did we ever leave Egypt and come to die here?”

Just like the Israelites, we crave for things that give us satisfaction. We are always on the lookout for the things that will make us complete. Be it material possessions, people, career, education, sex, power and influence, among many others.

In this century, technology is always seeking our attention on what is the ‘latest’ or ‘new’ in the market. We are always trying our best to own as much as we can. We go to bed with a kind of satisfaction to have it all only to wake up the following morning and realize what we have is no longer in the top of the game. No wonder the preacher said;

All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already
    in the ages before us.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:8-10)

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be frustrated with life. He starts his writing with saying ‘All is vanity.’ He then notes as we see in the passage above, that all things are full of weariness and there is nothing new under the sun. When we let what we own define us, put them at the center of our lives, instead of our loving Creator.

Apostle Paul writing to Romans noted that the wrath of God is coming to the wickedness of man, who has exchanged the glory of God with created things. “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:25)

Worship of other things besides God is a slavery to sin. Nobody thinks they are a slave until they start to get the chains off. When you try to walk off it, you find you can’t. The more we sin, the more we become desensitized to it and thus the need of a greater liberation. Like Israelites, we need a greater lamb to deliver us from slavery to sin.

In later chapters of his letter to Romans, Paul asks the same question we keep asking ourselves, ‘Who can deliver me from this body of death?’ The answer is only Jesus! Knowing this, Paul offers praise to God, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ It is only through Jesus, the perfect lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world that our ‘If only…’ is transformed and becomes ‘If only I could serve Christ better, and serve others well as He did.’

Stand in the promise Jesus gives us;

“Everyone who sins is a slave to sin…but if I set you free, you will be free indeed”
(John 8:34-36)