One of those older newer songs (Gerrit Gustafson published it in 1990) includes this double statement:
Lord, if you marked our transgressions,
Who would stand?
Thanks to your grace, we are cleansed
By the blood of the Lamb.
It’s the sentiment of Psalm 130:3-4
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you, there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
Back to Gerrit Gustafson and his version for a moment. If you’ve sung those lines, have you really meant them? I know you’d rather not have a worship leader stand at the front saying, ‘let’s sing these words as if we really, really mean them’, but it is worth stopping to think.
Lord, if you marked our transgressions, who would stand? Really? Are we that bad? Maybe a lot of those other people are that bad, but our transgressions? My transgressions? The song – and the Psalm too – pulls no punches on that one. If God is in divine scorekeeper mode, our language should be like Isaiah: ‘Woe is me.’
But thanks to your grace, we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Really? Are we that clean? Can we be that forgiven? Back to the Psalm – one of the attributes of God is his forgiveness. And I think this is fascinating: ‘that you may be feared’! You would think that a God who never tore up the accounts, but who kept them all – every record of every sin – would be feared. On the other hand, a God who could bring up all your failures and sins and make you pay: that’s a God to be afraid of. But that’s not what the Psalm says: it says that this God is to be feared because of his forgiveness!
So do you really believe all that when you sing? (I mean really, really believe.) If God kept score, you would not stand, any more than I would. But if God forgives, you are clean.
As Jerry Bridges says:
Your worst days are never so bad that you’re beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you’re beyond the need of God’s grace.