At the end of one of my recent posts, I mentioned that one of my next blogs would cover a certain song by the famous Christian version of Boys II Men. That’s right. DC Talk. You know them, you love them.
Or maybe you’ve never heard of them.
Either way, they have a song I want to hold up as a theme for where I want to take this particular blog. Go listen to the first minute of the song Free at Last. This post will make 1000x more sense if you do.
If you can’t listen to the song right now, I would say, wait until you can, and then come back and read this when you have listened to the song.
I want to draw out the difference in sound, tune and tempo between the first 30 seconds, and the rest of the song, and then illustrate how that difference captures the heart of something I was processing earlier last year.
Did you notice the difference? Apart from the wacky voice that opens the song, the dull, uninspired, and slightly out of tune choir that begins singing could not be contrasted more heavily with the upbeat, on cue, and powerful singing of the DC Talk trio and their accompaniment. The added sound clip of Martin Luther King, Jr., at the end serves only to compliment the theme of the song. And what is that theme?
Freedom. Sheer, intoxicating, Jesus-centered, life-altering freedom.
“Free, free, I’m free at last! Thank God Almighty I’m free at last!”
“I’m free from sin, and I ain’t goin back again!”
“Out of the darkness, the Father has sparked this
The spirit’s alive while the flesh is a carcass
If you’re seriously curious about my past
Well I was once lost but I’m free at last “
So why bring up the difference in sounds between the opening 30 seconds and the rest of the song?
Too often I look around at my own heart, and the hearts of those within the church and I see a type of worship represented best by the first 30 seconds of the song – a type of religious going-through-the-motions best described as uninspired; a type of worship testifying only to the distinct lack of understanding of the very words that the church members are singing. This worship is a type of worship shackled in moralism that is enforced by a church who does not understand true freedom in Christ and what kind of emotion should accompany the singing of such truths.
Maybe such a description is too “harsh.”
I don’t think so, for I have tasted the type of freedom represented by the rest of the song.
The rest of the song, overflowing in rhythm and a joyful, almost raucous sound, captures the essence of a life transformed by a true and radical understanding of what Christ did for us on the cross and his resurrection. In fact, the song captures such understanding better than my words can, which is precisely why I’ve attached a video of the song.
The worship represented by the rest of the song is the exact kind of worship I should expect to see in a church that fully understands what Colossians means when it says, “[God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.” Or perhaps in Galatians: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
When was the last time you saw someone, in genuine uncontainable joy, light up in conversation about what Jesus has done for them? Like, they actually couldn’t stop talking about it? And it wasn’t in an obnoxious way that just clamors for attention, or in an aggressive way that comes from an over-zealous and perhaps wrong-headed evangelistic notion? You actually heard someone talking about something massive, something so seriously life-changing, something so substantially meaningful that you had to re-orient yourself after hearing them? Have you, dear reader, ever had that kind of joy deep in your soul?
I am becoming more and more convinced that Jesus came precisely to grant us this freedom and its resulting joy.
Take for example, the book of Luke – Do you know what Jesus’ first sermon was?
He came down to fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
His primary mission, according to the book of Luke consisted of setting free those who were in bondage to some form of oppression. Note that he came for both physical and spiritual freedom, not just one or the other.
Jesus came down, shed his blood and fulfilled forever the sacrificial system of Israel. If this Christian life consists (only) of us trying desperately to be like Christ, failing, sinning, asking forgiveness for our sins, and then getting on with it – guess what? The Jewish sacrificial system functioned sufficiently to provide forgiveness of sins under such a way of life. We wouldn’t need Jesus to pay for our sins.
Either Jesus’ blood paid for everything, or it didn’t. There is no in-between place of sinning and forgiveness. It’s all paid, or none of it is, and if it has truly all been paid, then we are free to forget about sin’s death grip on our way of being. The grace we now receive is not grace for sins to be forgiven – because whatever sin we commit or have committed has already been forgiven. No, the grace we receive empowers us to live exactly as we were created to be, as new creations in Christ, as image-bearers of the God.
After all, the gospel does not end with Jesus paying for your sins by death and being buried. The gospel story culminates in Jesus’ resurrection.
You see, this is our story as well. We die to ourselves and our sin, identifying with Christ in his death AND resurrection, and now we are free (FREE) to be exactly this new body as Christ, and such freedom is profoundly condusive for joy.
In a strange paradox, Jesus came down to free us to be exactly who we, as individuals were made to be. Because sin has been trampled underfoot, I can explore the depths of my God-given imaging and rejoice by living as an individual to the full extent of my created being. But why and for what reason? Because it’s not about me. It’s about the one who created me, saved me, enabled me, and gave me a story and role to play.
Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last.
As always – questions, comments, etc.