Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
- Hebrews 13:7-8
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
- Revelation 3:14-22
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see”
- John Newton, Amazing Grace
If you do not notice in a pastor’s sermons, or from one pastor to the next, you might notice when you get the next church hymnal. Non-biblical, false doctrine is slipping into the crevices of the church. Even a simple word change can completely change the meaning, or at least the emotion, of the message. Pray, for all that is holy, that your hymnals will be miraculously spared, and you will not need to buy new ones. If the liberals within the church cannot control the doctrine of the church, thus creating false doctrine as tenets within the church, they will gladly dominate the hymnal editing for the church, since nobody wants to be on that boring committee – except them. You see, many people get more out of the hymns than the sermon.
I am Presbyterian by up-bringing, presently at the worst of them, the PCUSA (and yes, I said that), but I am about to share some dirty laundry. A few years ago, the hit song was “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. The hymnal committee wanted to include the song as a hymn in the new hymnal, but there was a line in the second verse, “The wrath of God was satisfied.” The committee called the Gettys with a suggestion to replace the one line. The committee had already rewritten it; they needed Keith Getty’s approval since he was still alive. The liberals on the committee thought that a wrathful God was icky, and that type of God had to be expunged from the church. The Gettys, since husband and wife collaborated often, refused to change a word, and they did not need their song in the hymnal. And thus, if our church gets the new hymnal, “In Christ Alone” will not be in it. I applaud the Gettys.
If the church expunges a wrathful God, then God is not holy. He will, in essence, ignore sin. Thus, God is no longer God. Besides, if God is not wrathful, then there is no judgment and no Hell. So, there is no reason for Jesus to die for our sins. Now, God is NOT holy, and He is stupid to send His Son to earth to die for something that carries no punishment anyway.
And is that not Satan’s plan when he entered the hearts of those on the committee? (Yes, I said that too.)
But our present hymnal is horrid enough already. First, they changed two words in old hymns, “Thee” and “Thou.” The words that were substituted did not rhyme thus entire verses were rewritten. The great lyricists of the past must be spinning like a top, instead of simply rolling over in their graves, with the butchered lyrics in the new hymnal due to two archaic words. Everyone knows the meaning of these words; we just do not use them in speech that much, unless quoting the KJV or Shakespeare. No one dares rewrite Shakespeare. Why is he revered, and the Christian lyricists denigrated? More of Satan’s work?
But then, there were too many male-centric hymns that had to change. Even “mankind” had to go. Again, entire verses were rewritten to change a pronoun and then make everything rhyme, even when the meter became clunky. When I get to the point of realizing that I am singing, from memory, different words than the rest of the congregation, I quit singing and fume. Not very worshipful.
That leads me to a worship service that I attended, at least livestreamed, during the lockdown. The bulletin had the words of the hymns printed within it, and the non-profit licenses in which to avoid lawsuit, but no need for that. The second line of the first verse of Amazing Grace was “That saved someone like me.” The meter is okay, but what of the spiritual content?
I was so angry that I never heard a word of the sermon that followed. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, one change too far. I have no idea who changed it, but changing “a wretch” to “someone,” makes something with eternal power within it become something lukewarm and totally useless. It does not convey the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting someone so that they learn their wretchedness. To illustrate, might I copy the first few pages of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion here?!?!?! (Try Book First, Chapter I, ‘paragraph’ 3, second sentence for starters.) We MUST come to that understanding, according to Calvin, or there is no GRACE for us in which we could be AMAZED. To use “someone,” it could equate “someone” as self-righteous and does not need God, and the self-righteous read it as such. A wretch needs God.
I was so angry upon reading the printed word “someone” that I wanted to vomit. Indeed, I wished to retch.
Ah, that leads to the emotional state that changes when you change “a wretch” to “someone.” Someone is just an impersonal pronoun. All can relate to someone, the “someone” may not even be oneself, but “someone” does not touch your soul.
But a wretch is someone who is at such a broken state mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit – that they cannot see any means of recovery. Indeed, they cannot recover without the miracle of God entering their hearts, without God coming in and dining with them, as Revelation 3:20 states metaphorically, but in time in reality.
Retching is the actions and sound of vomiting, as in spitting out the lukewarm water of Revelation 3:16. It is not pleasant to do or to hear as others do it, but we must retch in a spiritual sense to rid ourselves of our old life and become a new creation in Christ alone. The old is gone; behold, God makes all things new.
John Newton knew of wretchedness. He had captained a slave ship, but he came to Christ, repented, and dedicated himself to God’s service. I am sure, if he were alive, he would join the Gettys to insist that his words remain as written.
And while the believers sleep, the church, at least the major denominations, are sinking in quicksand, caused by non-believers in our midst establishing tiny changes in our doctrine, liturgy, and hymns. Yet, if the major denominations become apostate, God will raise up true believers to carry on. It is not over until Jesus returns. Jesus has already won, but Satan is working overtime until Christ’s return.
Maybe not the exact wording that is in the hymnal of my youth (maybe changing “here” to “there” since we are not in Heaven yet), but Il Divo’s rendition is beautiful, especially when the bagpipes join in. You may not like the skirl of bagpipes, but it brings moisture to these old eyes of mine.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.