Friday, September 21, 2012

Help from an Old Hymn

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . (Galatians 6:14).

My wife and I readily admit to our children that we are nerds. My children readily agree.

Marnie and I proved this to ourselves several years ago when we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a trip to London. Among the many places we visited there was Bunhill Fields Cemetery. I doubt that many visitors to London intentionally spend an afternoon at Bunhill Fields, but being church history nerds we did so eagerly.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries Bunhill Fields was a ‘nonconformist’ cemetery. That is to say, it was a burial site for those who had renounced their ties with the official Church of England. The names of those to whom the Church refused a ‘decent burial’ are surprising. They are, in my mind, some of the greatest names in Christian history.

As you walk among the gravesites at Bunhill Fields you’ll see the burial place of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress. Also buried there is Susanna Wesley, the godly mother of the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley.

Keep walking and you’ll come upon the burial site of Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748). Watts was a pastor, but we know him best as the composer of the much loved hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

The opening verse of the hymn is of particular interest to us this week:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

We close this week thinking about what we can do to wage war on pride or, in the poetic words of Isaac Watts, “pour contempt” on our pride. Watts’ answer is simple. We pour contempt on our pride as we look to the cross of Jesus. Pride is put to death at the cross.

We would be wise not to speak of the cross in a way that subtly inflates our pride. The cross does indeed tell us of God’s love for us, but it says much more than that. It tells us that God loved us while we still sinners. In this, we are profoundly humbled.

Every illusion that pride constructs, the cross demolishes. The first sin an every sin that flows from it will not be made right by more education or better economic systems. We need a savior. That’s what the cross tells us. And if we’ll look at the cross and ponder it prayerfully, our pride will look silly to us, worthy of our contempt.

In what other ways does the cross kill our pride?

“Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.” Amen. (Isaac Watts, 1707).

1 comment:

Elaine Wade said...

Thank you Mark Crumpler for this reminder. It was the cross that erased the pride that kept me from answering God's call. I was thinking about what people would say and their reaction to me. Wow! It wasn't about me at all. I am today ordained and thank to have found this site. Blessings to you.
Elaine Wade