I grew up in the South and attended a very conservative church that can only be described as preaching a “once saved, barely saved” message. There were so many lessons that made people afraid of hell and thus pushed them to get baptized only to have a better chance to get into heaven. Yet the people who had said they were saved and had been baptized didn’t seem to have more joy than those who didn’t know Christ.
A few years later when I was attending a different church in the same denomination, the teacher asked each of us to raise our hands if we knew, without any doubt, that we were saved and were going to be in heaven one day. At that moment I realized that I needed to know God as my Father and my Forgiver and start to live with a joy that came from within me so that others would want to know about it.
As today’s verses remind us, it’s time to stop being afraid of God’s wrath, as we would a random lightning strike, but instead to celebrate that God is the most powerful being in the universe and that God has chosen us to be his adopted and dearly beloved children. We are also reminded to never be ashamed to share the name of Jesus Christ. When we speak, we should speak from a position of love for one another. When we sing, we should sing songs to God and about God. When we work and serve one another, we should do so with genuine joy that comes from deep inside us. We should make sure Jesus’ name is remembered more than our own, for he is the Holy One of Israel, our Redeemer, and giver of living water!
I love to sing and to be part of a church family who loves to sing well. As a prayer for the day, I invite you to listen to this Fanny Crosby hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” and to reflect upon the words.