This Christmas season marks twenty years of Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. Wow. What can I say about an album so beloved by ... Read More
There’s a clip from an old Peanuts cartoon where Schroeder is playing his little piano while Lucy leans against it, looking lovingly into his eyes. Snoopy edges his way into the frame, bopping a little to the groove. Before long, he launches into a full-on, joy-filled dance—head thrown back, arms outstretched, eyes closed, lost in the beauty of the song.
Lucy turns to Snoopy and just glares. Schroeder stops playing, and he glares too. Snoopy feels the weight of their gaze and slinks away in shame.
Whenever I see that clip, I feel sad for Snoopy for two reasons. First, I’m sad that he got mocked. That brave dog took a risk. He let the music wash over him as he got lost in the groove. You could see the joy he took in the song. He turned Schroeder’s performance into a dance. But in doing so, the jaded cynics to his right and left scorned him for doing exactly what that music was composed to do.
I’m also sad that Snoopy slunk away in shame under the weight of Schroder’s and Lucy’s glares. Have you ever considered why we’re not a people who experience joy more regularly and express it with freedom? If Scriptures like Ephesians 1 tell us that the story of the Gospel should move us to a place of unfettered joy and praise, what stops us?
What would it take to give us the confidence to embrace the joy of what Christ has done—to become people who live in the groove of the lyric and music of the Gospel? What would it look like if you and I were people who fought for the idea that the Gospel isn’t just a composition of data, but is in fact a dance with both music and lyric?
Scripture calls us to embrace the idea that the Gospel is a message of both lyric and music. Consider these verses from Ephesians 1:7-10 (ESV):
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
The lyrics of the gospel are the words, the content, and message of the song—part data, part poetry. Something happened. Something on our behalf—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The music of the Gospel is the life of those lyrics set in motion, telling us that what happened is beautiful. His sacrifice was an act of love.
Let’s focus on two key ideas illuminated in Ephesians 1: the lyric of redemption and the music of mystery.
The Lyric of Redemption
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses… (Eph 1:7)
We use the word “redemption” a lot to speak of freedom, but the word has a pointed meaning we need to understand. To redeem, in the sense it’s used here, refers to delivering something by means of paying a price. The redemption we have in Christ is effective: the price is fully paid so that there remains no outstanding debt. It is also permanent. The absence of outstanding debt guarantees there can be no repossession.
We have redemption through the blood of Jesus, who takes away our sin. This is lyric. Data. Content. When Paul tells us that we have redemption, he puts the meat of truth on those bones. Our redemption doesn’t depend on God staying in a good mood or on you making good use of a second chance. Our redemption was a real transaction—a purchasing of deliverance through a price paid. It is not a fragile reality. The lyric of the Gospel is etched in stone.
The Music of Mystery
…which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ… (Eph 1:8-9)
The mystery of God’s will is made known in the work of Christ, and it’s glorious! God didn’t just do this behind the scenes. He showed us what he’s done by revealing his son and the redemption he paid for us on the cross and secured for us by defeating the power of death for us.
Paul’s use of the word “mystery” doesn’t speak to something unknowable. It means: something previously unknown being revealed. Redemption is a mystery made known. And what is made known? God redeems us on purpose, and it is a purpose set forth in Christ, meaning his own Son was always meant to be the means by which we would be reconciled to God. It was a plan to reunite a broken creation to the harmony we were made to know and enjoy as God’s beloved, adopted children.
This is so much more than lyric alone—sterile data to file away. This is music. Look at the words Paul uses to surround his praise for redemption: “lavish,” “according to riches of his grace,” “in wisdom…”
What would it look like if you and I were people who fought for the idea that the Gospel isn't just a composition of data but is in fact a dance with both music and lyric?Russ Ramsey
Our redemption is according to the riches of God’s grace. Do you know any really, really rich people—crazy rich? What if the wealthiest, most powerful person in the world had his philanthropic sights set on you? What if his will was to, as Paul says, lavish you with all his riches not according to anything you have done, not according to your ability to position yourself in the forefront of his memory, but what if his decision to lavish you with all the riches at his disposal was a decision all his own, according to the wisdom of his insight? Would this not be reason to dance in light of the content of the lyric?
This is the Gospel: the Maker of the universe, the owner of every corner of creation, redeems his people to lavish us with the fullness of his grace for all eternity. It’s a beautiful symphony. The hope you have in the Gospel is not fragile. It isn’t based on vague precepts or the temperament of a moody god. The lyrics and music of the Gospel tell you something has happened to set you right with God—his son took your guilt upon himself, paid your debt, and bought your eternal freedom. Nothing can shake that.
If your faith is in Christ, your position is not fragile. Snoopy slinks away in shame under the weight of Lucy and Schroeder’s glares. But Snoopy was right to dance. The call to rejoice in the lyric and music of being redeemed in Christ is a call to begin now what we will most certainly do for all eternity if we are in Christ, delight in the beauty and content of the song of the Gospel.
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).