While driving in my car yesterday to meet a friend for dinner, I was ipoding out to an old familiar song: The Solid Rock. It was the rockin’ version, to be sure, but two words struck me like never before. For a refresher, here are the first few words:
The Solid Rock
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand -
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
“Sweetest Frame”. Up until that worship-concert moment, I had never considered them before, nor had I dwelt in their profound comfort until that moment. Why were they so profound and comforting? Let me explain…
Many of you know I have been wrestling of late with doctrine and elements of theology. I have been trying to understand how to be a follower of Christ in the post-modern matrix and what is truly real about a range of issues: sin, the gospel, our fallen nature, the Church, prayer, etc…In wrestling through these and other issues, I have begun to identify with the emergent church movement (or conversation). For those not familiar with emergent, it is far to complicated to go into any great details here, but basically it is a complete re-understanding of Christian spirituality in our post-modern reality.
Over the past six months, I have been reading many books by PoMo (post-modern for the un-hip…) thinkers like Brian McLaren, Scot McKnight, Len Sweet, and others, and browsing the blogs of way to many people to name. In fact, I am now casually attending an emergent church. While reading through all of these novus books, articles, blogs, thoughts, and ideas, one question keeps haunting me: Who is right?
Throughout the whole of history, many voices have spoken on various facets of Christian doctrine and theology. Even more so, America is divided severely along denominational lines which seem to grow and shrink by the day, like the territories of feudal Lords in 14th century England. Evangelicalism has many well meaning voices which claim to speak for what is real about theology: John MacArthur, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Eugene Peterson, and Al Mohler are some examples. Likewise, the emergent conversation has it’s own set of voices: Brian McLaren, Len Sweet, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, and Andrew Jones to name five more. So, among these ten well-meaning, disagreeing voices I ask again, “Who is right?”
Well, this is where the comfort and counsel of “sweetest frames” comes in. As the first verse goes: “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” What is this 19th century hymnist saying? Edward Mote–famous back in the day for Mote’s Hymns and Praises–is declaring to the world that his hope is build on Jesus’ shed blood and righteousness! His hope for (and understanding of) security, salvation, eternal life, comfort, provisions, holiness, and faith are not built upon anything else but Jesus Christ himself.
Mote goes a step further, however, to declare his trust is not in any of the “sweetest frames” of his day–whether those are the frames of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Finney, John Bunyan, or Jonathan Edwards. Rather, his full trust for (and understanding of) security, salvation, eternal life, comfort, provisions, holiness, and faith leaned upon the name of Jesus. Think about the building you are sitting in right now: whether the frame is wood or concrete, you are placing your trust for comfort, security, safety and life on those frames, your whole body is “leaning” upon these man-made frames. I think the same holds true for our faith: our hope must not be built, nor should our trust lean, upon any other name–whether it is the name of D. A. Carson, Al Mohler, Brian McLaren, or Spencer Burke– but the name of Jesus Christ!
So in re-understanding various aspects and compartments of Christian spirituality, I found comfort and freedom in the words of this 19th century hymnist. If I am earnestly seeking the face of Jesus, developing a voracious appetite for His words, and communing with Him each day, do I really need to worry about properly understanding what is real about a range of doctrinal issues? According to Jesus himself I have nothing to worry about: if I ask questions about Jesus and His Way, answers will be given to me; if I seek what is real about God and His Truth, I will find what is real and true about Him; if I genuinely knock on His door, Jesus Himself will open it and guide me through the corridors of his Way and lead me to green pastures. How comforting!