I came across ‘The Cross Still Stands‘ as I’d been reading several other things that meshed with its message. The song seemed to draw them all together.
These hands that should embrace You, Lord
Instead have drawn a rebel’s sword.
My wayward will has dealt the blow
That pierced Your son so long ago.
My actions, Lord, should build Your name,
Instead they labor for my fame.
While outwardly I bless the Son,
I seek man’s praise for what I’ve done.
Lord, this glory-seeking hunger tries
To pull my heart from You:
Such a dark, unwelcome guest who hides
In everything I do.
But Your grace remains and pleads for me:
“Destroy this enemy!”
For the cross still stands
And meets my deepest need.
This heart should worship You alone;
Instead to trifles it is prone.
My tears are drawn by earthly things
But flee when with the saints I sing.
My words should tell of all the grace
You’ve shown in saving me by faith;
Instead I use my tongue to spin
A web to minimize my sin.
David Ward’s haunting melody is well-suited to the equally disturbing words he has drawn from ‘The Dark Guest’ (in The Valley of Vision). It is a song that any congregation should be able to learn to sing easily. And it is a song with which every Christian can easily identify, since the dark, unwelcome guest is no stranger to any of us. (David’s site has an mp3 recording, a lead sheet, the words of the original poem, and an introductory comment.)
I’ve been pondering the raging opposition to God portrayed in Psalm 2. And though, as Christians, we belong to those who have kissed the Son, yet how often we still find the rebel’s sword in our hands. We toy with it at our peril. And all the while we have a greater, finer sword at our disposal, the Spirit’s sword.
The chorus well captures the essence of total depravity as we contemplate the dark, unwelcome guest who hides in everything we do. But despite the realism of the problem of continuing sin, the song finishes on a high note that cuts away all reliance on self. The focus is the cross, the remedy for all spiritual ailments.
The third verse is a great encouragement not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Carl Trueman makes a similar point about prayer, less poetically, but no less powerfully, in his latest Minority Report article, “A Lesson From Peter the Barber” in Themelios (April 2009, 34:1, pp. 3-5). “Church is not somewhere where Peter should go once he has sorted out the problem of this lack of enthusiasm;” writes Trueman, “it is the best place to go precisely to sort that problem out.”
The final verse is a vivid portrayal of self-justification. We’re familiar with the wages of spin, but again, the high note of grace in the chorus lifts the tangled heart from despair.
I found the song’s realism refreshing and thoroughly biblical. The carefully crafted phrases fire the imagination, and yet are not fanciful. They describe reality with an intensity sadly missing in so many modern songs of worship. I don’t think it is too much of an exaggeration to see this song as standing in the tradition of the Psalms. I recognized myself in every line. I find that true of the Psalms. The triumphant “destroy this enemy!” was stirring. The note of grace left me in a hopeful and sober reflective mood.
“For the cross still stands and meets my deepest need.”