I woke up one morning with a song in my head. The song was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson. Here is the first stanza:
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.
The song was written in 1757 so it has that “King James” feel. The words are beautiful. The first stanza is definitely a picture of Grace and redemption. Here is the second stanza:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
This stanza compares a rescue story of Israel during the time of Samuel to the work of Jesus. The reference to Ebenezer is about a stone monument that was erected to remember a great victory they had when God interceded for Israel in battle. The word Ebenezer means stone of help. That is really cool. Jesus is the rock of our salvation, the cornerstone, our solid foundation… Here is the last stanza of the song:
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
The phrase that really jumped out at me was “O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!” I feel like this is why God wanted me to check out the words to this song and share the discovery with you.
I looked up debtor in various forms in the New Testament. The word “debtor” is only found 3 times in the KJV. The Greek word translated debtor is found many more times but most often it is a reference to one person owing another person something. It is not used as a reference to a relationship between man and God other than these:
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (ESV)
Jesus was indebted to be like us in every respect so He could become the merciful and faithful high priest.
1 John 2:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (ESV)
We are indebted to walk it out like Jesus. That doesn’t mean being a perfectly moral and sinless person. It means this:
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (ESV)
Our surrendered life is the only “debt” we GET TO pay. Jesus has already paid any price and His death on a cross is proof that God so loved us. So if we understand and accept the love of God for us we are indebted to love others:
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
The love here is His love in and through us. It isn’t a work or an effort at all but a surrendered vessel of His love. We become His love when “we” get out-of-the-way.
There is one other reference in a parable about the master who forgive the huge debt of his servant and then the servant goes and collects on a tiny debt from his servant. The point of that story is God has forgiven us an immeasurable debt so how could we not forgive others?
Has anyone said to you something like “you ought (debtor) to be a better person since God loved you by dying for you.” Or they say “you owe (debtor) God better behavior, more of your stuff, your time, etc. because God paid for you.” Have you ever heard someone say that “if you love God you will pay him back by being a better Christian.” How about “if people understood the price paid they would try harder.”
I have a bunch of problems with all that. First of all it supposes that what God has done for us is measurable. The first supposition leads to the second which says it can be repaid. The final conclusion is that it is a manageable debt meaning we can make a dent in the debt. I claim what God has done for us is immeasurable. Grace has no limits. Grace is God who is infinite.
The second issue I have is that God needs to be paid back. If you are infinitely wealthy you don’t need to be paid back. God is not living in poverty. He has everything He will ever need. His goodness is unlimited because His resources are unlimited. Do you know that our poverty or inability to perform is by design. Apart from our source of infinite resource (abundant source), we will be selfish to the point of sin to protect what we have, especially our own lives. We desperately need to see our poverty apart from God and our abundance in Christ. We were not intended to live alone. We were not intended to be independent. We were designed to be reliant. As a matter of fact, I believe that our lack of relationship with God is our reason for sin. Only our dependence on Him brings us the supply of the “missing thing” that our selfishness is trying to acquire. In our own effort we lack, therefore we protect. We miss, therefore we create. Our creation apart from the Creator is an abomination. It is a tower of Babel. It is a 90 ft statue. It is worship in high places. It is a golden calf. It is our identity in our jobs. It is our possessions. It is our worth in world. It is lonely. It is hurtful. It is depressing. Our lack, our hidden poverty is our empty box of treasures that we will do anything to protect because it is ours and nobody can have it. That is the paradigm that “eating from the wrong tree” awoke in us. Imagine if we really understood that we have been missing the very “thing” that makes us complete all the time? What if our separation from God is our cause of death? What if God designed us with a missing God-gene, that without God, we die? Now imagine, us back plugged into the source as designed. We wouldn’t see ourselves as debtors at all. We would see ourselves as alive for the first time. We would see our dependence as necessity. We would see connection as oxygen in a deep dark ocean. You see it in the movies all the time. The people of planet x want to escape but only to realize that some chemical in the air or the sun itself is what sustains their life. What if we were never intended to be apart from God and our choice to be apart by eating from the “independence tree” is what killed us. What if God’s declaration to Adam wasn’t a decree of punishment for disobedience but a factual statement concerning His human system design. God was warning Adam like “don’t drink that poison it will kill you.”
To say you are a debtor to God is to change your relationship from a necessary connection to a distant master-servant relationship. A debtor relationship is not abiding and dependent on God but separate and self-reliant. Grace can’t be repaid. Grace is not to be repaid. To try to repay Grace is an insult to what God is after…YOU. Your payment is yourself surrendered to and connected to and integrated into and completely consumed by HIM. Stop trying to pay God back and instead get in His presence and live His life. He died to make it so.
I still love the song. It is beautiful and nearly 300 years old. More proof that Grace isn’t new. Grace is as old as God Himself. Jesus was crucified before the foundations of the Earth. Grace is God’s nature. Grace looks like Jesus. Grace is Christ in you the hope of glory. We get to love Him as our Abba!