How Sad Our State

Nearly three hundred years ago, a minister and writer named Isaac Watts penned the words to a hymn that begins, “How sad our state by nature is…” and proceeds to spend several beautiful verses discussing our unworthiness before a holy God and appealing to the perfect cross of Jesus Christ for help.  Sunday morning at TCGS our body sang these still relevant words together, and as I looked around I began to wonder what this scene might look like to an outsider.

Imagine it is your first time ever stepping foot inside a church building.  Perhaps you can, at least on some level, understand a group of people who you might consider “religious” singing song after song about a big guy in the sky who is kind and lovely and perfect.  You might reconcile this in your mind as the human tendency to want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, while grasping at any answer for the evil in this world.  Would you be shocked, however, to find that same group of individuals singing about their own “worminess”?  Not even religious nuts would enjoy berating themselves.  

It prompts us to ask ourselves: Why do we sing, robustly and with joy, about the wickedness and depravity of our souls?  And furthermore, why isn’t it enough to simply sing about God’s goodness?

We sing about our depravity because it is biblical.  The scriptures not only address our sin nature, they very plainly outline our utter hopelessness.  The Psalms tell us that we are brought forth in iniquity (Ps 51).  The prophet Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are more deceitful than all else and desperately sick (Jer 17).  The gospel of Mark reminds us that out of men’s hearts proceed evil thoughts, thefts, fornications, adulteries and the like (Mark 7).  Paul’s letters are filled with countless realities of the human condition.  If we are singing the truths of the Bible, we simply can’t get around singing about the awful state we find ourselves in.

We sing about our sin as a means of fellowshipping with other believers.  Trevor reminded us on Sunday about our responsibility to one another as members of the church.  People who are vastly different gather together to be reminded that the sin that has invaded the world and our lives is the great equalizer.  No matter your station, we all stand condemned if not for the grace of God.  This is a small foretaste of what we will see in glory– people from every tribe, toungue, and nation standing before the throne and before the Lamb, crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God.” (Rev 7)

We sing about the nastiness of our condition so that we might remove ourselves from the throne of our hearts.  Frankly, it would be too easy to gather each week and sing about God’s mercy and goodness to us without ever once considering that we are desperately in need of His mercy and goodness.  Singing our depravity eliminates any ambiguity about why Christ died– it was because of us.  It was for us.

We sing about our sin joyfully because we know the end of the story.  God’s eternal goodness, while not preceded by our wickedness, speaks to our hopelessness. I’ve heard it said before that if our sin is small, so too will be our God.  When we sing hymns like the one that Watts wrote, we remind ourselves of our great need for an even greater Savior.    

Listen to Watt’s words here.  It is my hope that when we sing them we are humbled before our great God and pointed heavenward.

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