As we start our journey in the book of Acts; the birth of the church, we could easily stumble at the first hurdle; the retelling of the confusing death of Judas and the intriguing appointment of his replacement. One thing which this short passage has reminded me of is that God looks at people’s hearts, not their outward appearance, their reputation or their own sense of identity.
Here are a few songs which explore this theme.
‘Judge of the Secrets’ by Sovereign Grace Music
Jesus had an incredible gift for reading people’s motives; he seemed to see in to people’s hearts and expose what really made them who they were; their passions, their desires, their weaknesses, their sins. Jesus’s first followers recognised this and it led them to pray (as recorded in Acts 1 v 24): “You Lord, you know the hearts of all, show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in his ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place”.
The heart of a man is a maze within – So, come, light the way, illuminate sin
Nothing’s concealed, all is revealed, Jesus, I yield to You
It’s easy for us to fool ourselves but God knows our hearts and as we yield them to him, he changes them in to the likeness of his own heart.
‘Spirit of God’ by Ian Peacock
At the start of the book of Acts, we see a stark reminder that the followers of Jesus were not mighty conquerers, charismatic leaders or wise sages. They were confused, weak and shaken by what had happened in the events of ‘holy week’ and unsure what to do next. If we are honest, that’s often how we feel as Christians too but perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe the realisation that we don’t have it all together encourages us to reach out in prayer to God, who is the one who guides, empowers and teaches his people.
Not in our strength but weakness we come – come to you Spirit of God.
‘Not in my strength’ by Andy Squyres
When Judas realised the despicable thing he did by betraying Jesus, he couldn’t live with himself. He’d spent so much time with Jesus and observed how gracious and warm he was towards those whose lives didn’t measure up to most people’s level of morality, let alone God’s holiness, and yet he couldn’t have believed that God would have extended the same grace and mercy to him, had he repented for what he had done. I love this song’s stark honesty:
I have brought nothing to the table, just a desire to know you more.
The reality is, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, every single one of us is ‘bankrupt’ when compared to the riches of God’s holiness. The beauty is that such as realisation gives us the freedom to fall upon his relentless grace and mercy.
‘Stained Glass Masquerade’ by Casting Crowns
Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today, feeling so small?
Cause when I take a look around everybody seems so strong, I know they’ll soon discover that I don’t belong
So I tuck it all away like everything’s OK. If I make ’em all believe it maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin I’ll play the part again, so everyone will see me the way that I see them
I’ve heard it said many times by individuals that when they look around the room in a church, they think they are the only ones with ‘issues’ and that everyone else looks like they are doing really well. And, as I’m sure you have realised by now, it’s a lie, a self-deception used by the enemy to make people feel condemned and thus preventing them from being vulnerable enough to let others in. This song by Casting Crowns encourages us to be open and honest with one another about who we are (warts and all) because as we do, we also give license for others to be open and honest with us in return. God does indeed ‘know the hearts men’ but it’s only when we are honest with him, ourselves and others, that he can help us overcome our weaknesses.
‘Speak O Lord’ by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townsend
Here’s another modern hymn from the Getty/Townend songwriting stable and once again, they have combined deep theological truth with emotive, singable melodies for the church to join in with. This song is also a prayer we can pray; each verse sung directly to God (rather than being about God) beginning with the words: ‘Speak O Lord’ or ‘Teach us Lord’. As I reflected on this week’s passage from Acts chapter 1, these words from verse 2 seem to resonate most:
Teach us Lord full obedience, Holy reverence, true humility
Test our thoughts and our attitudes in the radiance of Your purity
May you take some time this week to pray that God would search your heart and ask him to bring it in line with his own.