This morning as I was praying, an old hymn rose up on the inside of me. Oddly enough, it’s a song I remember Elvis singing (although not in its entirety) more than I remember singing in church. The lyrics to the song entitled, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” are below:
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the faithful lightning of his his terrible, swift sword. His truth is marching on.
Chorus: Glory, glory Hallelujah. Glory, glory Hallelujah. Glory, glory Hallelujah. His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps; they have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps. I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps. His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel: “As ye deal with my contemptors, so with you my grace shall deal; Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth his trumpet that shall never call retreat: He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgement seat: Oh, be swift my soul to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet! Our God is marching on!
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me; As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on” (Howe, 1862).
John Brown and Julia Ward Howe
A poet, Julia Ward Howe and her husband visited Washington, D.C. in 1861, where they heard troops singing a marching song called “John Brown’s Body” which was rooted in a poem penned by William Patton called “John Brown’s Body,” about a radical abolitionist leader, deemed a rebel, likened to John the Baptist, who was executed for his anti-slavery work. To give you a feel for the type of man John Brown was, here are a couple of quotes:
“Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.” -John Brown, a statement at his sentencing on 11/2/1859.
“[John Brown is] that new saint, than whom none purer or more brave was ever led by love of men into conflict and death,–the new saint awaiting his martyrdom, and who, if he shall suffer, will make the gallows glorious like the cross.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his lecture “Courage,” delivered in Boston on 11/8/1859.
A preacher (go figure) who was near Julia when she heard the lyrics encouraged her to rewrite the lyrics to the famous Union soldier’s song. After that, in what tells like a supernatural download, she found herself awakened early one morning with the wished-for lines arranging themselves in her brain. She comments that she lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in her thoughts, then hastily arose saying to herself that she should write them down before they were lost. She felt as though something of importance had happened to her. After that, she lay back down and fell asleep. In 2/1862, she sold her poem which the Union army later adopted as their battle cry.
A Holy Emancipation
As I read the lyrics from Battle Hymn of the Republic, Jesus’ words from Luke 4 came upon me. He says,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The Good News translation says it this way: “The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his Spirit. He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison.”
Slavery still needs to be abolished today. I’m referring to the slavery of sin. Those who are bound in shackles of hopelessness, shame, condemnation. I’m referring to those who sin without knowing what sin is. I’m referring to those who celebrate their sin life as though it was a crown of splendor they use to draw attention to themselves and their “truth.” We are all born into slavery in this world. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity (sin), and in sin my mother conceived me.” Romans 8:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Our slavery required a abolitionist who never participated in the slavery of sin. His name is Jesus, and it was through his death and resurrection that those of us who choose him are freed us from the slavery of sin.
So, why are so many self-professing Christians continuing to sin?
They haven’t been taught. They are not well-studied in scripture. We live in an era where cliches like, “Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin” are touted, deceiving believers into thinking that it’s ok to go on living as the world lives because you are covered by the blood of Jesus. Do you see how tricky the devil is? That’s mostly true, but God’s word says in Romans 2:4, “Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you? Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?“
Repentance means to turn away from sin. Not to continue sinning because his blood covers your sin. Period. You will serve what you worship. Are you serving money? Are you serving your own sexuality? Are you worshipping a political party? Are there any secret idols that you are putting before God?
God’s truth is marching on, as the song says, but we as believers have been playing a game of broken telephone with the word of God. It has become so diluted and taken out of context that christians use it as an accessory to their own personal way of doing life. For christians, the word of God has become the equivalent to a salt shaker on a table at a feast prepared by the hands of the church. We just want a little scripture, a little of God’s flavor on our own taste preferences; on our own lifestyle. We don’t want to be radically transformed and thus transform the world. We like our Jesus in the bottle that we can take out when it’s palatable or preferable for us. Sometimes we want a pinch of Jesus, but we don’t want him to change the way our life tastes.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13-16). When God made a salt covenant with the jews, he called them set apart. Jesus extended this invitation to everyone who would choose him as Savior. Set apart means to be holy, distinct. It means the church is different than the world just as the jews were set apart as God’s chosen from the remaining nations of the world.
Much like salt, God has placed us in this culture, and this time of history to preserve his Truth- his ways, teachings, life, and the Holy Spirit power of God. Salt improves flavors as it seasons. In low concentrations, salt suppresses bitterness and enhances sweetness; in higher concentrations, salt reduces sweetness but enhances the savoryiness of foods.
Are you salty?
The Lord is Coming Quickly
At the trumpet, Jesus will come to collect his faithful bride. Not a harlot bride. You could say He is coming to collect his salt. Are these words convicting you in areas where you have become bland? God’s truth marches on with or without you. God’s time table marches on regardless of the plans you have made for yourself and your family. Are you making his kingdom your top priority or are you continuing to build your kingdom?
“Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth his trumpet that shall never call retreat: He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgement seat: Oh, be swift my soul to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet! Our God is marching on!“
The Lord spoke this to me today, and I pray you will take heed because the time is short. He would prefer your YES but He doesn’t need your YES to accomplish His will. He is Almighty God, and He is marching on.
“I will set my feet upon the earth and march forth in Spirit and in Truth. I am pouring out my Spirit on all people; your sons and daughters will prophesy. I will release visions of who I Am among the people. I am drawing Mine unto Me. This is my battle cry. The time has come for those I have chosen to come to Me. Then I will pour out my wrath like a drink offering. My Truth will go forth like My sword- like lightning. Faster than you can blink. I am awakening My army to carry Me through the ends of the earth. To break those out of captivity and to free the oppressed. Watch and see what I will do. I hold the flag of victory.“
God’s word shows us that he never does anything without first declaring it. Before Jesus came, God prophesied through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and countless other OT prophets. He sent John the Baptist to prepare the way. Before the slaves were emancipated, God sent people like John Brown and Julia Howe, and Abraham Lincoln. Before His return, God will send his servants, as in the days of Elijah, who will declare God’s TRUTH to all people. To stand up against the Jezebels and Ahabs of this day. To confront the Baals and other false gods of this time. To stand in the gap as Nehemiah, with a sword in one hand and a hammer in the other. To say, “Here am I, send Me!”