On And Can It Be

October 27, 2010
9:10 AM

A year ago when we were making plans to do a Hymn of the Month for 2010 @ Trinity Church, I surveyed my colleagues, the Pastoral Staff. The favorite hymn, earning the most votes, was And Can It Be by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). The powerful refrain is reason enough to love this hymn as we passionately sing, “Amazing Love, how can it be that Thou my God should’st die for me?!”

Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns during his lifetime. And Can It Be is thought to be the first as it tells of his conversion experience.

Charles Wesley wrote it soon after He came to Christ. As he looks back on his life, he sees himself as a prisoner in a dark dungeon, chained by the sins that he committed–and even more “made captive” by the sin that was a part of his very being. One night, the gospel of Christ–the good news that Christ had died to meet his need–seemed to flood his own personal dungeon with light, breaking the chains and setting him free. The guilt was finally gone. For the first time, Wesley seemed to be really alive because he possessed the supernatural life of Jesus Christ!

Perhaps you may think that this hymn describes the dramatic experience of one who was rescued from the life of terrible sin and ruin… perhaps drugs, adultery, murder or who knows what? But at the time of his conversion, Charles Wesley had been a pastor in his church for over three years. And he had just returned from a “missionary” trip to America.

But in all of this religious activity, he had never experienced peace–the peace that only God can give. Peace cannot be manufactured or “faked.” Christ had never come to dwell in his life. He looked good on the outside, but the mystery of a life committed to Christ was not to be found in him.

On May 20, 1738, around midnight, Charles Wesley was saved. Finally, he began to understand the great mystery of being “in Christ.” It’s a little like that night, 1900 years ago, when Jesus said to the Jewish religious leader: Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus was a respected religious leader, but he wasn’t born again. He had never experienced the “mystery.”

Perhaps you heard, recently, of a 71 year old minister, who after spending 50 years in the service of the church, had just come to Jesus Christ. Like the experience Charles Wesley describes in his hymn, the old minister finally understood the “mystery” of being “in Christ.” He realized, as we must also, that “doing good” means nothing to God. To accept Christ’s love and sacrifice for himself was to find the source of eternal life. This, indeed, is the best–and greatest mystery of all!

The structure of the hymn gives us a full worship expression, that is, God’s story intersecting with our story, both proclamation of Scriptural truth and personal expressions of praise to God. We will sing four of the six stanzas that Wesley wrote. The climax of the hymn comes for me at that moment when I join in proclaiming, “My chains fell off; my heart was free. I rose, went forth and followed Thee!”

May our hearts be deeply moved and our faith strengthened as we walk through this “faith story” together in song each week of November. And, like the songwriter, Charles Wesley, may some among us find themselves understanding the simple, yet profound gospel truth of “salvation by grace, through faith” and having their own conversion experience as true faith is born.

Sunday, May 21. I betook myself to prayer; the substance as follows: Jesus, Thou hast said, “I will come unto you;” Thou hast said, “I will send the Comforter unto you;” Thou hast said, “My Father and I will come unto you, and make our abode with you.” Thou art God who canst not lie; I wholly rely upon Thy most true promise; accomplish it in Thy time and manner.

Tuesday, May 23. I waked under the protection of Christ, and gave myself up, soul and body, to Him. At nine I began an hymn upon my conversion, but was persuaded to break off, for fear of pride. Mr. Bray coming, encouraged me to proceed in spite of Satan. I prayed Christ to stand by me, and finished the hymn.

~Quote from Charles Wesley’s journal, 1738.

And Can It Be
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

bill-signature
Bill Born

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About bornfun

I'm married with 4 kids, an orange farmer, a pastor and worship leader at Trinity Church. I love God and I love people. I seek to be wholly devoted to the glory of God, living all of my life as worship to Him.
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