One of my favorite groups is Casting Crowns. When they released their third studio album “The Alter and the Door,” the song “East to West” became an instant classic. There is another song on that CD though that ranks as my favorite. It speaks to my heart, but at the same time I find it to be one of the more convicting songs I hear as well. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. The song reminds me every time I hear it that my Christian journey is not complete, and it is only by the grace of God and for his glory that I continue to run the race.
The name of the song is “Somewhere in the Middle,” and I think the lyrics provide a valuable insight into how we, as American Christians, do live and how we should live our lives as devoted followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let’s have a look at the first couple of verses:
Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me
Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me
As Christians, this is the condition of our lives that we find ourselves in most of the time. When we first come to Christ, there is a zeal for the Lord, a zeal for knowledge and a zeal for the lost. Overtime, we find that familiarity can breed complacency if not contempt. We forget our first love. We would not say that we are “cold,” but we clearly lose the intensity of the initial fire for Christ…somewhere between the hot and the cold.
It is at these times we must pray like Paul that we would “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Rom 12:1).
The Bible tells us that
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When we accept Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior, the old passes away and we become new in Christ, but it is easy to slip back into old habits and old ways of doing things…Somewhere between the new and the old.
All to often, we succumb to temptation and become once again, in our flesh, a slave to sin. It is a pattern that haunts all Christians including the Apostle Paul who lamented in Romans 7:
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Oh what wretched man am I? The Christian life is a constant battle between the flesh that we wear this side of perfection and the image to which God is calling us…Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be.
Paul also writes:
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)
Though we desire to do good and please God, no matter how good our intentions, we often find ourselves slipping back into old patterns of sin. Sin crouches at our door just waiting to devour us…Somewhere between the wrong and the right
As Christians, though, we are called to a much higher standard. We are God’s light to the world. In the book of Ephesians, we read:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)
Unfortunately, the Bible also tells us that those who live in the darkness reject the light because the light shines on their evil deeds and darkened hearts. Even after we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and despite our best intentions, we sometimes find ourselves drawn back to the darkness…Somewhere between the darkness and the light
We can take comfort in the fact that, by his amazing grace, God continues to work in our lives to perfect us into the image of Christ.
And we…are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)
Many Christians think of their moment of salvation as the end of their spiritual journey, The fact of the matter is, it is only the beginning. We are perfected once for all by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. However, our sanctification is a continual process which will not be completed until we stand perfected in the presence of God. So, we stand in a state of constant limbo…Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
So…somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me.
Next, comes my favorite line from the whole song. It is actually the line this past weekend that got me started on this blog entry in the first place. The line is…
Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
What an excellent and convicting summary of our Christian lives. In our lives, we are called to be fully surrendered to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But, the constant tug of the worries and concerns of this life does not go away. We find ourselves trying to balance our desire to be a light of God in this dark dark world and the practical aspect of living our every day lives. We are forced to balance the priorities of God against our own priorities. We seek to give our lives to God and still have control over how things will turn out. Our pride, our fear, and our unwillingness to unconditionally submit all lead to our inability to hand our lives over fully to be an instrument for righteousness in the hands of our all-powerful God. The answer to the question….Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control..is simple. You can’t just get close. Anything short of total surrender limits our impact in this life and limits the fullness of God in our lives.
The next part of the song is much more practical in nature than the first two verses:
Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Called to be warriors for God, we instead find ourselves lulled into ineffectiveness by the call of suburban life. Called to be soldiers of the Lord of Hosts, we forego fighting for the kingdom choosing instead to enjoy a latte from our favorite beverage shop. We ignore the voice of God and build arguments based on human reasoning about why we can’t give that much money, or go to that place, or share with that person….Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense.
We would do well to remember the Word of the Lord:
There is a way which seems right to a man,But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
We seek and seek and seek spiritual knowledge, but we hesitate to live out the commands of God. We like to look over at the deep end of the pool and talk about how to swim over there and what a great thing it would be, but we watch from the shallow end unwilling and unable to dive in head first guided by our faith in God…Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle.
Romans 1:21-23 tells us:
For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
I don’t know about you, but I read those verses and my first thoughts are that they have nothing to do with me. I don’t have a totem pole or a buddah or any other sort of idol on the mantle at home that I bow down to and worship. But, upon further reflection, I also realize that I do in a hundred little ways try to reform God into my image of him rather than the one given to us in his word. Whether it is justifying my actions with thoughts like ”God won’t mind” or imposing my morality on God who is the source of that morality or reading past those parts of the Bible that I find difficult or challenging with the thought “I’ll just come back to that later,” in so many little ways despite our knowledge we find ourselves caught between…the God we want and the God who is.
We are left facing the ultimate questions….will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle. Will we surrender wholly to God and find that joy and contentment that the Bible promises in Christ, or will we continue to do things our way convinced that, though we love him, we’re not entirely sure that God really knows what is best for us?
The next verse takes us from attitude to action:
Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
James 2:17 says,
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
All to often, we devise noble plans in our heart and promise God that this time we will follow through. This verse in James reminds us that our faith will inevitably lead to good deeds. It is not enough to want to do good, we must follow through wherever and whenever possible. Our faith must be lived out so that others can see the love of God in us. We must work to ensure that our faith does not dissipate…somewhere between my heart and my hands.
It’s not always just a lack of follow through that trips us up in our spiritual walk either. Many times it is our own plans that stand in the way of the work that God would have us do. in James 4, we are told
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:13 – 17)
Oftentimes, we find that even our best intentioned plans will keep us out of God’s will for our lives. Until, and unless, I learn to surrender my blueprint for my life to God, I will continue to find myself…Somewhere between my faith and my plans.
John Ortberg wrote a book called “If You Want to Walk On Water…You’ve Got To Get Out of the Boat.” I’ve never actually read the book, but I love the title. It obviously recalls the story of Peter who, upon seeing Jesus walking on water cried out,
“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)
Like Peter, we should pray that we would have the faith to step out of the boat and leave behind our safety and timidity for the power of following God. We should also pray that we would persevere in that initial burst of faith so as not to find ourselves...Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
The next series of lines from the song deal with this numbing of our faith:
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me
When we first come to Christ, we want to scream it from the rooftops, tell everyone we know, share the gift of God’s precious grace that he has freely bestowed upon us. As time passes, though the worries and concerns of this world have a way of dampening that initial burst of enthusiasm. We find ourselves embarrassed about what people might think of us if we tell them about our faith. We worry about the repercussions of being a Christian. We damper our witness or put the flame out all together, and we find ourselves…Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Similarly, there are many Sundays that we spend surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ worshiping together, learning together, and sharing God’s love when our spirit is refreshed and our zeal for the Lord is renewed. I think this is one of the reasons God calls us to corporate worship and an involvement in a local church. We vow in these moments that things will be different this week. We dedicate ourselves anew to serving the Lord and being fully surrendered to him. Somehow, though, by the time we’re through with lunch, or by the time the late football game is over, we find ourselves right back where we’ve always been…Somewhere between the altar and the door
The Bible tells us,
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ”Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” [Hebrews 13:5]
The Lord promises us that he will provide everything that we need. The world tells us that the next big thing will make us happy. We find ourselves…Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more. Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me
The song ends with a reminder that, though we should strive unwaveringly to conform to the will of God, our deeds are not the basis of God’s favor. By his grace we are saved, and by his grace we live. And, by his grace, he is with us even when we waver:
Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle
Put another way,
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Thanks be to the God of Grace!