For many believers, and especially those who are conservative in their theology, contemporary worship music has become nearly synonymous with theologically-shallow, emotion-filled content. These Christians may look to the great hymns of the past and see in them a depth of content that escapes most modern music. Much of the music that does exist is simply inconsistent with Reformed theology or talks far more about personal experience than the transcendent truths of God’s Word.
Songs for the Cross Centered Life is a companion to C.J. Mahaney’s wonderful little book The Cross Centered Life. The album contains fourteen songs representing a mixture of new songs and hymns that have had the music reinterpreted in a modern context. The common thread binding the songs together is their focus on the cross. Each one points the listener to the main thing: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The booklet inside the album contains not only lyrics, but also the first chapter of the book.
The contemporary selections are filled with meaty, biblical content. The upbeat tune “The Glories of Calvary” expresses the joy of salvation:
My heart is filled with a thousand songs / Proclaiming the glories of Calvary. / With every breath, / Lord how I long to sing of / Jesus who died for me. / Lord, take me deeper into the glories of Calvary. / Sinners find eternal joy / In the triumph of your wounds. / By our Savior’s crimson flow, / Holy wrath has been removed. / And your saints below / Join with your saints above, / Rejoicing in the risen Lamb.
“The Glory of the Cross” proclaims the wonder of the mystery of God’s plan of salvation:
What wisdom once devised the plan / Where all our sin and pride / Was placed upon the perfect Lamb, / Who suffered bled and died? /
The wisdom of a Sovereign God / Who greatness will be shown, / When those who crucified your Son / Rejoice around Your throne.
A personal favorite is “Jesus, My Only Hope,” written by Mark Altrogge which is performed by Abby Cannon and drawn from some of the most inspiring passages of the New Testament.
I will not fear Your judgment. / For me, no wrath I dread. / For it was spent on Jesus, / Poured out upon His head / … Jesus my only hope / my only plea. / My righteousness, My great High Priest, / Who intercedes for me before the throne. / Jesus, I trust in You alone.
Some great hymns are also represented on the album. “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” by Isaac Watts, “The Look” (known in hymn books as “In Evil Long I Took Delight”) by John Newton and “Before the Throne” by Charitie Less Bancroft all receive updated treatments. “Before the Throne” is a standout song, filled with joyful beauty.
The web site for Sovereign Grace Music contains the music, lead sheets and transparencies to allow these songs to be used in public worship. Most of the songs are well-suited to that purpose. You can also visit the site if you would like to hear audio samples of any of the songs.
This album proves that worship can be deep, biblical and contemporary. Some of the selections are clearly appropriate for corporate worship and all of them are ideal for times of private worship. All of them are Scriptural. As with the book by the same name, this album will help the listener remain focused on the main thing, which is and must always be, the cross of Jesus Christ.