By Gareth Maggs.
When Bronwen Anderson challenged our music team to write songs, I was excited and apprehensive. I’d written other Christian songs, but never a song that could be sung in church. My other songs were written for myself to sing with a more complicated melody and a personal message. Here I was writing a song for the church, and it needed to be simple, relatable to the greater church and it needed to be God focused. The last point in my previous sentence was of the most importance, for too many modern praise and worship songs are ‘me focused’ as if God’s priority is us rather than himself.
I spent many hours thinking about what to write and often, as I read my bible, I’d try to look at the passage before and come up with one characteristic of God I could place into a song. One day I thought, ‘what is the greatest display of God’s glory?’ and I realized that it’s the cross. We can look at creation and marvel at the artwork of the Lord (Psalm 8), but the cross paints an even greater picture, for it depicts the artist stepping into the painting to rescue the lifeless strokes. We were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), worthless corpses and unable to save ourselves, but God came and he not only died; he was brutally murdered to save us.
Let me show you how this truth inspired some of the lines of the song:
1. THE VERSES:
Here I stand at your cross, and I’m overwhelmed, the God of the world is paying my cost
After realising that the cross was the greatest display of God’s glory, I pictured myself being there on that day that he died. I saw myself before Jesus, watching the nails go into his hands, and I was flooded with emotion. Now I am quite an emotional guy! Just ask my wife and she’ll tell you I tear up at the slightest display of emotion in a movie. But any Christian standing before the Lord as he died, with the knowledge of how that death would save the world, would be bought down to a speechless puddle!
The cross does not depict the death of just anyone, but the God of the world. There is no one of greater worth, and yet here he is, dying for the people who attempted to make him worthless. And they succeeded! They mocked him, spat in his face, put thorns on his head and made him carry his own cross through the town naked so that people would laugh at ‘the King of the Jews’. They tried to bring him down, to make him into nothing.
With thorns in his brow,
Leader of Angels,
At the Hands of the Crowds
Eventually, he died. He became nothing (Philippians 2:7 – 8), but he didn’t stay nothing. He rose from the dead and in his resurrection, he made us that were nothing into something.
He paid a debt he shouldn’t have had to pay, but he did and as I pictured myself before that cross, the only way I could describe the flood of emotion is ‘Overwhelmed’. Seeing love on display like that filled my senses and I knew other Christians would feel the same. So the very first verse of the song places us all before the cross and shows the absurdity of a great majestic God, dying for a small, insignificant humanity.
Author of nations,
rocks cry out his,
The Lord of creation,
now nailed for my shame
2. THE CHORUS
May my lips ever praise God Overwhelming
… may my life ever be to God overwhelming
What else is there to do when confronted with the Glory of the cross? Sometimes just saying “thanks” to the Lord doesn’t feel like it’s enough. It’s like giving a box of chocolates to say thanks to a person who has given you the most luxurious cruise liner. What greater gift is there than the cross? The best thing that we can do is accept the gift that God has given us in the cross. Romans 6: 5 – 10 explains that when Jesus died on the cross, we died with him. Our sin, our selfishness, the thing that was at the very heart of us, died and when he rose, we rose with him. We are made new, no longer with an old self, but with a new self which the passage goes on to say is ‘in him’.
This is incredible. The gift of the cross is an entirely new me. One that I don’t fully experience in this life, but I do get a taste and that taste continues to grow as the Holy Spirit uses my remaining years to make me more like Christ (1 Peter 1:1 – 2). All I need to do is let God do it. I need to give him my life and say, please let me die at the cross with you and give me a new me that can live for you forever!! This is why the lyrics of the chorus focus on different parts of the human body. The lips, the feet and the eyes. It’s my way of saying, ‘Lord, take everything’.
When standing before the cross, knowing that God is about to give such a tremendous gift, the only response is to say “Lord take everything of me. Take my life and let it be lived for you. Let me be a tool in your kingdom to help grow it and may all my days be for you.”
May my lips ever praise God Overwhelming,
May my feet ever walk in his Glorious Ways,
May my eyes ever long, for his Kingdom come,
May my life ever be to God Overwhelming
3. THE BRIDGE
Oh what infinite mercy,
what unfathomable grace,
when Jesus my saviour
died in my place
Throughout the song there’s a juxtaposition. I tried to bring across the magnitude of what Christ had done at the cross by showing his immeasurable worth against how ‘worthless’ he became (See point 1). This juxtaposition reaches a climax at the bridge, where the darkest part of the Gospel is brought forth. Up until this point the verses have spoken about Jesus being on the cross, but now he is dead. He who is of the greatest worth is now lifeless and nothing. God, the powerful ‘Lion of Judah’, is now the ‘lamb lying slain’. God, the ‘consuming fire’, is ‘now a smoldering flame’.
Lion of Judah,
Now a lamb lying slain.
A consuming fire,
Now a smoldering flame.
At this point the music quietens down to reflect the darkness of the message. It’s as if, like Jesus, we are going into the tomb with him. Eventually the music becomes almost nothing as we pause after the line, ‘now a smoldering flame’. Jesus has died and so the song does the same.
But then the song reminds us of why he died and the music returns to its jubilance as we rejoice in the truth. For the death and resurrection of Jesus happened because he decided to take our place. He decided to take on our sin. At this point of the song I could have chosen to sing about the resurrection, but the death and resurrection of Jesus would have been pointless if Jesus didn’t die for somebody. He did however die for someone, in fact in love he died for the world (John 3:16). The momentous news is that, in an act of grace too great for us to understand, he took our place.
Oh what Love overwhelming,
What unfathomable Grace,
When Jesus my Saviour
Died in my Place
Where to buy the album
I hope after reading this blog, you’ll go back and sing the song with a new found joy. If you do not have the song, you can buy the album at the Courtyard Café or from any Christian Book Discounters.