Imagine This: This Song is Lousy, Cheesy, and Anti-Gospel . . . Here Comes a Rant

Yesterday I heard the song by Mercy Me entitled “I Can Only Imagine.” (lyrics) It’s one of those hyper-emotional, gut-wrenching, swarmy, cheesy, and generally lousy songs that pass as worship today.

And how do I really feel about it? It’s completely opposed to the Gospel that Jesus preached. I rarely rant, but this topic is too important. It must be confronted head on. The false Gospel must be exposed in all of its ugliness.

This song is not good news. It is the suckiest news ever: you can be with Jesus and enjoy him and dance with him and feel warm and fuzzy, but not right now. You have to wait for heaven. All that you can do right now is raise your hands, weep profusely, and hope for a better life in the next world.

That does nothing for me. That’s not what Jesus preached. That’s not what Paul preached. The church today is so obsessed with going to heaven and not ending up in hell that we’ve actually stopped reading the Gospels, or at least unstanding them.

While “I Can Only Imagine” was playing I thought of the real Gospel Jesus preached, “The Kingdom of God has come, repent and believe the good news,” and then wrote the following:

It Starts Today
it starts today
sin stains
grotesque graphics
regret reigning in
tortured by ticking time
tragedy today
sorrow tommorrow
no more. no more
it starts today
the waiting is over

clouds
angels
glory
peace
joy
eternity-all too far away
weakness of imagination
dull thoughts
dim mirrors
blurry pictures
all of no use
no more. no more
it starts today

i will stand in your presence now
i will worship you without abandon
you are welcome here and now
tommorrow is too long to wait for eternity
it starts today

your peace will come
and it will flow into the world
your glory will descend
and justice and mercy will flow
the wait is over
it starts today

OK, so I didn’t write something that’s any great shakes. It may be awful. But at least I’m closer to the Gospel than Mercy Me is.

The Gospel is about heaven coming to earth and beginning here and now. Sure, we have a lot to look forward to, but Jesus was working in the immediate, in the present. He wasn’t sending us out of the world as refugees to a spiritual place. He was restoring creation to the rule of God. AND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.

And here’s the thing, what good does it do to imagine heaven? Why imagine it when you can live it? There is nothing we can do to “prepare” for heaven. Anyone who constantly wonders what heaven will be like exhibits a deficiency in their relationship with God. Do you want to know what heaven will be like? OK, live in relationship with God. Listen to him, obey him, love him, worship him. Do it now. That will give you a taste, an experience of heaven that is far better than anything our weak, fallen minds can produce.

Again, look at the lyrics of the song’s chorus:
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

Why this use of the future tense? All of these things can happen now. How little faith we have. We can be surrounded by God’s glory, we can get out of our chairs and dance right now, we can fall to our knees and bow, we can sing his praises, and we may even fall speechless.

I’m not a huge fan of Steven Curtis Chapman. I had my phase, but his music isn’t quite my style. In any case, I have always felt that he has a real gift in crafting wonderful songs. Here’s the bridge and chorus of his song “Heaven in the Real World”:

It happened one night with a tiny baby’s birth
God heard creation crying and He sent heaven to earth

CHORUS
He is the hope, He is the peace
That will make this life complete
For every man, woman, boy and girl
Looking for heaven in the real world

Heaven has come to our world.

The Kingdom has come. Repent and believe the good news.
Amen.

3 thoughts on “Imagine This: This Song is Lousy, Cheesy, and Anti-Gospel . . . Here Comes a Rant

  1. Mike

    Excellent post Ed!

    I am with you brother. I am tired of the idea that this world’s "going to hell in a handbasket" approach to the journey. It’s amazing to me how we have totally misinterpreted the Jewish roots of heaven and hell (and esp. Jesus’ which ties into that).

    It causes all sorts of problems for how we live. I think all of the people who think the drive and goal of the Christian journey is to get people saved from hell. Man, we are just so off there. The bad thing is I find myself having to explain it all the time to people, and in turn getting grief because they think I’m not orthodox in my understanding. It just plain hurts me deeply…for the church.

    I pray that through our lives and with the communites we worship with, that we live in such a way to bring more of heaven to earth here and now. Press on brother!

  2. Ed Post author

    Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing your own struggles and prayers. I enjoyed browsing through your blog.

  3. Todd

    Ed, bring it bro. this is a nice provacative post. while i admit to really liking this song (for some emotional meaning it holds to a friend of mine in our church), I do see your very, very valid and important point. i was actually listening to these guys the other day cause it was the only CD i could find on the floor of my car and had some similar thoughts on one of their other songs too. (i forget which one).

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