“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought.”
This is a strange phrase. Has it ever caught your attention before? In the third stanza of “It is Well,” the hymnist leads with this curious arrangement of words. It always struck me as odd. How can I consider my sin blissful?
Eventually, I learned to look at things in their proper context. I had never connected those lines with the lines that followed: “My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
We find this bliss by doing two things: by being honest with ourselves and seeing the depth of our depravity in our sin, and by looking to the cross and seeing the depth of God’s mercy in Christ.
Seeing Our Sin Clearly
As long as we aren’t that bad of sinners, we won’t need that big of a Savior. As Christians, it’s important that we realize that our problem is worse than we thought. Sin has permeated the depths of who we are. We aren’t as bad as we could be, but every faculty we have has been kissed by this sickness called sin. And when compared to the perfect standard of Christ, we have fallen far short.
Since we know our own thoughts and motives, we can say honestly with Paul, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).
If we want to savor the sweetness of the gospel, we have to be honest with the horror of our sin. Don’t look at part of your sin or confess half-truths; come to the cross with all of your sin in its entirety.
Seeing Our Savior Clearly
Then we will turn to Jesus. He doesn’t come to save us when we have our lives together. Jesus comes and exposes our brokenness. When we are covered in muck and mire, Christ reaches down, picks us up, and calls us his own.
It is here that we recognize our whole sin and that sin is then nailed to the cross. Paul uses this same language in his letter to the church in Colossae,
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14)
Christ didn’t come to just forgive our “more respectable” sins. He didn’t absorb the wrath of God on behalf of our “smaller” sins. Instead, he came and has forgiven all of our sins. This is how we are able to be honest with the depth of our sinfulness, because we trust that God will cover us with the depths of his mercy.
In this moment we experience the bliss of sin. The depravity of our sin leads us to our need for a Savior, and the cross shows us our Savior and leads us to worship.
Present Tense Sin
So where is your sin? If you are in Christ, then your entire record of debt has been canceled.
This leads us to a final observation about this classic hymn. The most powerful word in this stanza may be the word “is.” When I sing the song, my natural inclination is to sing it this way: “My sin, not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross…”
But the hymnist doesn’t say that. Instead he chooses the present tense. This is both purposeful and powerful. By choosing the present tense of the verb, he is drawing out the truth that, while our sin was in fact atoned for in a temporal sense almost 2,000 years ago, in a spiritual sense, the cross is saving us each and every day.
So in a real way, our sin not only was nailed to the cross; our sin is nailed to the cross. This is the confidence we can have no matter what we may have done. For the Christian, our sin has nowhere else to go. It has reached its final destination on the cross.
And this realization leads us to only one conclusion: “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”