In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he writes that he finds joy in suffering for them because they are Christ’s body, the church. He sees his labors as a privilege because he gets to divulge a wonderful mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Paul intends that everyone who hears the good news of Christ will become spiritually mature. “For this I toil,” he says in 1:29, “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Paul’s paradox of strenuously contending or striving for the faith, and yet fully relying on Christ to supply the power to contend, is at the heart of CityAlight’s song, “Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me.” The songwriters, an unfixed band from St. Paul’s Castle Hill (Anglican) church in Sydney, Australia, took 12 weeks to patiently meditate on Paul’s words and turn them into song. They describe their inspiration this way:
“Having Christ in us does not mean we do no more work, and neither does it mean we do it all. Rather, we contend and we contend with his energy. Even our final resurrection is made possible by the gift of Christ in us. He will bring us to glory. In our weakness he is strong, and he will complete the work he has begun. He himself is within us, leading us home, step by step. Every believer has been given this gift. It’s worth singing about!”
Initially, it was a quote from the famous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon that sparked the creation of the 2018 album Yet Not I. In a sermon on Psalm 150, which he called “the last summit in a mountain chain of psalms,” Spurgeon unpacked the psalm’s 13 hallelujahs and made the point that the name of God should move those who love Him. “If men are dull in the worship of the Lord our God,” they are not acting consistently with the character of their religion.”
CityAlight songwriters were struck by Spurgeon’s verdict about joylessness, enough to ask their team to do some soul-searching on the subject. The result was an entire album dedicated to the topic of joy. They paraphrased Spurgeon, saying, “If our worship does not reflect [joy], we ought to ask ourselves whether we are really singing about the Jesus of the Bible.”
In keeping with Paul’s words of toiling in Colossians 1:29, the words to this song did not come easily for CityAlight’s songwriters. They went through many drafts and wrestled over every word. This week, let’s wrestle together with them over the rich theology found in these lyrics and labor on in weakness and rejoicing.
To this I hold, my sin has been defeated
Jesus now and ever is my plea
Oh the chains are released, I can sing: I am free!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me
With every breath I long to follow Jesus
For He has said that He will bring me home
And day by day I know He will renew me
Until I stand with joy before the throne
Written by a member of our church staff
Worship selection from our June 1-2 services