I was sitting at a table in Chipotle when a couple of the Mars Hill Music guys asked me if Citizens would be interested in being the first band to record a full-length album for the label. This initially was exciting, but soon that turned into anxiety as I began to realize the very tall task ahead of me. I really had no songs that I had been working on, so I knew that if this thing was going to come together, it wasn’t going to be because of anything I did, but solely the work of the Holy Spirit.
I began to rack my brain for songs and, in the process, came across a song I’d written a few years back, “Made Alive.” I always liked the song but knew something about it wasn’t complete and really all that satisfying. It was a song mainly based out of Psalm 27 with a heavy focus on us “going to a place” to worship God. As the deadline for pre-production drew closer the decision was made, I got to sit down with Pastor Mike Wilkerson and Dr. Justin Holcomb—which I’m so thankful for—and have them speak into the songs we had written from a theological standpoint.
We were all sitting in the studio talking through the theology and correctness of each song when we eventually came to the song based out of Psalm 27. As I began to explain the meaning and story behind it, Pastor Mike sort of stopped the conversation and beautifully stated that there was a major problem with this song: it was all based on the Old Testament law. Why I really hadn’t made that connection before is a mystery, but I’m deeply thankful for the way he reminded us of the fact that, in the New Covenant, Christians have been made alive together with Jesus, and his dwelling place is not a place that we go to, but found in us.
What Pastor Mike was essentially preaching to us was Ephesians 2. With this new resolve, I sat down with Brian Eichelberger (our producer and amazing songwriter who leads the band The Sing Team) and we began to craft out the song in a way that focused on the beauty of Jesus’ gospel, that is: by grace we are saved, and by the grace of God alone. All of a sudden this song that had been focused on the old law, turned into this beautiful proclamation of what Jesus has done and how he has pursued and continues to pursue us in love. In a way the song had been, “Made Alive.”
What I learned in the end was that you can never preach or sing to yourself enough the amazing and freeing truth that “by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:5). We did nothing to earn it; it was a gift of God. So crank up your speakers, open a window, and get excited because you are made alive, and that’s a timeless truth that we can boldly and joyfully proclaim to all the world.
Set your calendar reminder: our band’s self-titled album, Citizens, drops Tuesday, March 12. If you pre-order the album today, you’ll get a extra song that won’t be available after release. Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the release date.