Download the song, "Only the Sinner," by Josh Bales.

In college I started collecting Key Life tapes (yes, cassette tapes!) and CDs. And my dad and I drove a couple of hours away to hear Steve preach one night in Atlanta. 

Like everyone else I enjoyed Steve’s voice and radio personality, but it was the message, even more than the man, that spoke to me so powerfully. Whenever my sin felt overwhelming Steve would invite me to “hear the soft sound of sandaled feet.” And when my self-righteousness got out of hand he would model confession, praying, “for the one who teaches, whose sins are many, and that we would see Jesus and Him only.”

Steve’s preaching of radical grace has certainly impacted my pastoral ministry, and my work as a mental health counselor, but I think it’s in my songwriting that it shows up the most. As an artist, songwriting is the very personal way I process and internalize life. Songwriting helps me take a memory, a story, or a truth and frame it with melody, emotion, and poetry.

It’s hard to say exactly which of Steve’s sermons inspired my song, "Only the Sinner," but I do remember a paraphrase of his words: “There’s no requirement for being a recipient of God’s grace, except that you be a sinner.” And I remember this story of Jesus from Mark’s gospel flooding my mind and heart:

…As he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”   Mark 2:15-17 ESV

So, after years of listening to Steve teach me about grace, on a snowy day at seminary while I was supposed to be learning Greek grammar, I picked up my guitar and started pondering the gospel story, Steve’s words, and how much my Heavenly Father loved me in the midst of my brokenness. And it happened: I heard the soft sound of sandaled feet.

 

 

Connect with Josh at JoshBales.com and get his album, Underneath the Armor on iTunes.

Lyrics

Only the Sinner

Josh Bales ©2005 Bryan Days Music (ASCAP)

 

Only the sinner, only the weak, only the man who lies and steals and cheats,

only the woman who runs around, only the child with a selfish mouth.

only prostitutes and murderers, and crooked business men,

only those who have no alibi, only those who cannot hide their sin,

 

(Chorus)

only the dirty, never the clean, only the beggar man, never the king,

only the messed up never the made, only the sinner Jesus saves.

 

Never the righteous, never the good, never the one who does all the things he should, never the rich,

never the strong, never the woman who never breaks a law,

never the healthy, never the wise, never the one who claims to have some alibi,

 

(Chorus)

only the dirty, never the clean, only the beggar man, never the king,

only the messed up never the made, only the sinner Jesus saves.

Download the song, "Only the Sinner," by Josh Bales.