Jesus Juve, Soli Deo Gloria

As I set out on the journey of making this new album, I am reminded of and refreshed by one of the practices of one of my heros….Johann Sebastian Bach.

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Many people know him well as one of the most brilliant and prolific composers of all time….which he is.  What many people do not know, however, are the very things about Bach for which I have the most respect.

Bach was a devout Christian, and his music and life gave evidence for this.  One of my favorite quotes of all-time is Bach’s reason for music:  ”The chief end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul” (Beautiful.  Reminds you of the Westminster doesn’t it?)   Many of his works have melodies that are mathematically/melodically encoded spelling out Bible verses or bits of liturgy from the Mass.  On top of this, Bach was a hard-worker…not a lazy, romanticized dreamer.  He was the worship leader/pastor of 4 churches at ONE TIME, and also a father of 20 CHILDREN!  (Some of you just threw up a little bit in your mouth)

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Yet through all of this, Bach wrote music….amazing music….amazing music to the GLORY of GOD!  But how?  I’m glad you asked.  Bach practiced something that was extremely simple, methodical, practical, and intentional….and this something makes him one of my heros….

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At the beginning of EVERY piece of music Bach ever wrote were 2 words:  JESUS JUVE.  This is Latin for “Jesus Help Me”.  Help me?  J.S. freaking Bach asking for HELP?  Yep.  He was.  Bach knew and lived the words of John 15…”Apart from Me you can do nothing”.  The greatest composer of all-time needed God’s help to write music.  ”Jesus Juve” was his prayer, and that’s a prayer that God loves to hear.

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Then, at the end of EVERY piece of music Bach ever wrote were 3 words…words which have become somewhat famous…”Soli Deo Gloria”.  Many of you know what that means….it’s Latin for “To God Alone Be The Glory”.  Another extremely humbling statement, especially from the pen of one of the greatest composers of all-time.  But he wrote it EVERY TIME.  Every piece.  He didn’t save it for just the good ones….or just the “ok” ones.  He wrote it every time.  To God alone.

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What an incredible practice for any artist or composer….and yet it is an incredible practice for ALL of us.  It is THE lesson of life.  We all do things, and we try to do them as best we can.  And yet as Bach teaches us, we must write “Jesus Juve” at the beginning of everything we do, because everything we know and have and do is GRACE.  The mind that Bach thought with, the hands that he wrote with, and the fingers he composed with were all GIFTS from heaven, and Bach knew this and lived this.  Do you?  Think about it….this very sentence you are reading right now is only possible because God is sustaining your mind and your thoughts in this very moment, and He has created a matrix of truth through which words can be interpreted and understood.  Your breath is God’s.  Your heartbeat is His.  Meditating on these things makes a humble man.  Forgetting it is a foundry of pride.

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Those who can write “Jesus Juve” before their work are much more inclined to write “Soli Deo Gloria” at the end of their work.  The power to work was God’s….the strength God’s….so GOD MUST receive ALL the GLORY.  What are you doing right now?  What are you achieving?  Is your life saying “Look at God!”  ”He did it!”  Or are you taking a piece of the pie?  Remember these words from 1 corinthians 3:

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11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

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What’s done for ourselves will burn.  Whatever is done for God’s glory will endure….whether we eat or we drink or whatever we do (1 Cor 10:31).  So HOW do we do EVERYTHING that we do to the glory of GOD?  We follow Bach’s example.

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Writing that you might write “Jesus Juve” and “Soli Deo Gloria” and the beginning and end of everything you do,

Matt