How Psalm 19:14 Became a Way of Life for Johnny Cash

by | Nov 10, 2022 | Faith, Jesus & the Gospel, Purpose & Identity, Spirit-Led Living

Read time: 3 Minutes 48 Seconds

The large gilt-edged slab of black marble marking the gravesite of Johnny Cash is inscribed in gold lettering:

John R. Cash

Feb. 26, 1932 Sept. 12, 2003

PSALM 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, My strength, And my redeemer.

As a Christian for almost 50 years and a pastor for decades, I know that verse well. I also find it interesting that it was chosen for “The Man in Black’s” memorial.

“Let the words of my mouth . . .” That’s ironic, given that nobody had a voice or cadence like Johnny Cash. A touchstone in my life dating back to my childhood, I remember watching Cash perform on television with my grandparents and hearing that deep booming voice—once called “The Voice of America.”

He could tell a story as he did in his iconic 1969 song “A Boy Named Sue,” and he could quote Scripture chapter and verse like he did in his recording of the entire New Testament. Therein lies the paradox of Johnny Cash. He was both a sinner and a saint.

Like millions of people, I was touched personally by Cash’s life and music. When I became a Christian in 1970, the “Jesus Revolution,” as Time magazine dubbed it, was in full swing. The high-water mark for many of us was a massive event called Explo ’72 in Dallas, Texas that brought new forms of worship into the church and paved the way for contemporary Christian music. Adding star-studded legitimacy was the presence of Billy Graham and a host of performers such as Kris Kristofferson, Love Song, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples—and Johnny Cash.

Cash was many things to many people: a country music artist who sang and acted in a rock ’n’ roll context; a social activist and a jailbird; an evangelist and an addict; a humanitarian who often stood up for the underrepresented and often butted heads with authority figures; a master storyteller and a world-class embellisher; an outlaw with the soul of a mystic; an impossible, tortured man who pinballed back and forth between extremes.

“I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all,” Cash admitted. “But my faith in God has always been a solid rock that I’ve stood on, no matter where I was or what I was doing. I was a bad boy at times, but God was always there for me, and I knew that. I guess maybe I took advantage of that.”

He had an angel on his shoulder, but the devil was always on his back.

In the first half of his life, he was a walking contradiction who identified with the apostle Paul—often ashamed and lacking the courage to stand up for Christ. All these traits and foibles were rolled up in a larger-than-life, one-of-a-kind personality that put its unique, indelible stamp on popular music and pop culture.

He was a devout Christian who divided his time between sinning and seeking forgiveness, frequently going from jail to Jesus. He was arrested several times because of his addiction to pills and sophomoric shenanigans. But he knew almost every hymn and gospel tune ever sung, often performing them on stage between such hit songs as “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire” and “Cocaine Blues.” He acknowledged God as the supreme power in the world, but viewed Satan as a close second.

“I learned not to laugh at the devil,” Cash was once famously quoted as saying.

When living by the Word, he was inspiring. When diverted by temptation, his life became ugly and out of tune.

Like many entertainers, Cash had two personas—the down-to-earth, doting family man at home and the defiant outlaw on the road. Dinners at home were warm and inviting, with lots of prayer, family time and down-home music, everything from traditional hymns to rock standards. On the road, Cash was often distant, hard-driving, pill-popping—a full-tilt party-time outlaw who secretly carried a Bible in his briefcase. The struggle was constant, a never-ending competition.

The approach to the film “Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon.” isn’t a straight biography. Anybody can look up the bare facts of Johnny Cash’s life and career by going on Wikipedia or consulting a number of standout Cash books like Robert Hilburn’s “Johnny Cash: A Life”; Michael Streissguth’s “Johnny Cash: The Biography”; or Steve Turner’s “A Man Called Cash.”

This cinematic offering traces the roots of Cash’s faith long before he became a household name. That faith was often tested in tortuous, turbulent ways. I’ve talked with friends, acquaintances, business associates, musicians and close relatives who knew Johnny to learn how he dealt with those tests to become the man he was. The film doesn’t cover his scars with make-up or his failures with syrupy idolatry. And it don’t get into every granular detail of his epic life.

The truth of the whole man is compelling, and the story of Johnny Cash is a roadmap for every conflicted soul for whom redemption too often seems a destination far off the beaten path.

Thank you for accompanying me on this very personal and meaningful journey.

Bring Charisma magazine home with a subscription today!

Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. Laurie is releasing two upcoming films: “Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon” in theaters December 5-7 in partnership with Fathom Events, Kingdom Story Company and WTA Media, and “Jesus Revolution” from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company in theaters February 2023.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

COGIC Bishop Derrick Hutchins Sr. Dies at 65

COGIC Bishop Derrick Hutchins Sr. Dies at 65

Read Time: 1 Minute 59 Seconds Bishop J. Drew Sheard and the General Board of the Eastern Florida Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ announced Tuesday the death of one of its most beloved leaders, Bishop Derrick Hutchins Sr. Hutchins was 65....

Don’t Criticize Charismatics

Don’t Criticize Charismatics

They are saying the charismatic movement is divisive. Whenever people get involved in the "new emphasis," there are disruptions in the status quo. Red flags go up. Lines are drawn. I would ask: What else could be expected? Any force as great as this is bound to make...

Jonathan Cahn Reveals the Mystery of the Molten Beast

Jonathan Cahn Reveals the Mystery of the Molten Beast

Read Time: 6 Minutes, 42 Seconds Is it possible that ancient entities known as "the gods" have returned to our world? Could these gods actually be the unseen movers and catalysts of what's happening in America and the world today? Could they lie behind the current...

Shining the Light of Jesus in Hollywood’s Darkness

Shining the Light of Jesus in Hollywood’s Darkness

Read Time: 3 Minutes 37 Seconds Most made-for-TV Christmas movies are like eggnog and sugar cookies—way too sweet, yet extremely addictive for a lot of viewers. But these Hallmark-style movies—the ones with predictable love stories that always end with jingling bells...

Prophecy: Goodness Is Following You, Turn and See

Prophecy: Goodness Is Following You, Turn and See

Read Time: 1 Minute 51 Seconds At a recent gathering where a member was struggling, I heard and declared by the Spirit of the Lord, “Goodness is following you, TURN and see; embrace His goodness in this moment and watch the shift!” There was an immediate shift and...

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: You Came From God

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: You Came From God

Read Time: 2 Minutes 25 Seconds If you search the phrase, “where does life come from?” the first explanation reads: “The origin of life is a result of a supernatural event—and readily arises from nonliving matter in short periods of time, today as in the past.” The...

RECENT ARTICLES

Raise Your Praise!

These are the days that may leave you feeling defeated. You may be wondering when these present trials will end or how can you strengthen your faith for the battle as you wrestle against powers and...
7 Elements Needed for Revival That Will Usher in Reformation

7 Elements Needed for Revival That Will Usher in Reformation

Read Time: 1 Minute 9 Seconds What will turn the nations around? What will restore the world to sanity? There have been revivals from Old Testament times up through the year 2000. Today we need both a revival and a reformation. Here are 7 elements needed to usher in...

Mario Murillo: An Era of Mass Soul Winning Has Begun

Mario Murillo: An Era of Mass Soul Winning Has Begun

Read Time: 4 Minutes, 27 Seconds From the very first tent stake we drove into California soil, until now, there has only been one dream. And, after two years, that dream came true in Roseville. Roseville is the victory we have yearned for. It confirms that an era of...

How You Can Flow in the River of Living Water

How You Can Flow in the River of Living Water

Read Time: 5 Minutes, 2 Seconds A river is a source of life. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Jesus told His disciples that if we believe in Him, "rivers of living water" will flow out from within us, from our hearts. "Anyone who believes in me may...

stock.adobe.com

Pin It on Pinterest