A Tennessee man was recently dealt two sentences: freedom in Christ and life in prison.
In a murder trial last Friday, defendant Danny Holmes opened with a 20-minute testimony where he confessed to killing a man three years ago and then he recounted his spiritual transformation in prison since then, the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal reported.
Instrumental to his confession was the song “Redeemed” by Christian rock band Big Daddy Weave. He brought the lyrics in a notebook to court.
Mike Weaver, the band’s eponymous lead singer, told CT he was “blown away” when he learned how God used his band’s music in Holmes’ life.
“Over the last handful of years, so many stories have come from God using that song,” said Weaver, who lives north of Nashville in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, just 33 miles from the site of Holmes’ crime in Murfreesboro. “It is a message that is so dear to [God’s] heart.”
The song emphasizes redemption and Christ’s work to free us from our past sins and past selves. The line that sealed the deal for Holmes came from the first verse: “Then you look at this prisoner and say to me, Son, stop fighting a fight that's already been won.’”
Holmes accepted his life sentence and vowed to serve the Lord and spread the gospel while behind bars. “I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been fighting for nothing all my life. I’ve been fighting for gangs,” Holmes said in court. “I ain’t never fought for anything that made sense. But I knew the Lord was telling me to fight for him this time. I just knew he was stirring on my spirit."
Weaver said he and “Redeemed” co-writer Benji Cowart intend to visit Holmes in prison.
Several years ago, their 2012 hit also grabbed the attention of musician Zach Williams. While on tour with a rock band in Spain, Williams heard a portion of “Redeemed” as the bus driver flipped through radio stations.
“The Holy Spirit spoke to me in that moment, saying, ‘You need to quit doing what you’re doing and turn your life around,’” Williams said. “That was a turning point for me. I called my wife and told her I was coming home.”
He canceled all his scheduled tour dates, abandoned the destructive habits that had hijacked his life on the road, and reconciled with his wife. In 2016, after his own spiritual turnaround, Williams co-wrote “Chain Breaker,” which topped the charts and won a Grammy last year.
“Redeemed” has spurred listeners to share dramatic stories of freedom from the adult entertainment industry, substance abuse, and more. One fan told Weaver that the song helped her forgive the man who abducted her and held her captive.
“From the moment we started singing it, the stories started coming forward,” Weaver said. After 54 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Christian Song list in 2012, it’s become one of the band’s most-requested songs.
The Christian rocker said he wrote the song to work through with his own struggles with self-hatred. “I told Jesus everything I hated about myself, and he told me that’s not the way he feels about me.”
After that moment, the chorus of “Redeemed” came together in Weaver’s head: “I am redeemed, you set me free / So I’ll shake off theses heavy chains, and wipe away every stain / Now I’m not who I used to be.”
He and Cowart hammered out the rest of the song together. For Weaver, the song represented some closure on his battles with himself. But Cowart, then a worship leader at a church in Buffalo, New York, introduced the song to his congregation.
No matter how many stories Weaver hears of the impact of “Redeemed,” he never stops marveling. “We have nothing to do with [the stories we hear], only Jesus can use a song in that way.”
Holmes said in a statement that he hopes to urge young people that he meets prison to look to Jesus for salvation, not money or extravagance, as he used to do.
From the stand, he said he was praying for the victim’s family, understanding he was responsible for their loss. He also made a pledge to his mother: “Momma, you know I love you. But Momma, I promise you, your baby boy, he’s going to serve the Lord forever.”