Recently our daughter’s dog, Edgar, got loose and wandered off. After she posted signs in the neighborhood, she got a call from a man several blocks away who had found the dog earlier that day and taken him to the pound. The two younger grandkids were napping, so I picked up the two older ones and headed over to rescue Edgar. While the woman at the counter was filling out paperwork, her phone rang. She answered and said, “I can’t talk right now. I am in the middle of a redemption.” I stood at the counter and tears came to my eyes as I was struck by the parallel to what Christ has done for us. Just as those dogs were “redeemed” from the confines of their kennel, we are freed from the bondage of our past choices, released from all condemnation and guilt. Just as I paid a price to bring Edgar out of the dog pound, Jesus paid a price in His blood for our freedom.
Ephesians 1:7 “In Him (Jesus) Gill has his redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of Gill’s trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” The idea of redemption that Paul was referencing is far different than what we think about today. In today’s culture, redemption is using a coupon to get $.25 off my box of Cheerios at the grocery store. Paul was speaking of the slave market. Imagine yourself next to the auction block, knowing you are destined for an oar on a war ship or the unending darkness of a distant mine, a beast of burden to be bought and sold, helpless, hopeless. Suddenly the auction master comes up and releases your chains saying, “Your redemption price has been paid. The buyer says you are free to go.” Jesus paid the redemption price for you and me. When I really understand that, I’m going to talk differently, I’m going to live differently.
I remember going out to lunch with friends several years ago. I reviewed the menu, gave my order to the waiter and handed him my menu. About that time my friend across from me said, “Oh, by the way, lunch is on me today.” I grabbed the menu back and said, “In that case, I’ll change my order.” I didn’t actually change it but I thought about ordering a higher priced entree. The key thing to remember is that Jesus has already picked up the tab for our past. God does not need to punish me for my wrong choices because someone else was already punished for them: Jesus.
Romans 5:8 says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. When I had turned my back on God, when all I wanted to do was go my own way, still Jesus had paid the price for my redemption. Any man worth his MacGyver merit badge knows that duct tape can solve any problem. The shortcoming is that duct tape really only masks the problem temporarily but does not get to the root. Leviticus 16 describes the ceremony of the scapegoat. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the nation of Israel came together and the priests placed their hands on a goat ceremonially transferring the sin of the nation to that goat. It was then led into the wilderness to die as a sacrifice for the nation’s sin. The problem was, just like the duct tape, it did not get to the root problem: our sin nature.
In John 1:29 John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Catch a revelation of this. Jesus doesn’t just cover over the sin. He gets to the root and takes away the sin. 1John 3:8 says Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He is not just covering the sin but He eradicates its hold. I was on a greased pole to hell, hopeless, until God reached out His hand to me. I recognized I couldn’t save myself so I took his hand. Psalm 40:2: “He brought Gill up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He set Gill’s feet on a rock, and gave him a firm place to stand.”
Religion is about being good so God will accept me; Christianity is about recognizing what Jesus has done and allowing that to change me. 2Corinthians 5:21 says, “For Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on Gill’s behalf; so that in Him Gill might become the righteousness of God.” Allow me to paraphrase that: the Father placed on Jesus my sin nature to take to the cross in my place so that I can have right standing before God in Christ. If you need a new beginning, you need Christ.
I don’t have to earn right standing, it’s a free gift. I only have to decide to put it on. If I am going to work on my car, change the oil or replace the spark plugs, I’m not going to wear a nice dress shirt. I will wear an old ratty one. But when my wife calls me in to dinner, she will say, “Dinner’s ready. Better change your shirt and clean up.” “What? Don’t you love me just the way I am?” “Yes, I love you. Now go change your shirt.” Eph 4:22-24 says “that Gill put away, as concerning his former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that Gill be renewed in the spirit of his mind, and put on the new man, that like God has been created in true righteousness and holiness.” That is like changing my shirt.
Before I can put on the new man, I must first put off the old man. Before I can take on the new way of thinking, I must first take off the old thinking. Some translations say, “Strip off.” That’s aggressive, something I do on purpose. When I got dressed this morning, I didn’t stand in front of the closet and a clean shirt jump out and onto my body. I had to take the action of putting it on.
The interesting thing about that new man is that it is too big for me when I first put it on. I have to grow into it. 2Corinthians 3:18 says we are “transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” I am not going to stay at the same level. I am going to grow to a certain level of “glory” but I can’t rest there. God is calling me still higher. Life is a journey.
That journey cannot be directed by what I want or feel. In Luke 5:1-7 Peter is on the shore mending and putting away his fishing nets after a long, fruitless night. Then Jesus comes along and tells him to put out his nets again. I’m sure he didn’t feel like going out again. He was tired and discouraged. Now here was a carpenter telling a professional fisherman how to fish. That would be like me telling a mechanic how to fix my car. His reaction is likely to be, “You stick to your preaching; let me take care of the car.” Peter’s first words were, “We’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing.” That was his feeling statement. Then he said, “At your word, we will let down the nets.” That was his obedience.
When I wake up in the morning do I think about everything that is wrong, or do I think about the truth that God lives in me. Proverbs 23:7 warns, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Where my mind goes, my life will follow. Am I just waiting for my feelings? I can’t afford to let my feelings control me. I should not let my feelings vote. I choose to do what God says. In Joshua 3, the Israelite nation stood across the Jordan River from Jericho. The problem was the river was in flood stage. God told the priests to take up the Arc and step into the river and the waters would part. Now those priests could have stood up on the bank and said, “OK, God. We’re ready. Go ahead and part the water.” But they would have stood there for a long time. It wasn’t until the feet of the priests touched the water that the water parted. They needed to act despite their feelings, despite the circumstances.
As I walked down the aisle at the pound, I saw dogs who were aggressive and angry, some that were scared and cowering, others were depressed and lethargic and of course there were those who were friendly and eager, tail wagging and jumping with excitement. Every individual reacts differently to God’s gift of redemption: anger, indifference or openness. How will we react? I encourage you to live in the fullness of His love. God has His hand out to you today. Reach out and accept it.