Thursday, June 04, 2009

Redemption's Poster Boy

Growing up I learned that there were very desirable groups and clubs to which I could belong: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, and baseball teams. Join those and fun was on the way. Good to go.

In college (Go USC!) I took the necessary steps to join another kind of group with benefits galore—a fraternity. Say what you will about “frats,” but I liked the idea and wanted in. Near the end of our probationary period, those already “in” began to make those of us not yet in feel like we would never make it. In fact, after putting us through incredibly rigorous tests, they kicked us all out in a single night, one by one. Many of us felt like we deserved it, having failed the tests, but others were incensed at the seeming injustice.

Anyway, with great fanfare, they then welcomed all of us into the fraternity, telling us that the whole rejection had been an elaborate ruse. Ha! Just kidding. We had been redeemed and were now bona fide members, all rights and privileges given. Hooray.

That was probably my first biggish lesson in redemption—I needed to be rescued, and I was. But that first exercise was nothing compared to the one I was to receive from God. That first fraternity lesson was a fake-out. They attempted to get me to believe that I deserved rejection when, in fact, I really didn’t—just kidding. You’re not bad enough for us to kick you out! Come on in!

That’s nothing like biblical redemption. What God gives us is much better and far more serious.

To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7,8; italics mine.)

To put it another way, He knowingly and gladly lavished upon us the grace of redemption. He had it all figured out and He loved doing it. Typical God! That’s how He is. And, unlike the situation in my fraternity days, we really were in bad, rejection-worthy shape. But God, Mr. Grace Himself, determined to show off through the incredible gift of redemption.

What does it mean?

Redemption means not only to be brought out of a terrible condition and fate, but also to be brought into an incredible condition and future. It’s similar to the word, “Justification.” This often used Biblical word means that not only has God made you so that you have never sinned (having put all of your failures upon Jesus, and treating Him as though He were guilty of them all), but God has made you as though you have always done everything just right--perfectly. He has given you the perfect righteousness of Jesus as your own. Like you have loved God and your neighbor as yourself all your life.

It’s staggering.

Redemption means that never again will I be a sin-natured flesh bag on my way to hell, sins paving the way. Never again. Jesus has made me (and you) a son, a Spirit-born, Spirit-filled son of God on my way to heaven. No matter how it looks, no matter how I look, Jesus redeemed me because He took me into Himself. And in Him, I have redemption, the absolute and eternal forgiveness of sins. And I don’t minimize how great and terrible my condition and sins were—no! In fact, His lavished grace is all the more glorious in light of my previous terrible condition.

Look, I don’t particularly want to be the poster boy for Romans 5:20—“…where sin increased, grace increased all the more;”—but, frankly, I already am! I know pretty much what I was before redemption, a pagan-natured flesh bag on the road to hell, and I rejoice over what I have been made now.

Forever and always have I been redeemed. Hebrews 9:12 says that Jesus obtained eternal redemption. To believe that is not only pleasing to God (“Hey! Ralph’s getting it—he believes!”), it’s a great exercise in my daily life.

Just call me Redemption’s Poster Boy.

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