Lent

Lent Day #37 | Redemption

We have interacted with the idea of redemption at various times during this series of reflections (here, here, here, and here). Today, as we draw closer to Easter morning we will take some time to explore what it means that God has redeemed us.

Redemption is a financial term. Many of us have used coupons before. We go to a store with the coupon and when we redeem it we get what it offers at the time of check-out. The reality of this transaction is included in our salvation. When Jesus came to earth, his mission was to redeem that which was lost. In what way was it lost? It was lost to sin and sinfulness. No man or woman who has ever lived can rise up to God. Our blood has been tainted by the sin of Adam and Eve. When they disobeyed God and decided to do their own thing, they damned their ancestors to a life of struggle, strife and strain.

Redeemed by the Blood of Jesus

I want to correct a common misconception here. There are some who believe (and teach) that Jesus redeemed us from the devil. The idea being the enemy of God was holding us captive. This does not make any sense because he too is captive. The devil must still submit to the will of God, even though God is waiting to pronounce his final judgment! So, if we were not redeemed from the devil, who are we in debt too? We are in debt to ourselves. The reason we are stuck in our predicament is because we keep making withdrawals from the account and have been overdrawn for millennia. The debt of sin is the belief we can live independent of God. This however is not the case. If it were not for God we would have nothing. Paul, said it this way,

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for, ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” (Acts 17:24-28a, ESV)

If it is true that “in Him we live,” then we need someone to redeem our debt and make a deposit into our account of unrighteousness. The only one who could do that was Jesus. When we came into this world, he lived the life we could not live; he died the death we deserved; was raised to life from the grave so we could stand before God forgiven–not perfect. We will never be perfect, but we are being perfected.

Redemption is what Jesus has done to remove the burden of our sin debt. He was submitted the coupon of his blood for the balance of sin in the world. The hymn writer was correct when they said

        What can wash away my sin?
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
        What can make me whole again?
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

                Refrain

                Oh! precious is the flow
                That makes me white as snow;
                No other fount I know,
                Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

        For my pardon, this I see,
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
        For my cleansing this my plea,
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

        Refrain

        Nothing can for sin atone,
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
        Naught of good that I have done,
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

        Refrain

        This is all my hope and peace,
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
        This is all my righteousness,
        Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
        (Source)

Lent

Lent Day #36 | Righteousness

I want to share with you one of the many mind-blowing verses in the bible!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

I am stunned at the reality this points to. Before we go any deeper into the verse, let’s look at what righteousness is. Righteousness has been defined as having a right relationship with God. Now, this sounds great, but it does not describe for us how we can get to the right relationship. What does the journey from “here” to “there” look like?

As I have studied, thought and prayed about this I have composed a simplified definition based on what I have seen on my faith journey. I am sure others have come to a similar conclusion, so I do not claim exclusive rights to this. For me, righteousness is hearing or reading God’s word and saying to myself, “I will do whatever I have to do, to do what I have heard.” The essence of this idea is to take God at his word. What this means is making every effort to trust and comply and fulfill what God has said, living it out every day.

Paul says this about Abraham:

“So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” (Galatians 3:6, NIV)

What did Abraham do? He believed God and then lived his life in light of what he believed about what God said. This is the key that releases toward us God’s blessing. When we move and live trusting in God we are saying He is the most important reality in our lives. This is the evidence of our desire for a right relationship with God. If our desire is to dwell with God, we must work toward that objective. We must do everything within our power to demonstrate it, to God and everyone else.

I want to be counted as righteous. Do you? And, if you say that is your desire, what are you doing to show God you are serious?

Lent

Lent Day #35 | Sanctification

For the past eight years I served as a youth pastor in two United Methodist Churches. In that time I was introduced to John Wesley, the Methodist Movement and the particularly Wesleyan understanding of sanctification. I am not a Wesleyan theologian by any stretch, so please correct with kindness and grace.

John Wesley

As I studied the origins of Methodism, I discovered that the moniker was actually given as a ridicule, and not so much as a superlative. The members of the first Methodist group, a small band of college students, gathered together for accountability and bible study. What made this small band stand out was how methodical they were in their approach to living the Christian faith. It was this “methodism” that gave rise to the derision of their peers.

This short history lesson is important because it shows how, from the beginning, the people called Methodist chose to “work out [their] salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). The reality of the Christian life is found in the transformation that takes place in the heart and mind of the believer. We all are being changed. We all are growing (or at least should be growing) into greater Christ-likeness. This is what sanctification is. It is the process the Holy Spirit takes us through to become as much like Christ as we can be!

It can be tempting to think of sanctification as something we have to do on our own. As if it is something we can accomplish in our own power. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are not supposed to become like Jesus through our own efforts. I do not believe this was Paul’s intent in admonishing believers to “work out their salvation.”

One of my favorite foods is pizza. The reason I bring this up is that pizza dough has to be needed for two reasons. First, as it is needed the glutton in the flour is stretched making the pizza dough and delicious. (I am not a baker, but this is what I’ve heard!) The second reason, for kneaded the dough is to make sure that all of the seasoning that has been added to flavor the dough is spread throughout the entire dough. If you do not do this you will have pockets that have been filled with flavor and others that are bland and tasteless.

When we are working out our salvation, we are engaging in the process of sanctification. We have to ask ourselves if we are striving to surrender more and more areas of our life to the work of the Spirit, so he can “knead Jesus” into us. Are there areas of your life where Jesus is present and prominent? What about those areas where He is not? What is keeping you from opening up that area of your life to the Spirit’s influence?

Exploring the Gospel's Implications

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