Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The beauty of redemption

As I was sitting in church this past Sunday, I experienced a slow, painful gut check...

We continued on our journey through the gospel of John, arriving this week at the story of Jesus' miraculous healing of a man at the pool of Bethesda. While examining this story and looking at the awesome power and love that Christ showed to this man who had been confined to a laying position, on a mat, by the pool, for 38 years, I was listening intently, grateful for the work that Jesus has done in my own life. Shortly after this healing takes place, we encounter Jesus again, in the temple, where He finds this same man, worshiping... and Jesus said to him, "See you are well now. Stop sinning so that something worse doesn't happen to you."

The verse instantly struck, but I didn't know why. I wrestled with why the verse had hit me as it had, and prayed to God saying that I didn't know why I couldn't get past those words and asked simply for some clarification. Brought into the forefront of my mind was my recent mindset and attitude, the last post or two that I had written, and discussions that I had had with my wife and with some other folks. Echoing those thoughts were words that we had discussed in our ongoing study of The Saving Life of Christ, we do not have the right to remember that which God forgets.

As those thoughts went spinning through my mind, I realized something... I've been stuck. My thoughts and my attitude have been much more often on the sins of my past, and on the condemnation of the flesh, than on redemption. I was trapping myself in a self-imposed prison of depravity! I was focused on the condition of my self, outside of God. I had allowed Satan the foothold of washing over me with my failures. I was making it all about me, what I did, and what I cannot do I was forgetting the beauty of redemption.

Its a common, and nasty, trick that Satan uses on us all, but in particular, to steal joy and freedom from a Christian... get us to focus on ourselves, instead of on the glory and love of God. By focusing on the lostness of the flesh, its easy to forget that, as a Christian, we are hosting two natures. we are both condemned flesh and redeemed soul. Too much focus on either is unhealthy, we are to remember our flesh as God does, and live our redemption as Christ does.

How does God remember our flesh? His word says that at the moment of salvation, He remembers our sins no more. Its important to know that remembering no more is vastly different from truly forgetting. It means that, though we are dead in our transgressions, as a sinner by nature, and by choice, that we are offered to share in with the righteousness of Christ... and when we choose to share in that inheritance, God no longer allows our sin to be present in his consciousness. When He looks upon us, He choose to see only our redeemed self, price paid by death of Christ. Martin Luther called this the great exchange, the sins of all humanity, past, present, and future... traded for righteousness. God's word tells us that the price for sin must be paid, and that the price to be paid is death. Therefore, each of us, for the sins we choose to commit, and the nature of sin we all possess (thanks for that one Adam & Eve), are guilty, and are required to pay the price for these sins... we must die, not only physically, but also spiritually. Jesus, on the cross, chose to pay the price for us... transferring His righteousness to all of humanity. The biggest thing about this to me is that the price for your sin, and mine, has already been paid... the price of the sin of everyone, everywhere, no matter what they believe, was satisfied at the cross, and the exchange is offered to us all. We just have to accept the gift... when we make that choice, we become co-heirs of the righteousness of Jesus!

Our flesh then becomes only a memory, a necessary portion of our being that allows us to keep in perspective the price paid for me to be called a friend of God. It is to be remembered only to bring glory to God, to show others His might in rescuing us from it. From that grounding and humility, of understanding the state of our existence without God, we are then able to walk forward humbly in redemption. Doing all things first for the glory of God, and second to advance His kingdom. By properly balancing the memory of our flesh, and the beauty of our redemption, we can keep our focus on the glory of God. Keeping the focus where it needs to be allows us to better understand who God is, and that growing understanding allows us to better serve others and love them as we are called.

I am thankful for the conviction found in the words of Jesus, to realize that I am healed. And equally thankful for the warning to not continue in my sin. I had allowed my focus to shift too much, resulting in being out of contact with the life I am called to lead. Continuing that patter of sin could only lead to more disastrous consequences. I am a redeemed friend of God, made righteous by the blood of Christ, and I hope you are too.

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