Fear. Wrath. Punishment. Death.
Love. Joy. Peace. Hope. Life.
I like the second set of words much better than the first. Don’t you? When speaking of God, many see God in one or the other. Yet, there is just one word that stands between the two.
The truth is the first set is where we are without Christ. Not just acts of God on us. We also bring those things on each other. The second set is where we want to be. The way we want things to be around us whether we are followers of Christ or not.
Redemption is a strange word. It is not an everyday word but has meaning in various circles. It’s a common term in investments and if you grew up in church, you’ve heard the word whether you know what it means or not. But the picture that came to me was a coupon for something free. A flimsy cheap piece of paper can be redeemed for something of great value. There is wording on many coupons that give that piece of paper a cash value of 1/10 of a cent or less. (Interesting article about that at http://mentalfloss.com/article/26838/why-are-coupons-worth-1100th-cent)
Some coupons have “no cash value.” This is our life. Ouch, our pride doesn’t like that especially in this I-can-be-great culture but it’s true. In God’s economy, we are like a coupon with “no cash value.” BUT, here’s the good news, we can turn in our “no cash value” life for one of value beyond measure!
My son was recently struggling through the question, why does everyone have to suffer for the sin of Adam and Eve? God revealed clearly to him, every person alive does daily what Adam and Eve did in that original story of sin. I believe the way he put it was more personal. He recognized that he does daily what Adam and Eve did. He chooses to do what he wants instead of what God wants. We all do. When we recognize that, we begin to understand both sets of words and what makes God’s redemption and love so amazing.
I’m struggling to push through all the voices that tell me “just enjoy life.” The reality is that life apart from God leads only to Fear, Wrath, Punishment and Death. Those are not things that just show up after physical death. They are real now. The second set of words can also be very real in this life now. But they cannot be experienced fully apart from dependence on God.
The Life that Adam and Eve were banned from in the Garden can only be accessed through intimate relationship with God. We cannot know God’s will, God’s plan, God’s Love, Joy, Peace, Hope, and Life, without listening and obeying God’s voice. When we attempt to have those things on our own terms, we are doing the same thing Adam and Eve did.
God is good because he sets the standard and defines good. God is love because he sets the standard and defines love. Any time we try to define “good” or “love” apart from God, we are attempting to be our own god.
Access to God comes only through Jesus. Why? Because he is God in the flesh. He is not just a good person who figured out how to do all the right things in his own understanding. He is the visible image of the one and only invisible God. He took on humanness in order to take on the wrath, punishment and death that is standard for all creation lived apart from God’s plan of life.
It would be great to say that Jesus’ death took away Fear, Wrath, Punishment and Death completely and immediately. We want to believe that because of Christ, the Christian life is all Love, Joy, Peace and Abundant Life. But we live in the tension of the already and the not yet of God’s perfect plan.
Jesus already brought access to God’s life and Love. It is possible to hear God’s voice and have the abundant life in us now through the Holy Spirit given to us after Jesus rose from the dead (read about that in Acts 1 and 2). Jesus overpowered Death to give us Hope for what is to come: a life always full of peace and joy; a life completely void of pain and sorrow. But God is waiting for more to turn and follow his voice before the plan is completed. Because, those who refuse to listen for and obey his voice now won’t be living where his voice is the only way to live. For now there is a choice. Which means even for those who desire to be fully surrendered to the voice of God, we are attacked daily by the voices opposed to God. But when we hear his voice and obey, we taste real life and it is sweet.
Which set of words do you live with: Fear, Wrath, Punishment, Death OR Love, Joy, Peace, Hope, Life. You can live with the value of the second set even if you are battling with Fear. Jesus of Nazareth is a real historical person. He is the Christ which means he is God. He has a plan to save and redeem the world from fear. We have hope now for a future with total peace and joy. I get a taste of it once in a while and I’m sure it is worth it. It is what we are created to enjoy forever.
There is always a price to be paid for something of great value. A coupon that sits in a drawer at home when I go to the store causes me to pay a higher price. Coupons put the cost on whoever offers the coupon. Jesus wrote the coupon. And, like many coupons, Jesus’ redemption offer has an expiration date. Have you redeemed your coupon? The sooner you cash-in, the sooner you can taste the good stuff that’s coming.
A prayer of redemption:
Father in heaven, without Jesus I have no value. Forgive me for trying to write my own redemption value. Because of Christ and your plan of redemption, I surrender my limited, rotting life in exchange for the eternal non-perishable life you offer. It sounds like a deal too good to be true but you have written the offer in the blood of Jesus. You promise your Holy Spirit will guide and teach me so that I may see and hear how to live this life you have offered – a Life of Love, Joy, Hope, and Peace. I accept your offer and proclaim, you are God and I am no longer my own god.
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it….This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:11-14,19-20
If you are choosing Life and aren’t plugged in to a regular gathering of Christ followers who know what it means to experience Life now, find one! We need each other.