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  • Writer's pictureRalph Felzer

Redemption?


"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey.  This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.


REDEMPTION?


I had an epiphany this morning (notice that reference to Jean Holt's message from Sunday?).  My eyes were opened to something I had never really thought of before.  It occurred to me that I didn't realize just how burdened I was, just how heavy the weight of sin was in my life until after I came to Christ.  Receiving grace opened my eyes to my need for grace–but only after I received it.   The weight was there, the burden was there, but I had no idea just how heavy or burdened I was until I came to believe in Jesus Christ.  That is, until I came to believe that the torturous, shameful, humiliating death of Jesus on the Cross somehow (who can even understand how, even after years of prayer and study?) paid a debt I never knew I owed.


I knew the weight, I knew the burden, I just didn't know what the burden was.  I thought I did.  I thought I needed not-to-be-alone.  I thought I needed a wife and children.  I thought I needed someone to tell me I was valuable, loved, good enough.  I thought I needed to be capable, skilled, proficient at … well, something, anything.  But now here's the odd thing–I do need all those things!  We all need not-to-be-alone.  We all need a family.  We all need to know that we have value in and of ourselves, that our lives have meaning, that we are capable of more than we know.  But hear me–I'm not talking about loving ourselves just the way we are, or positive thinking, or improving our self-talk.  Even to the extent that these may help, they don't get to the deepest core of the issue.  At best, they spray Febreeze on the stink of our souls.  At best, they only paint the pig.


What are we to do with who we are?  The ugly parts?  The dirty parts?  The heavy-laden parts?  I'm not just talking about the bad things we do, I'm talking about the deep, fundamental ways in which our very selves are broken.


In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Rest for our souls.  An easy yoke.  Now there's a beautiful thought.  Not "rest for your weary legs," or rest for your aching arms, but rest for your soul.  You know, you can see people carrying heavy loads on their souls.  Just as some people can light up a room just by walking through the door, there are those whose burdens barely fit through the door.  They enter the room and you can see the "weight" they're carrying.   Their eyes are cast down.  Their shoulders slump.  Their faces are stretched taut.  Maybe you're one of those people.  I have good news for you!  Jesus is in the redeeming business.


Now this idea of redemption is interesting.  If you've attended a church for very long at any point in your life, there's a good chance you've at least heard the word "redemption."  But do you have any idea what it really means to "redeem" something, or better yet, someone?

I like to think of it this way:  When you take a coupon to the store, what do you do with it?  Right, you redeem it.  The process goes like this.  You take a virtually worthless little piece of paper to the store, and exchange it for a discount on some product you need, like toothpaste.



We've all seen these before, but have you ever taken the time to look at the small print?  If you can zoom in on this image, you'll see a little line that says, "Cash Value 1/100¢."  I don't know for sure, and feel free to test this if you want, but my guess is that if you collected a hundred of these toothpaste coupons and took them to the store, they'd give you a penny.  (Seriously, you don't have anything better to do with your time?)  Or, if you collected a thousand, a dime.


My point is this:  That little piece of paper has next to no value whatsoever.  It's as close to worthless as you can get.  But when the store gives you 75¢ off, that's the cash equivalent of 7500 coupons!  Congratulations!  You've just surrendered something that's virtually worthless for something of immeasurably greater value.  


This is exactly the kind of exchange we make with God when we accept Christ as our savior–in exchange for our dirty, disheveled, tattered and battered selves, He makes us a new creation.  Don't read that too quickly!  Did you hear that?  He doesn't make us better people, or clean us up, or patch up the holes, He makes us new creatures!  As Paul says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17).

He doesn't make us better people, or clean us up, or patch up the holes, He makes us new creatures!

As I said a moment ago, our God is in the redeeming business.  If you find yourself carrying a heavy load, or caught in destructive habits, or your whole life just seems to be a broken down wreck, please know that none of this is beyond the redeeming power of our Father in Heaven.  The very power that raised Jesus from the dead is also at work in you–by grace, through faith, so that you can't take an ounce of credit for "getting your act together" or "turning over a new leaf."  In Christ, you are a new creation!


Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.


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