I received a phone call from a precious friend the other day. He was in tears, broken and contrite. He had just had an experience with God and had seen that he had wasted almost 50 years of his life playing Christianity. Yes, he believed in the doctrines, lived in the country, and attended the church, but ultimately and decidedly he had always remained in charge of his daily choices. This had left him as merely a nominal Christian, with a belief and outward form. He had never allowed Jesus to have the final say over his thoughts and actions, especially those that were a fleshly comfort to him. Thus he now has much regret. Is that you?
This man could barely talk on the phone. He had just finished reading another book. I'm sure he'd read many in those 50 years, and finally God was getting through. He struggled with forgiving himself for all his past self-centered actions and his hypocrisy.
I shared with him that each and every one of us are sinners and that Christ came into the world to save sinners--not saints. I assured him that none of us, not pastors or authors or speakers, had anything to recommend us to God; but simply and only the plea that we are utterly helpless, and accept His redeeming power over our past, as well as in our present life.
Only by renouncing all self-dependence, and then by exercising a daily faith in the only One Who can save us to the uttermost, fully surrendering ALL to Him, motivated by love, shall we each be redeemed from our past, and in our present life as well.
I could tell this man was truly broken and shared the following thought with him. "Even though you find yourself on your knees in tears, head bowed in shame, Jesus is standing before you and placing His hand under your chin. He is lifting your head upwards to no longer look to your past, but inviting you to keep your eyes focused only on Him. He has forgiven you, cleansed you, and will empower you to not live in your past, beating yourself up, but to now live for Him and Him only. Jesus is smiling - let His power of love put a smile on your face as well." He did, and his past was wiped clean, perhaps not with man, but certainly with God. God is offering His forgiveness to every repentant heart.
Jesus' redemption for all of us is twofold. He woos us and entreats us for years until we see our brokenness and receives redemption from our past. That's my friend in the above illustration; and hopefully it is you as well.
He also lives to redeem us in our present life. This is where so many persons flounder. They love the redemption from their past life of self-serving, but pull back from the surrender that would set them free in the present. This redemption will cost them their life. It is scary to even think about a redemption that could so transform their lifestyle. A God-possessed life scares them, so they play at Christianity, resting in their past redemption but failing and floundering in their present redemption.
Now my friend is encountering a present redemption as God calls for his heart again and again in those areas that have tripped him up in the past. His temper, his doubts and habits as well as his appetites and passions--God must rule over everything. God wants him to have a present redemption and that will require a daily choice to surrender. God offers him a new life dedicated to Him, and depending upon Him in all the situations that have entangled him in his past. As he makes these daily choices, it will become easier and easier to live in the present redemption to which God has called him. Soon, as he is faithful, it will become easier to serve God than it was to serve himself.
We are admonished that, "Self surrender is the substance of the teachings of Christ." DA 523. God is saying to all of us that He wants to give us a full redemption, not just from our past sins, but in our present circumstances as well.
Our opening text says it very well. "The Lord redeems the soul of his servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned." Along with true redemption, past and present, comes a daily TRUST in Him. That means learning how to say "no" to oneself and "yes" to God, as He transforms us into His image.
One of the hardest lessons redeemed Christians have to learn is that God cannot be fitted into their plans; they must fit into His. When God has redeemed us from our past we are no longer our own, we now belong to God and God alone. That means we can't use God - He is not a tool or an appliance or a credit card. If we have been redeemed, we are to be alive to His terms of living a life that burns with an intense longing to please only God, which transforms each of us into a new creature. A truly redeemed person is now God-governed versus Man-managed. Is that you?
My friend is now forgiven and his slate is wiped clean from his past, and he now lives to honor only His Redeemer. Living to fit into His plans only! Is that you? Have you not only accepted God's redemption from your past, but are you also submitting to His redemption in your present life? That's a full redemption and not a partial redemption that is so prevalent in professed Christianity today.
My friend has asked for re-baptism. I wonder how many of us, professing God's name, are in need of re-baptism today? Let us each honestly ask ourselves, "How is our redemption?"
Being Redeemed daily,
Jim & Sally