THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL IS REDEMPTION
My precious brother in Christ on FB Gary Beebe suddenly went to be with Jesus a few days ago. He had invited me to share this message on his radio program this Tuesday. But now I share it as a post, not in his memory, but as a testimony to the Christ Gary so loved.
The word redemption comes from the word redeem. It means to buy something back. When a person brings in an item to a pawn shop he receives a loan for it. And when he returns with the correct amount of money he can redeem that item and it becomes his once again. Until then it is legally the property of the pawn broker. That is exactly how we understand what has happened to mankind.
When Adam sinned against God he allowed himself to be taken by spiritual death. And death held sway over all mankind and still holds most of the world in its grip. Man, because of sin, came under the influence and authority of the devil and his kingdom. Sinners do not need a makeover or a new approach or a cleaning up. They need to be redeemed from the devil, death, and the kingdom of darkness. And in order to be redeemed a price must be paid. And this price is very high indeed.
No man held in death’s grip can pay for his own redemption. He desperately needs someone else to pay it for him. However all men are sinners who need their own redemption. The only way the price of redemption can be paid is if someone who is sinless and does not need redemption pays the price for them. And when we consider that situation it is clear that only God could redeem mankind. But how? And at what price?
This, my friends, is the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the gospel of redemption. It is only through the gospel can sinners be redeemed and set free. That is why it is utter nonsense and even self righteous to command lost sinners to stop sinning. It is like telling them to redeem themselves. You couldn’t so why do you demand that of them? In fact, no sinner can do anything that would make him worthy of the gospel. That is the amazing and astounding aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It present redemption as a free gift that becomes personal and effectual through faith alone.
You see the gospel is the good news of redemption. At the heart of this good news is redemption through the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is He alone who has paid that high price and every sinner can receive that redemption by faith. It is quite amazing, is it not? But there is a wonderful mystery in all of it.
Do not think that you were so worthy and lovable that God could not resist coming to redeem you. No, that is surely not the case. It was not us who drew the Son of God to earth. It was Him and His infinite love. The gospel then is not about us but about Him and His redemption. We must resist the temptation to demand change from lost sinners and let them see the light of Christ through our lips and our lives. The gospel was never meant to clean up countries or make moral changes in any culture. It was and always will be the redemption for sinners through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not touch that ark and use it for our own selfish purposes.
THE HEART OF REDEMPTION IS THE CROSS
There is perhaps no other event or truth or topic that has been so maligned, and so diluted, and in reality so ignored in the American church than the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. The cross has become passé in these modern times and it is looked upon as a doctrine rather than a present reality. The preaching topics range from success to financial to ethical to moral to positive attitudes to all kinds of “how to” admonitions. The cross gets dome publicity during “Easter”, but quickly the church returns to its earthen roots. But let us be clear. When the church downplays or marginalizes the cross and makes it a truth among many in the church, well then we cease to become followers of Jesus.
It is impossible to overstate or overemphasize the cross of Jesus Christ both in truth and in practice. And therein lies the profound deception. The church has made the cross a doctrine, an event, and a source of redemption. And while we allude to the cross we have strayed from preaching it demands. It is so very easy to say the “cross” and even read its narrative. But it is quite another to journey deep into its meaning and sufferings and redemptive essence, and then take those truths and make demands, great demands, upon our lives based wholly upon that same cross. We have in many ways made the cross an exhibit in a doctrinal museum and purposely ignored the demands which that cross makes upon all who claim its Savior.
Who among can fathom its depths? Who can communicate its redemptive expanse? Who can completely surround its power with human words? This was not just a wonderful event. This was THE event for all eternity! Words are mere paupers when compared with its power and glory and redemptive majesty. What seemed to be a dying Jew upon a Roman cross was in reality the Creator of the universe paying for all the transgressions of a sinful and wicked race who He Himself had made! The mystery of it all is staggering, and yet for the seeking believer it calls relentlessly to our hearts.
To embrace the cross soars way higher than just sentimentality. The implications of its applications must be sought before we can claim any allegiance to its essence. We all understand the cross as the instrument of redemption. It is the foundation of all salvation. There is no redemption without the shedding of blood. And on that divine blood we fall. But we must never allow that cross to become an aside, a story, or a seasonal topic. It must be our life. Yes, it is through that cross we found redemption, and that is the only way of redemption. But let us not leave it in our statements of faith. It must be our very lives and it must have spiritual application which affects and infects every area of our lives.
In these days of reality television and scientific discoveries it is difficult to embrace the cross as something here and now. I do not speak just as knowing about the cross or acknowledging it doctrinally or even as an historical fact. How and where does it come into a real and tangible essence today? How does the cross impact and guide us as believers? Is it just an esoteric truth which can only be uncovered by a select few? Or is it a substantive and essential element of every disciple’s heart and life? And if that is the case then how is the cross translated into a lifestyle, an attitude, and a pattern to be followed in thought, word, and deed?
THE HEART OF THE CROSS IS JESUS
In many and varied ways, and on many levels, the cross reveals the very heart of God and the very Being called Jesus. The cross was the exacted payment for the sins of the world, but make no mistake it also broke the divine alabaster box and allowed finite man to have a glimpse of the Infinite God. And the fragrance of that knowledge still wafts all over the world today. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world. What? You see, the cross was always going to be the place where God pulled back the veil and allowed us to see His glory and accept His eternal offering.
And at the center of the cross, literally and figuratively, was the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus. Who can begin to behold all of His glory? This was God masquerading as sinful man. This was the Holy One walking among us. And the cross was why He came. And that is exactly why the Jews rejected Him. But we clever Gentiles have found sophisticated and nefarious ways to reject Him while using His name as if we believed in Him. How ingenious it is to make a profession and get baptized and join a church and yet show no authentic interest in Christ or His Word. That, my friends, is a brilliant yet diabolical deception.
We are not just called to believe on Jesus as a way to get to heaven. We are called to “forsake all” and follow Him. And yet how many professing believers search the Scriptures and through prayer and fasting seek out what it means to follow Him? Do you see how tepid we have made the faith which is in reality not the faith at all. Do you not think that within a culture which is consumed with money and self that followers of the Lord Jesus would stand out dramatically just by their lifestyle and even before they uttered a word?
Jesus, the true and living Jesus, must be our Master and our Lord. And those words indicate a relationship which is far above a mental ascent or a verbal creed. In fact, our lives are not even our own. They are His. So the phrase “what would Jesus do” can be expanded into “how would Jesus live?” How many things do we enjoy and seek that Jesus would never embrace? Think about this. If Jesus is the Creator of all there is, and if Jesus has all authority in heaven and in earth, then what should be our daily response to the leading of His Spirit? The salvation has never been about secure a place in heaven and go about your business.
If we truly have received a revelation of the Lord of Lords, then our hearts are broken before Him as we say, “Speak, Lord, your servant hears.” And His commandments are not grievous. We should delight in doing His will and serving Him and allowing Him to live through us to reach a lost and dying world. You see, Jesus is all in all.
Redemption is Jesus. The cross is Jesus. Love is Jesus. Grace is Jesus. The resurrection is Jesus. Mercy is Jesus. All spiritual truths find their source and their destination in Jesus. He is before all things and above all things and by Him all things exist and consist. The entire universe was created by Him and is sustained by Him. He is the deepest of mysteries and yet He is the glory of God for all to see. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has no rivals, and He alone will judge everything.
This Being, this Son of God, this Risen Messiah, is what the cross was all about. He who has the Son has life! You can wear the cross and make its sign and hang it on your wall, but if you do not believe in and follow Jesus then your cross is a religious token. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There’s just something about that name.