Last week, we learned about the high cost that we always pay when we choose to sin, or miss the bullseye that God destined us for. It always results in death in one way or another, it always causes pain and loss following the momentary pleasure, and it always leaves us empty in the end. Jesus described sin like yeast; how just a little bit works its way through the whole batch. Sin is never small and insignificant in its impact on our lives, but rather, it affects our whole lives and those around us as well.
This morning, we’re going to turn to the good news about sin. We come together to gain a better understanding of an “R” word that we often sing about and sometimes even quote. However, we might not understand just how powerful and transforming this concept truly is. That word is: redeem.
In its most simplistic sense, to redeem simply means to buy something back or to set the worth and value of something. The most common use of this word in our culture is to redeem a coupon. We redeem a coupon at our grocery store for 50 cents off of a box of cereal. We pay 50 cents less for that box of cereal than what the store was asking. The store then runs a deficit of 50 cents until they send that coupon back to the manufacturer. After the store sends the coupon back to the manufacturer, the manufacturer sends the store 50 cents. The coupon was provided by the cereal manufacturer and they are now buying it back from the grocery store for 50 cents.
In 2013, 315 billion coupons were printed in the United States according to NCS (Nielsen Coupon Clearing House). In that same year, only 0.8% of those coupons were redeemed. Remember, this was the same timeframe that the “extreme couponing” craze was happening, so that gives you a clearer picture of how much Americans value free money if they have to do something to receive it. Had those coupons been redeemed, many manufacturers would have suffered significant financial loss! Here’s another common example of redemption in our culture:
Perhaps we are given a gift certificate and we redeem that certificate for a meal at a restaurant. That certificate was purchased from the restaurant, but is now being bought back by the restaurant in the form of a meal. Both the certificate and coupon were just a piece of paper, but they were assigned a worth and value by the restaurant and manufacturer.
Another way in which we use this word is to compensate for the bad aspects of something. For example, you sit through a two hour movie that wasn’t very good and you say to your friend that the only redeemable part of the movie was the previews. We use the word redeem to focus on the valuable aspects of something despite how bad it is otherwise.
Unfortunately, this is becoming less and less an attribute of our culture. There are some people who see good and value in everything and all of us know that person that never throws out anything. However, for the most part, we have become a throw-away culture. If one feature of a device stops working, we throw out the whole thing and get a new one even if the other 10 features on it still work great.
We’re quick to point out the bad and negative in everything regardless of what other good attributes there might be. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop with things, we also have this same attitude towards people made in the image of God. As soon as we see the negative traits of a person, we disassociate with them altogether. We’re not willing to invest in relationships and value the good in others.
Consider that old cliché of “the grass is greener on the other side.” We too often spend more time kicking around the dirt in our own yards, envious of what others have, instead of watering the grass in our own. If we spent more time investing in the strengths and focusing on the good that is in our lives and in our relationships, if we spent more time investing in what is working in them and less time stressing about the problems, those problems would be transformed into strengths as well! Jesus didn’t spend His time fighting the kingdom of darkness and pointing out people’s sin, He spent His time establishing Kingdom of Light and forgiving people for their sin!
Redemption has always been the heart of God. From the very beginning when He met Adam and Eve in the garden following their choice to sin against Him, He sacrificed an animal to cover their sin and shame; to redeem them. God could have ended the human race right then and there and start over with something new. However, God still saw the good in Adam and Eve and still knew the plans and purposes that He had for His creation. Instead of throwing them out, He worked through the bad and transformed it into something good.
God is still redeeming people to this very day! No matter how far gone others may see them to be, Jesus still sees who He created them to be through the mess. He can’t wait to wash away all of the weight of sin to reveal His masterpiece in every person. The simplest way that we can understand how God redeems us is by this often quoted verse:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Now I don’t know about you all, but when I decided to put my life in the hands of Christ, most of me didn’t change. Sure, there was an undeniable change inside of me and some of it could even be seen instantly through my attitude and mindset. However, a lot of that change is still working its way from the inside out as the Holy Spirit sanctifies my life and transforms me into that new creation. The new creation is undoubtedly there, but that work that God and I are doing together isn’t quite finished yet.
Of course, the greatest form of redemption that will ever occur is when God, our Father, redeemed us, or bought us back. He sent His own perfect Son, Jesus, to pay the price that we all owe as a result of our sin. God didn’t just pay the bail to get us out of prison, He paid the total and complete cost of our sentence on our behalf! I should have been tortured, hung on a cross, and thrown in Hell. Instead, Jesus did it on my behalf and I get to be exalted into glory! God bought us back, or redeemed us, from our lives of sin and selfishness.
God, our manufacturer, set the value of sin as well as the value of our lives, and bought us back from who we used to be. He paid the price so that we don’t have to. Faith in Jesus is the coupon and all that we have to do is give it fully to God and receive complete salvation free of charge.
It’s not much different than handing over a coupon to a store in faith that the manufacturer will pay the face value. Faith is the coupon and God will certainly apply the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus toward our lives if we choose to make the exchange. Now, through Christ, we can become the person God created us to be. We can be redeemed!
Although redemption has always been the heart of God and His ultimate plan through Jesus, He had been redeeming people from the moment that we needed it. Redemption happened in the garden, happened all through the ancient world, was written into the law given to Moses, and will still be happening until the day that Jesus returns!
In the ancient, oriental world, there existed a unique type of redemption and God even included it in the civil law found in Leviticus. This unique redemption transaction was known as the kinsman-redeemer. Essentially, if there was a death or if someone became poor and had to sell their property, the nearest of kin could come and redeem that property. Here is just a short excerpt from the civil law given to Israel to live by that includes the concept of a kinsman-redeemer:
23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine (a healthy reminder that everything, including our lives, is ultimately God’s) and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. 24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.
25 “‘If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. 26 If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, 27 they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. 28 But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.
One of the most powerful examples of this happening is found in the book of Ruth when Boaz became the kinsman-redeemer of Ruth. Her life is transformed from a very poor and needy woman who has no one in her life but her mother-in-law Naomi to having all that she could ever need and being covered and protected by Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer. Not without coincidence, their child was the great-grandfather of King David and of course, the distant grandfather of Jesus as well. This is a powerful illustration of how Jesus takes us in and transforms us from spiritual rags to riches as He protects and provides for us as our kinsman-redeemer.
The great news this morning is that regardless of who we once were, if we put our faith in Jesus, we have been redeemed! We don’t just escape Hell, we are transformed into a new creation! We’ve been freely given the riches of His Kingdom and we, ourselves, are royalty now princes and princesses in His glorious Kingdom. If we’ve been redeemed from the Lord, then we should say so! Listen to some of these Old Testament testimonies of the Lord’s redemption!
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
(or in the KJV, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so”)
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16 for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron.
17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
and drew near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy.
23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
33 He turned rivers into a desert,
flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,
because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35 He turned the desert into pools of water
and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
and they founded a city where they could settle.
37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards
that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
and he did not let their herds diminish.
39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
but all the wicked shut their mouths.
43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
David summarized his own life redemption story here:
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
This morning, it’s time for the redeemed of the Lord to tell their stories, or to say so! Don’t be ashamed of who you used to be or the struggles that you had to fight your way through. Tell those stories, about how God came in and redeemed your life; transforming it! Let’s worship the Lord this morning by telling and hearing some of these slimy pit-to-rock stories of the Lord’s redemption! Like His word says, let the redeemed of the Lord say so, let them tell their stories!