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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Incredible Reality of Redemption

I never get tired of a discussion about Redemption! It’s such an incredible concept. When you think that we are so small, and God is so big. We are so tainted, and God is forgiving. We are so lost, and broken, and undeserving, yet God came to us . . . He thinks we are worth dying for. You are worth dying for. I am worth dying for. That blows my mind. I can’t really comprehend that type of sacrifice, where someone so unfathomably Perfect lays down His life for someone so . . . broken.

The significant loves the insignificant. The Triune loves the Trivial. The Relevant loves the irrelevant. The Creator loves the created. And that’s really what it’s about isn’t it. We find our worth in what our Creator thinks of us. He alone has the say so as to what our worth is. He alone can give us value. Nothing and no one else can. As hard as we try, as far as we search. . . we can never find our worth anywhere else. And so we discuss and discourse and try to wrap our minds around this incredible reality of Redemption, caught up in these three simple, almost childish words . . . “Jesus Loves YOU”.

Reality place a huge part in our redemption. It is based on Truth, and Truth sets us free. But unfortunately we know that reality is a rare thing to find today. Our enemy throws everything he can at us to get us fixated on ourselves, our accomplishments, our hurt, our triumphs, our tragedies. And so focused on our selfish desires, the sacred sometimes becomes laughable. We can hear Truth, and laugh in its face, which is exactly what our enemy wants . . .

Everywhere we look we see the headlined version of reality, based by what one tries to sell to the other. Reality shows are the craze, the fad, but recently it’s been admitted that they too are staged. We hear, from all directions, the call to this diet, to that car. He will make your life complete. I can’t live without her. Romance is where it’s at. Wealth is the answer. Hollywood has “the life”. This style is in. That celeb is out. There’s something for everyone and NOTHING SATISFIES!

Do you ever get tired of it? I looked up the term “rat race” the other day. The term “Rat Race” is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy of modern times and cities, many rats in a single maze run around making a lot of noise bumping into each other, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually (Wikipedia).

Do you ever get sick of this life, this pace we are living it? The pain, the suffering, the searching, the loneliness. Nothing satisfies. And no one sees this more than a person in ministry. A minister’s job is to show the real against the facade of life.

But we’ve replaced the REAL for the Rationalistic. The Real for the Ruse. The Real for the Rudimentary. Our moral code has been replaced by an mtv culture that even demands we believe that there is no REAL! Really, there is no real . . . and we start to lose our logic. We start to embrace the facade.

We’re all caught up in it! Don’t think you’re not. To some extent we all are. The effect is overwhelming.

We live in a fast food society. We want what we want, and we want it now. We have replaced the formula of Desire + Hard Work = Success with a formula that reads Desire = Success. We have created a ladder of Success with one rung and then wonder why we feel so empty and disillusioned. We want what we want, with an immediate order of self-worth. The more we indulge ourselves though, the sooner we become like the writer of Ecclesiastes. We realize that NOTHING SATISFIES in this world.

And it starts to affect us spiritually.

Our churches are now filled with people who have no idea what Redemption is. Many of us go to church for years, without the slightest clue about our real spiritual state. We are inundated by the facade. We are overwhelmed by popular culture that points to everything but the REAL. Some of us come across the Law, and are convicted. Some of us try to go to church. To live right. And we wonder why we constantly fail. We have taken the mirror (the Law's true purpose) off the wall and are trying to clean ourselves with it. In Reality, Redemption is brought about by the Forgiveness that’s been offered, and our realization and the resulting repentance we must have. We must live the life of the Changed Mind, which is the true meaning of Repentance.

But we pass by the Cross with glazed eyes. We don’t see the Law of Life and Liberty that Christ’s death has given us. So we dive deeper. We forget the teachings of our fathers. We turn a deaf ear to the call of God in our lives. We go farther until we find ourselves in danger of depravity.

Because Truth is not benign. Truth is not a neat idea that works for some and not for others. No, Truth stands regardless whether we "buy into it" or not. Truth stands though the world recoils in hatred. Truth stands and will never be affected by whim.

We can do nothing to it, but Truth will always do something to us. There must be a reaction to it. We must respond, and either accept it in humility, or reject it in disbelief and pride.

The Apostle Paul says this in Romans 1:25 – “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator . . . For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions (desires), for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of a woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men, committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

"And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which were not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding . . . “.

Sound familiar?

Seen this on television lately?

It’s relentless. And for a reason.

Our enemy is scared to death . . .

See, we are born with a desire for abundance. God built that into our holistic makeup, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have offered it. He came to give us Life and Life more abundant!

That means Christ is standing in front of us saying, "I am here to give you more than what you have. I am THE REAL! I am here to show you what life has only pretended to be!"

And our enemy is scared to death.

He’s scared that the glimmer of Grace will catch our eye.

That for one second we will stop and turn our focus on the Cross.

That for one hour on a Sunday morning we will hear about a God who was and is and always will be REAL!

That for one moment we will hear the song of the redeemed. That for 5 minutes during a lunch break someone will tell us there’s more to this life.

That one person will break rank and demand that a church practice what it preaches.

That love will be shown to the undeserving.

That prayer will creep its way back into schools.

That righteous action will speak louder than hollow words.

That people will start praying for miracles.

That minds will be changed in repentance.

That hearts will be healed.

That chains will be broken.

That strongholds will be shattered.

That marriages will be restored.

That the divorce rate will go down.

That husbands would love their wives.

That wives would become Godly women.

That teenagers would say “NO” to the damaging pressure, and demand more from their peers.

That forgiveness would come out of pain.

That our eyes would be opened.

That we would see Jesus.

That the meek would inherit the earth.

That the oppressed would find relief.

That we would see the love of God for what it is.

That the facade will crack.



And our enemy spends every moment in this chaos he’s created, desperately trying to believe his own lies, throwing everything he has at Creation to convince us likewise.

There is a Real. Satan knows it. Scripture says that even the demons believe . . .

There is a Real, and it’s based on Truth.

The Psalmist said, “The sum (the entirety, the total make-up) of thy Word is Truth” (Psalms 119:160)

John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth”

In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the father but by me.”

In John 8:31 and 32 Jesus says, “if you continue in my Word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”.

The Truth, the REAL is found in Jesus. No other place can we find our redemption.

No other place can we find our worth.

Our value and our Life is found in His death.

And when he says he is the only way, he’s not being arrogant. He’s being incredibly helpful! Let me explain . . .

Many years ago, in my teen dinosaur years, I went with my dad and brother on a caving tour. We were traveling through a certain area of the country, and we heard of a cave tour that went three miles down into this massive cavern. So we thought we would be cool and “live the dream”.

We arrived at the cave. I can still remember the time, oddly enough. It was 3 p.m. when the tour started. We walked and walked and walked until we were sooo far down. The walls were incredible with the colors and reflections of the tour guides' light.

When we reached our destination, we were in a large cavern. To the right and left were passages going off into the darkness. Our tour guide then made us close our eyes, line up single file and turn each other around several times, starting with the first person being turned around by the person behind him. It ended with the tour guide turning the last person around. He then told us to open our eyes.

Total darkness.

Some of the girls in our group screamed half heartedly. My dad grabbed each of us boys and told us to stay with him. Several guys in the group ventured a weak “hello”.

Total silence from our tour guide.

And just at the scary moment when panic enters the back of your neck and makes your hair stand up, the tour guide laughed and turned on his light. He then cheerily informed us that if we were cave diving like some kids did many years ago, and our torch went out, we would be entirely lost in the passages of that cavern. There would be no way we would ever find our way out. We would die alone and probably try to eat each other.

Then he turned off his light again . . . but just for a second. :)

I’ll never forget that feeling . . . when the light came on. The feeling of relief was indescribable.

It's an epiphany of Trust.

When he told us to follow him back up the right passage to the light of day, no one ever thought to question his word. No one told him "no thanks, we'll find our own way". We followed, knowing that he had the light. He was the way out.

And certainly no one accused him of being arrogant.

This is Jesus. Standing before us. Saying I am the way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. I am REALITY.

He’s not being arrogant. He is just stating Truth. He IS Truth! And those that are desperate enough, those that feel His spirit on them, those whose eyes are opened to the light . . . follow. Trusting. Believing. Acting on the Truth He gives through Himself. Through the Word.

We’ve all seen plenty of counterfeits. Here is the Truth on counterfeiting . . . You can’t have a counterfeit without a real!

Any person who has counterfeited currency knows that you ultimately have to start with the real thing. A counterfeit is just a copy of the real. It’s meant to deceive.

This is our enemy.

Are you living in reality? Are you holding the real, or are you wondering in the dark?

Some of us are believers. Some of us are non-believers. Some of us are skeptics.

Some of us are hypocrites.

Today is your day.

Some of you are believers who are questioning everything right now. Life has been cruel. The facade has beaten you down for the last time, and you are standing at a decision point, at a crossroads. Throw in the towel, and create your own facade of “I’ve got everything under control” or are you going to admit you have issues with your issues. That you are NOT alright. That you need to re-evaluate. Do NOT let your questions and issues with almighty God build walls between your heart and His love. Instead, let those issues and questions and anger and hurt build bridges to His throne. He will embrace you, and love you, and walk with you, just like he did when he lived among us. If you’ve fallen, then JOIN THE CROWD! You have an advocate through Jesus Christ our REDEEMER. He will be a friend closer than a brother . . .

Some of you are non-believers. You don’t believe there’s a God, or if there is He certainly is not concerned about your life. Don’t believe the lie. Don’t fall for the facade! Question everything, and walk the path of belief. He loves you enough to show you Himself. Through people. Through His word. Through talking with Him. Talk to Him. He's not afraid of your questions. He has the answers if you are willing to listen. Make the choice to find Him. Otherwise you will continue your journey in the dark . . .

Some of you are skeptics. Agnostics. Waiting for proof. Now is your chance! Step out today and see what He can do! Prove Him wrong, and good luck trying. Step out and make the declaration. He welcomes your disbelief because HE HAS THE ANSWERS!
God is bigger . . . bigger than our failures. Bigger than our fortunes. Bigger than the strength or the weakness we live in. No matter the walls that you’ve built to resist Him. No matter the choices you’ve made. There is a God! And He cares for you. No matter what . . . !

Some of you are hypocrites. You enjoy the power that comes with being in Church leadership. Being on the “inside”. But you know, deep inside, when you look in the mirror each night that you don’t live the redeemed life. You are not part of the REAL. The love of God is not in you, and your fruit is rotten. You are in the most precarious place of all. You run the danger of incurring the wrath of God more than the rest, because you pretend to be what He IS.

Just like our enemy.

And that is a very dangerous place to be in. You know the truth and reject it.

You're taking your chances in the dark . . .

I John 1:4 - 2:8 says,

"These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete."

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected."

"By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."

"Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard."

"On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. "

Jesus loves YOU.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

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