Friday, May 20, 2016

"No man can redeem the life of another ... but ..."

Day #142

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 48 - 50 …

It seems clear that fewer and fewer people today understand the word “redemption,” if, indeed, they ever did!  The word is defined as "the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment."  It has also come to mean "the action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil."  In biblical terms it refers to people being "redeemed" or "saved" from God's just judgment against their sin.  As such, the Bible says that we are ALL in need of redemption.  In our natural state, we cannot redeem ourselves and as the Psalmist writes here, "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on forever and not see decay" (49:7-9).

What bothers me is that many in the church are agreeing with those in the world who say that mankind either does not need such redemption OR that it is possible for us to redeem ourselves.  "We can DO this!  We can improve ourselves, we can save our world and humanity!"  My question is this:  Can you claim to believe the Bible as the very Word of God and Jesus Christ as your Savior and still believe that you can redeem yourself?  The clear and obvious answer to that question from the Bible is, "NO!"  By definition, a Christian is one who believes that only through faith in Jesus Christ, only by believing that He suffered God's wrath against our sins and therefore REDEEMED those whom God had chosen and in whom God is now at work by His Spirit to work repentance and faith … only these escape God's judgment and are saved, redeemed.

We need to use the Bible’s own definition of words such as “redeem” and “redemption.”  The “Self-Improvement” section in most Christian bookstores is, at least to a large degree, a contradiction to what God teaches in His Word.  Consider the words of God through the prophet Jeremiah:  “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil” (Jeremiah 13:23).  If our problems were only on the “outside,” if it were only our actions, our behaviors that needed changing, then perhaps a good program of self-improvement would be helpful.  But our “problem” runs deeper!  We are spiritually DEAD and helpless and only the very power of God can “REDEEM” us!

Those who claim belief in Jesus without believing THIS deceive themselves and others.  Peter wrote, "Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (I Peter 1:17-19).  What the Psalmist writes is true:  "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him" (49:7).  We simply cannot save ourselves from ourselves!

But Jesus said, " … the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  Jesus came to pay the price and on the cross He cried out, "Tetelestai!" … "It is finished!" … the debt is paid!!  As true God and true man Jesus became the ‘”second Adam,” our second representative.  As such, HE did FOR us what you and I could not and cannot do for ourselves.  THIS is what God's LOVE is all about.  In His love God doesn't overlook sin - He CAN'T!  Instead, He deals with it.  Psalm 48 speaks of the city of God and refers to Mount Zion, Jerusalem. There, in the temple, God revealed Himself as just, holy and righteous … AND … as compassionate, merciful and forgiving.  "Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love" (48:9).

Those in Zion had heard of God and had seen His power and might as He defeated their enemies.  Psalm 49 declares, along with the rest of the Bible, that there are two groups of people on the earth:  those who know the true God and those who don't.  As he speaks of the rich and arrogant in Psalm 49, he declares that those who are rich will not endure.  "Like sheep, they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them … their forms will decay in the grave" (49:14).  "BUT, God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself" (49:15).  Such a bold declaration is hard to find today, but those who have tasted the grace of God know the love of their Redeemer ... Jesus Christ!

The attitude of those who know God and who draw near to Him through faith in Jesus Christ is THANKFULNESS!  Psalm 50 reminds us that the "Mighty One, God, the LORD" (50:1) will come to judge in righteousness:  "for God Himself is Judge" (50:6).  People may say otherwise and "theologians" may rationalize God's justice as an expression of His love for all people, but the writers of Scripture speak with one voice (the voice of the Spirit of God) when they declare "Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces with none to rescue" (50:22).

Rather, "Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me," says the Lord, our God (50:14-15).  "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God" (50:22-23).  The best thank-offering you can bring to the Lord is YOURSELF!!  Jesus said, "Whoever would come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me!"

Don't let anyone tell you that "redemption" is a meaningless word.  The truth is, anyone who says such a thing proves they don't understand it … and they don't know God … and they don't realize the danger of the road they are walking, because it is the wide road that leads to destruction and many are on it with them.  Jesus says it leads to God’s judgment and eternal death.  The writers of the Psalms believed we needed redemption and that only GOD could do it.  We would do well to believe the same!

"O LORD, my God, in You I place my trust.  I confess that because of my sinful estate, I cannot redeem myself.  Therefore, I give thanks to You, my God, for the gift of Your Son, in whom I HAVE redemption - the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Your presence.  I surrender my life to You and ask You to strengthen me to walk in obedience to Your Word and so show myself to be a disciple of Jesus.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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