I am learning to pick up good books and articles, binge on the thoughts and reflections of authors, I guess, in the hope to find inspiration to life and living life. In the midst of this constant chase for more knowledge and deeper understanding, I was reminded some three months ago, a message given to me on my birthday last year through an audio sermon, titled-Ransomed, Redeemed, Restored and Healed.
Ransomed and Redeemed
It was not too difficult then to start unpacking each of its content to bring alive for me what it means to be ransomed and redeemed since I choose to live life as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. We like to encourage one another especially when the going gets tough that nothing is impossible because the God whom we believe in, through Jesus Christ, His only Son, is able.
Is this all we need? Is this what we call faith? Is faith just something we say we can have and have it? How do we live out our proclamation, to walk through the darkest valleys and climb the highest mountains? I have claimed to be a Christian for almost two decades and life has not been too pretty and at times, challenging to the verge of questioning what have I done to land myself in such pathetic state where death may seem easier than life. Is not fullness of life that we were all about when we talk about God? Is not hope we were referring to when we proclaim to be light of the world? Why did my life look so gloomy when I compared to friends who did not even know this one and only God whom I believe, brings joy?
It is perhaps easy for us, Christians, to see the sacrificial love with what God had Jesus put through. Many times, we are moved by the same old familiar story, when we stand in awe to praise and worship our Redeemer and Savior, more than just on Christmas and Easter but every Sunday morning when we congregate as a body of Christ, or even on a daily basis, during our time alone with God. We sing our praises because Jesus died and rose again and His blood has cleanse us of our sins. We cling on to the truth of being God’s elect, we are the born-again because God has chosen us. We are the privileged to be living in His grace and mercy in times as such, not as slaves to this world but called to be His children because of the ransom Jesus had become to redeem us from the slavery. It is finished-Everything was done for us. We just need to be chosen and choose to believe.
As I was cruising along the highway of Victory Land in my dreamed convertible Volkswagon Beetle, enjoying the breeze that was tapping on my cheeks, trees waving and applauding for the revelation I was so proud of having, I arrived at a No-Through-Road. I realized I was at a dead-end. Despite the revelation I see Jesus Christ as our Redeemer being the Ransom to pay the price for our sins, I could not see beyond the death of our sacrificial Lamb. As much as I claimed to be a child of God saved by grace, I am not living a life as if Jesus has risen for a purpose.
The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, “Thus says the Lord , the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord , when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord , and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” (Jeremiah 30:1-3). From creation to creation, generation after generation, we failed time after time and God’s grace and mercy prevailed over and again, just as He has promised our fore-fathers. God promised restoration. His love endures forever (Psalms 136). In my microscopic view, I could not comprehend how restoration work and can work. I do not see how restoration can happen, maybe it happens, maybe, just not for me.
The Merriam-Webster says, to restore is to return something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc. It is to bring back something that existed before, to return something that was stolen or taken.
I am faced with a challenge of a half-baked faith that limits me to see the power of resurrection. The religion I had could only bring me this far, to start doubting and even fighting for justice with God when the going got tough and tougher. I did not fully embrace the finished work of God. I was contented with idolizing my religion as god. This is no longer just standing comfortably in a carpeted and air-conditioned hall with cushioned seats, praising and raising our hands along with our favorite and latest worship song set presented by our very-owned talented musicians. It is having to get hands dirty, expense time and energy, give full attention and shed some perspiration or even blood and tears.
Let me try to draw an analogy. I do not bother about washing and cleaning my car, not even when I can just pay for car wash services at petrol kiosks at affordable prices. I excused myself with the fact that where I work, the car gets dirty easily at the allocated car park anyway because it is near to the port. I got used to the filth and forgot how my car looks like in its original state. It really did not matter much because it still serves its purpose as a car, just not a sparkling clean one. I finally decided to give it a shot for a wash and polish car service after much nagging from well-meaning friends and persuasion from the car wash service man. It took a lot of effort and time because there were many layers of dust and stubborn stains to be removed. The wait for the cleaning and polishing was not short and not the most comfortable. The work seemed tedious but the man doing the job looked calm, skillful and determined to restore the car to its original state as he promised. Friends who were with me were becoming restless and I became impatient while waiting as I could not be of much help to quicken the process and was considering numerous times to stop his work and just leave. Slowly but surely, the job was done, layer after layer of scrubbing off the dirt and layer after layer of polishing wax coated to restore the car into its sparkling clean state. For the first time since I bought the car some eighteen months ago, I remembered this was what it looked like then and felt good to be driving a sparkling clean car.
It matters to God that we are not just cars that can be driven around but sparkling clean ones as well. God’s intended purpose is for us to be returned to the original condition where we were created. Our faith is not just about being and doing good. The hope He has for us is to be restored to the state He had created us to be. “To know and grow to enjoy Him is what we are saved for.”~Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity. In our restored state, we enjoy Him as much as He enjoys us. Revelations 22:1-5, where Eden is Restored,”Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
This restoration work involves God’s act or process of accurately depicting the form, features and character as it appeared at point of creation by means of removal of features formed during the fallen state in its history and reconstruction of missing features during the restoration period. The renewal of physical, mental and emotional components and other code-required work to make a spiritual being functional according to God’s purposes for His kingdom is appropriate within God’s restoration project. This is not about abiding to rules and regulations and trying to fit into some norms and forms to be a good Christian. We can be a spoiled brat, holding on to truth as the ransomed and redeemed child of God where we are grateful but choose to be disinterested and disconnected since Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” However, I suspect, when we choose an “out of context” response to live life, it will never be enough for us, to quench our thirst for more because we are intended for more-we are created in the image of God. The truth is, we painfully yearn for closeness with God yet refuse the pain of being scrubbed and polished by Him. When we get involved and allow God to work on us, scrubbing away layers and layers of stubborn habits and foolish ways, and coating layers and layers of His Word and polishing them, we can be blameless before Him (Deuteronomy 18:12-14). We have to now come face to face to the image of the gruesome treatment that Jesus was put through for us. It is because of our fallen state that Christ had to die for us, yet, this correction and change required is not an outcome of judgement. Instead, this is so that we can be called blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1) when judgement comes. It is through God’s love, so deep and wide, that transformation can take place with no condemnation.
In our restoration to God, we fear not and fear God. 1 John 4:18 says,”There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” And anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8).
His beautiful & relentless love makes a soul relentlessly beautiful.