A STORY OF REDEMPTION

As I look at the world around me today, I cannot help but notice that there is an awful lot of  “judging” going on. We see whites judging blacks and blacks judging whites. The old folks blame the younger generation and the young folks judge the older ones. Republicans are judging Democrats and Democrats are judging Republicans. The Jews are judging the Palestinians and the Palestinians blame the Jews. Americans are blaming Muslims, while they say we are the problem. And last but not least, we see Christians judging those who are not Christians and those who are not, pointing their finger at those who call themselves Christians. Meanwhile, we have a media that is being judged harshly, while they are busy prosecuting everyone else.  Talk about “what goes around, comes around.” It’s everywhere.

The Bible says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…” [Matthew 7:1-2 NIV]. So I guess it is true…those that are judging others are indeed being judge, as well. There you have it…Bible prophecy is being fulfilled all around us each and every day. This portion of Scripture is the words of Jesus, Himself, from what is called the Sermon On The Mount which is probably the most famous and most quoted message Jesus ever gave, publicly. My wife, Lauri Lee, recently returned from Israel and while they were there, her group got to sit on that very hillside while our Pastor read those beautiful words to them. I can only imagine what must have been running through their minds on that warm, sunny day on that historic mountain. Pretty powerful, to say the least.

At the same time, I am beginning to see that people, not only in America but all around the world, are being fed false concepts and images of who God is. And what they are being told is not very flattering, to say the least. Some paint God as arrogant and self-centered. Some paint Him as a racist or a homophobe. Others say that He is violent and bloodthirsty and only seeks revenge on those who refuse to comply. Maybe the biggest lie being spread about God, more nowadays than ever, is that He does not exist at all and that He never did. They say, “It all is just one big scam being run on the human race by men who want to use God as an excuse to go to war or make lots of money from the weak and vulnerable ones among us.”

“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!!!”

But here is the problem with all of this judging and tarnishing of the very name and nature of God. The very one who stood on that hillside overlooking the Sea Of Galillee, and gave that amazing speech about loving one another and taking care of those who are hurting among us, who told us not to take advantage of or judge each other harshly, He was God in the flesh…the Incarnate Word…Immanuel, which means “God with us”.

Jesus was not promoting violence, but peace.  He was not encouraging the strong to overpower the weak, He was trying to get us to reach out and care for those who are vulnerable and hurting among us.  Most importantly, Jesus did not come to this world to avenge or judge those who did not believe in Him. He came to save us…one and all. You see, the truth is…God is love. He is full or mercy and grace, and all about redemption.

Why did He create light to drown out the darkness? Redemption. Why did He call on Noah to build the Ark to preserve the human race and all of the amazing creatures He made? Redemption. Why did He call Lot out of Sodom and allow David to prevail over Goliath? It was then and always has been all about redemption. The evidence is overwhelming.

But this central theme of God and His redemptive ways can be quickly lost in the light of the fact that many have suffered and died along the way, supposedly for not complying with this so-called “higher power”. And it is true that many more will be lost along the way, before the ultimate redemption is realized by those who diligently and passionately seek it. So I can’t really blame those who may have not looked closely enough at this story of redemption for being confused or unconvinced.

A key factor that is often overlooked by “those who only look from afar” is that the Old Testament God of the Bible is truly no different than the softer and gentler New Testament Jesus who died on the Cross at the hands of the Romans, two thousand years ago, to pay for the sins of all mankind. For you see, they are one and the same. The Apostle John wrote in the opening passages of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  Jesus was with God and was  a co-equal member of the Godhead, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit from Day One. The Bible  explains it further this way, “Jesus Christ is the same…yesterday, today and forever.” [Hebrew 13:8]

And so it follows that the redemptive nature of One who gave us the Sermon On The Mount, was present at the dawning of creation. What is often missed, is that part of this deity’s desire to redeem, is His plan to offer human beings a choice, “free will” as it is often called.  The payment for sin afforded us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was sufficient to pay for the sin of every person who has ever lived or ever will live on Earth. But He gave us, also, the right of refusal. You see, the redemptive qualities of God did not include a desire to force anyone to receive His gift of mercy. They must choose to accept it…by faith. So, just exactly how does one accept this amazing gift of mercy?  You simply go to God in prayer and ask Him. The phone lines are open and He is listening.

So what about those, then, who suffered and died at the hands of this merciful God along the way?  It is said of God that He knows all things, from beginning to the end, and that He knows what is in our heart of hearts. He knows who are His and those who never will be. So, as with Noah and the Flood, He knew that all of mankind had become evil, except for Noah and his family. He was able to save the ones who remained faithful, while allowing those to perish, who stood in the way of redemption or posed a threat to those who were to be redeemed. Nowadays, we call those “surgical strikes” or “minimizing collateral damage”.

That is really not a new strategy or concept, however. The Lord and Creator of all things perfected it long ago. And to be honest, you and I …believer and unbeliever alike…are only here today because of this redemptive nature of His.  So hopefully it leads us to ask, “Why?”

The goal as I see it, and many before me, was to give every last one of us the ultimate choice, to accept His generous gift of redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ, or reject it. And as with any important decision, of course, there are consequences attached to the choices we make.

The only real difference regarding this choice, is that the consequences are eternal. But the choice is yours, and mine, to make nonetheless.

Your redemption has already been purchased, paid in full and ready for pickup whenever you are ready. But be aware, that a great many good and decent people left this world without claiming their redemption. And where we are headed, just being good or decent in this world is not enough. We also will need to show proof that we chose to accept our redemption, the blood of the Risen Lamb applied to our hearts.

The story of God is clearly one of redemption, all the way from Genesis through Revelation.

Does it have a happy ending? Only you can decide for yourself….no one else.

The words of God, recorded by Moses, made it very clear: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” [Deuteronomy 30:19]

They key word in that passage is, of course, “choose”.  Not making a clear choice is the same as a rejection…FYI

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