During the season of Epiphany, we celebrate the manifestation of Christ as Savior to a world that is desperate for good news. This year at IBC, we will explore the expansion and triumph of this good news both for individuals and people groups as recorded in the book of Acts, and this is the first sermon in the series. These entries are where my thoughts went after thinking on it for a few days.
So the goal of all redemption is to rescue what’s been lost, but also to renew what’s been broken about that which has been rescued. It’s not just rescue, it’s renewal…In the same way, the message of the Gospel, this message that Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, is that Christ in the same way has not just rescued us by the payment of a price, but he renews us. Because the goal of redemption is not just rescue it’s renewal. And so Paul writes in Titus 2:14, ‘Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.’ Renewal. He redeemed us by the payment of a price: His precious blood. But he also renews us…wholeness. That which was fractured, healed. That which was broken, repaired. That which was vandalized, fixed. And that is part of this good news of the Gospel.
I have the most wonderful and most boring story about coming to a relationship with Christ: I was raised in a Christian home by parents who loved me and at the age of 5, started walking with Him. Right there in the living room that had a poem called “If I…” by a guy named Pek Gunn framed and on the wall. He was the Poet Laureate of Tennessee. Why it was on our wall (I lived in Alabama) or why I remember that is beyond me.
There are negatives to that wonderful and boring story, though. People don’t think so. I know this because they tell me how “blessed” I was or how “lucky” I was not to have gone through what they went through. There may be some truth to that.
Primary as a negative is a reality that sometimes I don’t truly appreciate the idea of redemption that Pastor Andy talked about in the January 12, 2014 sermon titled “Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost”. See, I never really felt what it was like to be fractured. To be broken. To be vandalized. I was five, for cryin’ out loud. How fractured/broken/vandalized can you be at 5?
And how many memories do you really have from when you were five? I have no idea what I was thinking back then. I do vividly remember praying with my parents, though. And looking up at the paneled wall and seeing that poem by Pek Gunn the Poet Laureate of Tennessee on the wall. But I was at Disney World for a week around that same time and if I didn’t have photos from that trip I wouldn’t have any recollection of it at all. I certainly don’t remember any fracture or brokenness or vandalism of my own life.
My guess is that following Christ was my “default setting.” It’s how I came from the factory. I always thought the story of Jesus dying for me was true and I was still in that magical age where resurrection from the dead didn’t really feel all that implausible. I know this: I believed it then. I believe it now. So, the idea of needing to be rescued? Like some guy sitting on an island all helpless and making a volleyball his best friend and waiting to die and then getting a passing ship to pick him up? Not my experience. Mine was more like standing on a subway platform surrounded by a bunch of other folks who were just waiting on the next inevitable train. It came. We got on. If we somehow missed it there’d be another in about 10 minutes.
Does that make any sense?
See, when I hear other folks tell their story of “rescue,” well, they get (as kids these days say) “so many feels.” They are hyper-conscious of what life was like before that day in contrast to what it is like now. When they tell the story it’s like they appreciate every single breath that comes out of their lungs. It’s tangible. Real. They remember their thoughts before & after. They remember when they were fractured. They remember when they broke. They remember the vandalism. I even had one guy tell me that he woke up the next morning and truly felt completely different. He had trouble telling me exactly what that meant but I kept asking. I’m curious.
As an aside, please don’t make the mistake of thinking I didn’t ever do stupid things. I did them. It’s just I processed them with a renewed mind and always had the Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder while I Pinocchioed my way through justifications and defiance and me.
And because of that reality, over time, I deeply get the “renewal” part that Andy was talking about. I mean, I dealt a LOT with anger as a kid and know what that was like to feel rage and all that jazz. And I know what it’s like to have seen the work He’s done in my heart and life…took nearly 20 years but, yeah. I appreciate that work. It’s a lot more abundant without running the race without all that garbage around my ankles. There are others sins that I’ve experienced victory over through the years so there’s no need to grocery list them. Suffice to say that I really seem so much more thankful and grateful for the growth over time and the ways He renews me. I’m in tune with that.
I’m not really sure that it ultimately matters in the big scheme of things. I just know that when Pastor Andy was talking about the rescue and I thought about mine, I wondered if I really value that as much as I should. Because I know that sometimes I can ho-hum that wonderful moment on the shag carpet and fake-wood paneling of our family room…
…when it should move me to “all the feels” anytime I think about it.
But, all in all, each of our stories matters. There can’t be any wrong stories. Just different ones. And I can tell you this: I’m deeply grateful for the reality that I stepped on that train when it came by, and that I’m not carrying the same baggage I did when I got on.