09 Feb Living Out Redemption
When I lived in Wilmington, NC, I attended a church there that encouraged us not to make New Year resolutions, but to choose one word that we would like to see God work out in us for an entire year. I loved this challenge while living there but have to admit that I have not kept it in practice after being back in the Upstate for several years now.
However, I do ponder over the idea of a word defining my year quite frequently. Instead of proactively choosing my word, I often find that retrospect defines the word for me. I found this to be true of 2016.
About 6–8 months ago, I really started to wrestle with the idea of redemption. What does it really look like? Would I ever arrive to a place that I, Karis, would define as redemption? Over the course of these months, God has been working out some pretty big kinks in me and teaching me so much about what His redemption is and how I play a very small role in it.
For example, I was raking leaves last week, and in the mundaneness of the task, I was thinking about how 2016 had wrapped up for me and my family and was overcome with such gratitude because we have come so far in one short year. In the midst of my random thoughts, God opened my mind to the lyrics of the song Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave. The following pierced my heart so powerfully:
“Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won. I am redeemed. You set me free. So I’ll take off these heavy chains, wipe away every stain; now I’m not what I used to be. I am redeemed.”
God said to me: Stop, Karis. Just Stop. The fight is won. I have conquered it for you. Redemption is mine, and I offer it to you freely. You cannot achieve it. It is done. The only thing you need to do is receive it.
“No amount of work could bring about redemption. No amount of putting on all the right faces to all the right people would bring about any more favor from God.”
The freedom I have felt from that day moving forward has been overwhelming. It finally clicked for me. My legalistic leanings were quieted that day. No amount of work could bring about redemption. No amount of putting on all the right faces to all the right people would bring about any more favor from God. No amount of me in the equation would tilt God’s goodness to me or away from me. The heavy chains of my self-inflicted oppression were lifted in what seemed to be a split second revelation from God.
As I have celebrated this moment over and over, God continues to reveal more of the refining that needs to be done in me. You see, I have been so obsessed with making sure that redemption was obvious in my life to any onlooker that may know me. I wanted the credit for everything. Simply put, I wanted the glory. I wanted to define how redemption would manifest itself in me: a good marriage, by being the best mom, by being in good standing with my employer, etc., etc. In all of my striving, every failure of the past seemed to suggest that I wasn’t good enough and that I would never measure up. The fight was wearying and futile because it had already been won on the Cross.
I fought this needless fight with great tenacity. In the darkest corners of my heart I believed that if I gave up the fight then I would give up the glory. What poison this was to my soul! But God, in His endless mercy, allowed me to endure one hardship after another until His message of redemption finally resonated with me—there is no doing better than what has already been done in full. I could not reinvent or remake the Cross. My fight for redemption revealed my true, arrogant heart. I thought that I was too good for the redeeming power of the Cross and that all of the hard that I was enduring surely was by way of a mistake made by myself or others.
God reminded me often of the story of Naaman out of 2 Kings Chapter 5. This story happens to be one of my daughter’s favorite out of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Naaman was a high ranking official that just so happened to be struck with leprosy. The servant girl that he had taken captive from Israel knew of Elisha and his gift of healing so she made Naaman aware of this. Naaman set out upon his journey of healing expecting to arrive at a great and marvelous palace that housed a great and marvelous healer. However, he was very disappointed to find that not only did Elisha live in a small house located outside the grounds of the palace; Elisha didn’t even make time for him. Instead, Elisha sent his servant out to greet him. Naaman was instructed to bathe in the river seven times and he would be healed. Infuriated by the plan, he left insulted. Surely, Elisha and his servant must have known who he was and that this plan for healing is far beneath him. Somehow though, Naaman was able to quiet his soul and take his chances in the river. After following the servant’s instructions, Naaman was healed and his skin showed absolutely no signs of leprosy.
“The beauty of the Cross is not about the one for whom the cross was carried. Rather, the beauty of cross is about the One who was carrying it.”
As I would read this story to my daughter, I was struck by how much I resembled Naaman. God began to convict and show me that I thought my redemption should be easy and glorious. Surely God knew who I was and that I was far too worthy of anything other than the comforts of this life, right? I think I made God chuckle and heard Him whisper, “Yeah, right! I sure do know how you are, so get over yourself.”
You see, I was making what God had already done in me way too hard. God’s plan of redemption for all of us is the gospel. It is not a complex idea. However, its simplicity requires us to completely put aside our pride and admit to ourselves that we cannot do this better. We cannot define how redemption will work itself out in us. Redemption was accomplished on the cross, and how that manifests in our life is up to God and God alone. The beauty of the Cross is not about the one for whom the cross was carried. Rather, the beauty of cross is about the One who was carrying it. There was nothing stress-free or wonderful about bearing the Cross for the entire world, but it was necessary so that an entire world may know the redeeming power and love of Jesus. May it be our highest calling to pick up our cross and live out this life of redemption with the hope and expectancy of what the gospel offers us.