People use the word “redeem” when they buy something back from a pawnshop. If you were to fall on hard times, you might hock your engagement ring for a wad of cash. But if got enough money in time, you could buy it back. We’d call that buy-back process “redeeming” the ring. (You might call it a lot of other things, too.)
A few years ago, I was trying to get back home to speak to about 2,000 college students. I was sitting in a plane on the runway when the captain announced that there was something wrong with our plane. When I realized I wasn’t going to make it in time, I called up a friend to cover for me. In retrospect, it’s clear that God wanted my friend to preach instead of me. But does God’s sovereign decision to delay my plane relieve the airline’s responsibility in the debacle?
There’s a book in my library called unChristian that analyzes the results of an extensive, nationwide study conducted by the Barna Group. The study showed that 84 percent of non-Christians said they personally knew at least one Christian, but only 15 percent thought that person’s lifestyle was significantly different than their own. Non-Christians don’t think we’re different because we’re not different. But we should be.
If there were ever a verse in the Bible that sounded like an overstatement, this would be it: “There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:12b CSB). No one who does good? Really? As in, literally none? In light of our biggest sin—replacing God’s authority in our lives with our own—even the good things we do apart from faith don’t seem that good.
People in the American church today tend to think of their lives in “buckets.” There is the “eternal salvation” bucket—that’s where Jesus lives—and then there is the “other stuff” bucket—security, prosperity, happiness, etc. We don’t altogether forget Jesus in Bucket #1; he just didn’t seem as relevant when we’re trying to get the contents of Bucket #2.
The concept of God’s righteousness scares us because it feels like a standard we’ll be judged by or one that causes us to feel excluded or condemned. But when we come to see that it is a righteousness God gives by faith, everything changes. It’s what theologians call the Great Exchange.