If you’re anything like me, you still remember just about every scene from the greatest comedy movie of all time, Dumb and Dumber. One of the best is when Lloyd, in preparation for his and Harry’s cross-country journey, trades in their van for a moped, “straight up.”

Harry says, “Lloyd, just when I think you couldn’t possibly do anything any dumber, you go and do something like this … and totally redeem yourself!”

To redeem something means to buy it back, to bring it back from destruction, to restore it.

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.)

We also use the word “redeem” when we talk about coupons. When you trade in a coupon, you redeem it; you are given the cash equivalent for it.

Imagine you’re at your local Food Lion, when the receipt prints out and says, “Congratulations, you’ve been chosen to get one free ham! Present this coupon at checkout.”

Ham wasn’t on your shopping list when you walked in, but it is now. So, you go back and get the biggest ham you can find. You take it to the checkout line and proudly dump it on the belt. When the cashier says, “That’ll be $23,” you just smile and hand her your coupon. “That ham might be $23 for the rest of these folks, but not for me. I have …”

Dramatic pause.

“A coupon.”

You hand the coupon to him and—boom—it’s redeemed. Free ham.

Now, what did you pay for this glorious pork product? Nothing. What did the manufacturer pay? Full price. (The pig, of course, is the real hero, because the pig paid it all. Your coupon just connected you to that sacrifice.*)

That’s how you get saved. Not through Food Lion coupons, I mean. But through presenting faith in what Jesus did as yours. Offer that to God and—boom—salvation is yours.

But why do we even need salvation in the first place?

When we read Romans 2 and 3, where Paul weaves in and out of the law, it is supposed to give us the feeling of spiritually drowning. We should feel overwhelmed by our sin, because everywhere we turn, we find more guilt and corruption. We look at our bad deeds and see they are full of anger and selfishness and rebellion.

Even worse, we look at our good deeds and see that even they are full of pride and competitiveness and jealousy.

The closer we look at ourselves, the more we cry out with the Apostle Paul, “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:25) We are stained through and through with sin.

Jesus paid the full price to buy us back—to redeem us—from condemnation to sin. He offered it to us freely, but it wasn’t free. It cost him everything.

*Thanks to Joby Martin for the ham illustration. And thanks to Food Lion for embodying this ham illustration so often.