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Blessings That Won’t Be Restricted: Redemption

 
James Burstow | February 8th 2021

In the past few months we’ve been reminded that so many of the blessings we take for granted are not guaranteed. They are blessings that can be given, and can be taken away. 

But, as Christians, we receive some blessings that are untouchable. Ephesians 1 v 3 calls these “spiritual blessings.” They can’t be restricted, regulated or removed. Join me each week for an encouraging reflection on these everlasting spiritual blessings.

Blessing 3: Redemption

So, we're continuing our series in Ephesians 1 looking at the spiritual blessings we have in Christ: the blessings received in the heavenly realms which means they are unaffected by whatever is happening in our physical circumstances. So far we've thought about election—the truth that we were personally chosen before the creation of the world—and adoption—the truth that we were chosen not just to be God's people, or even his friends, but his children. This week we move on to verses 7 and 8.

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us."

This spiritual blessing is redemption: the forgiveness of sins. It comes right after the little bit we skipped over in verse 4, which says that he "chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight".

"We have a father who is neither unrealistic nor vindictive. When he was thinking of us before the creation of the world, he knew we wouldn’t be able to do this on our own."

Holy and blameless. How is that working out for you? That is what we are called to be as children of God. And yet we're not. We're sinful. We know that because we work together! The members of your household know that because they live with you! The Bible says we are enslaved to sin. We can't help it. And so it seems as though we have this standard to live up to as children of God which we can never attain.

BUT... We have a father who is neither unrealistic nor vindictive. When he was thinking of us before the creation of the world, he knew we wouldn’t be able to do this on our own. So in accordance with the riches of his grace (which underpin all these spiritual blessings) he provided the answer. And that, of course, is the cross.

Redemption carries the idea of gaining possession of something in exchange for payment. In this case, the thing being redeemed is us. We are redeemed from our slavery to sin and death. The payment to set us free is blood: the blood of Christ, shed on the cross. We are redeemed by the extraordinarily costly price of the blood of Jesus. That really is lavish grace.

This is a spiritual blessing which impacts both our daily walk and our eternal future.

Redemption transforms our daily walk

Day by day, it reminds us not to make too little of our sin, nor too much of our sin. Some of us, sometimes, accept sinful behaviour as kind of inevitable and honestly not that bad. "I’m just a temperamentally grumpy person!" we might say, or "I've just always struggled with temptation in that area and every now and then I slip up". Or we blame other people. "If you knew how rude she was to me, you would understand why I was rude back".

But we are called to be holy and blameless. We mustn't make too little of our sin.

The truth is that the degree of excitement we feel about this blessing will be directly connected to how we feel about our sin. If you don't think your sin is that bad, you won't think that this blessing is that good. The more we acknowledge our sin and stop blaming it on circumstances or other people, the more thankful we will become.

So we mustn't make too little of our sin. But equally we mustn't make too much of our sin. If we take our sin seriously but forget our redemption, we will be crushed by guilt. Sin is always there, convicting us, frustrating us, spoiling things. At the moment, with so many of us in lockdown, our flaws may well be even more obvious than usual: relationships are strained, tensions high, moods flat. But, friends, we don't redeem ourselves: we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. So when we fail in our fight against sin—as we inevitably will this side of heaven—we remember that we are not saved by our own merits but by the blood of Jesus. By his lavish grace. Not by works—so no one can boast. But no one needs to despair either.

There is a great phrase in Christianity Explored which says, "You are more sinful than you ever imagined. But you're more loved than you ever dreamed." We need to hold those two truths in tension.

Redemption transforms our eternal future

Redemption is an amazing blessing for the here and now, and it is an amazing blessing from an eternal perspective too, because it means that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Because actually sin does separate us from God. The wages of sin is death: the  Bible doesn't pull any punches about that. But for those who have been chosen in Christ, we have redemption through his blood and so our sins are forgiven and we can take our place in heaven. We can walk in there with our head held high. Thanks to Jesus, heaven is our beautiful, sinless home and we belong there. 

We belong there. It’s a mind-blowing thought.

One of my favourite hymns is It is Well with my Soul. It’s a great hymn for anyone going through trials, and so it’s a great hymn for most of us right now, I would imagine. The third stanza sums up beautifully the essence of what I have been saying:

My sin—oh the bliss of this glorious thought—

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more:

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

In Christ, we are chosen, we are adopted and we are redeemed. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

James Burstow

James' role as Commercial Director encompasses marketing, sales and customer service. Before joining TGBC he spent time in Chile and Japan teaching English before becoming a fundraiser for Great Ormond Street Hospital. He is the senior elder at Grace Church Worcester Park.