Monday, July 15, 2013

The Pawn Shop

Imagine strolling into a pawn shop. The bell rings as the door opens.  You're struck with the masculine smell of oil and gun grease. Overhead you see things too big to sit on shelves strung from the ceiling: canoe paddles, a bicycle... On the shelves lurk abandoned books, knick-knacks, and depression era glass.  Glancing at the glass counter you see the reflection of wedding rings, the picture of desperation and betrayal.  

Then to your surprise you see a sticker. Peering about you notice lots of big yellow stickers with one word, "Redeemed."  Someone wanted this one back, someone paid back all the money that it was sold for and then some.  Someone thought it was valuable, desirable and precious.  It's no longer for sale.  It may be sitting here, but it's not destined for the pawn shop.  It's redeemed.

This is Paul's image in Ephesians.  What? You've read Ephesians and you never saw the part about the pawn shop?  Trust me! Here's what he says: 

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7)

That's it.  The only things that can be redeemed are things that have been pawned.  We sold ourselves to Satan.  If that language, "we sold ourselves" reminds us uncomfortably of prostitution we've got the right idea.  The prophets repeatedly call up the image of a woman betraying her loving husband and making her way in the world by selling her body. (Ezekiel 16, 23, Hosea 1-4 etc).  From the first moment that we trusted something or someone besides God to fulfill us, from our first willful disobedience we have turned our back on the One who loves us and sold ourselves.  

So we came to the pawn shop.  Not visitors but captives. No canoe redeems itself.  No wedding ring jumps off the counter and runs back to the finger that should have treasured it.  Helpless we waited.  

One day in strode a man ready to buy us back.  We might have supposed that we were cheap; we certainly sold ourselves for little enough, but no money was exchanged.  The price was blood.  Then with those big yellow stickers in hand, he looked around for anyone who might like to be redeemed. 

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

We were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.  Imagine that.  God Almighty marks us as his own.  Like a sticker that declares, "This one is God's own possession.  This one is redeemed.  This one is bought back-valuable, desirable, precious.  His own."  Though we remain in the world we are not of the world.  We are purchased!

That is the good news of our salvation- the price has already been paid.  Every person we pass on the street, rejected and stuck on a shelf, has already been paid for.  They only need a sticker, a stamp, a seal.  They need to accept the free gift. But how?

How does one receive the Holy Spirit?  Are we talking about a miracle here?  No indeed.  It's the simplest thing in the world.  Peter explains it in Acts 2, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (v 38). Baptism brings us two gifts in its wake: forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Thus we are sealed, receiving a down-payment on our promised inheritance.  We are marked, "God's own."

And all this is nothing but grace.  We are about as capable of arranging for our redemption as the canoe in the story. Jesus' blood which paid the price for our release was not only his plan but his gift.  The astonishing fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, produces fruit in our lives, interprets our prayers and comforts us, we didn't "do" that either.  God did.  A free gift, gratefully accepted.  

I told this little parable to my daughters.  Now anytime someone mentions redemption my little one says, "buyed with blood!" and her sister with a laugh reaches out to slap an imaginary sticker on her forehead.  I don't mind the laughter, I just hope the lesson sinks in.  It's all grace.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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