Last week, we established the fact that spiritual formation is based on the reality that “God is love.” We enter into what some have called a Lover/Beloved relationship. Now, we are ready to look into the nature of God’s love, and we do so through the word “redemption.”
Oswald Chambers rightly pointed out that “Redemption is the only Reality.” (My Uptmost for His Highest, January 31). He is reminding us that redemption is the cause of our salvation, not an effect of it. Redemption is what sets in motion our life in God.
Redeem means “to buy back.” It’s as if someone walked into a shop and saw one of his own items on the shelf; an item which had been lost to him for some time. When the person sees the item, he at once says, “I want to buy that item.” Redemption is God saying, “I want you.” And without going into excessive details, the Bible makes it clear that there is no limit to the price of our recemption (e.g. John 3:16).
Redemption is by grace. The object on the shelf is just sitting there; it has done nothing to “get found.” Redeeming love accepts us as we are. But it does not leave us as we are. It is love which transforms. When we are back in the hands of God, we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17); the old has passed away, the new has come.
Redemption begins in God’s decision to buy us back–a decision made before the world was even created. It occured in the moment God paid the price for us through the Cross. We are removed from the shelf of lostness and taken home–the home we were always meant to inhabit. Spiritual formation becomes the lifelong process of finding our place in what Max Lucado has called “the great house of God.”
The lessons we get from this analogy are insightful, but insufficient. We are not objects. We are human beings. The redemption indeed “buys us back” from a lostness, but when we are taken home by God, we are not put on another shelf and left to sit there in idleness. We are increasingly conformed to the image of Christ, so that spiritual formation can be summed up in one word: Christlikeness. Inwardly and outwardly we are being transformed in character and conduct to be “like Christ.” It all begins in the heart of God—a heart of love—a love that will not let us go—a heart which not only wants to redeem us, but has acted to do so.