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Copyright for the journal © 2005
M. S. Thirumalai
RANSOMED FOR BLESSING
1 Timothy 2:5-6
PASTOR DAVE STREM
AMAZING CREATION OF GOD
Recently, I got to go scuba diving in West Palm and had a great experience. God's creation is absolutely amazing. It was like swimming in a giant aquarium. But on that trip, I learned a few other things not so pleasant. What I learned gives a picture of what it is like to live in this world.
When we started off on our trip it was a beautiful day, calm, the sky was blue, there were clouds in the sky and then as we went down for a dive. We saw a storm coming and we said, "We will be fine. There is no trouble." Well, during the time we were down the storm got closer and closer and got worse and worse. And it started to rain just about the time I was coming up. I came up about 15 minutes before everyone else. I am a novice diver and these other guys were more experienced. Water is not my favorite place to be.
IN SUDDEN AND HEAVY RAIN - MIRACULOUS ESCAPE
Because my air ran out so fast, I went up and got back into the boat about the same time it started to rain. And in the 15 minutes that intervened before the others surfaced, it came down so hard and the wind blew so strong we could not even see the diving buoy. We did not know where those guys were coming up. Finally, we saw them about 100 yards off the stern. We saw very small heads in a black sea popping up and down.
We started the boat and turned around to go pick them up and the engine stalled. We started it up again, and it stalled again. We started it up a third time, and it stalled a third time. We started it up just enough to keep turning the boat around to face them before the wind turned us back around. We could not get back to them. About 15 minutes passed with the wind blowing us farther and farther away where we can hardly see them over the waves. And finally, I am going to say by a miracle, the boat starts and keeps running. We finally got back to them, but we could not get close enough for them to swim to the boat because every time we would stop, the wind would blow us farther and farther away from them.
Finally, we got close enough to throw them a lifeline that they could grab and get pulled in. I said it was a miracle that boat started because it did not start again. We had to get towed in an hour later. If we had not gotten back to them, they would have drifted far away. Sooner or later, they would have been picked up by the Coast Guard or something else, but who knows what would have happened?
LIFE CAN BE HAZARDOUS
Things can quickly get out of hand. Life can be hazardous to your health whether you are scuba diving or living as a Christian. As a Christian or as a non-Christian, life can be hazardous to your health. We think we have it all together. I thought I was safe because I had all this good gear on. The other guys thought they were safe and they had all the gear on and things were going good, but unexpected things happened. They used their gear properly. They put up their rescue devices and they used their horns but in howling wind we could barely hear it whistle. Sometimes we can do all the right things but still experience unexpected difficulties.
We are going to look at that same kind of scenario but apply it to life. When life seems normal, quiet, and peaceful then suddenly without warning, or maybe you had some warning but you went ahead anyway, your life begins to cave in on you. Things getting out of control and you need rescue. You need help because the way it is going is not good for you or for those around you. You need a lifeline just so you can get to a safe place.
JESUS CHRIST - A RANSOME FOR ALL
Open your Bibles to 1 Timothy 2:5-6. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all men." The word "ransom" paints the picture of being lost, of being in jeopardy, of having little hope unless something from the outside comes in and intervenes in you life. It is a rich theological term and in the Greek its meaning is expanded because it is preceded and followed by a preposition. A ransom is a price paid to free someone from captivity or punishment. And what is emphasized in this verse is that Christ paid that price in our place, on our behalf, with a passion and love beyond normal. Paul wants the reader to catch the personal nature of it.
GOD IS NOT A TERRORIST
Life can be hazardous to your health. We live in a hazardous environment and we need God's help to get through it. I want you to recognize that God is not the bad guy. God is not the terrorist or the hijacker holding us hostage. Satan and sin are the ones that are holding us hostage. God is the righteous one that we have walked away from, that we have rebelled against.
A lot of people say,
Well, why doesn't God just forgive us? You know, if my wife says something bad to me, I just let it go. If someone does not give me enough change, I do not want to make a big deal out of it, I just let it go. Why doesn't God just let it go? God is gracious, why does He have to hold things so strictly?
WHAT KIND OF HEAVEN DO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN?
Let me ask you, What kind of heaven do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a heaven that is just a little bit better than earth? You do not have to worry about someone stealing from you unless it is for a very 'important' reason? You do not have to worry about someone lying to you unless it is, well, really 'important'? Or do you want to live in an eternity in which everyone is right on, you can trust what is said and done without doubt?
You can trust people. You have good relationships. You have clear communications. You can express your heart clearly and openly. You see, if God says, "That was wrong. That was really hurtful and mean, but never mind," He is saying that does not matter. But this does matter and it is something that has to be changed. If you do not want it to be changed, if you do not want to change, guess what? God says, "You cannot be in eternity with me because you will mess it up. You will hurt the ones I love and I will not allow that to happen."
God says, "It needs to be a perfect place. And you cannot do it. But if you say you want it and you are willing to be changed in that way, I, myself, will pay the price for that. I will ransom you. I will pay the price with my own Son."
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY RANSOM?
The illustration I have heard and probably you have too, but we are going to take it a little bit further, is the illustration of a judge sitting in his courtroom. He is a good, fair, righteous judge. He does the right things. He is wise. And on one particular day a single mom is taken to court because she stole some baby formula. The storeowner is fed up with all the stealing from his store and is insisting on prosecution. The judge asks her, "Are you guilty?" And she says, "Yeah." And so the judge says, "Then you have to be punished. The fine is $100."
There is no way she can afford it because she could not afford the $2.99 for baby formula so she knows she is going to jail. What is going to happen to her child? Her whole life is crashing around her. The child will probably be taken away and put in foster care. She is going to have to fight the court system to get it back. But then the judge stands up and takes off his robe. He steps down from the bench and goes over to the bailiff and takes his wallet out of his pocket and takes five twenty dollar bills out and gives them to the bailiff. He paid her fine. He paid her punishment. He has ransomed her from the penalty for her sin. That is the picture that is often given to illustrate "ransom."
I think that biblical ransom goes beyond the above picture. It entails more than just paying the penalty price for someone in order to set him/her free. Suppose the young mother has had a rough life and denied that she did it. "I should not be here. It is not fair! Nobody has taken care of me. My husband has abandoned me. My parents kicked me out. I do not deserve this. I am not guilty by extenuating circumstances."
How would you feel about her? How do you think the judge would feel about her? Would there be a different reaction? But because she is humble and truthful, the judge is compassionate and forgiving. But this judge, because he truly cares about her, takes her home that afternoon and introduces her to his wife and says,
You can have my daughter's old room. You can live here. We will provide food for your baby. We will provide a sitter for your child so that you can go back to school or get training for a job so that you can be on your own. I will send your child to school so your child can learn right ways to live and I will set some guidelines for you to live by so that your life will take on some order that will be helpful for you and your child.
This judge goes far beyond just paying her penalty but provides for her present and her future. This is the picture of God's ransom of you and me. God does not just save us from hell, a godless eternity, but prepares us for heaven, where God's righteous and peaceful ways reign.
MORE THAN HAVING A TICKET TO HEAVEN
There is far more to being a Christian than having a ticket to heaven and being a nice guy. God wants to walk with you through each and every day to make a difference in your life, to help you see people through His eyes, to help them, to care for them, to live with Him and walk with Him through life not simply, "Here is a $100, here is your salvation, now get out of my life, see you later, do not show up here again until you die." God wants to experience life with you.
We live in a hazardous environment. Basically, there are three things that conspire together to hurt our lives. Actually, it is one thing with three different manifestations-rebellion. We must battle against the rebellion of Satan, the rebellion of sin, and the rebellion of self. We need to be ransomed from Satan, who is out to destroy our lives. We need to be ransomed from sin, which are activities that destroy our lives and relationships. And we need to be ransomed from ourselves, from attitudes and feelings that negatively control our behaviors. The "I can't help it, that is just the way I am," excuse for bad behavior denies the power of God to change and work in hearts and lives. That is saying, "God can make the stars, sea, and sky, but He cannot do anything in my heart and life."
This world is called Satan's world, Satan's dominion. He has affect and influence throughout the world. We complain about it all the time. Yes, but thank God, because of God's Holy Spirit, there is a Restrainer on evil that keeps it from getting as bad as it could be. In John 10:10, Jesus makes a statement that we can hold onto. "For I have come to give you life and give you life in abundance."
We are to let it overflow so that we allow it to bless our lives and those around us. But you remember what Jesus said right before this verse? "But the thief, Satan, comes to kill, steal and destroy." He is out to kill, steal, and destroy your relationships, your home, and basically everything that can tie you to God. Satan is out to bring you down. And I do not know about you, but I do not want to go one-on-one with Satan. Satan's influence shows up in my life when I get proud. Satan influence shows up when I want my own way. Remember Satan's great sin? "I will be like God." All too often, we do the same thing. "I want to be my own boss. I know what God wants, what God says, but I want to do this my way. The other way is just too hard."
When Jesus appeared to Paul to redeem his life, to turn his life totally around, in Acts 26 it says, "I am going to send you to preach the gospel message to all the nations, to kings….I will rescue you from the power of Satan."
Satan attacked Paul numerous times but God was able to increase Paul's ministry despite what Satan did. We have been ransomed from him. Look around the world at the Christians who are persecuted and killed because of their faith. God has the last word in the Christian's life and destiny, not Satan. What Satan means for evil, God turns it into good for the Christian, both now and hereafter. "For greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."
JESUS PAID THE PRICE!
Jesus has paid the price for our ransom and He has given us the invitation to step out of Satan's world into God's kingdom. Our action, if you want to escape from Satan's grasp, is to step out of Satan's world into God's kingdom. What do I mean? Recognize who you are. God says, "I have adopted you as my son, as my daughter. Yes, you are in a foreign environment, but you are mine."
The same way you may go to France, you may go to Nigeria, but you are American. It has not changed who you are. It will have impact on you. And the culture there can change who you are if you let it but God is telling us to live up to who you are as His son or His daughter. You step out of Satan's world into His kingdom even though you live in it. "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." This is the common word that we know as "salvation." Stepping out of Satan's world into God's kingdom.
SIN HARMS US
The second thing that works to harm us is "sin." Sin is behavior that is contrary to God's will and ways. When we engage in sin behavior it is not only rebellion against God but it is bad for our lives. The book of Romans tells us that there is "no condemnation to those who are found in Christ Jesus because they have been set free from sin and death." David himself said, "Direct my steps by your word. Let no sin rule over me."
WHAT IS INSIDE YOUR HEART?
What is going on in your heart? What is buried in your heart? You all look good on the outside. I look good on the outside. But on the inside there is junk, there is stuff that is hazardous to our health. Satan puts seeds of destruction in the world that will destroy us if we let them take root in our lives.
The Old Testament prophet Hosea looked at the nation of Israel and phrased it like this: "Your sin is bound up and your iniquity is stored away. But as a woman in childbirth you will reap what you sow."
The meaning is related to the way people saved their money. They did not have Florida Choice or Bank of America. They took those things that were precious to them, bound them up in a cloth and buried them where no one would find them. They hoped! Remember the story of the pearl of great price that was buried? That is what it is referring to--taking all those things and burying them, binding them together and storing them away. But then what does it say? "Like a woman in childbirth, those things will burst forth." Hosea's point is that sin is going to come out with the same kind of pain just as surely as when that child is born.
YOUR SINS WILL FIND YOU OUT!
Scripture says elsewhere, "Be sure your sins will find you out." Unless, and here is the key point, you confess it before God. Do not store it up. Do not hide it away. Confess it and let it go. Who wants to hide the trash and then see it come to the surface? God is essentially saying, "Bring it to me and let us start fresh. Stop collecting it and start flushing it until it does not have a place in your life anymore.
Whether that be lust, jealousy, or that old-fashioned Bible word, "covetousness." "Thy shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife or thy neighbor's mule or thy neighbor's house."
Covet. It means "wanting it for yourself so much that it eats at your heart until you get it." We are destroying our hearts and our souls and our families by chasing after the things our neighbors have. Covetousness consumes your time and focus and eventually your heart. It is materialistic and thereby destroys concern for spiritual matters.
YOU DESTROY YOURSELF!
The third thing that works to destroy you is you. It is the most insidious of the three. I say most insidious because you can never get away from it. It is that inner you that tends toward rebellion against God, that is self-centered and selfish. Galatians says, "You brothers are called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature. Rather serve one another."
Freedom from self means not being controlled by what you want and what you feel, but letting your mind and your actions being controlled by what God wants and what God says. Conforming yourself to what is called "the image of Christ." It is seeking after, chasing after His holiness and values. It does not mean you cannot have a car or a boat or a dune buggy or scuba tanks. But you do not live your life for those things. Seek God's things first. God calls us to look past our own interests and invest our lives in others and things that are important to Him.
GO ALWAYS WITH THE PROPER EQUIPMENT!
You do not go scuba diving without the proper equipment. Without it, you will not survive. God knows that in your life you need special equipment to survive spiritually and morally in this corrupting world. Turn to Ephesians chapter 6. Ephesians 6:10-19a says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God (put on the whole equipment) so you can stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world (because it is his world), and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. Therefore put on the whole armor of God so when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand. And having withstood everything, you are still standing when things are at the end. So stand (for the fourth time he says that) stand firm, take your stand against those things that want to hold you hostage with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, with your feet fitted with a readiness that comes with the gospel of peace. In addition to this, take up the shield of faith with which you are able to extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. Take on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God and pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (keep your connections strong with God). With this in mind, be alert always, keep on praying for all the saints because we are not in this alone.
YOUR SIN INFLUENCES MY LIFE
Your sin will influence my life. My sin will influence your life. We are not alone in this. The things we do affect others, good and bad. It is all too easy, and natural, to let the negatives of this world mold us in their image. The things given to us in Ephesians 6:10-19 are given to us for two reasons. The first reason is so that we can have a better relationship with God. The second reason is so that our lives will be spiritually and morally protected. There is much in this world that is not good for our soul. God wants to protect us from them.
TO LIVE FREE
How do you live free from sin's influence, both our own and the sin of those around us? Ephesians 6 describes the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate covers and protects your heart and your lungs, those vital organs that keep you alive. Probably the best analogy we have today is spam blockers. How many have computers that have a spam blocker on it? If you do not have a spam blocker on your computer it is pop-up, pop-up, bam, bam, bam. They are invading all the time. Do you not love that commercial where the spam blocker is getting knocked in the face all the time with closing doors? Do you not wish you had that kind of thing in your personal life? Sin-blockers! You have to control and allow God to control what you think about, what comes into your mind, and your attitudes, because it will all come out in your behavior. We have to say these kind of things to ourselves-"No, that is a thought that is going to destroy my life." "No, that is a thought that is going to ruin my day." "No, that is a thought that will harm someone else." Do not feed evil by nurturing it in your heart!
Fight the negative thoughts in your life. Fight your negative, self-destructive feelings. Fight! Paul uses the picture of body armor to describe what is needed in the Christian life. The need for body armor implies struggle and war-a fight.
I want you to reflect on what is holding you hostage. What are you going to do about it? You get to make some changes because you are in charge of the equipment God has given you. And the equipment He has given you will not fail you if you use it and you trust Him. Do not let Satan, do not let sin, do not let your own feelings and thoughts hold you hostage. Christ died that we can be set free from sin's stranglehold. He ransomed us not just to set us free from the penalty of sin but to set us free from its bondage, as well. He redeemed us so that He could bless us, both now and forever!
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