I’d like to take some time to tell a story of God’s redemption. Of God’s redemption of me.
The year is 1982. A couple, born and bred on the beaches of the Philippines, uproots, soars above the Pacific, and touches down on American soil for the first time. She, a nurse. He, a doctor. He is her husband. She is his wife. They know that nothing but a completely new life lies ahead, but they have no idea just how new that life will be.
An American missionary, born and bred by the amber waves of grain, uproots, soars, and settles on Philippine soil for the first time. He knows that nothing but a completely new life lies ahead, but he has no idea how many new lives that involves.
He bears the message of the Gospel one day to the dead heart of a Filipino man. Faith materializes, the dead heart vanishes, a new life is born, there is a heart beat. After 40 years, he is alive. He is new. And he is her brother.
This new man continues a zig zag of the Gospel across the Pacific and lands in America.
He bears the message of the gospel to his sister and her husband. Faith is born and two hearts of stone pulse with life, new life. New country, new jobs, new language, new life, new life.
Two years later, embraced by the metropolis of Washington, District of Columbia, a baby boy is born to the happy couple. Amid the boom of business, rush of traffic, and monuments of history, new life is placed into their hands. He is young. He is small. He is healthy. He is me.
As he grows, he is constantly exposed to two different types of life: life and life. He is encouraged not to simply live, but to live. As a young boy, he is unable to properly separate the two in his mind. What he knows of life is in the boom of business, the rush of traffic, and the marks of history. As he lives, he studies those who live and those who live. He sees the boom of business in the steady growth rate of his knowledge of the Bible and its ability to produce converts, the product so high in demand. He sees the rush of traffic in the busyness of ministries: choir, youth group leader, children’s church worker. Rush hours come every Sunday and Wednesday and he sits through it each and every time. He sees monuments of history in the immersion of his baptism and his monthly reception of the Lord’s Supper. He sees how signs of life and life overlap in his own and he decides that, surely, he must be alive.
14 years have come and gone and he now, more than ever, wonders if all he’s been doing is simply living. Has he confused the hard and faithful beating of his hands together in worship and service of God, for the pulse of a true living heart beating inside of him? His mind runs. His youth pastor stands in front of him and other teenagers- the boy thinks, “Is this man shepherding sheep, and I am a goat?” He prepares them for spiritual battle- “Am I on the enemy side?” He tells them of men they will meet at doors they will knock on, who will claim they are truly alive simply because they live like it but their they’ve never put their faith in Jesus and therefore, remain dead- “Am I that man at the door.” His mind runs. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us…
It finally became clear. Was he a goat, enemy, that man at the door? Yes. Were Bible knowledge, converts, ministries, church services, baptism, and Lord’s Suppers signs of true life? No.
He trows off the pile of filthy rags he has balanced for 14 years as his achieved claim to righteousness and throws himself onto Christ Jesus. He renounces faith in himself and pledges faith in the Savior. He begins to breath air into new lungs, blood pumps from a beating heart, he sees with new eyes; new life. Saved, justified, born again. And not born again to try again, but born in the image of Christ. Christ the Savior, King of Kings, God with us, holy, righteous: He is me.