A Life Redeemed from Destruction

May 11, 2021

Yesterday I wrote a piece that provoked some interesting comments, including an entire sub thread about something that had little to do with the original post. That’s how things go on Ricochet. If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that people in my circles have said things … new things, that have surprised me. In regard to my closer friends, I thought I knew them. And I thought they knew me. It’s as if all this time we’ve been playing on the margins and now as the fires have gotten hotter, the conversations are suddenly changing, taking us down new and uncharted roads.

It’s ultimately a good thing, God has a way of surfacing the stuff that needs to be dealt with.

Yesterday’s post was about Jesus as the canceller of our debts Who offers us abundant life, contrasted with Satan as the canceller of our freedoms who chases us into the dark caves of shame and guilt. The post was less than well-received by a few, but that’s okay by me. I like it when people are blunt.

One of our Ricochet-ers suggested that “redemption” be the next topic to tackle.  I agreed, so here we are. Redemption as a topic “presses us on to maturity” beyond the elementary teaching of forgiving grace alone. It’s a bigger topic than I should attempt, so I’ll get a little help and start with the insights of Henry Drummond, best remembered as an evangelist who assisted Dwight L. Moody during his revival campaigns. He was also a lecturer in natural science. His book Eternal Life is pretty crazy.

In his book The Ideal Life, Henry Drummond contrasts the salvation and redeemed life of David with that of the dying thief. In the interest of brevity, this may feel like an abrupt jumping-off point, but this is a ginormous topic and we need to start with something that provokes thought. I believe this will do the trick.

Here is the excerpt:

[1]David’s salvation was a much more wonderful thing than, for example, the dying thief’s salvation. David cost grace far more than the dying thief did. The dying thief needed only dying grace. David needed living grace. The thief needed only forgiving grace; David needed forgiving grace and restraining grace. He needed grace to “keep in” his life, to keep it from running away. But the thief needed no restraining grace. The time for that was past. His life had run away. His wild oats had been sown, and the harvest was heavy and bitter. Destruction had already come upon him in a hundred forms. He had had no antidote to the power of sin, which runs so fiercely in every vein of every person, and he had destroyed himself. His character was ruined, his soul was honeycombed through and through with sin. He could not have joined in the thanksgiving of David’s psalm that his life had been saved from destruction. His death had been, and the wreck of his soul had been, but his life had been lost to God, to the world, and to himself. His life had never been redeemed, as David’s had been. So, David was the greater debtor to God’s grace, and few men have had greater reason than he to praise God in old age for redeeming their life from destruction.

Yes, there is more to salvation than forgiveness. Why? Because there is more to sin than guilt. “If I were to be forgiven today,” people say who do not know this fact, “I would be as bad as ever tomorrow.” That idea is based on the fallacy, it is based on the heresy, that there is no more for a person in religion than forgiveness of sins. If there were not, it would be of little use to us. It would have been little use to a man like David. And David’s life would have been incomplete, and David’s psalm would have been impossible, if he had not been able to add to the record of God’s pardon the record of God’s power in redeeming his life from destruction.

Destruction is the natural destination of every human soul. It is as natural for our soul to go downward as for a stone to fall to the ground. Do we ever thank God for redeeming our soul from that? And when we thank God that we are saved, do we mean that we are saved from hell, or do we sometimes think about how He has rescued our life from the destroying power of sin?

The book is called The Ideal Life: Listening for God’s Voice, Discerning His Leading. It’s rich and worth reading. Multiple times.

Now for a story. Cliff notes version.

My father canceled me in high school. When my concerned school counselor Mr. D called him, he told Mr. D that he no longer had anything to do with me. It was because I was the one that protected my mom from his abuse. At least I tried.

Soon thereafter, my mother canceled me; she was done with me and wanted to move in with her boyfriend.

One night a station wagon began driving up and down the street while I was on a run in a remote area outside the main neighborhood. The street was dark and deserted, and I heard the roar of the station wagon’s engine approach from behind. I turned to see a man get out of the car and start running toward me. Suddenly, and I don’t remember how I got there, I was across the street in front of the only house around. The man got back into the station wagon and started driving toward me again. And then I saw headlights coming from further down the street. Standing under a lone streetlight, I frantically waved my arms in the air, and the funny-looking car, maybe a Studebaker, stopped. It was an elderly couple, both of them like dolls staring straight ahead. Without turning toward me, the man reached his arm back over his seat and opened the rear door. I got in. All I could say was, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” The guy in the station wagon peeled away, tires squealing as the vehicle disappeared down the dark road. From the backseat of the slow-moving Studebaker, I managed to direct the man to where I was living at the time, and when we arrived, I thanked them and got out. They never said a word, and they never once turned to look at me.

I think God meant to show me something that night.

I became a Christian a few years later.

But …

Even though I hid it well (even from myself), I was deeply broken. I moved through life in a kind of proving mode, proud of my educational credentials, intellectual capacities, my talents, and my work ethic. I used to say that there was no problem too stinky that it couldn’t be solved. I made lots of money, lived in nice houses, and drove luxury cars.

I was also a self-absorbed, arrogant, and prideful person. And a Christian, totally unaware.

Yep. We all have our journeys.

Then the time came to stop the insanity and God sent me my youngest daughter, bringing with her a set of impossible circumstances that completely broke me. I was stripped of all control and brought to the brink of total exhaustion.

He redeemed my life from continuing destruction.

Redemption isn’t a moment. It’s a journey that woos you to die to self, draw near to Him, and worship Him.

I hope you don’t mind. I share personal stories because it’s really the only way I know how to make God seem close and real and attentive. Sometimes that’s what people need.

[1] Drummond, Henry. Ideal Life, The: Listening For God’s Voice, Discerning His Leading. Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.

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