The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: "The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that's the real life." Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: "The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them." Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham's blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God's life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it. (Galatians 3:11-14, The Message)
The whole of the Gospel can be summed up in three words - Rescue, Redemption, and Restoration. Each is a distinct and important part of the equation and should not be overlooked. And, pondering this, I find it to be a wonderful, mind-blowing concept.
The rescue is because of our terminal human condition. I’ve written before about how it isn’t just about our individual or collective sins but about the base sin condition. There is, at the heart of it, separation and with that separation comes peril. In response to this peril and separation, God Himself enacts a plan to rescue us. Now, it is prudent to understand that the very nature of a rescue means the rescuer must place him/herself in the midst of that peril at the risk of not being rescued. We see examples of this in our world where soldiers, police officers, or fire fighters do their jobs, so we certainly aren’t unfamiliar with the entire concept of a rescue. But, getting back to God’s rescue, we find that it goes so much deeper. He literally sacrificed a part of Himself on our behalf. He, in the person of Jesus, came to our rescue and paved the way for the next step … redemption!
That redemption is a crucial element. It meant paying the price in total. It was a legal and binding transaction on God Himself whereby He would declare out accounts “swept clean” based on the action and qualifications of the Rescuer. And we must not overlook that aspect of Jesus’ qualifications. Were He merely a great man or wise teacher, He certainly could have come to our rescue, but our redemption would not have been complete. The very fact that in His full humanity he lived, breathed, walked, and talked just like we did and yet when presented with temptation was able to resist made Him uniquely qualified to be not only the Rescuer, but also the Redeemer. Now, the work of rescue and redemption having been completed, the plan moves forward into a grand restoration.
That restoration is happening right at this moment on this Earth and also in our future Home for all eternity. We have access to that “connection” even in this state. That is illustrated most clearly by the feast the father throws in Luke 15 upon the return of the once-dead younger son. It is a grand celebration and yet it pales in comparison to what is being prepared and going on in the “Big Dance”. Those of us who have sent loved ones ahead need to know that they are at a party and God is sitting at the head of the table. And while we have a vision of that now, that is only a shadow of our seat at the one to come. Then, when God’s watch finally says it is time, He will call a “time out” and start it all over again. Having done this - having made all things new - the restoration will be complete.
A Rescue providing the path to a Redemption all leading up to a Restoration … what a powerful concept. My steps on the Crooked Path do lead somewhere after all. May the light in my soul that reflects this wonder from God draw others in as we all travel together. We are a people Rescued by God, Redeemed through Christ, and pitched toward a Restoration both now and yet to come.