“Redeemed is a special word for me, because of where I came from,” related Marc Owings, who grew up wild, unrestrained, and always looking for the next thrill, party, or fight. “The heavy voice and belief systems, the old tapes that played in my head told me there was no possible way I could be redeemed. What I came to believe and receive at age forty or so was that I was completely redeemed, that God does not judge me based upon my behavior but rather through the eyes of grace.” When we get our heart wrapped around this timeless Truth, we can begin to receive what God freely gives: forgiveness, freedom, and joy.
“Whoever is set free with Truth is free indeed!” Marc continued, paraphrasing Jesus’ words of John 8:36. “It’s us looking in the Word for truth, believing it, and receiving it.” The enemy of the past is at war with the blessings of the future. The fight is ongoing, the outcome imperative. To be free, to live in the joy of true freedom, is to press forward, no matter what. “Forgetting what is behind, pressing on, and running the race, not being easily entangled with sin that easily entangles us,” said Marc. “Jesus is saying ‘Your sin doesn’t nullify, it doesn’t disqualify, none of those things.’ That is the joy of the Lord! No matter how bad I stumble and fall, He’s with me. He says He’ll never forsake you. There’s incredible joy when we ponder that. But we let the cares of this world suck the joy out.
“If a man tells you something,” he went on to say, “if you receive it from a man, then the devil can certainly talk you out of it. But once you hear the Father say ‘Marc, you’re redeemed,’ the bottom line at the end of the day, no matter what, is I’m redeemed. Totally brand new.” There is joy in this revelation, and according to Marc, “That’s what spurns us on.”
And once our eyes are opened to this truth, nothing can stop us from bearing witness and building up the Kingdom of God on earth. “When you have an epiphany or revelation of joy,” Marc explained, “I believe it’s one of the most dangerous weapons for the enemy, because it’s louder than a sermon or a song, and you can see it from a distance, which reflects back to the Scripture ‘You will be a light on a hill.’”
A few years ago Mary’s mom, Janet, gave me a Christmas present, a three-foot-long, six-inch tall plaque that says “Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.” I hung that plaque at the foot of our cross wall in the living room. It’s true: Jesus called us to bear witness to His Truth, and as we joyfully carry out our calling, people will come to God. As Jason Hoffman witnessed when the woman stopped him and asked, “What’s the source of your joy?” all we need to do is point up. And nod with a knowing smile.
“Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much,” Marc Owings said, reflecting Jesus’ words in Luke 7:47. “In the case of Jason Hoffman, he went to the deeper depth of his past than most people, where God plunged him to the depths of His love in a greater way, and when he came out, all of us sitting there [at the Fully Alive retreat] realized he had just come from the depths of God. Freedom, forgiveness, love, and truth; it was evident. All he could do was cry. His eyes never turned off all weekend. And he wasn’t crying for joy himself, but as I watched him, he was also crying and weeping in joy for other people. Once you’ve been there, there’s no going back.”
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” Paul wrote to the church in Galatia. “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Approaching the throne of grace without shame, confessing, repenting, and receiving in your heart the forgiveness freely given opens the door for God’s healing to transform our lives from one of slavery to sinfulness to the freedom of redemption. And once we are freed, we are freed indeed! “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Romans 10:13).
“It’s not what He saves us from–He saved us for joy,” declared Sharon Grissom, one of our life group facilitators and an incredibly strong faith warrior. In Psalm 106, the psalmist asserted: “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, so that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm 106:8). God saves us, forgives us for His name’s sake, so that we’ll not only continue to rejoice in Him, but so that we can glorify Him! He restores us for the relationship, forgives us to declare His mighty works, redeems us for love.
“The glory of God is man fully alive,” said St. Irenaeus of Lyons. And only by embracing the truth of our redemption and the complete forgiveness of our sins–past, present, and future–can we begin to fully glorify God by living out the life He created each of us for. “Believe and receive what has already taken place,” said Marc Owings, “instead of letting the rearview mirror–the past–dictate your future.” Live fully alive! Live fully in joy!
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes