. . . for as the weight of our sins was removed from our shoulders and we were taught to hope in the joy of eternal life. . . . It is this joy of redemption and this hope of eternal life that have elevated and completed our happiness as human beings.
–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 122
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
–Psalm 13:5-6 NIV
I met Jason Hoffman during the Fully Alive men’s retreat in Lake Fork, Texas, in January 2011. One of the first things I noticed about him, besides his lanky stature and his curly reddish-brown hair, was the sincerity of his testimony and the heartfelt passion with which he delivered it. He leaned forward in his chair and spoke to the circle of men with the voice of a man convicted: weary yet determined to get the burden off his chest. His eyes, red with emotion, implored us to listen to his story. And in that testimony I witnessed the power of repentance, confession, and forgiveness, and I got to see the genesis of a new life, one that even now glows with an almost continuous ear-to-ear smile, an aura that marks him as a man reborn, a true son of God. During that weekend, when Jason humbly surrendered his heart to God, God set him free.
Jason, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, had come from a broken home–his parents had divorced when he was young, and his mom had worked three jobs to make ends meet. Because of the instability of his family life and his mother’s virtual abandonment due to her work load, Jason inevitably got into serious trouble. At age 13 he embarked on a long spree of incarcerations, starting in juvenile detention facilities and working his way up to adult detention centers. As his life spun out of control, he wound up with two felony convictions by the age of 19.
By the grace of God, he managed to turn his life around despite the two felonies. “Anyone with felony convictions isn’t supposed to be licensed in the medical field,” he later told the New River staff during a videotaped interview, “and He saw to it I was able to do just that” (http://newriver.tv/media/stories//page2/). But instead of being grateful for what God had done for him, Jason instead focused on acquiring things and accumulating money, to the detriment of his relationships, his marriage, and his happiness. “I ended up broken,” he admitted. “In so much pain, full of shame, full of guilt, full of pride.” Because his heart had become so hardened, he didn’t believe he could ever climb out of the pit of shame. “I didn’t think that I could ever be free.” And that’s when the Spirit urged him to attend the Fully Alive men’s retreat.
When he joined together with the other men at the retreat, when he confessed his brokenness, when he dropped his pride, fell on his knees, and gave himself over to God’s mercy and offer of reconciliation, “my heart began to fill with the love and grace of Jesus, and I began to change. I began living the life once again that I didn’t think was possible.” But, for Jason, it was not only possible, his absolute transformation from brokenness to redemption to true joy was nothing short of miraculous. Today Jason recognizes his call to live righteously, to be a “spiritual man of God, and proclaim it, and own it, and share it with others.” Jason’s story is a true testament to the power of redemption, salvation, and reconciliation, and the joy he now wears like a comfortable jacket makes him a bold and effective witness for God’s Kingdom.
“The best day of my Christian walk was when I read Romans 12:2,” he told me later. “Letting go of my worldly possessions, not caring about my position at work, how big my paycheck was, how big my house was, the car I drove, the clothes I wore, how much I had in savings, how many toys I had . . . . My life changed, my relationship with the Lord changed, my faith changed, my attitude changed, everything changed!” And it shows. One day while at work a lady walked up to him and asked him flat-out, “What’s the source of your joy? You’re always happy.”
“I simply answered, pointing up, and said ‘It’s all Him.’”
Jason’s story is a testimony to God’s power, desire, and willingness to redeem our hearts from the grip of hell and the enticements of our society. Redemption, the deliverance of mankind from the power and consequences of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is, of course, the heart of the Gospel message. Salvation is the hinge pin of Christian faith, the purpose for the incarnation, the climax of the resurrection, mankind’s history merging with His Story, the fulfillment of His promises. Indeed it’s the reason why we’re called to be a light for the world, why we need to set our lamps on the hill and not under a basket–the Gospel is, indeed, the Good News!
Salvation guarantees eternal life, but more importantly, redemption through Jesus’ blood opens the door to accepting an intimate relationship with Creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people,” the apostle Paul wrote in his Pastoral Epistle to Titus. “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12 NIV). Salvation is ours, free for the asking. We just need to step out and ask!
Marc Owings, founder of elevateHim Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, and co-author of The Original Sanctuary, said, “I believe this: When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, you’re totally restored, totally redeemed. When we first acknowledge Him as Lord, then salvation comes.” However, a person can receive that redemption but not necessarily the freedom they hope for. “I see people who have a portion of forgiveness,” continued Marc, “they’ve been forgiven but they’re not free. Forgiveness comes instantaneously; your freedom you have to fight for.” In order to become totally free and experience the fullness of joy that forgiveness and redemption bring, the redeemed heart has to sincerely believe in and embrace the transformation. Instead, many believers continue to wallow around in the muck of their past failings; they’re redeemed . . . and totally miserable. To become free, we have to believe what God says in His Word is true.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes