[The following is the text of a sermon preached in our church on Sunday 21st October 2018]
A number of years ago I purchased a bookcase from a Vinnies shop. The bookcase was probably made 60 or 70 years ago and is oak. When I got this bookcase home I found that it wobbled. The glue joints had clearly broken. It was being held together by rusting nails. It wasn't too stable and so wouldn't really work as a bookcase because over time it would lean to one side as books were placed in it.
And so I took it apart, I made careful note of which piece went where and which way they faced. I sanded each piece to bring it back to bare wood and remove the previous sealant. There were also some stains that I wanted to sand out. When I was happy with its condition I began reassembling it - replacing the original rusty nails with ones that weren’t rusty. I was careful to make sure each piece was going back where it had come from so the nail holes would line up. I glued, nailed and clamped each piece as it was reassembled layer by layer.
When the glue was dry, I then filled the nail holes. And when they were dry I sanded them back to smooth and proceeded to seal the bookcase. When the sealant had cured the bookcase was then brought inside and placed in our study/spare bedroom. The bookcase now holds books - as it was designed - and it doesn't wobble. It still has character because the wood colour and grain shows through the sealant but it is performing as designed.
I can imagine you thinking, "well that's not particularly interesting, and I can't see what it has to do with me or with church". I won't ask for a show of hands on that!
So what does it have to do with church, with being a follower of Jesus? What happened with that bookcase is a parallel for what God intends for our lives. It is, indeed a parable. I could have commenced my story by saying "The kingdom of God is like a man who buys a second-hand bookcase and finds that it wobbles ...".
And so how is the kingdom of God like a man who buys a second hand bookcase and find that it wobbles?
There are three points of connection:
And God is seeking to do the same with humanity - to purchase and redeem, to repair and restore, and to redeploy and have us function as designed.
With all good analogies, the key is to know when to stop making comparisons - to not try to draw an example from each aspect of the story, but simply to let the analogy or parable tell its own story.
Who here has bought something, repaired something, fixed something and then put it to use? They are parables of what God is seeking to do in your life.
As I was thinking and praying about what message to bring today, this idea of redemption, restoration and transformation came to mind. But it’s more than that. The gospel is the story or God’s redemptive, restorative, transformative love. Love is what underpins everything that God does
We need an appreciation of God’s redemptive, restorative, transformative love. Each aspect is important because each one builds upon the other and each adds an element to what God wants for his people and his world. As we are redeemed and restored we can be freed to be transformed by the Holy Spirit and so bring that message and example of redemption, restoration and transformation to the world.
If there is one verse that sums up where we’re heading today it would probably be Titus 2:14. In the CSB it reads,
“He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.”
I want to look at each of these three acts in turn. Redemption happens once. It is a purchase or an exchange that happens one time. Jesus paid the price once upon that cross to redeem, but each individual, each person needs to accept that redemption – to believe and welcome the fact that God has paid for them.
As we read in 1 Peter 3:18,
“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God.”
For my part, my "conversion" occurred over a period of 5 years. When I started High School in 1975 I, like many thousands of others, was given a Gideon's Bible. I hadn't been raised in a Christian home, but my mother had had an upbringing raised by two Godly parents. Anyway, when I got this Gideon's bible I sensed or felt it had something important to say. I didn't know anything about the Bible so started reading in a book I'd heard of - the Psalms; and I prayed the Lord's Prayer each evening.
Around the same time I told my mother I'd like to start attending church and Sunday School. The next year I joined their youth fellowship and went along for around two years.
But for me it was only some two years after that that I would say I was "redeemed". Billy Graham came to Australia for a series of Crusades in 1979 and I went along. At that meeting on the 13th May 1979 I was finally convicted and convinced of my sin and Jesus' sacrifice. I have no recollection of what Billy said that day, but I thank God for him. Was that day the day I was born again? I don't know. I think so, but I don't know if God would say it happened years earlier. I don't want to argue about when it happened. I am only thankful that it has happened.
And so there was a transaction, a Divine Exchange as Derek Prince puts it – that Jesus’ life was given to me. In John 5:24 we hear Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.”
But what happens after our purchase, after our redemption? Restoration. And this is a process that can take time.
When Jenny and I were at Ellel last year we heard a story about a woman who had been quite damaged in the past. The details are irrelevant because if I ever knew them I’ve forgotten them anyway. As a part of her healing journey this lady was given a vision by the Lord. In it she saw a glass that was shattered into pieces on the floor. Then she saw that glass in its hundreds of pieces put back together but still showing the cracks and the fractures and the fragments. And her final vision was of that same glass, fully restored, no cracks, no damage, restored to perfection.
A life is the same. The evil one and our own desires crack and break and fracture not only us but also those around us. I’m sure we’ve all heard it said that “hurt people hurt people”. All people have damage - some have cracks and pieces that have fallen off them; others are in pieces scattered on the floor. But the Lord, when he redeems buys all of those pieces. Not one piece is missing. No one is is beyond salvage. That’s the picture of redemption and restoration.
Redemption is the purchase. Restoration is the repair.
In many ways that is the core of prayer and deliverance ministry - to cooperate with God is seeking to repair and restore the damage that life has done to people.
I've mentioned it whilst preaching previously, but it's worth repeating - when Scripture speaks of salvation it generally uses the Greek words soteria and sozo. The word soteria encompasses much more than future salvation. It also refers to healing, to deliverance, to restoration and to completion. It relates to the physical, emotional and the spiritual. To the present and to the future. The kingdom of God is both a present reality as well as a future promise.
This word soteria is the noun, the event - but the word sozo is the verb or the action and so we are being sozo'd so we are soteria'd. We are being saved and healed and delivered so that we can and will be saved and healed and delivered. And this reinforces the idea of it being a process of repair and restoration.
In Philippians 1:6 Paul tells the Philippians,
“I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” A good work is under way in our restoration and God will see it done!
In C H Spurgeon’s sermon on that verse he said,
“Where is there an instance of God’s beginning any work and leaving it incomplete? Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half-formed. Show me a universe cast off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half-hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness.”
What God begins, God finishes. If we are redeemed, purchased by Jesus’ blood then that work commenced will be completed. It may not be completed in this world, but it will be completed.
I want us to consider the purpose of our redemption and restoration? What of the future? In the parable of the wobbly second hand bookcase it is the time the bookcase is brought inside and books are placed on it. It had been purchased. It had been repaired. It is now in its proper, intended use. It is fulfilling its destiny and purpose.
Ephesians 2:4-10 tells us that
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”
This passage speaks of this redemption, restoration, transformation process. We are saved by grace, because of God’s mercy, in God’s love. We are seated with him because of Jesus, and we are saved for works that God has prepared ahead of time.
But these are not our works. These are not our ideas about what God may want us to do. These are not our efforts to second guess what God may want to chose to accomplish in this world. No, these are good works, prepared by God “ahead of time for us to do”.
I believe this ties in with the idea that Paul expressed to the Philippians in 2:12-13,
“Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.”
We are to continue to work out our salvation. Not just receive it, not just believe it, but to work it out - work out how we should live; work out how to best seek his kingdom and his righteousness; work out what these good works are that have been prepared for us to do and get to them.
This working out isn’t by human effort, intellect, or brain power. It is God's Holy Spirit in us that draws us. We need to cooperate with Holy Spirit in this process of transformation.
Romans 12:1-2 is a classic reference used in this regard - that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It doesn't say be transformed by renewing your mind, but by the renewing of your mind which suggests, at least in part, that there are external factors and influences in this renewal process.
The common denominator is Holy Spirit. We need to cooperate, to work out how God lives in and works with us by his Spirit so we can cooperate and be restored and transformed.
It is that idea expressed in Philippians 2:13 that I just read that it is God working in us according to his good purpose.
To sum up where we’ve been:
I want us to cast a look at the lives of some people mentioned in the Bible – to see more of this process or steps from redemption to restoration to transformation. These are a little fluid so extend me grace. If there is one thing I’ve learnt about the Kingdom of God it is that things don’t follow a formula!
Take Samuel. He was redeemed in essence by his mother Hannah when she prayed for a son and dedicated him to the Lord. He was restored when he heard the Lord's voice calling in the night. He thought it was Eli calling him but realised he was hearing the Lord. And once he realised and recognised the Lord's voice then he could fulfil the Lord's purposes for him.
Ruth is a second example. Her redemption can be seen when she stayed with Naomi rather than return to her Moabite people. Her restoration came when she lay at the feet of Boaz and subsequently became his wife. And her transformation, the fulfilment of one of her purposes was in bearing a child who would become the great grandfather of David and ultimately of Jesus.
Let's pick another life - Jacob. A liar, a deceiver, cunning, street smart, yet also chosen by God to be the physical father of the tribes of Israel. For Jacob was renamed Israel in Genesis 32. God doesn't have to follow the natural order. He chose Abel over Cain; Jacob over Esau; Joseph over his older brothers; David over his older brothers.
But back to Jacob. At Penuel he wrestled with God to secure a blessing. We don't need to do that. The blessing has been given in the form of Jesus upon the cross. All we need do is embrace it, welcome it. Accept that redemption has been bought. Our wrestling is not with God for we are already on the same side. Our wrestling is with our sinful nature that seeks to rear its head in our lives. Our wrestling is with the evil one as he lies to us about God and his promises. Ephesians 6:12-13 reminds us,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”
But for Jacob that wrestling match probably represents his redemption. He walked with a limp from that day forward and was a changed man. In the next chapter Jacob sought restoration with his brother Esau. Part of his transformation was in his sons. Similar to Ruth where we see God's plans unfold in subsequent generations, so it is in the twelve tribes of Israel. And his transformation was just about complete when he went to Egypt to reunite with Joseph who he had been told had died.
As we turn to the New Testament I want us to consider some more lives. To see these processes, these steps, these actions in play. But more importantly we also need to be able to look at our own lives and see what God is doing in us and for us and through us. To gain an understanding of how we can cooperate with God in that process.
A couple of weeks ago Mark shared with us from the parable of the sower or the parable of the soils. We can roughly equate this parable to the ideas of redemption, restoration and transformation.
Consider that when the seed that is sown germinates and pushes through the soil that is the first sign of new live and is the equivalent of redemption - being bought. The growth of the plant is restoration; and the plants that produce 30, 60 or 100 times the original seed is a reflection of transformation.
Let's look at the life of Peter - I don't know at what point Peter was redeemed. It probably began with being told about Jesus by his brother Andrew in John 1. It continued as he followed Jesus. His restoration included his denial of Jesus and subsequent conversation with Jesus on the beach where he was asked if he loved Jesus. It would include Pentecost which would also mark a significant portion of his transformation. But the vision that he had on the rooftop to go to Cornelius' house was part of that, as was his confrontation with Paul years later. These events are marks of redemption, restoration, transformation. It is not a formula, but a process of steps and not always forward!
A few months ago I spoke in this service on the woman at the well from John 4 who goes by the name of Photini. Her redemption began that day at the well in conversation with Jesus. She needed and found the living water and the living relationship she had been searching for her whole life. Her restoration began when she told the townspeople about Jesus and as she found forgiveness from God and acceptance from her community. And her transformation continued long into her arrest and martyrdom at the hands of Nero.
Zacchaeus is another. His redemption began when Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus' house in Luke 19. And his spiritual restoration commenced as he sought to make material restoration with people he had ripped off doing his tax-collecting. His redemption wasn't a token - it resulted in genuine and significant change. One can assume his transformation occurred as he related to those in his community who had previously shunned him.
But what does an understanding of this process have to do with real life, with us?
Scripture tells us that God wills that all people be saved; but we know that will not be the reality. And the reason for that is God gives us free will – to choose to accept or to reject his redemption of us, his purchase of us on the cross.
And so everyone in this room, in this town, in this country, across the world is somewhere in that process. Jesus’ death and resurrection is available for all people but it is only effective if they accept and believe and have faith in Jesus’ work on the cross. Those who follow Jesus are somewhere in the process or restoration and of repair (though many deny they need it); each one is in that process of transformation, of redeployment, of fulfilling God’s purposes and destiny.
Our lives are filled with the potential for restorative and transformative moments.
Whilst our redemption is a one-time affair – albeit in a transaction that can take years to be effected. Repair and transformation are processes often undertaken in steps.
Each person, each life can have hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of restorative and transformative moments in it.
The key is to see that each person is one who can or has been redeemed. Each person can be or is in the process of being restored. Each person has opportunity to cooperate with God in being transformed and fulfilling our purpose for the extension of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God doesn't just begin in heaven at a future time, it is also here and it is also now! We need to see and understand what God is doing and seeking to do with us at any point in time.
Where are you in that process of redemption, restoration and transformation?
Do you have an understanding of what God is trying to teach you and show you and build into your life today?
Where do you need to listen more to God and cooperate with the Spirit?
Are there things in your life that are hindering your restoration and repair?
Do you believe you are exactly where God wants you to be, doing exactly what he wants you to do?
As we finish this morning, let me read from Isaiah 43:1:
“Now this is what the LORD says — the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.”