While many believers fall away, God is calling to the redeemed. His heart’s cry in end times is that those He paid the price for will to return to intimacy.
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)
This was a prophetic cry from the heart of God to His people. I believe that it remains powerfully prophetic in these end times, when born-again, Spirit-filled believers are falling away from true faith and replacing the Gospel with ear-tickling sermons and feel-good truth. In an age where God is mocked and His truth is perverted and vilified, we are easily seduced by the voices which clamour to deceive us. How we need that dark cloud in these last days. Those who call themselves the church of God need to return to the one who redeemed us.
Redeemed means ‘paid the price for.’
Perhaps the greatest – and most subtle danger – faced by believers today is the sense of entitlement the world promotes. We deserve it. It’s our right. We’re special. Expressions like these dilute the absolute truth of the Gospel with a gospel of self-promotion, using God as a divine vending machine to satisfy our desires. It’s all too easy to lose sight of what redeemed really means. Fundamentally, it comes down to slavery. Even the concept of debt, which is so strongly bound up in redeemed, is also tied to slavery because in the old days, non-payment of debt usually resulted in those who defaulted being forced into slavery – either by voluntary choice or by the legal system.
This root in slavery provides a powerful meaning to the word redeemed. Some Bible versions use the phrase ‘I have paid the price to set you free.’ This refers to the slave price, i.e. a payment made to the slaver in order to purchase a slave’s freedom. The Bible often refers to us as being slaves to sin, slaves to the flesh, or slaves to the devil. When God uses the word ‘redeemed,’ He’s reminding us that He has paid the price to set us free. He has bought our debt and released us from it. We are slaves no more.
The practical problems of living the life of the redeemed.
A good example is the slaves in America. Although they were legally freed by law and congress, it took years for slaves to live free. In remote areas, it took fifteen years or more for the legal truth to manifest in the lives of the slaves. There were a number of reasons for this. One was that the slave owners hid the truth. They deceived the slaves into believing they were not free. Because the slaves never knew they were redeemed, they never tried to live their lives as free men and woman.
Another reason is that the slaves themselves did not know how to live redeemed lives. They had been born in slavery, raised in slavery, and lived in slavery. It was all they knew. Living free meant they were now personally responsible for themselves and their decisions. They had to take ownership of their lives and their choices. Many simply could not comprehend or envisage a redeemed life, and so reverted to a system that was familiar and non-challenging.
The Christian walk should be a redeemed walk.
So many of us struggle with ‘freedom.’ Old habits, fears, thought patterns, and emotional responses are deeply engrained. We cannot imagine any other way. Most of the time, we aren’t even aware of the hold they have over us. We either fear the responsibilities of the redeemed life or have no clue how to live it, and so we simply maintain the old status quo.
The problem with this is that we don’t grow as Christians. Being redeemed is both an immediate, ‘once and for all’ event and a process of growing into it. There is no instant transformation, so we have to still work through the clutter of a life of slavery. We have to learn to recognise the tells and how to deal with them. We have to first make the decision to live redeemed, and then put in the hard work to make it reality. Of course, God is always present to teach, empower, and guide, but the choice is always ours.
God is calling the redeemed back to Him.
We cannot deny the reality of the ‘great apostasy.’ It’s biblical and therefore inevitable. But God speaks a number of times about gathering His remnant – those who remain faithful. This tells us very clearly that many of the redeemed will fall away – those who professed their faith but who have been deceived or who have succumbed to their need for instant self-gratification. In the Bible, God sets out a distinctive pattern for His relationship with His people. They stray, and He calls them back. Whether they respond or not is their choice.
He is looking for the ‘lost sheep,’ calling them by name. Today’s verse reminds us that being redeemed by God is perfect and complete. All ours sins are blotted out. He has paid the price for every one. Yet, instead of remaining on our knees in thanksgiving and worship, many believers simply continue to go their own way, ignoring the cry of God’s heart which desires that none of His sheep should perish. Deception and seduction draw believers further and further from God and deeper into a gospel of self. More urgently than ever, we need to hear the voice of God calling the redeemed to return.
Being redeemed requires intimate relationship.
We are redeemed for a specific purpose – the glory of God. The outworking of this purpose is intimacy with Him. The redeemed life means real, honest relationship, and this, in turn, requires surrender and obedience. We all to easily forget that He now ‘owns’ us, having paid to redeem us. Technically, we belong to Him. He has full and absolute ownership. But in His grace, He has set us free, not to do our own thing but to make the right choice to enjoy intimacy with Him as children rather than slaves. What we choose will determine the course of our life. Every believer should take the time to judge themselves and determine whether or not they are living the life of the redeemed. God is calling us back. What will be our answer?
Thank You, Lord, that You have redeemed us at a terrible price. Forgive us if we have taken this for granted, or been seduced and deceived out of the redeemed life. Help us to hear Your call to return to intimacy with You, and empower us with grace to live in submission and obedience, rejoicing in You in all things.