While preaching the campus revival at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, I witnessed firsthand the biblical concept of redemption.
On Thursday morning, October 3, 2002, Dr. Paige Patterson invited the seminary family to give a love offering for the praise and worship leader and myself. He told the students that if they could not give anything, "… then simply write Dr. Forshee a note and tell him how much you love him." I received a large stack of envelopes and read every comment from the students. However, there was one particular note that captured my attention. One student wrote, "I love you Dr. Forshee. You have brought good and timely words for me. God bless you. I feel led to give this ring. It is precious to me for several reasons, but may God bless you."
It was an expensive, beautiful golden ring with a sapphire blue stone. I told Dr. Patterson that I could not receive the student's ring, but I did not know what to do. He told me to give him the ring and he would take care of the matter that evening during the worship service. And what an exquisite job he did! He told the congregation that a student had given me a ring, but the ring would not fit any of my fat fingers! The people laughed. Then he said, "We are returning the ring to the owner, but who would like to redeem the ring for $100.00? The money will be given as a love offering for our revival."
Seven people raised their hands and the ring was redeemed! I spoke with the music minister before the service and he agreed that whatever amount was given for the ring that both the money received and the ring itself would go to the student.
Redemption — what a wonderful doctrinal truth. It reflects the very nature of God. He is a redeeming God. He loves to redeem, buy back those who have turned away from Him. In the Old Testament we read of God's redemption of Israel. He redeemed the nation of Israel so they would be His special people and proclaim His love to the nations. (See Psalm 67:1-2.) Second Samuel 7:23 states, And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth who God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name – and to do for You great and awesome deeds for your land-before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?
The word "redeem" in the Hebrew is padah, and it means to ransom, release, rescue, and preserve. Redemption also means to deliver by sacrifice. One of the Greek words translated as redemption in the New Testament is apolutrosis and it means to ransom in full or deliverance. This word is used in Ephesians 1:7, In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
In the hymn, Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It, Fanny Crosby captures the essence of redemption when she writes, "Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; redeemed, redeemed, His child and forever I am."1
On too many occasions, we in the church today have become revisionist hymnologists, that is, we have rewritten the hymns to make them more palatable to our spiritual appetites. By the infrequency and ineffectiveness of our witness to Christ and His redeeming love, we sing one thing but live another — Redeemed, How I Love to Contain It!
What are some essentials in communicating the story of Christ's redeeming love to our culture today? I suggest the following:
A Humble Heart. The greatest deterrent to telling others about Christ is our pride. We are so afraid of what others may think of us we never tell them of Jesus and His love. I daily have to remind myself that I am simply Private Forshee reporting to King Jesus for duty. And think about it – what an honor to know Him and then be given the awesome task of telling others about Him.
Our response to the Lord's commission to go and tell should be the same as Nikita Zotov's when he learned that he had been chosen to educate Tsar Alexis' son, Peter, who would eventually become Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia. Zotov fell upon the ground before Peter's mother and said, "Matushka, I am not worthy to look after such a treasure."2
A Ready Tongue. The hymn declares, Redeemed How I Love to Proclaim It. I have heard the saying, "Tell others about God and if you must, even use words." That sounds so spiritual and cordial, but it provides many Christians further reason to be quiet. Of course, Christians are to be kind and holy, but if we never mention the Savior's name, those without Christ could mistake us for a good atheist, Muslim, or Hindu. Dr. Roy Fish, Professor of Evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, "If the Apostles never told others about the Lord Jesus and only performed good deeds, there would be no Book of Acts."
A Prepared Mind. Every Christian is an apologist, someone who gives a defense for his faith. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (Greek is apologia) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. Our objective is not to avoid the cultic groups or the evolutionists or those with a postmodern worldview; rather, we are to engage them in dialogue.
Paul said, Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; … (2 Corinthians 5:11). My friend Dr. Alvin Reid often says, "I do not care what method you use in sharing Christ, whether it is E.E, C.W.T., the NET, FAITH, ESPN, or WD40, go and tell people about the Lord!" (If you have not seen the NET, I encourage you to look at it. Dr. Reid and I were able to assist the NAMB in writing this material, and it is especially helpful in sharing with those with a postmodern mindset.)
A Holy Life. As stated earlier, it is essential to live like Christ if we are going to be His witnesses or ambassadors. The great evangelist of the first half of the 19th century, Charles G. Finney, once said to a group of preachers, "Do not undo outside the pulpit what you did inside the pulpit." And so all believers must be careful that our lives are commensurate with the wonderful words proceeding from our lips.
A Consecrated Will. As we walk with Christ day by day and stay in fellowship with Him, we cannot help but tell others. Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, ... Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. Dr. Fish also said, "We do not need impressions when we have commissions." When our wills are surrendered to Christ's will then we can share with others in and out of season. And we will not wait for the evangelistic impulse to impress us because God's Word has already commanded us to go and tell.
Winston and Joyce Grant utilized all five of these characteristics to live for Christ and to tell others of His redeeming love. After Joyce was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) she committed her life to Christ. Winston and their two children also received Jesus as their Savior. Winston's son, Artie, said his dad was a changed man. He led the family in prayers in his home, and on his way to work on the commuter train bound for New York City, he would witness to fellow passengers. Winston was one of those killed September 11, 2001, while he was at work at the World Trade Center. (He worked for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Corporation on the thirtieth floor of the North Tower.)
The Grant family was devastated at the news that their loved one had been murdered by terrorists and would not be coming home. But they have demonstrated remarkable resilience and grace in the wake of the tragedy. Joyce said, "In the midst of all that darkness, terror, and wickedness, God overcomes." Joyce, though suffering from ALS and the death of her husband, prayed for Osama bin Laden. With a life touched and transformed by the grace of God and a heart genuinely concerned for the lost, she prayed that bin Laden would have the same experience that Saul of Tarsus had on his way to Damascus. She prayed that he would meet the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved and no longer be a persecutor of the faith, but a follower.3
May you and I as believers in Jesus Christ broadcast this wonderful salvation with both our lives and with our lips. And may our testimony be, "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!"
1 The Baptist Hymnal (Nashville, TN., Convention Press, 1991), p. 544.
2 Robert K. Massie, Peter the Great: His Life and World (New York: Knopf, 1980), p. 27.
3 Mike Leary, Campus Crusade missionary to the United Nations in New York City, in a message preached at Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton, Va., September 11, 2002.