Hand-me-downs

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

1 Peter 1:18-21 NLT

I love this passage. I’ve been reading it in the morning before I hit the day. It paints a vivid image of my complete inability to earn salvation, and how Jesus gave His life to save mine. He filled my emptiness by pouring Himself out. That truth comforts me deeply.

But Sin already had me captive [John 3:18]. Before I could do anything about it. And on top of old jeans and goofy knit Christmas sweaters, I got handed down complete Emptiness? Thanks, ancestors.

When Sin wrote the ransom note, it demanded an outrageous price for our rebellious souls. And we, in our rebellion, thought ourselves gods, but our most valuable possessions couldn’t pay – try as we might. It was never a question of quantity or weight, but substance. The blood of Christ is purer than any created thing. Only something uncontaminated by the poison of sin could pay for the antidote and remove the contamination.

That He chose Christ as the ransom for sin’s demands “long before the world began” doesn’t imply disconnectedness or icy rigidity, but a supreme act of omniscient love. God chose the ransom before the demand was made. Before anything we could offer up even existed. Does this not prove the lengths He is willing to go for us?

It is truest love that transcends the staccato nature of a man’s existence and applies to him as a whole.

A single stroke of the brush.

Not as a sum, but as a beginning to an end with no mien of hesitancy at this point or that point. No pile of stones to tip the scale. It’s this love that chooses to remove from itself the chance of breaking.

God didn’t have to ask our permission to elect His Son to be Savior. He volunteered Him as the only sacrifice worthy to appease His own wrath toward our sin. And now He is revealed and unveiled.

Unleashed.

So why do I insist on paying my own already-paid ransom? Or earning it, as if it’s some sort of wage. I bet it confuses the snot out of God. It’s probably kind of how my dad felt when I was still in college and I exhorted him to let me pay for dinner. We both knew I was broke, so why couldn’t I just accept it and let him take the hit?

But when we leave Sunday School and start cranking the big wheel of our life again, it’s one of the most difficult things in the world. It’s funny how the best thing we could do is often the hardest to live out.

Just two verses before, Peter tells his readers to be holy in everything they do, just as the God Who chose them is holy. This is a call to holy living, a life pleasing to God in every way.

We are all called to live holy lives because we are holy [1 Peter 2:5].

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.”

Holy ‘doing’ because of holy ‘being’. As a result, effect, or natural corresponding disposition.

He’s telling us to be what we are. To be holy. To be imitators of Jesus.

He didn’t tell them just to ‘do holy’ (as my good friend Jason has so eloquently put it). That’s what God so vehemently abhorred about Israel all through the Old Testament Scriptures. Their empty sacrifices and hard, stubborn hearts made Him sick. All He wanted was their lives as the sacrifice.

How easy it is to confuse the two! The things I offer in exchange for holiness, these holy deeds, are corruptible. Good, but still corruptible.

Feeding the poor, sacrificing for my family, not cussing, serving in the church.

These are noble things and things Christ calls us to, but how long does it take before my offerings become idols? Idols breed empty life. And empty life breathes death.

He has already declared my debt forgiven. The gavel has sounded. Court adjourned.

What if all of us who claimed to follow Jesus lived like we believed this?

Like we were truly rid of our old, empty hand-me-downs.

What if we embraced our forgiveness?

Our freedom.

We’d stop wasting our time working for something that’s already ours, and the world couldn’t help but notice. Instead of seeing us, it might then see the beauty and the power of Christ a little better.

I’m sick of doing holy.

Are you?

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