Our Identity In Christ Looks A Lot Like This…
It’s nothing short of jaw-dropping. In the middle of a South American slum, there is music. In the impoverished community of Cateura, Paraguay, where families make a living by recycling trash and selling it, an old oil can or a meat tenderizer is recreated to make a concert-quality instrument. (Seriously, you’ve got to see this!) With great skill and vision, discarded junk becomes material of unforeseen purpose. The children of the community who play the trash-to-treasure instruments are known as, “The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra.” (Get it?…Philharmonic?…Landfill?) When you realize that you’re hearing a Beethoven melody from material that came from a garbage heap, the sound is all the more remarkable!
Who knew such beauty could come from such rubbish? Who would even think to try? And while you still notice the remnants of what the material used to be, it just makes you marvel at what it was made into. Think about it. There it sat in a heap of garbage, unwanted and without a purpose. But then someone came and saw what it could be. It was remade into something completely different, completely new. It was redeemed. And as the Orchestra’s conductor says, “People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.” What a picture of redemption! It’s like God Himself is singing through the stringed sheet metal: “Look! I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5)
Amazingly, that’s you and me. Since we belong to Jesus Christ, we’re just like those instruments. We were forgotten and discarded, but still unbelievably loved. And because of His mercy, because He is the Master at creating a brand new something from a pile of nothing, He saw what He could make us. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. (Eph 1:7). The word “redemption” is a marketplace or commercial term. It focuses on the change in our spiritual condition as a result of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. When Christ redeemed us, He became our ransom payment to buy us out of spiritual debt and slavery (Mk 10:45). A.W. Pink describes redemption as “a clear emancipation or restoration as the result of the ransom being paid….[It] is the setting free of those who have been ransomed.”* We have been bought back from sin and set free from its bondage.
He has redeemed us. He made us instruments of beauty, purpose, value, and even joy, all for the praise of His extravagant, freely-flowing favor (Eph. 1:3-14). He recreated us into something completely different. And not just a cleaned version of the old garbage either – entirely new (2 Cor. 5:17). Stunning, isn’t it?
Maybe you feel like a discarded clump of forgotten ruins. You look at your life and wonder how in the world God could use it. Why would He even bother trying? Or maybe you feel like you’ve blown it beyond repair, much less redemption. What if God is done with you and it’s just too late? Have you ever felt like that? I know I have. But as long as the Risen Lord is alive, that feeling is a lie. Why?
Because He still takes junk and turns it into His instrument. He still creates beauty from garbage. He still loves to forgive, redeem, restore, and transform. Isaiah 51 promises, “For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” (v. 3) The same way that the wonder of hearing a Bach etude out of a can-constructed cello doesn’t get old to us, your redemption doesn’t get old to Him. That one piece of rubbish you can’t imagine as sounding like anything but a painful dissonance? That’s the very piece He wants to sing through to create a whole new melody. “Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!” (Ps. 98:1)
The remnants of the old “you” are now just a reminder of the miracle of who you’ve been made into. “We have this treasure [God Himself] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor. 4:7) It’s like all of creation looks at us in amazement and says, “It’s so wonderful, so impossible, that only God could have done it!” We are the instruments He sings through. We are remade and recreated. Once we were rubbish. Now, we are redeemed.
Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your [new] name. You are mine!
*A. W. Pink, The Atonement (Swengel: Reiner Publications), 188, 190.