Key Scriptures: Genesis 32 and 33, Luke 19:1-10, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Titus 2:14, 1 Corinthians 6:20
Guiding Question: What is redemption and how should it impact our lives?
Optional Introductory Activity: Briefly tell the story of the Christmas Carol. Ask students what happens when Scrooge realizes what the mistakes in his life are costing him. Have them explain what he did to try to make things right again and how Bob Cratchet and others responded to Scrooge when he made the effort to not only change, but do things to try and make up for his past mistakes. Ask students if they can think of other examples from literature or real life when someone tried to make up for their past mistakes.
Lesson: (Questions to students are in bold italics.) What does the word redemption mean? Part of being able to overcome our pasts. – especially our past mistakes – is redemption. Redemption has two meanings, both of which apply to the idea of overcoming past mistakes or sins.
The first definition involves the act of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil. What comes to mind when you think of that definition? Read. Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14. What do those scriptures add to what has already been said? Our sins separate us from God, which means without redemption, we cannot spend eternity in Heaven with God.
Thankfully, Jesus was willing to die on the cross for our sins. He redeemed us…or saved us from the natural consequences of our sins. When we are baptized, we receive the redemption of our sins. Our sins are erased. We no longer have to be separated from God and can spend eternity in Heaven with Him. Once we are Christians, when we sin, our baptism and Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross continue to redeem us when we repent of those sins.
It’s important to understand we don’t deserve redemption. We can’t earn redemption. Only Jesus’ perfect sacrifice can redeem us. The redemption Jesus sacrificed his life for, however, must be responded to in some way. If we understand and appreciate that redemption, we will want to be baptized and become a Christian. Read 1 Corinthians 6:20. What else will we do in appreciation for our redemption? What does it mean to “glorify God in your body”? Paul reminds his readers that our redemption was purchased for a huge price – Jesus dying a horrible, painful death on the cross.
Our response should be a desire to glorify God by obeying Him in everything….not just avoiding sins, but also doing the positive things God asks of us. Read Titus 2:14. What does this verse say God expects of the people he has redeemed? Why are good works important to God? As we mentioned a minute ago, God expects us to avoid committing sins, but He also expects us to do good works in His name. It’s important to remember, this is deeper than merely serving others in some way. It also includes teaching them the Gospel message. God wants us to help others in this life and help them learn how to spend eternity in Heaven.
Perhaps you think you have done something so horrible in your past, God will refuse to redeem you even if you are baptized and try to obey Him and do good works. That’s not true. Remember, redemption is not earned, but is a gift from God. We know from the stories of Peter and Judas, that if we don’t give up on ourselves, God won’t give up on us.
If you remember, both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus. Both, quickly realized what a horrible thing they had done. Judas tried to return the money he was given for his betrayal, but when that didn’t go as he had hoped, he gave up and committed suicide. His story ends there, because he didn’t give God the time to redeem him or himself the time to accept that redemption.
Peter felt horrible too, but he kept doing the next right thing. After Jesus rose from the dead, he interacted with Peter quite a bit. On one of those occasions, Jesus cooked Peter breakfast and let him know his sin had been redeemed. Peter went on to preach the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, became a missionary and wrote several books in the New Testament which still teach us today. Because Peter waited and accepted God’s redemption, he was able to do those good works we read about earlier. We know from the Bible that Peter wasn’t perfect after that experience either, but when he sinned he repented, accepted God’s redeeming grace and kept trying to do the next right thing.
Peter’s story is a great introduction into the second definition of redemption. It’s the act of gaining or regaining the possession of something in exchange for payment or clearing a debt. When we sin or hurt someone in some way, something is lost. We often lose that person’s trust or our relationship is damaged in some way….just like our sins do to our relationship with God. Repentance can restore that relationship with God because of God’s redeeming grace.
Part of repentance that is rarely discussed, however, is that repentance involves taking steps so we won’t sin again in that same way. It can also involve an attempt on our part to fix what we destroyed when we sinned. Repentance is much more involved than just saying, “I’m sorry”…. although that is obviously important, too.
So how does one get this type of redemption? How can one restore what was lost when one sins or hurts someone in some way? There is a great story in the Bible that illustrates redemption. Read Genesis 32 and 33. Jacob had taken pretty serious advantage over Esau in the past. What were some of the ways he had hurt Esau? What did he decide to do to try and make things right with Esau? Jacob realized taking the birthright and blessing from Esau had probably cost Esau a lot of wealth. In his attempt to reconcile, Jacob decided he needed to give some of that wealth back to Esau. Esau graciously accepted Jacob’s attempt at reconciliation, but Jacob was prepared to do what was right regardless of Esau’s reaction. By asking for forgiveness and trying to replace what he had basically stolen from Esau, Jacob was able to redeem that relationship.
Jacob is not the only example of someone in the Bible who sought redemption by trying to correct their past sins. Read Luke 19:1-10. What had Zacchaeus done that was wrong? After Jesus forgave him, Zacchaeus didn’t continue with his life without thinking about his previous victims. What did Zacchaeus do to try and redeem his past sins? Zacchaeus went beyond just giving back what he had stolen from people. He gave them much more than he had stolen! If Zacchaeus had stolen from you, how would you have reacted when he gave you the money he had stolen, plus more? Some people may have refused to forgive Zacchaeus when he tried to redeem their relationship by giving them their money and more, but ultimately the reaction of the victims wasn’t as important to Zacchaeus as making things right.
Skills Activity: Review the main points in the lesson. Depending upon the spiritual needs of your students, you can focus on either of the two definitions of redemption.
If most of your students have not been baptized, you may want to spend this time discussing sin, repentance and baptism with them. Our free baptism study with leader guide can help you plan your discussion.
If most of your students are Christians, you may choose to focus more on the second definition. Give them common scenarios in the life of a teen when they might sin or hurt someone in some way. Have them think of ways they can go beyond mere.y apologizing and find ways to try and redeem the harm to the relationship their actions caused. It’s important to continually remind them the reaction of the other person is not as important as their efforts to try and redeem the relationship. It is also important for them to understand that in some cases they won’t be able to actually “fix” what they did. For example, if they broke a vase their great great grandmother made, it will never be the same even if they try to repair it. And unless Grandma made other vases, they can’t replace it. They should still try to do what they can.
It is also important to remind them that trying to redeem a relationship is not a way to earn God’s forgiveness and redemption. That cannot be earned and is God’s gift to us. This can be confusing to teens as we have just studied in other lessons that God forgives us as we forgive others and shows grace to us as we show grace to each other. Finding different examples and ways of illustrating the various concepts of forgiveness, grace and redemption can help begin to clarify the ideas for them.
Application Challenge: with which definition of redemption do you struggle the most? Is there someone you have wronged that you need to go back and try to redeem your relationship in some way? If so, take concrete steps to begin that process this week.