Many of our favorite stories culminate with a conversion experience. C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy is like this, with Lewis fighting God every step of the way until he finally recognizes that Christ is the source of true joy. Another example is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with Ebenezer Scrooge realizing the error of his ways and becoming a new man. It’s a Wonderful Life also features personal redemption, when George Bailey realizes his life has incredible value.
In other tales, however, personal redemption is not the end of the story but only the middle, a turning point that sets up all that comes afterward. Think of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which Edmund was redeemed, but Narnia still needed saving. Or Pilgrim’s Progress, in which Christian is released from the burden of his sin, but still must complete a journey to the Celestial City.
Or consider real-life examples, such as the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus or St. Augustine’s conversion, as described in his Confessions. In both cases, an incredible amount of life and influence came after and because of personal conversion. Chuck Colson’s personal transformation, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, was just the beginning of a life far more accomplished, influential, and significant after than before.
These kinds of stories, in which personal redemption creates a wake of redemption that impacts families, churches, communities, and even entire cultures, are the ones that better reflect the biblical story. Often, Christians tell a truncated version of this story. It’s not a false Gospel, just incomplete, a “two chapter” story of sin and salvation.
However, Scripture has four chapters. It begins before sin and the fall, with a very good world that God created and designed with a purpose. It ends with His creation restored, a New Heavens and New Earth. Sin and salvation are crucial parts of the story to understand and embrace, but not the whole story.
Something incredible happens when we realize that our salvation is about more than getting to Heaven. We aren’t merely saved from sin and death and to eternal life that begins when we die. We are saved for an abundant life in which, to borrow Jesus’ own words, all things are being made new.
In just a couple weeks, at the Wilberforce Weekend in Orlando, Florida, we’ll be looking at “Life Redeemed” from as many angles as we can. Together with dozens of speakers, discussions, film sessions, and panels, we will explore the full scope of Christ’s redemption. Along the way, we will celebrate amazing stories of personal redemption, such as Lewis and Chuck Colson and Harriett Tubman and others, before looking at how their personal redemptions led to the world being changed around them.
This year’s speakers include Os Guinness, Monique Duson, Max McLean, Jim Daly, Jennifer Patterson, and many more. We’ll also be honoring the faith and courage of cake artist Jack Phillips and florist Barronelle Stutzman, two people whose redeemed lives meant taking a stand, paying a steep price, and inspiring thousands.
I hope you’ll join us May 13 through 15 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando for the Wilberforce Weekend. And, if you are coming or live in the Florida area, please join us Thursday night, May 12, for a special training session to prepare for “A Post-Roe Future.” That event will better equip us to stand for life and against abortion, and features Stephanie Gray Connors, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and the one and only Tim Tebow. Space is limited, and there are just a few days left to register. Visit wilberforceweekend.org to get tickets.
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