It’s not unusual for terms to be redefined by changing trends in popular usage over time. The concept of what it means to have something “delivered” is an example of that kind of transition. For most of us, when we hear some form of the word, our minds automatically envision something akin to the marketing strategy of internet retailers like Amazon, for instance. The landscape of retail sales around the world has been redesigned, and what it means to “go shopping” has changed. Shopping no longer requires getting out of our pajamas and driving to a brick and mortar store to browse a company’s inventory. “Going downtown” has been replaced by “going online,” and a company’s offerings can be displayed on our computers, cell phones, or “smart” TVs any time we feel like it. Our favorite stores are always open, and we’re never challenged by a gridlocked parking lot.
Free Isn’t Always Free ~
One of the features drawing people to this new system of acquisition is the ubiquitous promise of “free delivery.” I ran headlong into the issue recently when somebody across town wanted an autographed copy of my new book. (Hey, didja notice how I managed to slip in a reminder that we have a new book? Smooth, huh?) I’m not a classic online retailer, but my little delivery problem gave me a chance to see what “free delivery” meant from the other side of the equation. The cost of shipping a simple book across town was shocking to me–about three times what I had expected. I told the clerk that I liked the idea of “free delivery” much better when I’m on the receiving end. She said, “Look… that book can’t get from one place to another by itself, and if anything’s gonna be delivered, somebody’s gotta pay on one end or the other.”
Her comment pointed out a truth we don’t always think about when we’re on the receiving end of a retail transaction. When we’re offered something with “free delivery,” we’re rarely concerned with what that means to the person on the other end. We only care about what it costs us, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a cost involved. My friend at the postal counter was correct when she indicated that there’s no such thing as “free delivery.”
A Different Definition ~
Let’s translate this issue into the spiritual realm and consider what “free delivery” looks like when we take the whole picture into account. First, when God talks about deliverance, it’s not about shipping material items. It’s more like the story I heard recently about a woman who was freed from almost 20 years of slavery–she was “delivered” from hopelessness and bondage to freedom. Here’s what God’s “delivery system” looks like from the receiving end:
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV)
For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NKJV)
Another Perspective ~
Through simple faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God offers a priceless kind of “free delivery” that has nothing to do with human effort or worldly currency. We simply come with our brokenness and our failures and turn from the sins that condemn us and ask for it. Then we wait for the final act of deliverance when we’re presented to Him in heaven. But what did being delivered look like from His end?
Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:26 NKJV)
But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (John 19:15-17 NKJV)
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NKJV)
What a contrast of perspectives. Paul is declaring both sides of the deliverance equation in one profound statement. We have been “freely given all things,” one of which is deliverance from what he called “so great a death,” but that deliverance was not free of cost for the One offering it. Our deliverance from the eternal separation from God that our sins deserve required that someone be “delivered” in our place. Those mocking Jesus at the cross taunted Him by saying that the One who saved others could not manage to save Himself (Matthew 27:40-42).
Seeing the Bigger Picture ~
It’s easy to adopt our Amazon Prime perspective when we think about deliverance from the awful consequences that our cumulative collection of transgressions rightfully deserve. We can easily sing about our home in heaven and the freedom that His grace secures for us without thinking about the price that such deliverance demanded.
If the online shippers know that the price has to be paid before the product goes out, and that the process isn’t complete until we possess what we ordered, let’s at least give God credit for being as smart as they are. Paul underscored our confidence in God’s offer this way:
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NKJV).
The “free delivery” offered us through Jesus Christ is a glorious concept, but my friend at the Post Office was right. “Somebody’s gotta pay on one end or the other.” If we don’t accept His offer, there’s still a transition that must take place, and there’s a hellish price attached. . . What’s the status of your order?
Ron’s new book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth” has been released!
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