In order to motivate us to lives of reverent fear, Peter reminds us of our redemption. I think if you look at the text, you will see that Peter highlights three realities in particular that we must consider if we are going to appreciate our redemption.
First, we must consider the plight from which we have been redeemed.
In the Old Testament people were redeemed from debt, captivity, slavery, exile, and even potential execution.
In the New Testament it is much worse.
The New Testament writers speak of being redeemed from a moral bondage.
Here, Peter says “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways of life inherited from your forefathers.”
The word futile meaning basically empty or pointless. Ineffectual would be another way of putting it. Maybe, senseless.
This is obviously on Peter’s mind, because if you look back at verse 14 you see how he describes our pre-salvation condition as being that of ignorance.
Which basically means dumb.
There are different ways of describing sin. It is rebellion, it is perversion, it is corruption, it is pollution. One of the ways though that the Bible describes sin is that of folly and I think that is what Peter is hitting on here with this word futile or empty.
Before God saved us we were enslaved to a foolish way of life.
Now don’t get me wrong. It might have looked quite imposing, after all if you look at the passage, he says it was inherited from our fathers which is a way of saying it was tradition, it was rooted in longstanding ideas, it was our culture; but all of that tradition and all of that history didn’t give it any more actual significance or meaning at the end of the day.
It is like we were living our lives caught up in that old story, the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Everybody patting us on the back for basically being stupid.
It is like we were living our lives “swimming against the stream of the entire universe.” It is like we weren’t simply missing the target; we kept choosing the wrong target to shoot at. It is like we were as someone has put it continually “using the wrong recipe for good health.” Continually, “putting the wrong petrol in the tank.” Continually “taking the wrong road to get home.” We lived our life like a man who decided to use a map of the United States of America to find his way across South Africa.
You can think about how all this futility and foolishness worked out, in practice.
And I think you should.
To appreciate redemption you need to remember what God redeemed you from.
Let me sort of draw out the futility for you.
Our way of life was futile and foolish because it was out of touch with reality.
One big example of that would be the sin of pride.
We live in a culture that promotes pride, our lives before God saved us were devoted to the pursuit of pride and yet at the end of the day when you look at it very closely pride is really nothing more than a kind of insanity.
To be proud isn’t only a sin. When you are proud you are also out of touch with reality.
We lived life with this constant contradiction right there in the heart of our being as one man expresses it, “the need to be heros and the fact of being worms.’
Here we were going about thinking and talking and living as if we were actually in control of our lives, thinking of ourselves as if we were gods almost and trying to get others to think of us like that when in fact we were every day drawing closer and closer to our death, to that day where we would go into the ground and our bodies would become food for worms.
What’s more we tried to resolve this contradiction by adopting another one, another contradiction, we tried to exalt ourselves by meeting other people’s standards of what’s important.
We found significance in what other worms thought of us.
We can keep going, exposing the folly and futility of our past life.
It was futile not just because it didn’t make sense, our way of life futile because we kept choosing and delighting in thinking and acting in ways that harmed us.
We kept looking for blessing in places and things that would only hurt us and even though they did hurt us and even though it was evident that they hurt us, instead of turning from those things we would only look harder in the same exact places.
For me, greed is one of the most obvious examples of this.
I think Paul he points this out in 1 Timothy 6:9.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
We were looking to riches for blessing when in fact the overwhelming desire for riches only leads to pain.
Sin and I love how one man has put it, “is a form of self-abuse…
It is not just greed.
Envy, getting upset when someone else succeeds and wishing they wouldn’t, who does that hurt?
We’re the ones who end up tormented.
Lying, we used to lie because we were trying to protect ourselves but time and time again, we ended up doing just the opposite, alienating ourselves from other people instead and often bringing more pain upon ourselves as a result.”
You can see how committed we were to self-destruction in the way we responded to correction. You know we hated being told we were wrong, we would avoid that at all costs, we would rather have people think we were right when we were wrong than be right and have people think we were wrong.
You have probably heard of people who are self-mutilators, they cut themselves and that is obviously wrong but is also pointless and sad. Our whole way of life before Christ was like that. Wrong yes, but it also sad and empty and meaningless as well.
That was us.
That was our condition.
If you want to move past a merely intellectual form of Christianity to this reverent awe that Peter speaks about, you need to pray that God would help you appreciate the plight from which you have been redeemed.