Monday, January 11, 2010

God's coupon

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 (NLT)

Back in November I bought a box of filters for our water purifier. I didn’t need the filters just yet, but the coupon, which was worth a whole dollar, was about to expire. A dollar doesn’t buy much these days, but a dollar saved is a dollar earned, and the filters cost $17.34, plus tax.

But I forgot to hand the coupon to the cashier when I checked out. I could’ve kicked my usually thrifty self. But I knew the store honored coupons not redeemed at the cash register at the time of purchase, as long as you had the receipt. So when I got home, I attached the coupon to the receipt and placed them in my wallet—where I carried them around for months.

Although I frequent this particular store at least once a week, either I was in a hurry and didn’t want to stop at the service desk to redeem the coupon, or I just forgot.

Finally, last week—with the resolve I have in abundance at the beginning of the New Year—I pushed my cart to the service desk after I’d checked out and presented the sales receipt and coupon. With a nice, polite explanation, of course.

“I can’t do that,” the lady manning the desk said. She pointed to the date on the coupon. “The coupon has expired.”

I pointed to the date on the receipt. “But I purchased the item before the coupon’s expiration date.”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

“But I’ve done this before—redeemed the coupon after I purchased the item,” I argued. “All I need is the sales receipt.”

Another employee, who was standing nearby, put in her two cents. “Ma’am, the coupon is expired.”

“But . . .” I took one look at their resolute faces and realized I wasn’t going to win this one—and I didn’t want to make a spectacle of myself over a dollar.

“Thanks anyway,” I muttered. I stuffed the receipt and the coupon in my purse, then shoved my cart out the door. Me and my stupid forgetfulness.

On the way home, I finally understood what they were trying to tell me. It wasn’t that they weren’t going to honor the coupon because I was presenting it for redemption months after I purchased the filter. They couldn’t honor it because it had expired. The company that had issued the coupon wouldn’t reimburse the store because the date after which the coupon could be redeemed was long past.

A coupon, usually issued by the manufacturer, is good only if used—and only according to the manufacturer’s terms. Some coupons are good only when more than one of the item is purchased. Almost all have a date when the offer runs out, so the consumer must redeem the coupon while it’s still valid.

Our manufacturer, God, has issued a coupon, too. It’s called grace and is good for only one item, which you can’t purchase—because it’s already been purchased for you. This coupon is available to anyone who wants it, picks it up, and uses it. It does the bearer no good if it’s stuffed in the busyness of life and forgotten—like the coupon I forgot to redeem until it was too late.

God’s coupon reads, “FREE to the bearer: Heaven forever.” And don’t we love free stuff!

God’s coupon is the filter that removes the pollutant called sin that contaminates our souls and keeps us out of heaven.

But how many have redeemed God’s coupon? It does have an expiration date, you know. It must be redeemed either before the bearer dies or before Jesus, God’s Son, returns at the end of time. (He’s the One who paid the purchase price. See 1 Peter 1:18–19.)

Have you redeemed God’s coupon yet?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Dear God, I accept the coupon of grace—Your Son’s death on the cross as punishment for my sins and the only way into Heaven. I’m redeeming it now. Thank You for providing the way for my sins to be forever forgiven and forgotten and for me to spend eternity in Heaven. Amen.

Special-Tea: John 3; Revelation 20:11–15; 1 John 5:11–12

(Also John 3:16, 1 John 1:7–9, Hebrews 9:22, Ephesians 2:8–9, John 1:12, Acts 16:3, Romans 10:13 and Revelation 3:20)

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