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Rock icon Elton John has been raising money for the AIDS cause, and many people are being greatly helped because of his generosity. So, why is he doing it? This is what he said about his motives: "Basically, I wanted redemption for the way I lived my life beforehand, and that was the drugs, the drink, the loose sex, whatever…"
"Redemption" is a word that finds its roots in the Bible. It's common for celebrities to become virtuous as they age. They are trying to redeem themselves because conscience demands it. They know that they have been immoral, and so they try and balance the scales. Why bother? Each individual could answer that, but I will take a guess. Guilt produces a fear of punishment. In other words, they are covering their bases in case Hell does exist. But there's one big problem with the redemption philosophy. It doesn't work.
Give it some thought. If a depraved criminal has raped and murdered ten women, the judge couldn't care less how much he has redeemed himself by giving to charities. He will judge him on his crimes alone. You say that it's an unfair comparison--to liken the average human being to a depraved criminal. Not according to the Word of God. Here is God's view of the best of us: "As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb. With their tongues they have practiced deceit. The poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18).
So if there is no way "good works" can provide redemption for a depraved criminal with man's justice, it's not going to work in God's courtroom. Not for a moment.
The only way we can be redeemed is for God to provide a payment (or sacrifice) for our sins, and He did that through the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, Israel sacrificed their prized bulls and goats, and the blood of the slain animals provided temporary forgiveness for their personal sins. But when they sinned again, they had to provide another sacrifice. The Bible addresses this, and speaks of how trust in the Savior (God's sacrifice) provides absolute and permanent forgiveness for the believer. That means we (by the mercy and grace of God), can escape Hell and enter Heaven. We can have everlasting life. Look at how the shed blood of Jesus Christ even cleanses us from a guilty conscience: "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14).
Redemption is freely available for Elton John, every celebrity, and every guilty human being. All it takes is humility, but tragically that's one virtue that is hard to come by nowadays, especially among the rich and famous.