I’m always impressed by friends who redeem credit card points like a part-time job. For me, the weight of debt is overwhelming. Of course, the older I get the more normal this burden feels. Take school debt, for 4 years of social awesomeness and some academics, you hopefully get a degree and maybe a job in return. And yet, for many of us, school loans loom for decades to come, and eventually . . . they feel normal.
There’s another kind of debt I tend to carry around. But, the more normal this kind of debt feels, the deadlier it becomes.
In Galatians 5, we read about being debt-free before God. Paul eloquently asks why we prefer rules in order to receive salvation over Christ. If you go back to keeping these specific rules, Paul writes, “Christ will be of no advantage to you.” As if we can keep all the rules of perfection to pay our own debt before the Eternally Perfect One!
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1).
Why do I insist on adding to Jesus’ death?
As if sacrificial death of a perfect human and perfect deity is not enough for my incredible sin. As if my sin is greater than the overwhelming blood of Jesus. As if I can feel remorse long enough and deep enough it will cause the Holy Creator of all things good and holy to release me from my debt prison. “Oh, you feel bad?... Well, if you feel bad for two more weeks, then you can be free from offending the Holy One.”
Forget “nothing but the blood of Jesus.” This is “nothing but the prideful flesh of me.”
I miss a major benefit of the gospel when I unhelpfully dwell on my sin out of balance with the goodness of Jesus. We should feel bad when we sin; sin is wicked. But to stay there and never turn our eyes upon Jesus belittles his sacrifice on the cross. I must understand my sin as evil. But I need to know Christ’s sacrifice as greater.
My sin will never be greater than the love of God.
Forgetting the Gospel
I forget to consider that I am free of the most serious and horrendous debt known to mankind . . . in the history of mankind . . . for all of eternity. I am free because of Jesus’ gospel.
Gospel understanding brings realized freedom. Freedom to have joy, freedom to serve, freedom from self, freedom from others, freedom in Christ! To forget the gospel is to put yourself back in sin shackles (Rom 8:15). When I set up shop in fabricated hell, it’s a prideful slap to the Savior who died so I could be out. When I refuse liberty in a debt-free-to-God Christian life, I am telling Jesus that His sacrifice was not enough for me. It may be good enough for my neighbor, for my coworker or my children, but not enough to cover my sin.
Remembering the Gospel
Nobody has won a get out of hell free card. Jesus physically, emotionally and spiritually paid our debt by experiencing the cross and breaking relationship with the Father so that we could glorify Him for personally rescuing us (Eph 2).
God has forgiven me. Not just because He’s perfectly loving, but because Jesus dying a prisoner’s death in this sinner’s place satisfied the flawless wrath of God and served up justice. Jesus was executed for me.
I am debt-free before God.
It makes me weep. Jesus’ actions settled my stakes with God. I can’t work enough; I can’t serve enough; I can’t be a certain way or do certain things or feel a certain way.
Yet, I still sin. A Christian’s sin can now be reminder of God’s gifts to us. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Cor 7:10a). Guilt is God’s gift that reminds us of true freedom. It’s a heart signal that something is wrong, and we get to repent and remember the gospel.
He Died for Us
Because my debt is now paid in full, I can know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus, the Great Minister, who is currently seated next to the Majesty in heaven, understands my weaknesses (Heb 4). Jesus knew my need many years ago, and courageously laid down on a cross, allowing nails to pierce his hands and feet to giant pieces of wood. Then, he was separated for the first and only time from his adoring, perfect Father, enduring his wrath. Jesus did this for you and me.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
A Response of Worship
Our reaction to these truths should be worship. We get the freedom to love God because Christ was an innocent man slaughtered on our behalf. To deny our Savior this glory as we sit in debt pity parties is to deny him the worship he is owed.
So today, remember what Christ has done for you. He died to make you debt-free. Repent, believe the gospel, trust Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. And come before the Father who offers grace, hope and peace to all who believe. Christian, it is for freedom that Christ set you free!
Be free, indeed.