"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 6:23 (ESV)
When my eldest son was born, we didn’t have very good insurance. The medical bills associated with his delivery were steep. I couldn’t pay them all, at least immediately, so I made payments every month. Sometimes, they were big payments. More often, they were small - probably just enough to keep a ginormous debt collector named T-Bone from breaking my legs.
One day, an envelope arrived. It was yet another bill, this time from the doctor we owed the most. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. Instead, I set it on the small table in our living room, and left it there. Day after day, I walked by it, never having the courage to look inside. I already knew what it said: “You owe an incredible amount that you're powerless to pay. You’re a worthless, giant doo-doo head.” No, it didn’t say that, but it sure felt like it did. Never has an unopened envelope exerted more power over my fragile psyche.
Eventually, I resolved to pay what little I could, and so finally looked inside. Looking over the charges, I saw my remaining balance: ZERO!
I thought, “This is clearly a mistake. I owe this doctor a pile of money." My balance was ANYTHING but zero!
Honestly, I was tempted to just keep my mouth shut and finally enjoy an accounting error in my favor. Even so, the better part of my nature decided to call and offer the needed correction instead. To my shock and delight, the secretary on the end of the line assured me that it was no mistake. The doctor, for gracious reasons I’ll never know, decided to absorb and therefore forgive my debt. After exuberant and multiple expressions of thanks, I hung up the phone and praised God.
I fear some people view the Bible the way that I viewed that envelope. They think it contains a big bill from God, a long invoice of requirements that none of us could ever fulfill and describing a debt of obedience none of us could ever pay. They dread opening it. And so they put it on a table in the living room, and leave it there. They walk by it, knowing they need to deal with it but just can’t bring themselves to do it. The thought of settling accounts with God seems entirely overwhelming and demoralizing.
That’s an absolute tragedy. While the Bible does indeed describe our great sin and indebtedness to God, it ultimately does so to heal us, not hurt us. How would we even know our need of the Savior, Jesus Christ, without God showing us? How would we long for good news if we didn’t know and despair the bad? When God tells us of our sin, he acts as the Great Physician; he first brings the diagnosis so that we'll seek the cure that brings deliverance. So, just as there was good news in my envelope, there’s good news in the Bible - the ultimate good news! In his suffering and death, Jesus received what we deserved, in our place. He paid our debt in full.
That said, have you ever found that analogies concerning God always seem to break down? The finite can’t quite explain the infinite. The same is true here.
Amazingly, Jesus did so much more for us than even my wonderfully gracious doctor did for me. Jesus didn't simply move us back to zero with God. In living a perfectly obedient life on our behalf, Jesus also gave us the incomparable and immeasurable riches of his righteousness. In Jesus, we're more than merely pardoned paupers; we’re adopted children of God, lavishly enriched princesses and princes in the ultimate royal family!
Child of God: Your Father didn’t give you his Word to demoralize or destroy you. Quite the opposite! He gave it to draw you back to him, each and every day. Yes, the Bible contains some bad news: you’re more sinful and flawed than you want to believe. However, this bad news is the darkness into which the light of God's love shines all the brighter. In Christ, you’re more loved and accepted than you ever dared hope, now and forever. Yes, you’re a great sinner, but you have an even greater Savior. Open God’s Word every day, hear him describe your need but then listen to him say just how forgiven and free you are because of Jesus.
You’re loved. Don’t forget it.
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