Many years ago, a number of loans were taken out in my name to pay for my college education. And though I earned scholarships, I was still saddled with significant payments after I graduated and became too ill to continue my career plans. My dad's willingness to help with this debt has declined as our relationship has continued to deteriorate.
Sin is similar to debt. In fact, in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our sins," is sometimes said, "Forgive us our debts." I know the weight and pressure my sin debt to God can place on my heart, just as financial debt can place a burden on my mind and budget.
Recently, when a family member helped me to pay off 2 loans entirely, I was flooded with a feeling of tremendous gratitude and relief. This person had wanted to pay these loans for some time (and had the means to do so), but I had put them off. If you'd asked me why, I would have had a hard time answering, but I can now put my finger on 3 reasons why I initially rejected this gift.
1) I felt like I didn't deserve such incredible generosity.
2) I felt a sense of pride and independence in trying to pay some of it myself.
3) I felt accepting the gift made me weak and dependent.
These 3 reasons sound very much like my grandfather's reasons for resisting Christ's gift of forgiveness. On Grandpa's death bed, the strange grip of unworthiness, pride, and self-sufficiency held him in a headlock, preventing him from accepting the very gift that would wipe his sin debt clean. It wasn't until hours before his death, as we prayed over him, that he finally uttered his need and desire for Jesus. Grandpa didn't have the means to pay and thus earn right-standing with God, but Jesus offered his life as payment on the cross. In God's eyes, the cross was payment in full.
We are in a losing battle if we are trying to get right with God on our own, apart from Christ. We need a mediator and one who has the means to pay the extraordinarily high cost of disobeying God's laws. Jesus has done this. God accepted his death as the payment for your sins and mine. "It is finished!" Christ cried as he breathed his last breath. Just as my family member paid to set me free from punishing financial debt, Christ paid painfully with his own life to set us free from our sin debt, which separates us from God.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
"Jesus paid a debt he didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay."