Sometimes the simplest illustrations are the most effective. Here is one favorite: a person ahead of you at the checkout offers to pay the bill for the person behind him. It is not his order or expense, but he takes it upon Himself to pay it and you can go through without owing anything. Your bill is paid.
This is what Jesus did for me concerning sin. He took what I owed and wrote it on Himself. Even though He owed nothing, He was willing to pay for everyone else, including me.
“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)“That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
The purpose of Jesus paying my debt is kind but not merely so. His intention was that I might be free from sin and tell others the good news — that the sinless Christ pays our debt and reconciles us to God so we can serve Him instead of sin.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8–12)
The simple reality is that I’m set free from the tyranny of only one choice — “my way” — and can now live my life “His way.” Yet to do that, I must abide in Him. How can my message of reconciliation be convincing if my life does not demonstrate that what Jesus did has had an impact on me? The fact is, it cannot. Besides, that effect on me is so important that God says it is the ‘proof’ that Jesus Christ has set me free from the power of sin.
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:5–10)
It is not that I cannot sin, but as a redeemed person, I now have a choice. Prior to Christ, my sin nature remained my only motivation. However, with Christ I can say ‘no’ to sin because of His power given by His presence in me. Now I have two motivations: my old nature of sin (dead to God and still wanting to run my life) and that new nature that can abide in His presence and practice righteousness.
In other words, in Christ, I am set free from sin’s grip. In myself, I am a sinner. I cannot deny this, yet I also must declare the reality that Jesus died for me to take away my sin.
Jesus, forgive me for thinking at times that I am helpless and cannot overcome, but also forgive me for failing to abide in You and trying to battle sin on my own. Just as I cannot pay the penalty for my own sin (and remain alive), I cannot overcome the power of sin without Your grace and strength. Your Word says I can do all things through You, yet so often I stop short. Instead of reaching for Your hand, abiding in You, and trusting You to graciously supply whatever is needed to tackle ‘all things.’ Your grace and goodness is incredible. You saved me from sin and You keep on interceding for me and helping me live a life that overcomes, a life that can now choose righteousness and declare the incredible reality of Your grace and power.