And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.
—Colossians 2:13-14 NET
Some years ago, living in Thailand, I met a Thai pastor in Bangkok who had previously been a Buddhist monk. Curious about that change, I asked about his conversion, which he happily explained.
While mowing the grass at the monastery, he accidentally ran over and killed a frog. Panicked over taking a life, he knew he had lost all the merit he had earned up to that point. He would have to start over. Distressed over his fate, the thought occurred to him that his only hope was for someone outside himself to forgive him. That’s when an early memory came back to him of a Catholic priest visiting his village teaching about a man named Jesus who forgave sin.
When the situation is hopeless, we know we deserve something far worse than we can imagine and the debt is beyond our ability to pay, what do we do? Some try harder to get out of their predicament. Some ignore the problem, while others may blame someone for the situation. Only desperate people seek forgiveness knowing they have no other recourse.
Until we are truly desperate, how can the good news really be that good if we have other options? We need to be forgiven (Jeremiah 31:33; Colossians 2:13-14), cleansed of our guilt (Ezekiel 36:25; Hebrews 10:22), and made right before God (Isaiah 61:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21). All our best efforts cannot prove our worthiness to God. The good news is that Jesus, under the conditions of His new agreement with mankind, has made provision for our desperate need. He paid the debt. He covered us through His sacrifice. And he clothed us in His righteousness.
In other words, beneath all our insecurities, self-centered, dysfunctional, rebellion we’ve been given a new life that God alone sustains. It’s not up to us to be right with God—not that we ever could.
ACTION: It’s not comfortable to think about the real mess in our hearts we work to keep hidden from ourselves as much as from others. Spend some time this weekend jotting down a few of the things Christ died to set you free from. Review the passages mentioned above. How do these passages make you want to respond?