I'm not sure if you were there for it or not, but I poured a little piece of my heart out on Instagram a few days ago. An even bigger piece of my heart than usual, that is. The gist was FREEDOM and IDENTITY in Christ. Besides my little rant over there though, I wanted to explore another idea that came to me as I read through John 8.
There's a point in my study bible where it says, "Through Jesus' death on the Cross and resurrection, we are freed from the penalty of sin." The study bible's emphasis is on the word penalty, but as I read I couldn't help but to also emphasize the word we. As in, we have been freed from the penalty of our own sin. Cool!
Before I go further, something I want to make a note of is the different ideas we may have of the word penalty. Let's get one thing clear: OF COURSE there are repercussions for bad deeds, committing crimes, lying, cheating, etc. Jesus's death and resurrection doesn't get us out of having to pay our earthly debts when we owe them. If you make a lot of bad life decisions, you're going to negatively affect other people, and those people are going to feel like you owe them something. And you probably will owe them something. The definition of penalty in the above quote though from my study bible, I believe, is in reference only to the penalty we'd pay after death. That is the penalty we believers have been freed from.
Here's where the water gets murky for people, though:
We've been made righteous through Christ, so after our earthly deaths the penalty for our sins will have already been paid, so why not live it up while we're still here, am I right? YOLO, right?
God didn't send His only begotten Son so that we'd go and make fools of ourselves, living as a bunch of ignorant jerks, and feeling okay about it. I mean, you guys, face it: some people are like that. Some people who say, "Yeah! I'm a Christian!" also then suggest that certain groups of people are lesser than them based on their skin color, heritage, church of choice, friends of choice, etc. WE ARE ALL A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES -- BE HONEST -- AND I AM AMONG THE WORST, but the key is to admit it about yourself and to make a very serious effort to change. Even if it means starting over -- being reborn! -- every day. (And don't forget to give yourself some grace.)
Remember too, and this is the whole point of the post: You're not the only one being affected by the decisions you choose to make.
Let's use a simple example to explore this a bit further. Not even a sin, necessarily, just a bad habit. A very common, even "chic" bad habit: smoking. I don't mean to offend any smokers (I used to be one, myself), but unless you're stuck in the pre-1950s, you know at the very least that smoking is unhealthy.
You may have also heard of a thing called "second-hand smoke."
DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME?
LET'S PRETEND! that some scientists and researchers discovered one day that smokers would not and could not ever become ill, that somehow it had been a lie and a myth for decades that smoking was even slightly bad for your physical health. You could smoke anywhere, anytime, as often as you liked, and your health would NEVER decline as a result. You might even look cool, too.
However, in this alternate universe, second-hand smoke is still a reality, so your friends and family would become ill as a result of your smoking. There would even be a risk of cancer for them someday down the line. Not for you, but for them.
- I know this isn't feasible in any way, scientifically. I know. This is just to paint a picture. -
So you would not get sick -- your bad habit would not damage your health. But everyone around you would get sick. Your bad habit would very negatively affect people you knew and loved, and THEREFORE would negatively affect you.
WOULD YOU STILL DO IT? I mean, it's cool, and everyone does it, and it's not hurting you... and maybe if you stand far enough away, other people won't really be affected, either! It's your choice, after all.
My point, again: Knowing, as a believer, that the debt for your sins has already been paid in full, do you feel comfortable continuing to lie, cheat, steal, and so on? Even though you have been completely forgiven and have been freed from the penalty of your sins, do you feel comfortable continuing to behave destructively, in a way that harms others (and in effect, harms you)?
Here's one more quote from my study bible before I go:
We've been freed so we can freely step into our callings. We've been freed so we can freely worship Him (even in private!). We've been freed so we can freely glorify Him and point others to His redeeming love.
That ⤴︎ is why we're free. Not so we can be dumb-dumbs without any discipline, but so we can point to Him and say, "Wow. He loves me and He wants me in His house so much that He would forgive me for all of this mess. I'm going to keep trying to show people what this actually means."
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