No Other Foundation
Book 1
Toward Repentance of Sin and Faith in God

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Chapter Seven
Justice and Justification

The Contents Of This Chapter

Justice and Justification

Before the world was created God knew that the most degenerate creature of all would swagger into His Eden and unleash an evil that would wreak havoc for eternity. The accursed seed which this creature planted through the cooperation of Adam and Eve has become the mother of all earthly evil from that day to this. And what is this unleashed evil? Nothing more and nothing less than sin.

        Sin is any thought, attitude, choice, word, or deed, or any combination thereof, which results in unnecessary harm being done to anyone who is in any way adversely affected by it. Sin becomes attractive to us when distrust of God is united with self-centeredness. We are guilty of having sinned when we know the right thing to do and either deliberately do what we know is wrong or willfully or negligently do nothing when we ought to do something.

        Sin presents itself as the elixir of life – as the remedy for current or future needs, wants, happiness, and security. But sin’s facade is a farce. Hidden under its attractive exterior is a demonic monster which is the cause of all senseless, unjust, and unnecessary poverty, hunger, homelessness, loneliness, emptiness, divorce, broken homes, heartache, dissipation of mind and body, disease, aging, and death itself.

        Yet the evil is not only in sin, it is in us as well. The evil in us is exposed when we seek our good at the expense of God and anyone else harmed by our self-centeredness. We have only to look at those our sin unnecessarily harms to see the truth of this. And though most of us don’t think about this, the one we mistreat first and foremost is God, himself.

        Our sin contributes to the reason God’s creation is progressively being destroyed, and to the increase of evil in our world. Choosing to sin is choosing to join with other human beings in spurning God and consorting with His arch enemy, the devil. When we sin, we not only mistreat God, we harm those God loves – from those we supposedly love the most (spouse, children, extended family, dear friends, valued co-workers), to those with whom we have repeated relationship (friends, neighbors, employer, co-workers, church members), to those we hardly know (people in other ethnic or social groups), and to those we will never know in this life (other nations and people groups). Our sin is part of the reason God endured the heart-wrenching sacrifice of His son, Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. Our sin is part of the reason Jesus personally endured the sufferings of being beaten, mocked, unjustly condemned to death, and then crucified. And though these things are bad enough, this is just a short list of how God has been and is being mistreated by us when we sin.

        The writer of Hebrews said a similar thing when he said that if we go on sinning willfully, we trample underfoot the Son of God, and regard as unclean the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified, and insult the Spirit of grace. (Note: Hebrews 10:29)

       But our sin not only mistreats God, it unnecessarily harms our fellowman. And though we may not harm others in all the ways listed below, this list gives us some examples of the ways sin unnecessarily hurts others. Therefore, sin breeds political tyranny, oppression, torture, slavery, prejudice, murder, rape, pornography, adultery, physical abuse, brawling, rioting, stealing, lying, cheating, alcoholism, drug addiction, fits of rage, verbal and emotional abuse, taunting, faultfinding, manipulation, exploitation, hate, anger, slander, jealousy, bitterness, impatience, disrespect, unkindness, unforgiveness, gossip, arrogance, vanity, laziness, apathy, negligence, and deceitfulness.

        Remove sin, and such things as love, happiness, and peace are free to flourish. Eliminate sin, and patience, kindness, honesty, moral decency, faithfulness, and gentleness will become the norm. Put an end to sin, and mutually satisfying relationships, happy homes, emotionally healthy families, good communities, and a safe world will be possible. Oust sin, and authentic security, wholesome pleasures, the provision of every need, and the promotion of all that is good will fill our world in abundant measure.

        But how do we get rid of sin, once and for all? By getting rid of sinners – either through the means of repentance and faith in God, or through banishment.

Ending Sin by Removing Sinners

God created us as rational beings with the ability to think, conceptualize, reason, and remember. With rationality comes the ability to choose, including choosing between what we know is right and what we know is wrong. Sin cannot work its destructive forces without created, rational beings choosing to sin. In other words, where there are no created beings choosing to sin, there is no sin. Therefore, when we, God’s created, rational beings, voluntarily and deliberately choose to repeatedly and unrepentantly do what we know is wrong, the only way to remove sin is to remove us.

        Removing sinners to bring an end to sin is what God has chosen to do. In fact, the penalty for sin is removal, banishment, eternal damnation to hell, or as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 6:23, death. The death referred to is not the end of existence, but the removal from God’s presence to a place devoid of God and all the good He has for those who love Him and live according to His will. This means that this place of banishment is totally controlled by the forces of evil, the mindset of self-centeredness, and the ways of sin – which is why banishment to this place is the worst form of death.

        But you may ask, isn’t it cruel for God to torture sinners by damning them to hell for eternity? Why not just end their life so they are no more?

       This is a good suggestion, but it overlooks two facts which are important to God and the end of sin. First, we are created in the image of God, which makes it possible for us to live in intimate fellowship with Him forever. Second, we are created to be loved, valued, respected, protected, and a contributing part of a loving, caring community. Sending sinners into oblivion rather than to the eternal fires of hell would send the message that these two facts are so unimportant that they can be ignored. To understand this more fully, consider the reasoning below.

        The first problem with ending a sinner’s life so he is no more is that God created us in His own image, which makes it possible for us to live in intimate fellowship with Him forever. Now, being created in the image of God does not mean we are exactly like God. It means there are certain things about God which are also true about us. One of those things is, once we are born, we live forever. And it is this likeness to God, along with all the other likenesses that enable us to participate in a never-ending relationship of intimate fellowship with God. Therefore, like God, our life has no end, and like God, we can enter into and maintain meaningful and intimate relationships.

        To say our life has no end does not mean we will not die physically. However, physical death is not the end of our life, it is the end of our life in this world for the purpose of limiting the amount of time we have on earth. Such a limit has three purposes. First, it gives us a designated period of time in which we can respond to God’s invitation to repent and put our faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ – which enables us to be reconciled to God and equipped to live with Him forever. Second, it limits the amount of sin we can commit or teach and encourage others to commit – thus slowing the spread of sin on the earth. And third, it limits the amount of harm we can do to others.

        Yet in spite of dying physically, we are created to go into the next world and live forever. Therefore, the solution to our sin problem is not oblivion after physical death, but repentance and conversion while we yet live in this world. And in a similar way, the solution to the world’s sin problem is to remove unrepentant sinners to a place all their own – where they can no longer harm those effected by their selfishness and sin.

        The second problem with ending a sinner’s life so he is no more is that it would devalue God’s purpose for life and life itself, and such devaluing would encourage sin rather than discourage it.

        Think about this: what self-centered person wouldn’t choose the pleasures and treasures of sin, even though they are temporary, if they knew that at the end of their time on earth they would go off to oblivion? The reality is, if life has no value, if we only exist for today, if there is no judgment and no lasting punishment for wrong doing, if we can eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die – and that’s it, why do what you know is right when doing what you know is wrong is so immediately rewarding? Therefore, because the rewards of sin – such as fame, fortune, power, luxury, happiness, pleasure, excitement, and entertainment – are so gratifying, and if we could be selfish and sinful without the fear of eternal consequences, the problem of sin would be even worse than it is today.

        However, God’s purpose for life and life itself are precious, and worthy of being pursued, treasured, and protected – not only for ourselves, but for every other human being who has ever been born or ever will be born on this earth. In like manner, relationships built on mutual love and trust are precious and worthy of being pursued, treasured, and protected.

        We see the truth of this in the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and in God’s hatred of sin, and in God’s promise of a final judgment where sinners will be separated from the righteous as sheep are separated from the goats. We see the truth of this in Christ’s death on our behalf – a death which brings us redemption from the penalty, power, and practice of sin so we can be reconciled to God and live with Him forever. We see the truth of this in the fact that we have been created in the image of God and given the gift of being eternal once we are born.

        We confirm our belief in and commitment to this truth by choosing faith in God over going our own way, in choosing the way of love over self-centeredness, and in choosing fellowship with God over the pleasures and treasures of sin. 

        This raises another question. Couldn’t God take away our ability to choose between right and wrong so we would only do what is right and good? Yes He could. But if He did, we wouldn’t be rational beings anymore, and we wouldn’t have the capacity to love.

        Without the ability to choose, we would be programmed beings. We would be like computers programmed to function according to their designer’s wishes, or like animals acting according to instinct. This would put a stop to sin, but it would also put a stop to rational, freely-chosen, voluntarily shared, intimate relationships of communion and companionship built on mutual love and trust. To those who know the unequaled worth of voluntarily shared, intimate relationships built on mutual love and trust, solving the sin problem by taking away a person’s ability and freedom to choose is no solution at all. Truly, the prospect of a loving community, a love ruled kingdom, a people group who love God supremely and all others as themselves, is so attractive that it overshadows the horrendously painful cost of sending those who want no part of such a community to their own place where they can live self-centered lives for the rest of time. Therefore, the most reasonable way to protect our ability to choose between right and wrong so that we are able to engage in meaningful relationships built on mutual love and trust, and solve the sin problem at the same time, is to banish unrepentant sinners.

        Keep in mind, however, that the freedom to choose provides the opportunity to change sides. Having the ability to choose means we can avoid banishment by voluntarily and deliberately repenting of sin, turning from our sinful ways, trusting in God, receiving His gracious gift of salvation from the penalty of sin, taking hold of the freedom He gives from the power and practice of sin, and pursuing a life of godly love. It means we can, by an act of our will, set our mind on God and godliness rather than self and selfishness. It means we are capable of loving God supremely and verifying that love by our freely-chosen words and deeds. Freedom to choose gives us the power to affect our future – that is, to sow what we wish to reap, for surely we will reap what we have sown.

        However, damning sinners to eternal banishment in hell creates an excruciatingly painful problem for God. As loving parents deeply love each of their children, so God loves every one of us. As loving parents hope for the best possible relationship with each of their children, so God wants a voluntarily chosen, deeply personal, meaningfully intimate, emotionally impassioned, unequivocally trusting, mutually satisfying, never-ending, reciprocal relationship with each one of us. Nothing less is satisfactory. And because He loves us so much, losing just one of us to the place of no return breaks His heart.

        Yet in spite of what God wants, we, of our own free-will, have chosen to sabotage our relationship with Him. He created us, yet we take what belongs to Him and go off on our own to live as we please in order to please ourselves. He loves us, yet we distrust His love and doubt His motives – preferring the pleasures of self-centeredness for a season over the riches of a loving relationship with Him for eternity. He has given us every reason to do what we know is right, yet we deliberately and repeatedly do what we know is wrong. We are willful, intentional sinners. Therefore, God faces the loss of every one of us to banishment in hell. (Note: Mark 12:28-31; Romans 3:23, 6:23, 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 5:25-32)

Driven by love, God has taken corrective action to solve this desperate situation wherein all His beloved earthly beings are doomed to eternal banishment. Through the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ, God has made it possible for us to be rescued from the power and practice of sin in this life, and the punishment for sin in the life to come. He has re-opened the door to relationship so we can be reconciled to Him and enjoy a mutually satisfying love relationship with Him, forever. And, He has made available to us everything we need to live a love-controlled life from the day of our salvation, forward. And in doing all this, He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves.

    Therefore, by His power, through His wisdom, and because of His love, God has solved the sin problem. His solution is truly the best solution, as we can see by the fact that it satisfies the following important requirements:  

1.       Justice must be served.
2. Freedom of will must not be compromised.
3. A perfect substitute must take the sinner’s place in paying the penalty for sin.
4. It must be evident to all that God infinitely loves us and wants a mutually satisfying relationship with us.
5. Salvation from the penalty of sin must be granted to all who repent of sin, trust in God, and devote themselves to loving as God loves.
6. Repentant sinners must be freed from the enslaving power and practice of sin.
7. Forgiveness must be complete, that is, it must result in a restored relationship between God and the forgiven sinner.

God's Plan Promotes Justice

God’s plan to rescue sinners from the penalty of sin and restore them to full membership in His family so they can live with Him forever is unquestionably and indisputably just. Consider the supporting evidence to this fact.

        When asked about the greatest commandment of all, Jesus responded by saying, “The foremost is, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,’ and the second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." (Note: Mark 12:30-31)

        Sin violates these two commandments. Therefore, sin’s crime is the unjust and unnecessary harm it does to others, beginning with God and extending to those we hardly know or do not know. The sinner’s crime is willfully doing what he knows is wrong, or neglecting to do what he knows is right, so that unjust and unnecessary harm befalls all who are affected by his sinful choices and behavior. Therefore, doing what we know is wrong is not simply breaking the law, it is also causing harm to others that they should not have to experience and endure. Therefore, sin is wicked. Indeed, it is reprehensible.

        Because every sin, great or small, victimizes someone, every sinner who knowingly sins is guilty of deliberately (willfully and knowingly) harming others. Because sin is driven by distrust of God and self-centeredness, every sinner is guilty of unnecessarily harming others for selfish reasons.

        Now, it is not the size of the sin, but the willingness of the sinner to self-centeredly (or selfishly) and unnecessarily harm others which makes him a threat to the well-being of those affected by his choices and behavior. Therefore, to both punish sinners and protect their victims from further ill-treatment, every sinner must be banished to a place where they no longer endanger the well-being of others, including God.

        Most of us believe that the size of the sin ought to determine the degree of our guilt. In other words, we judge the degree of sin’s evil by the amount of harm it seems to do. For example, we judge rape as horrendously evil while lying is judged as bad, but not nearly as bad as rape. On this basis of judgement, we believe rape deserves a more severe punishment than lying. Therefore, it makes no sense to us that God would send the liar to hell along with the rapist. In fact, we are skeptical of God’s sense of justice in condemning the liar to hell when what he has done doesn’t even come close to being as evil as what the rapist has done – at least in our estimation.

        Who has the problem, God or us? We do. We do not like to decide how evil something is on the basis of motive (distrust of God, self-centered self-seeking), or on the basis of inconsideration for the well-being of others (willfully doing what we know is wrong at the expense of others), because it makes the liar as guilty of eternal damnation to hell as the rapist. And of course, if the liar is as guilty of eternal damnation as the rapist, we are as guilty as the rapist, too.

        To have to admit that we, small-time sinners at worst in comparison to big-time sinners, are as guilty as murderers and rapists, is not something we want to do. In fact, we can’t imagine thinking of ourselves as that bad. And so we don’t. We maintain our sense of minimal guilt by believing the degree of guilt is, and ought to be, determined by the size of the sin. We reinforce our sense of minimal guilt by seeing ourselves as well-intentioned sinners who make mistakes, even though we make the same mistakes (commit the same sins) over and over again. And we comfort ourselves by seeing ourselves as far better than the more heinous sinners who deliberately do what they know is wrong.

        Therefore, we convince ourselves we would have to tell a lot of lies to equal one murder and take advantage of a lot of people to equal one rape. And so we do tell a lot of lies, or continue to commit whatever other favorite sins we have. And in so doing, we force others to endure our hurtfulness without relief, which after a time makes some of our victims feel so much pain that it’s as if we murdered or raped them.

        Thankfully, God is wise where we are foolish. God judges the evil of the sinner, not by the degree of harm done, but by the willingness of the sinner to deliberately victimize another person for selfish reasons. He judges, not by the size of the sin, but according to the motive whereby the sinner willfully places his own interests above the good of others. This is why Jesus makes love of God and others the two greatest commandments, and why Paul says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Note: Romans 13:10)

        Truly, the threat to the well-being of each one of us is not the size of sin, or sin itself, but the person who will willingly, intentionally, selfishly, or even carelessly do what he knows is wrong, and in so doing, willingly, intentionally, selfishly, or even carelessly harm others for his own benefit. Therefore, the liar is as evil as the rapist because both willingly and deliberately promote and protect their own interests at the expense of others.

        For this reason, justice demands that every sinner, regardless of the size of sins committed, be punished by banishment to a place such as hell. Justice demands that sin’s punishment be as certain as death so only a fool would think he can get away with sinning. Justice demands that sin’s punishment be impartially applied without regard to nationality, ethnic group, color, family background, social status, economic status, or religious affiliation. Justice demands that sin’s penalty be equally applied to those who have heard the Gospel and those who haven’t, to those who are glad they’ve sinned and those who are sad they’ve sinned, and to those who repent as well as those who don’t.

        This may seem severe, but it is a necessary application of justice given our inclination to act selfishly, to knowingly and willfully sin, and to determine how good we are by comparing ourselves to those we deem worse than us. Indeed, only when justice is served will the world know that every sinner will be punished for any and every sin willfully, knowingly, and deliberately committed. And only when justice brings us to the new heavens and new earth will God and all who live with Him forever be protected from the unjust, unnecessary suffering caused by sinners.

        It is true that God is patient and merciful with unrepentant sinners, even though they continue to cause others unnecessary suffering while He pleads with them and waits for them to repent. But don’t ever take this to mean God is soft on sin. It means He is strong on pursuing every sinner and ensuring they have every opportunity to repent and be saved from the penalty of their sin, because He doesn’t want any sinner to die in his sin. (Note: II Peter 3:1-9)

        God wants to rescue sinners from the penalty of sin and restore them to full membership in His family. He wants each one of us to live with Him forever. His plan for doing this begins with a just punishment of sinners. Every sin is equally penalized (the penalty of sin is death, that is, eternal separation from God) and every sinner equally punished because all sin is the result of sinners voluntarily and deliberately doing what they know is wrong at the unjust and unnecessary expense of others. And because unrepentant sinners would contaminate heaven with the evils of sin just as they have contaminated the earth, God banishes them to hell where they can only harm each other by their self-centeredness and sin.

God's Plan Preserves Freedom of Will

This matter of choice was looked at earlier in the chapter. Nevertheless, it is of such importance as to deserve a second look. Let us begin by considering several truths concerning relationships.
            First, far more often than not, when people approach the end of life their focus turns to relationships – the value of relationships, the improvement of weak ones, the repairing of damaged ones, and the restoring of broken ones. Second, when people feel lonely, they most often look for a meaningful relationship of communion and companionship to remove their loneliness. If they cannot find fulfillment in a relationship, they then look for a sense of comfort and love in other things (i.e., drugs, alcohol, food, possessions, work). Third, God made humankind for one primary purpose – shared relationships of communion and companionship built on mutual love and trust. Fourth, meaningfully intimate, mutually trusting, mutually satisfying, reciprocal relationships of communion and companionship are of unequaled value to the happiness and well-being of everyone.

        But to have a meaningful relationship with anyone, we must be able to love. We must be able to promote and protect their good. If we do not seek their good, that is if we do nothing when we should do something or if we deliberately harm them, we will give them just cause to distrust us. When we give them just cause to distrust us, we also give them sufficient reason to believe we do not really love them. In other words, our unloving, selfish, unkind choices and behavior drive them away from us rather than endear them to us. Our sin drives a wedge between others and us rather than drawing them closer to us. Our sin damages the relationship rather than strengthens it. Therefore, being able to love is vital to the promotion and protection of shared relationships. And remember, love fulfills the law. (Note: Romans 13:10)

        Yet there is another side. Being able to love is not enough. God could have created us so that we could do nothing other than what is loving and right. But that is not enough when it comes being loved. And here is where we clearly see the importance of free-will.

        To feel loved, to be certain that we are loved, to have an unwaveringly secure sense of acceptance and belonging in a relationship, we must be able to know that the one loving us is loving us of his or her own free will. This means that for each party in the relationship to feel loved, each party must have the ability to choose who they want to be in relationship with, the depth of relationship desired (i.e., marriage, friendship, casual, superficial), how they will treat the other person, the extent of self-sacrifice, if they will be faithful to the agreed on expectations of the relationship, and how they will handle failure. Freedom to choose these things is the only way to validate that love and not self-interest, or love and not appeasement, or love and not jealously, or love and not fear of loneliness, is the motive behind seeking relationship. Therefore, mutually satisfying relationships can exist only where there is freedom of will – where each party has the choice to love or not love, yet chooses to love.

        Remove freedom of will and people would be like computers or robots who think, choose, and do according to the way they are programmed. Assuming God is doing the programming, people would think, say, and do what is loving and right. Yet they would not do what is loving and right because they wanted to, but because they could not do anything else. They would feel no attraction, affection, devotion, or passion toward anyone – only instinctive duty. They would seek the good of others out of unintended obligation, not because they cared. They would serve and please out of involuntary servitude, not from kindness or tenderness or compassion. Experiencing deeds of love on this basis may be enjoyable for a time, but it holds no hope for the deeply satisfying joy gained from being voluntarily and cheerfully loved.

        Therefore, no one, including God, finds lasting, satisfying joy in being treated in loving ways by someone who has no choice in whom or how he loves. We all, God included, want to be loved voluntarily and cheerfully, not grudgingly or out of necessity. It is for this very reason that God created us with the ability to choose – with a free-will which enables us to decide if we will love, whom we will love, and the depth of relationship we will seek with those who respond to our love. 

Yet in creating us with the ability to choose, God risked losing everything, because inherent in our ability to choose love is the ability to choose self-centeredness. Therefore, to gain voluntarily chosen, deeply personal, meaningfully intimate, mutually trusting, mutually satisfying, reciprocal relationships of communion and companionship with us, God risked losing us to self-centeredness and sin.
        From God’s perspective, loving relationships are so valuable, so precious, so in the interest of everyone, that they outweigh the losses caused by freedom of will. And the losses are many, because many choose self-centeredness over love and sin over doing what they know is right. But, freedom of will also gives us the ability to repent of our selfishness and sin. We can, through an act of our will, put our faith in God and choose the way of love.

        Therefore, having been created to experience the greatest possible good from shared relationships built on mutual love and trust, God’s plan to save us from the penalty of sin accomplishes its purpose without compromising our freedom of will. 

God's Plan Provides the Perfect Substitute

Any plan to rescue us from the penalty of sin must do at least two things. First, it must ensure justice is served. And second, it must convince us that sin will not be tolerated and that the motives behind sin are heinous. Therefore, God made eternal banishment the punishment for rebelling against Him, and in so doing, willingly hurt others when we know what is right yet do what is wrong. This means every sinner owes the debt of eternal damnation separated from the presence of God.

        If God’s plan is going to be both just and accomplish its intended purpose of justifying sinners, then not even He can forgive sin. Every single sin must be paid for. He can forgive sinners, however, but only if someone provides a perfect substitute to take the sinner’s place in paying the penalty for the sinner’s sin. And, in keeping with God’s purpose, the only perfect substitute is a perfectly sinless and therefore guiltless person who voluntarily takes the place of a self-centered, willfully sinful sinner.

        Not wanting to lose a single one of us to banishment in hell, God provided the perfect substitute to take our place. And that perfect substitute is God, himself, who in the person of Jesus Christ became the perfect substitute who willingly, lovingly, and compassionately paid the penalty for our sin.

        And why did He have to pay the penalty for our sin?  Because there is no human being who could take our place. Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived has sinned. This means each one of us must pay sin’s penalty for our own sins. So even if we wanted to pay sin’s penalty for a loved one, we couldn’t. This leaves God as the only other being who shares enough likeness with us to be a legitimate substitute in paying sin’s penalty on our behalf. In addition, He is the only one who could enter our world as a human, face our kind of temptation, and remain sinless.

        Choosing the right time, Jesus Christ came to earth in human form. He was fathered by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was raised by ordinary parents in an ordinary home. In his adult years, he brought God’s love and truth to many through his words and miraculous deeds. Yet he was despised by the religious leaders of his day, falsely accused, condemned as a threat to Rome’s rule, cruelly tortured, and unjustly crucified. Upon dying, he descended into Hades (the domain of the dark forces of evil). On the third day he was raised from the dead. Now he is in heaven with his Father, Jehovah, our God. By means of his condemnation, crucifixion, trip to Hades, and subsequent resurrection, Jesus, the perfect substitute, paid the penalty for every sinner’s sin. This means we can be forgiven and freed from sin’s penalty.

        Jesus’ horrible death and descent into Hades was the act by which God took our place in paying the debt we owed for our own sin. Jesus’ resurrection was the act by which God broke the power of sin’s hold over us and guaranteed us eternal life with Him and all who love as He loves. (Note: Romans 3:21-26)

        For a study on how one man, Jesus, could pay the penalty of sin for all mankind, read the following:(1) Romans 5:12-21; (2) THE DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES, The Letter to the Romans, William Barclay, pp. 77-82; (3) TYNDALE NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, F.F. Bruce, pp. 125-133; (4) COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, Charles Hodge, D.D., pp. 142-191.

God's Plan Proves He Loves Us

Senselessly, we’ve distrusted God’s motives, discarded His love, disregarded His wisdom, disobeyed His commands, and distanced ourselves from Him so we could go our own way and do what we pleased, as we pleased, when we pleased. We have favored self-love over God’s love, self-determination over God’s authority, and sin over doing what we know is right. We are, by our own choosing, intentional sinners who have deliberately and repeatedly done what we know is wrong; and we’ve done it at the expense of others. We are, because of our sinful choices and behavior, justly judged to be debtors – sin debtors – owing what can only be paid at the expense of our lives. Therefore, because of our indebtedness, we are condemned to eternal banishment from God’s presence and all who love as He loves.

        Yet God stepped in, and on our behalf and He graciously paid this debt which we could pay only at the terrifying cost of eternal damnation. Though this was a debt He didn’t owe, He paid it just as fully as if He did. Though the payment of this debt cost Him the unthinkable when it would only have cost us what we deserved, He paid it as if it were a privilege for Him to do so.

        Why would God pay an outrageous debt incurred through traitorous rebellion against Him? Why would He sacrifice that which was dearest to pay a debt for which He had no responsibility? Consider the following two reasons in answer to these questions.

        First, He paid our sin debt because He dearly loves us like a loving father loves his children. As a loving father, He fervently seeks our good, and the good of everyone affected in any way by whatever He does for us personally. As a loving father, He longingly desires a shared, intimate relationship of communion and companionship with us. As a loving father, He zealously does everything feasible to make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him when we alienate ourselves from Him. As a loving father, He earnestly calls to us, pleads with us, woos us, and comes to us in various ways in an effort to convince us to give up our rebellion and return to Him and His way of love. Therefore, as a father who loves His children, God willingly and eagerly came to our aid and paid our debt so we would not have to spend eternity separated from Him.

        Second, He paid our sin debt because He loves us like a loving husband loves his wife. As a loving husband, He yearns for fellowship, companionship, and an endless love relationship with each of us – the kind of intimate, mutually satisfying, mutually loving, and mutually faithful relationship that lovers passionately desire with one another. In other words, He doesn’t want to have to live without us. So He stepped in and took our place, paying the penalty for our sin so we could be forgiven and live with Him forever.

        What greater proof do we need that God loves us – that He loves us more than we’ve ever been or ever will be loved by anyone in this life? Yet His love does not begin and end with this gracious payment of our sin debt. He does not expect us to be content with this one time show of love, even though it is an unsurpassed show of love.

        Therefore, God not only saves us from the penalty of sin, He reconciles us to Himself and restores our relationship with Him to one of mutual love and trust. He not only restores us to the status of adult children in His family, He takes up residence in us so our fellowship can be deeply intimate and uninterrupted. He becomes our provider and protector so that whether we face abundance or poverty, praise or persecution, good health or sickness, life or death, our lives are completely safe in His hands. As our lover, He endlessly does everything necessary to make the relationship we share our most treasured, intimate, satisfying, and secure relationship. Surely, God’s love is wondrous, immeasurable, and endless. (Note: John 3:16, 15:13; Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 4:9-10)

        God wants us to know He paid the penalty of sin on our behalf – out of love for us. He wants us to know that though we ought to fear Him, we no longer have to fear eternal damnation if we will repent, trust in Jesus’ redemptive work, turn from our sin, and pursue godliness. He wants us to know He is eagerly and longingly inviting us to share an intimate, mutually satisfying, mutually faithful relationship of communion and companionship with Him. And He wants us to know all this so we will repent of our rebellion and sin, turn from our wicked ways, and come into the warm embrace of His love. Therefore, God solved our sin problem in such a way as to convince us of His love – a love which is all the more appealing because He never allows it to compromise justice.

        The wise see God’s love as perfectly pure, and the hungry feast on it. If you cannot see the worth of God’s love, or understand it, ask God to help you. Make Ephesians 3:14-19, your daily prayer until you understand the depth of love God has for you. (Note: II Corinthians 5:14-15; I John 4:18,19)

God's Plan Provides Deliverance for All Who Repent

God is very patient with us because He does not want anyone to suffer sin’s penalty of banishment. He wants everyone to come to repentance so they can be forgiven and reconciled to Himself – living with Him and all who love as He loves, forever. Therefore, God uses His gracious loving-kindness rather than His formidableness (that part of His character which arouses fear and dread in us) to try and persuade us to repent. (Note: II Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4)

        However, God will not bring even one unrepentant sinner into His eternal kingdom. He will not forgive anyone who knows what is right yet willfully, deliberately, repeatedly, and unrepentantly continues doing what he knows is wrong. To do so would be to unleash an evil that would ruin heaven just as sin has ruined the earth. The nature of sin and the destructive forces that are unleashed by the self-centeredness of sinners demands that only those who repent of sin can receive God’s saving grace. (Note: I John 3:1-10)

        To repent of sin is to change your mind about the nature of sin. Where once you believed it wise to do what you knew was wrong, you now choose to believe it is the most foolish, self-centered, unnecessarily-harmful-to-others thing you could do. To repent of sin is to change your mind about the character of God. Where once you believed Him harsh and untrustworthy, you now choose to believe He is loving and good. To repent of sin is to change your mind about yourself. Where once you believed self-centeredness was vital, now you choose to believe the denial of self is vital. Where once you believed you knew better and could care for yourself better than God, now you choose to place your well-being in His hands and live according to His Word.

        Having been created with the ability to choose, we will continue to choose self-centeredness over love and sin over doing what we know is right if we do not repent. Therefore, any plan to solve our sin problem must place the requirement of repentance on every sinner who wishes to receive God’s redemptive salvation, provided through His son, Jesus Christ, and reconcile us to God.

        It is possible all this talk about repentance is either unfamiliar or makes you feel uncomfortable. And either case is possible because many teachers and followers of current Christianity wish to de-emphasize repentance or leave it out altogether. In fact, many in the Christian religion say that placing any requirement on God’s free gift of salvation, such as repentance, is heresy.

        But is it heresy? Can something be heresy when God, speaking in the Old Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus, Jesus’ disciples, and the Apostle Paul all taught repentance as a requirement for salvation? (Note: II Chronicles 7:14; Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 55:6-7; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 3:2-11; 4:17; Luke 5:31-32; 13:1-5; 15:7; 24:45-47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:29-32; 8:20-23; 17:24-31; 20:18-21; 26:16-20; Romans 2:4; II Timothy 2:24-26; Hebrews 6:1-2)

        Ought a sinner be forgiven and released from having to pay the penalty for his sin by agreeing or believing that God is God, that Christ died to pay the penalty for every sinner’s sin, that no one can pay their own sin debt apart from spending eternity in hell, and that depending on Christ’s payment is essential for release from condemnation? Ought an adulterous husband be forgiven and taken back by his wife with open arms by agreeing or believing that she is his wife, that he has been unfaithful, that he should love her exclusively, and that he needs her forgiveness before it is okay for him to come back home?

        At first glance, the answer to both questions seems to be yes. But think for a moment. Can an adulterous husband enter into a reconciled relationship with his wife by agreeing with or believing in certain truths? And in like manner, can a willful sinner enter into a reconciled relationship with God by agreeing with or believing in certain truths? The answer to these two questions is a resounding no. Why? Because agreeing with certain facts or believing in certain truths does not automatically result in changed behavior.

        Think about it – what unfaithful man wouldn’t gladly agree with certain facts and believe in certain truths if he could have his wife, his family, his home, and his adulterous relationship too? And in like manner, what willful sinner wouldn’t gladly agree with certain Bible truths about God, sin, Christ, and eternity if it meant he could have heaven while continuing to practice some of his favorite sins here on earth?

        Once again, think about this – if we would tell a wife not to take her husband back as long as he wanted to continue his adulterous relationship, why would we expect God to do differently with us? If we think it reasonable to judge the agreeing husband as unworthy of restoration because of his continued adulterous behavior, shouldn’t we think it reasonable for God to judge us in the same way?

        If we can see the difference between the husband who says some right words and does some right things in an effort to get back home, and a husband who is genuinely repentant and proves it by ending his adulterous relationships, can’t God see the difference too? If we know that a wife who would take her husband back under these conditions would be setting herself up for more unnecessary heartache and suffering, can’t we know the same would happen to God if He took us back under these conditions?

        So why all the confusion and disagreement when it comes to repentance as the first step in receiving the gift of eternal salvation? It is my opinion that we want freedom from the penalty of sin without having to be holy. We want eternal life in heaven without having to be godly in this life. We want God to be faithful to us without having to be faithful to Him. We want God to love us unconditionally without having to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We want God to do good for us according to our expectations without having to do good for Him according to His expectations. We want to be served without having to serve. We want God to pay a debt He does not owe to free us from a debt we cannot pay – with no strings attached. In other words, we want the best of both worlds. We want to be able to sin enough here on earth to make us happy in this life, and then go to heaven when we die to make us happy in eternity.

        Such reasoning is faulty in that it disregards specific truths clearly stated in God’s word, shows disrespect for the great cost to God of His gift of eternal life, furthers selfishness under the guise of religion, works against loving God as we ought, and encourages shrewd bargaining rather than saving faith.

        And why isn’t it saving faith? Because saving faith changes our life – from the outside in and from the inside out. It changes our thinking, our desires, our motives, our speech, and our behavior. It changes our allegiance from self to God. It changes our focus from self-centeredness to love. It changes our desire from doing as we please to doing what we know is right for the good of everyone affected by what we do. It opens the door for God to come in and deliver us from the power and practice of sin as well as the penalty of sin.

        The reality is, without repentance, we will think today as we thought yesterday. We will live by the same underlying principles now as before. We may modify a few principles, change a few behaviors, and make some different choices, but if we never repent of pride, we will continue to treat ourselves as superior and God as inferior. If we never repent of self-centeredness, we will continue to value selfishness above love. If we never repent of our distrust of God, we will continue to distrust Him when He doesn’t live up to our expectations. If we never repent of our sin, we will continue to practice those sins we think essential to a happy, secure, peaceful life. And if we never change our mind about the reliability of God’s Word, we will continue to go our own way when we think God’s Word points us in the wrong way.

        Saving faith begins with repentance. Repentance brings us into a reconciled relationship with God – through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and it leads us into a serious pursuit of godliness that is recognized in a changed life that the Bible describes as Christ-likeness. (Note: Acts 2:37-38; Titus 2:11-14; Matthew 7:21-27; Romans 6:1-18, 8:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 7:1; Philippians 3:7-14)

God's Plan Frees Us from the Enslaving Power and Practice of Sin

God’s plan to save sinners did not begin and end with saving us from the penalty of sin. His plan saves sinners from the penalty, enslaving power, and practice of sin. Indeed, to save sinners only from the penalty of sin would be irresponsible, for it would deny the value of love, ignore the importance of justice, reinforce self-centeredness, leave saved sinners unchanged – generally speaking, and leave the saved sinner’s part of the world in the same dire condition as it was before he was saved. Therefore, saving sinners from the penalty of sin without freeing them from the enslaving power and practice of sin makes a mockery of both love and justice.

        For example, though saved from the penalty of sin, the born-again sinner would still be ruled by his selfishness, pride, ungodly passions, unloving attitudes, worldly thinking, and other ungodly ways. This would make a mockery of love, because the born-again sinner would continue to be unloving in his treatment of others.

        In a similar way, to save sinners from the penalty of sin without freeing them from the enslaving power and practice of sin makes a mockery of justice. The punishment for sin is death (eternal banishment in hell), and every sinner owes this debt. To maintain justice, the debt must be paid. This is especially true for those who seek to be saved from this debt, for to forgive the sin debt without paying the debt is simply unjust. Therefore, Jesus died on the cross to pay our sin debt – not so we could go on sinning without fear of eternal banishment, but so that God could forgive us without violating justice.

        To save sinners from the penalty of sin without freeing them from the power and practice of sin is to prevent them from becoming like Christ – which is what makes them a Christian. To become like Christ, sinners need a changed mind, a changed heart, changed thinking, changed desires, and a changed life whereby they increasingly become more and more like Jesus. And to do that, sinners must be saved from the penalty of sin as well as the enslaving power and the practice of sin.

        To save sinners from the penalty of sin without freeing them from the power and practice of sin is to imply that such evils as selfishness, pride, anger, envy, lying, cheating, and hidden forms of sexual immorality are unavoidable and therefore acceptable ways for Christians to live. In other words, only saving sinners from the penalty of sin sends the message that hell is the evil to be avoided, not sin and all the harm it does to our relationship with God, to our own character, ways of thinking, and choices, and to those who are the victims of our sinful ways.

        To make the avoidance of punishment the primary motive for trusting in Jesus for eternal salvation is to perpetuate selfishness. Therefore, to save sinners from the penalty of sin without freeing them from the power and practice of sin is to leave them in the same selfish condition as before being saved.

        God’s intention for born-again sinners is that they be changed into the likeness of Christ so that they will, on a daily basis and in practical ways, love those around them as they love themselves. In other words, God wants saved sinners to treat their families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens in ways that mirror His love for us. He wants them to seek the good of others just as He seeks our good. Therefore, to make this kind of life possible God saves us from the power and practice of sin as well as the penalty of sin. 

It is irrational to think that the God who commands us to love Him with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves would rescue us from the penalty of sin without also rescuing us from the power and practice of sin. After all, it is in being saved from the power and practice of sin that makes it possible for us to live according to God’s commands.

        Does this mean that once we are saved from the power and practice of sin we will no longer sin or even want to sin? Does this mean we won’t have to intentionally resist the devil, flee youthful lusts, and put off the old nature with its sinful ways? Does this mean we won’t have to deliberately and purposefully pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, and put on Christ-likeness. No! No! No! We must still do all of this. What changes when we are saved from the power and practice of sin is that we are no longer slaves of sin, which means we no longer have to sin, and we are able to pursue godliness. (Note: James 4:7; Romans 6; 2 Timothy 2:22; Ephesians 4:17-32)

        Therefore, putting an end to sin does not begin in heaven – it begins when a sinner repents, trusts in Jesus for eternal salvation from the penalty, power, and practice of sin, and is born again. It begins in you and in me when we repent of sin, receive God’s gracious gift of salvation, place our life in God’s hands, and proceed to live according to God’s Word so as to become holy in all our behavior just as God is holy.

        The reality is, Jesus’ death on the cross both paid the sin debt and broke the enslaving power of sin over us. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power of God that protects us from ever again being tempted with a temptation too strong for us to resist. The Holy Spirit enters our being and empowers us to do what we know is right as we choose to do what we know is right. The Bible, which is living and active, teaches us what God wants us to know, it reproves and corrects us, it is our primary tool for training in godly living, and it gives us the means to resist the devil. Prayer tells God where we think we need help in living the Christ-like life here on earth. The Body of Christ (the local church) is our support group in dying to self and coming fully alive to the ways of God. In all these things, God displays His commitment to save us from the enslaving power and practice of sin along with saving us from the penalty of sin. (Note: Titus 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 1:2-11; Romans 6:1-14)

        God understands we are human. Therefore, He does not deal with us according to our sins, but as a father has compassion on his children, so God has compassion on us as we make an honest effort to live according to His will and word. And yet, as born-again Christians, He wants us to go forward and sin no more. He knows that in our humanness we will sin, but He also knows we no longer have to sin because He has saved us, not only from the penalty of sin, but also from the enslaving power and practice of sin – in this life and in the life to come.

God's Plan Is Built on Relationship-Restoring Forgiveness

Most often, forgiveness must go both ways because of the failure of both sides to love as they ought. This is not the case between God and us. He has not failed in any way to love us as love loves. In fact, He loves us perfectly, fully, selflessly, and faithfully. We are the ones who have failed to love. We are the ones who have sinned – not just against our fellowmen, but also against Him. He has desired and sought relationship with us, from the beginning. We are the ones who have pulled away, ignoring His presence and resenting His demands – as if they were a difficult burden or an impediment to happiness or are harmful to our well-being. And yet, His demands are the path to an abundantly better life that can only be obtained by trusting Him implicitly and living according to His will and word. Therefore, God needs no forgiveness from us. We are the ones who need forgiveness from Him. (Note: John 10:10)

        The purpose of forgiveness is to bring reconciliation and restoration to damaged and broken relationships. Forgiveness accomplishes this by calling both sides to resolve their differences, repair the damage done by past wrongs committed, and return to treasuring, nurturing, and protecting the relationship.

        To accomplish this, the one who has done wrong must repent of his wrong, confess his sin, repair or make amends for whatever damage he has done, and demonstrate his commitment to the good of the other through his subsequent words and deeds. The one wronged must lay to rest the remembrance of what was done and the hurts associated with it. He must put out the welcome mat, open the door to re-established trust, and renew his efforts at building a meaningful relationship of communion and companionship with the one who sinned against him. These steps enable both parties to begin anew to build their relationship on mutual love and trust.

        Unfortunately, many people think forgiveness is necessary while reconciliation is optional. Nothing could be further from the truth. And we see how true this is in God’s Word and in His life-example of love.

        Love seeks the good of others, friend and foe alike, just as God seeks to the good of everyone, believer and unbeliever alike. However, seeking a person's good does not mean we have a good relationship with them. It simply means we are committed to living according to the principle of love in spite of their attitude and behavior toward us. The perfect example of this is God. He is unequaled in loving everyone, including those who reject, and even hate Him. But do not confuse His love with forgiveness. He does not forgive everyone He loves. In fact, far more are unforgiven due to unrepentance than are forgiven.

        The proof that forgiveness and reconciliation are inseparable is found throughout the Bible, but two verses will be enough to make the point.

        In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies (seek their good) just as God loves His enemies. Jesus verifies God’s love for His enemies by pointing out that God causes the sun to shine and rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike. This means God seeks the good of everyone by providing them with the basic necessities of life, be they friend or foe. In return He receives praise, honor, trust, love, companionship, and intimate communion from His friends (the kind of behavior which promotes and protects meaningful relationships). However, from His foes He receives distrust, disrespect, hostility, hatred, and rejection (the kind of behavior which damages and destroys relationships). Yet in spite of their treatment of Him, God is not mean-spirited toward His foes. But neither does He forgive them so as to grant them salvation from the penalty of their sins. Purely and simply, He loves them, and in all ways seeks their good. But He will not forgive them until they repent and show themselves sincerely desirous of being reconciled to Him. This is an example of love which harbors no ill-will toward an enemy, yet does not forgive the enemy until he genuinely seeks forgiveness.

        In 2 Corinthians 5:19, the apostle Paul says that God worked, and is working though Jesus Christ to reconcile His enemies to Himself. The word reconcile comes from the word conciliate. To conciliate is to restore a relationship through the restoration of good will, harmony, and compatibility. This kind of restoration requires dealing with the differences which caused the breakdown of the relationship. Of course, the differences must be dealt with in a manner which removes them and creates an atmosphere for mutual love and trust to be rebuilt. This requires the involvement of both parties. The wrong doer must repent of his wrong doing, change his ways, and in so doing, seek to repair the damage done. The one wronged must lay to rest the memories of the wrong done and invite the wrong doer to join him in rebuilding and restoring their relationship.

        Truly, without mutual love and trust, a relationship is at best superficial and at worst unbearable. Since mutual love and trust require two people committed to seeking each others good, forgiveness must include reconciliation when a relationship has been damaged and people have been estranged.

        Therefore, God’s plan to save sinners from the power, practice, and penalty of sin includes forgiveness – true forgiveness, which is relationship restoring forgiveness. If we look for God’s forgiveness from the penalty of sin without taking the necessary steps to reconcile with Him so as to re-establish meaningful relationship with Him, we are looking for a salvation which does not exist. We may think we are saved because we have prayed a certain prayer or know certain information about God’s saving work on our behalf. But, forgiveness is only given to those who repent and do what is necessary to restore and rebuild a shared relationship of love and trust with God, himself.

Once Upon a Time

A successful business man built a lavish home on the side of a mountain. The side of his home which overlooked the beautiful valley below was mostly glass. The cost of insuring the glass against breakage was so great, he decided not to insure it. A few years later, a high school senior – on a dare from several of his friends – took a slingshot and broke five panes of glass. Through good investigative work, the county sheriff was able to arrest the young man who did this destructive deed.

        When the case came to court it was revealed that this was not the first time this young man had destroyed other people’s property. The townspeople wanted him put in jail to teach the young man a lesson, and to protect their property from further damage. The home owner wanted the young man to pay for the damage since he had no insurance to cover the cost of replacing it.

        The judge knew he had to protect the townspeople from further acts of destruction and he had to get the broken windows replaced. Any judgment which did less would be unfair. Yet he felt compassion for the young man because he knew his decision would affect the young man for years to come. If he jailed the young man, he would not only have a prison record, he would be placed amongst older criminals who might influence this young man to do worse things. If he made him pay for the damage, the necessity of immediate employment might mean the hope of college and a better future would be gone forever.

        Feeling the same love for this young man that he had for his own children, the judge wanted to forgive him, and through some form of training, and accountability, set him on the path to maturity and responsibility. Yet forgiving the young man would not guarantee future protection for the townspeople nor pay for the broken windows. He could not expect the townspeople to suffer more damage to their property just to give the young man another chance to straighten out. Nor could he expect the home owner to pay for the broken windows just so the young man could get on with college and a better future.

        So the judge did some investigating between the end of the trial and the date of sentencing. He discovered the arrest and possible jail time had shaken the young man into seeing the foolishness of his ways. Before the case came to trial the young man had begun to make serious and personally costly changes. He changed his friendships so that he was spending time with young people who were encouraging him to do good things. He found a job and was already saving money to pay for the damage he caused.

        The judge checked with the young man’s teachers, his parents, the parents of his friends, and any other sensible adult who had observed the young man’s attitude and behavior since his arrest. All pointed to a significant and sustained change of mind and behavior. This gave the judge the confidence he needed to act with justice, and with mercy – which meant no jail time for the young offender.

        However, there was still the matter of the broken windows. In order to be just, the judge not only had to protect the townspeople, he had to make sure the windows were paid for. Only partial justice would be served by the young man changing his ways. Full justice required changed behavior plus paying the debt for damage done. To completely forgive the young man so that he would have no jail time and no expense that would deter his college education, the judge, himself, paid the cost of replacing the broken windows.

        Therefore, the judge was not only just, but the justifier of the one who did wrong and owed a great debt because of his wrongdoing.

       The love and sacrificial generosity of the judge coupled with the repentance of the young man made forgiveness reasonable, rational, and sensible. We see the truth of this in the fact that forgiveness accomplished its purpose.

        For example, forgiveness opened the way for reconciliation between the young man and everyone else involved. Reconciliation made it possible for the restoration of relationships to levels of love and trust. Restored relationships resulted in lasting friendships between the young man and many others in the community. And the lasting friendships became the best protection from further destructive behavior by the young man. Thus justice was served, a guilty sinner was forgiven, and the good of all promoted and protected.

In Summary

Because sin is so heinous, so damaging to the well-being of everyone it effects, God decreed that the penalty for sin is eternal damnation, and therefore every sin must be paid for. The motive behind sin is so evil that every sinner deserves eternal banishment to a place where he will experience the full impact of his selfish choices and sinful behavior.

        In spite of our sin and the fact we are sinners, God loves us and desires to have a mutually loving, mutually satisfying, and mutually faithful relationship with us. Therefore, God has acted on our behalf to free us from the consequence of our own foolishness. He paid the penalty for our sin so we can be forgiven and live with Him forever.

        God’s mercy is available to all because He seeks the good of all. He wants everyone to come to repentance and be reconciled to Him. Yet God’s mercy is only extended to and experienced by those who voluntarily repent of their sin and pursue a life of love – love which makes God their supreme focus, and the good of others equal to their own good.

        We may never be perfect in this life. Yet when we have repented of sin and trusted in God, we will persistently seek a fuller understanding of spiritual things and a maturing participation in the practice of godliness, which is most readily seen in the ways we love God and those around us. We will hunger for the qualities of character and behavior which God wants to build into our life. We will not concentrate on our failures, nor make any excuses for our sins. Instead, we will pour our energies and time into heading straight for the goal – to be dead to sin and self, to love God supremely, to serve Him fully, and to love others as we love ourselves.

        Do you agree with God that all sin is heinous and must be punished? Have you repented of sin, or have you only agreed to give up certain sins? Are you doing your part in forgiveness, or do you want God to overlook your sin without a whole-hearted commitment on your part to put an end to your sinful ways? In other words, do you want salvation from the penalty of sin so you can go to heaven when you die, yet still be free to enjoy the pleasures of sin and the ways of the world in this life? Or do you want a salvation that frees you from the penalty of sin, the enslaving power of sin, and the practice of sin so you can love God as you ought and those around you as yourself? This is God’s salvation – a salvation that includes the forgiveness of sins and the reconciling of your relationship with God.

        God is just, and because of your sin, justice demands your banishment. God is love, but because you have damaged and broken your relationship with God, you need to be forgiven and reconciled to Him. Amazingly, He wants a two-way love relationship with you in spite of your sin. Graciously, He has done His part. What will you do? 

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