Telling a Christian that he owes everything to Jesus because Jesus gave everything for him is likely to produce a law and debt-driven mentality. When was the last time you met a person who is up to his neck in debt and is also full of joy? If the Christian life is nothing more than this, how could we ever respond with praise and gratitude to the grace of the cross?
The debt we owe before faith in Christ is like no other. We’ve all sinned, committing a cosmic offense against a Holy God, and therefore, the payment for this offense is of equal cosmic proportion. How could we ever, as poor as we are, as depraved as we were, pay Him back? We cannot. It might surprise you that no one, at least not in the Bible, has ever told us we had to. Jesus never said, “pay me back for what I did”, but rather, He displayed love and servant-hood for sinners in such a way that once we profess faith in Him we are compelled to love Him in return. “Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 )
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Look as close as you want. There is no fine print at the bottom of this burden-lifting offer. Jesus will always and forever be the the lifter of our heads for He alone was lifted up with the burden of our sins upon His shoulders. He will never ask that we lift His burdens by repaying this kindness.
Jesus’s blood was more than a legal transaction. It was more than an Advocate’s plea to receive the punishment of the guilty party He represents. His death atoned for sin and purchased for Himself the ones He came to save. We have been finally and fully bought from slavery to sin, self and hell. We belong to Jesus now. Yes, our love for God must recognize the debt we once owed, but the motivation to continue in this love for God is grace, not debt; love and not law.
What a wonderful atonement is that which hides from God that which cannot be
hidden, so that God does not see what, in another sense, he must always see, and
forgets what it is impossible for him, in another sense, ever to forget! – Spurgeon
How could the One who forgives such debt by the atoning work of the cross come to demand the debt again? He wouldn’t.
You may think this is mincing words, but I’m convinced that it is phrases like this that become common-place in the Church and can reek havoc, especially among young believers. The power that causes the saints to persevere is the same power which purchased the saints; the Gospel of the cross, the gospel of free grace through faith and the Spirit of adoption. The tendency is to use guilt and debt to promote holiness and obedience. But the gospel’s approach is to simply remind us who we belong to.
1 Corinthians 6:20 “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”