The Joy of Forgiveness
By Megan Evans
Imagine you are fresh out of college. You start scrambling to find a job because you know that soon you will receive one of the worst bills you can ever imagine: student loans. You start thinking to yourself, “How will I repay this debt?” and “Will my part-time job cover that many zeroes?”
Now imagine you are walking down the street pondering these questions when a man stops you and says, “Hello, I want to pay off all of your student debt. No questions asked. No repayment needed.”
Your reaction would look a lot like jumping up and down, thanking the man, and probably shedding some tears. All of the massive amount of debt you just received: gone.
Not to sound trite, but this is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. In no way does this analogy have the same weight as what Christ did for us with our debt, but I want to show the skewed perspective we sometimes have when it comes to our eternal versus earthly debt.
It starts and ends with the joy of our forgiveness.
Hidden in Christ
First we will examine a way that Scripture talks about finding joy in our forgiveness: being hidden in Christ.
How joyful is the one
whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!
How joyful is a person whom
the Lord does not charge with iniquity
and in whose spirit is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2 CSB)
David describes our sin being covered in Christ, literally hidden from our record. This person that is covered in Christ is joyful, knowing that the Lord does not charge him with any of his wickedness before having a union with Christ. David then describes what happens when we try to hide our sins ourselves:
When I kept silent, my bones became brittle
from my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was drained
as in the summer’s heat. (Psalm 32:3-4)
Hidden in Christ’s forgiveness: joy. Trying to hide our own sins: groaning, depleted strength, drained.
We wouldn’t go back to the man that paid our student debt and say, “I know my debt is paid for, but now I’m going to try to pay for it myself. I’ve got this. I don’t need you.” That would be silly and would make no sense since there was no debt to pay back any longer.
So why do we do this with Christ? Why do we view our earthly debt differently than our eternal debt?
No Performance Necessary
We view this debt differently because we don’t believe that someone could take away such a massive, filthy amount of debt. Even further, we don’t believe that someone would want to do so.
We can wrap our minds around an amount of money. But it is much harder to comprehend an infinite amount of shame, guilt, greed, lust, abuse, and pain willingly taken on by another person.
Fully man. Fully God. Christ did this for us.
Tim Keller in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness says,
“Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?”
It is only in Christ that the debt is paid for before we could ever perform. And once we believe in this forgiveness, the performance isn’t necessary. Our debt is clean, wiped away, forever gone, without us needing to repay Him. Because after all, you can’t possibly repay a debt that has already been paid for.
David ends Psalm 32 appropriately saying,
Many pains come to the wicked,
but the one who trusts in the Lord
will have faithful love surrounding him (Psalm 32:10)
We can find complete joy in our eternal debt being washed away by trusting in the Lord. Financial debt taken away by all means provides joy, though a temporary kind. However, trusting that our every sin has been taken away by a kind and loving Savior provides us eternal joy, with “faithful love surrounding him.” This is the type of love you can rest in. The type of love that meets you with outstretched arms.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,
you righteous ones;
shout for joy,
all you upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11)
Take a moment to thank the Lord for what he has done for you. Rejoice. Shout for joy. We don’t have to work for our debt to be paid, groaning away while covering our sins on our own. No matter the trial, we always have the promise that we are the “righteous ones” covered in his grace and mercy.