February 15, 2016
Most mistakes have a shelf life. When you get a speeding ticket, it takes 2-5 years for it to come off of your driving record (trust me on this one!) For unpaid financial accounts, it takes seven years for it to come off of your credit report. Essentially, at some point, after time has passed, your record can be clean again. It will be new – really new. It will be as if nothing had ever been held against you. But as you wait for the mistakes to roll off your account, you live in the uncomfortable dissonance that your record is affecting your life. You live with an eye on the rearview mirror, praying not to see the bright red and blue lights. You frantically scrutinize your financial statements, double-checking even simple transactions. Whether it’s a driving history or a credit history, most of us live with the reality that our records are not perfect. Not only that, but our records are counting against us. And if we are not careful, things will get worse before they get better.
The cleansing of my record has already happened. And not only that, nothing I say or do in the future can be held against me in the court of God’s law (the only court that really matters).
Unfortunately, I live my spiritual life the same way. When I make mistakes (what the Bible calls sin), the shelf life seems to start. If it’s a big sin, I feel as if I will need to stay out of God’s way for quite some time. Perhaps I need to ensure that I don’t bring him any prayer requests, and certainly that I don’t draw near to him for grace (especially if I have already asked for grace about this sin). Basically, I feel like I need to keep a low profile and not make things worse. The same thing tends to happen with smaller violations as well. While the burden doesn’t seem overwhelming, it still makes me feel better if I can do something particularly holy to “even out” my account. And then, I live in this delicate balance of waiting. Waiting for my record to clear. Waiting for the good to outweigh some of the bad. Waiting for some time to pass between this sin and my next violation. Just like the speeding ticket, I’m hoping someday it will go away, and that I don’t make anything worse in the meantime.
In reality, though, the shelf life of my sin is non-existent. In Romans 8:1, Paul says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The cleansing of my record has already happened. And not only that, nothing I say or do in the future can be held against me in the court of God’s law (the only court that really matters). You cannot overstate the colossal significance of this verse. In fact, most of us completely understate it. “Yes, we have grace, but only to a certain point.” Or perhaps, “there is some condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Yes, he will take me to heaven eventually, but I need to walk around for now feeling burdened and guilty.” But that falls so far short of the purpose of our rescue.
In John 19:30, we find, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” In that moment, and with eternal and unchangeable consequences, Jesus had fully accomplished paying for all of your sin. That includes the sinful nature you inherited in Adam, the sinful record that you have racked up, and even the sins that you haven’t quite gotten to yet. That includes the massive moral failures, the thoughtless minor league violations, and the ghastly posture of self-sufficiency that is most offensive of all. Make no mistake, Jesus paid it all. The word for “finished” at that time, literally meant “paid in full.”
There will be no debt, no charges, no punishment, and no shelf life. And not only is the condemnation gone, but it can never return. Just think of it, Jesus cannot (and would not) take that payment back.
And yet despite all of that, most of us actually conclude that real genuine spirituality requires a self-loathing posture of shuffling and shame. We live as if we are still in debt, actually condemned, and in the middle of a long, sad shelf life. Our only goal is to not make things worse.
But what if we began to believe that Jesus has fully paid for our sins? That means that now (yes, now) there is nothing (that’s right, nothing) left between me and God, between me and heaven, and between me and becoming a co-heir of the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus already paid for all of it.
Friends, let’s remember this. Let’s remind each other of it often (I know I need to hear it every day). For those of us trusting in Jesus, there is no shelf life to our sin or its consequences. It will never in the future be counted against us. Maybe, even harder to believe, it is not being counted against us right now. The posture of our life should not be a fearful, self-loathing shuffle of shame. It should be the peaceful, calm walk of those who, in Christ, have met all of the requirements of righteousness. Can you even believe it? In Christ, God owes you heaven. May God give us the faith to rest in that.