Imagine having a very high income that allows you to enjoy a very lavish lifestyle. Everything is going well until you get a letter of demand from business associates informing you of an astronomical seven figure debt you owe them. It turns out you breached your contract with these people and it cost them their livelihoods. To your utter dismay, your savings and assets are not enough to cover the debt in full.
Their lawyer is ruthless and threatens to force you into bankruptcy in which a trustee would take control of your financial affairs to sell any assets you have in order to pay the debts. You would lose everything. Within weeks, not only do the legal proceedings start but you lose your job due to the breach of trust. You’re now broke and completely unable to defend yourself against the actions of your creditors.
You eventually find yourself standing in front of a judge (or registrar, to be exact) in bankruptcy court. A lawyer for the other side only needs to show that you are personally insolvent: that you can’t pay all your financial commitments in full when they fall due. Regardless of your personal reasons for being insolvent, the judge by law must make you bankrupt as things stand. Your situation is dire.
Similarly, in life you face countless debts you owe for the wrongs you have done and the good that you have failed to do. Another word the Bible uses for debts is transgressions. Your debts or transgressions must be paid in full or else you face spiritual bankruptcy, which the Bible says leads to everlasting ruin. You’d have to live a perfect life to avoid appearing in the court of heaven against your adversary, Satan, whose name means ‘one who opposes.’
Satan, also called the devil, has an irrefutable case against you for every wrong you’ve done. The Bible says that “without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins.”ᵃ You have no way out of spiritual insolvency because neither you nor any other imperfect person can pay what is owed for transgressions against God and other people. Spiritual bankruptcy, which results in eternal separation from God in hell, is the only outcome if something is not done about it.
Let’s imagine once again the scenario I described before. You’re standing before the judge as he prepares to make his orders in your bankruptcy matter. The opposing side has clearly and undeniably demonstrated that you are insolvent. You have no means to pay for your debts, so all that remains is for the judge to make you bankrupt. You brace yourself for the inevitable… but just before the judge announces his decision, a man approaches the bar table and seeks permission to speak on your behalf.
The judge pauses because he seems to recognise the man standing beside you. The man asks the judge to temporarily stand down the hearing so he can speak to you about helping you overcome your insolvency. You’re baffled and surprised but agree to the short reprieve. You step outside the court room where this man introduces himself to you as the judge’s son. He says that he will pay all your debts and all the costs associated with the court proceedings against you if you are willing to let him do so. It’s completely your decision whether to accept his offer or not.
The above scenario represents the spiritual reality at the heart of the Christian faith. The Son of God has come to fully pay your debts and enable you to overcome your spiritual insolvency because of your sin. Sin is what makes you miss the mark and fall short of God’s perfect standards. All your achievements, accolades, associations and assets cannot get you right with God. In fact everything you do is pointless if you do not, at some point, address the issue of the sin in your life that separates you from God.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – CS Lewis
The Bible puts it this way, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” It’s a question that reveals your core motivations as a person. Are you living for the here and now? Or are you conscious of an existence that transcends what you see, smell, hear and feel? It’s all well and good living to fulfil your own desires with little regard for the eternal consequences but are you prepared to pay the debts you rack up in eternity?
Jesus raises the issue of our indebtedness to God and other people in possibly his most famous prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. In it he teaches his followers to ask God to, “forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us.” Another translation says, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”ᵇ God knows you could never make up for the debts you owe because of your sins. For this reason he sent his Son to be the One to pay for all the transgressions and sins committed by you, me and everyone else. Jesus lived a perfect life, suffered, and died at the Cross to enable you to overcome spiritual insolvency by receiving his free gift of salvation. You are saved when you believe in him, recognise his sacrifice on your behalf and accept that he was raised to life after three days.
Christianity is therefore completely unique from every other religion and philosophy. Outside of Christ our human nature tempts us to see ourselves as our own gods or to work for salvation through our own efforts. Christian faith, however, says that God made a way for us to come to him. He did this because of his immeasurable love for you. If you haven’t already come to God for forgiveness and eternal life, I invite you to respond by believing that Jesus did indeed pay for it all.
ᵃ Hebrews 9:22, ᵇ Matthew 6:12