Consequence ≠ Penance

Atonement---noun

satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.


Penance --noun

a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.


There's an old hymn that says, "Jesus paid it all/all to Him I owe/sin has left a crimson stain/But He washed it white as snow".


Have you ever heard or sang this hymn? Do you know what it means? It means that every sin you or I have ever committed Jesus already paid the price for, with His life. Romans 6:23 says this:


“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”


Which is to say that salvation is free and the debt of sin has been washed away by Jesus' blood. It means that after we repent of our wrongdoing, against God: we owe nothing.


We owe nothing to our sin, or to God for committing the sin. The only way we could pay God back is to give our life, which we don't have to do, because Jesus did it already on the cross.


So maybe you're reading this blog and you're like "Well, duh, I knew that already!" And ok, that may be true, but I want you to think about this. Anytime you think that God is punishing you for some sin you have committed, you are forgetting the point of the cross.


Anytime we allow ourselves to become stagnant or immobile in any area of our lives because we are weighed down with guilt over something we've done, we are forgetting the work of the cross.


And here's the toughest pill to swallow, whenever we sit back and wait for God to punish someone for any wrong they've done to us, we've forgotten the point of the cross.


One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis says, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."


In the same way God has already forgiven us of our sins, and we don't owe Him any thing, we shouldn't be expecting penance from others when they've wronged us.


Because they will wrong us, just like we wrong God. It's our human nature.


Coming to terms with this, will help us to grow and flex that wonderful fruit of the spirit: love. Choosing to love others, the way Christ loves the church deepens our relationship with Him because we develop a bond through such a love. If you can love someone especially when they've hurt you, you begin to understand the magnitude of God's love for you.


Let's also examine Hebrews 8:12 which says,


“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”


God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), so how could He possibly be punishing you for something He has already forgotten about?


When you feel like you can't move on because you "don't deserve" good or good things because of what you've done think of Galatians 2:16 which says,


“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”


Which again means that there is literally nothing you can do to be justified in Christ. Only our faith in the fact that Jesus has already paid for our sin saves us. That's it. To put it simply: We can never earn God's forgiveness. We can only be grateful that He loves us enough to have anticipated the costs of our sin and to have paid its price in full, in advance.


Consequence —noun

the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier: an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome


What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Romans 6:15


All of God's forgiveness, grace, and mercy does not exempt us from the consequence of our sin.


The best way to understand this is to try to think like a parent, because God is our Father. When a child misbehaves, it is the authority and responsibility of the parent to correct the behavior of the child in a way that affirms the child's autonomy over themselves while providing context for why the undesirable behavior is unacceptable.


The easiest example can be a child that doesn't want to wear their coat in cold weather. You can allow the child to be outdoors until they discover that the coat was to protect them from the cold. Conversely, a child that puts their hand on the stove will immediately feel the burn as they learn that the stove is hot.


Our lives are much more complex than extreme temperature differentials, but the principle remains the same. As our Father, God has the authority and responsibility to save us from ourselves which often times means that we have to live out the consequences of our actions.


"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."

Hebrews 12:6


Like the parent that will pop their child to prevent them from burning their hand on the stove, God will also demonstrate to us mercy by allowing us to live out a smaller consequence so that we won't have to suffer too greatly.


All of this, because He loves us and always has our best interest in mind.


"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

Matthew 5:45


Being a child of God, means that we have the benefit of knowing that all things will ultimately work out for our good, it does not exclude us from experiencing life or provide us with "get out of jail free cards" when we're wrong. Yet, we don't have to live in the state of our wrong because that's what Jesus died for, to suffer for our wrong.


Being a believer is practicing a life between these two truths.

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