Try to imagine what would happen if criminals were let off, in the hope that they would learn their lesson and straighten up. How well do you suppose that would work? “You better not steal, because if you do, we’ll haul you into court and pronounce you innocent!” Dumb, right? Dumb by human logic, but elegantly effective by God’s logic.
If you haven’t read it already, go back to the previous post (“Facing the Truth About Sin“). John writes that when followers of Jesus sin and confess, God forgives them and purifies them. But then he writes this:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (1 John 2:1a)
God’s strategy to help you stop sinning is to reassure you that He will forgive you and fix you. So you won’t miss the point, the rest of that verse says this:
But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1b)
How can that possibly work? In human courts, leniency increases lawlessness. But, there is a crucial difference: In human leniency, nobody pays. The underlying attitude is, “Oh, we’ll just pretend this didn’t happen. You go home and try to behave…” That’s not how it works in God’s court. In God’s court, absolute justice is required, sin must be punished. And Jesus pays.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 )
If you fully understand what verse 2 means, then you start to see why verse 1 would work. When we understand how much it cost to forgive us with complete justice, we are less likely to do it again.
But there is another reason God’s system works. Because Jesus has fully paid for our sin, when God purifies us (gives us a clean slate, so to speak) (1 John 1:9), He actually washes away the guilt. Those who study addiction say that one of the most common triggers to compulsively repeating an addictive behavior is guilt. For example, I’ve been told that people who are hopelessly in debt, wrestling with feeling guilty about it, commonly go out and buy a new car, hoping it will make them feel better. The same pattern is observed in most addictions. By paying for and taking on our guilt, Jesus breaks those chains.
The cross is the focal point of God’s Grace and His Truth. In Truth you are guilty and justice demands a punishment; by Grace He forgives you and pays for you.
The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
God truly forgives but He is no pushover.