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Eternity's Ledger

Anne Murchison

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
(Matthew 6:12)

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"Our Lord's words are not,
'Do this, or don't do that,'
but—'Come to me.'"

Oswald Chambers

Both Old and New Testaments speak of sin as "debt". In the New Testament, Paul often used bookkeeping terms to illustrate the great salvation bought and paid for all of us by Jesus Christ on Calvary.

Debt actually means "debit". When our bank account is debited, money is taken out to pay debts and obligations. When we make a deposit, money is credited (put into) our account. This same concept of debt and credit is used analogously for sin and faith. In the original language of the Bible, the word "debt" means "ought to, must, should, bound by duty, under obligation, to owe". It also means "to fail in one's duty". Living life by a set of rules is living a spiritually bankrupt life. I would add the more obvious definition of debt here that would include rebellion against duty and rules. It is not really either/or. It is both. A life lived both by rules or against rules is sin or debt. Our Lord's words were not, 'Do this, or don't do that,' but, 'Come unto me.'

Credit actually means "faith". Faith (credit) is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

Living by faith is living life in a relationship with Jesus Christ and others rather than duty and rules. Living by rules (legalism) kills our souls. It is sin. The death which works in us spills over onto everyone around us. Living a life of legalism is a vast wasteland. Living a life of faith in relationship with Jesus Christ is a flourishing garden (2 Corinthians 3:6).

In the Bible, sin is not so much about morality and immorality (rules), what we do or don't do, as it is about our claim to our right to ourselves. We can only thrive in life through the surrender of ourselves to the Lord and one another.

In terms of salvation, when we do not walk in faith in Jesus Christ, sin is accrued as debt to our account—so great a debt that we can never repay it. When we believe and receive Jesus Christ by faith into our hearts, our debt is paid and salvation—so great a salvation that we can never completely comprehend it—is deposited to our account. All of our spiritual debt is paid. The debit side of the ledger is cleared. We have been purchased out of the slavery of sin to become servants of the living God.

" . . . you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18).

"For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body"
(1 Corinthians 6:20).

Think of it this way. Say you owe $1,000,000,000—that's one billion dollars—and you have not one penny to your name. And the jailers are coming for you. Then someone comes along and pays off the entire debt and tells you you are free. Wouldn't you be devoted to this person for the rest of your life? This is exactly the example Jesus uses in Matthew 18:20-25 to illustrate His forgiveness and payment of debt for our sin.
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go" (Matthew 18:23-27 NIV).
Faith is all we need to have our great debt paid.


Christianity has never been
about being perfect.
It is about acknowledging
that we aren't and never can be.

Christianity has never been about being perfect. It is about acknowledging that we aren't and never can be. It is about Jesus exchanging His life for ours. He came to pay our debt and give us His life. When we receive Him, His life in us begins to change our desires. But it is really greater than this. The Lord takes on the exciting task of transforming our nature and character as well. We most assuredly cannot change our own hearts. Though we will always be imperfect in this life, as we study the Bible and are in fellowship with the Lord and His people through prayer and worship, we will grow and become more like Him every day (2 Corinthians 3:18). As His life is nurtured in us we are changed, not into self-righteous, tiresome bores who have no fun, but more and more we become upright, loving, forgiving, joyful people who think less about ourselves and begin to think more about the wonders of God and about the concerns and needs of others. Peace and joy replace hopelessness, emptiness and desperation. And we will care about what God cares about. People.

As we move from living by rules to living in relationship, does this mean that I can now sin all I want and still go to heaven? I have two responses to this question.

1) Once we are truly "saved", we will grow to hate sin, not just because God hates it but because we see the destructive consequences of our own selfish, sinful nature. We will no longer be able to enjoy it. Our joy will be found in Christ. Yes, in Him.

2) Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians that in God's grace, there are always consequences to sin, not so much from His hand as from the destructive selfish nature of sin.

"For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap life" (Galatians 6:8).

Jesus saved us from the eternal consequences of sin but He allows us to suffer the consequences in this life to train and discipline us, much as good parents train and discipline their children. If I get burned by a fire, I'll be more careful around it the next time.

The table below is designed to illustrate the biblical principle of God's "bookkeeping"— that which has been "debited and credited to our account". When we walk in honest faith in Jesus Christ (the right side of the ledger), debt (sin) is not accrued to our account (the left side of the ledger), for Jesus paid it all off for everyone who believes. In His own words,
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God" (John 3:16-21).

Our debt is not just paid in full,
but the life of the Lord
begins to make rich deposits
of His grace and glory
to our account.

Charles Spurgeon

The good news—the exciting news is not just that our debt is paid in full, but that the life of the Lord begins to make rich deposits of His grace and glory to our account (John 1:16). Our character begins to be conformed to His and His redemptive, life-giving love starts to flow out from us to a lost and dying world as we begin the thrilling journey of becoming all God intended us to be.

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).
To impute: To put into an account, to attribute to an account; to reckon (Greek Lexicon # 1677)
Debit: 1) to enter upon the debit (the left) side of an account; 2) debt; 3) a charge against an account; 4) liability; 5) obligation; 6) demand; 7) encumbrance; 8) to owe; 9) duty; 10) to be obliged; 11) to press; 12) to bind; 13) to charge with a debt. (Webster's) Credit: 1) to enter upon the credit (right) side of an account; 2) to attribute to someone; 3) reliance on the truth or reality of something; 4) faith; 5) to esteem; 6) to believe (L.); 7) to trust in the truth of; 8) to favor; 9) a good name; 10) to reckon; 11) to count; 12) to impute. (Webster's)
"I testify again to every man that is circumcised [to satisfy a religious obligation] that he is a debtor to the whole law" (Galatians 5:3). "And the Lord . . . forgave him the debt" (Matthew 18:27).
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
"Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned [credited] of grace but of debt [God owes me]" (Romans 4:3). "just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons [credits] righteousness apart from the law" (Romans 4:6).
"for the Law brings about wrath" (Romans 4:15a). "where there is no law, neither is there violation" (Romans 4:15b).
"Owe no many anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8). "[love] . . . does not [debit] a wrong suffered [to the offender's account]" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
" . . . the law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane . . . " (1 Timothy 1:9). " . . . God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting [not debiting] their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
". . . not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law . . . " (Philippians 3:9). " . . . faith was reckoned [credited] to Abraham for righteousness" (Romans 4:9, James 2:23).
To blame or accuse: to call in a debt [debit]" [Greek 1458]. "Even so consider [credit] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11).
Debt: ought, must, should, have to, owe, are bound, duty [debit; charge to an account] [Greek lexicon # 3784]. "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any . . . " (Mark 11:25).
"He who despises the word shall be in debt to it" (Proverbs 13:13). To satisfy a to please, to favor, to pardon [credit to an account] [Hebrew Lexicon # 7521].
To owe: to endanger, to be liable, debt (Gesenius) [Hebrew lexicon # 2325]. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law"(Romans 13:10).
Guilt: liable to penalty or imputation [Greek lexicon
# 1777].
"For until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law" (Romans 5:3).
"For he hath made him to be sin [He took our debt upon Himself] for us, who knew no sin . . . " (2 Corinthians 5:21a) " . . . that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21b).
Freedom: Exemption from debt, obligation or liability. (Greek lexicon # 1658)
The ledger God keeps in heaven is vastly contrary to ours. God does not put our bad deeds on the left and our good deeds on the right, and when our life is over the sum total of the sides determines our fate. This is not how God weighs things. "Our Lord's words are not, 'Do this, or don't do that,' but—'Come to me.'" (Oswald Chambers)

One might say that the left side of the ledger is religion and rules—right and wrong, bad and good". All of these are considered "debt". The right side of the ledger represents the free gift of salvation through faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith and faith alone is posted on the "credit" side of the ledger. The left side of the ledger represents our efforts to earn our way to heaven or our complete disregard and disdain for heaven.

We couldn't carry this off
by our own efforts,
and we know it.

Paul, the writer of most of the epistles in the New Testament, says it best. "We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians, a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, first hand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so that I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it" (Philippians 3:4-11 The Message).

On this subject Charles Spurgeon has written, "Is it not a strange thing that some professors should look to Christ alone for pardon and justification, and run away to Moses when they desire sanctification? The child of the bond woman is driven by the whip, but the child of the free woman is drawn by cords of love. This is a motive fit for the child of the free woman, and it moves His heart. The love of Christ constrains us. Not fear of hell, but love of Christ. Not fear that God will cast us away, for that he cannot do, but the joy that we are saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation constrains us to cling to him with all our heart and soul, forever and ever. Rest assured, if motives fetched from the gospel will not kill sin, motives fetched from the law never will. If you cannot be purged at Calvary, you certainly cannot be cleansed at Sinai. If 'the water and the blood, from the riven side which flowed,' are not sufficient to purify you; no blood of bulls or of goats; I mean, no argument from the Jewish law, will ever furnish motives sufficiently strong enough to cast out sin. Let your reasons for being holy be found in Christ, for he is made of God unto you sanctification!

Is it not a strange thing
that some professors
should look to Christ alone
for pardon and justification,
and run away to Moses
when they desire sanctification?

Charles Spurgeon

"I have ever found that the more entirely I lean upon my Lord, the more conscious I am of my own emptiness and unworthiness. And the more completely I rest my whole salvation upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus, the more carefully do I walk in my daily life. He that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as he is pure. Jesus, the Savior, saves us from our sins, and is made of God to us 'sanctification.'"

The Lord is less interested in knowing whether we're good or bad, what we have done or haven't done, than He is in knowing whether we are entrusting our very lives to Him. It is the source of our debts that is the culprit, and that source is our claim to our right to ourselves. Once we forsake and surrender this claim to ourselves in faith to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, His life and light penetrate the darkness of our souls, and our lives are brought into harmony with His heavenly desires for us. The dread of forsaking our "precious" and "clever" selves is forever gone, and we frequently wonder, "What took me so long to let go of my vile and selfish self?"

Just as I am
without one plea
But that Thy blood
was shed for me.

Charlotte Elliott

This devotional by Charles Spurgeon seems to be the perfect ending for this article.

"'Behold, I am vile' (Job 40:4).
"One cheering word, poor lost sinner, for thee! You think you must not come to God because YOU are vile. Now, there is not a saint living on earth but has been made to feel that he is vile. If Job, and Isaiah, and Paul were all obliged to say 'I am vile,' oh, poor sinner, wilt thou be ashamed to join in the same confession? If divine grace does not eradicate all sin from the believer, how dost thou hope to do it thyself? and if God loves His people while they are yet vile, dost thou think thy vileness will prevent His loving thee? Believe on Jesus, thou outcast of the world's society! Jesus calls thee, and such as thou art.

            'Not the righteous, not the righteous;
            Sinners, Jesus came to call.'

"Even now say, 'Thou hast died for sinners; I am a sinner, Lord Jesus, sprinkle Thy blood on me'; if thou wilt confess thy sin thou shalt find pardon. If, now, with all thy heart, thou wilt say, 'I am vile, wash me,' thou shalt be washed now. If the Holy Spirit shall enable thee from thy heart to cry.

"'Just as I am, without one plea But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidd'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come!' thou shalt rise from reading this morning's portion with all thy sins pardoned; and though thou didst wake this morning with every sin that man hath ever committed on thy head, thou shalt rest tonight accepted in the Beloved; though once degraded with the rags of sin, thou shalt be adorned with a robe of righteousness, and appear white as the angels are. For "now," mark it, 'Now is the accepted time'. If thou 'believest on Him who justifieth the ungodly thou art saved.' Oh! may the Holy Spirit give thee saving faith in Him who receives the vilest." From Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon.

We can bring our debts to the cross and leave them there by surrendering ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ—by giving Him the reins to our lives and allowing Him to reign there.

Lord Jesus. I come to you burdened with the debts of self. I lay them at your feet and ask you to forgive them and to forgive me. I surrender all I know to surrender to You. Deliver me from the bondage of rules and being consumed with myself. Draw me into a deep and abiding relationship with you. Meet me at the greatest point of my need. Be glorified in and through my life. I ask in Your Name, Jesus. Amen

If there be one stitch in the celestial garment
of our righteousness which we are
to insert ourselves, then we are lost,
but this is our confidence,
the Lord who began will perfect.
He has done it all, must do it all,
and will do it all.

Charles Spurgeon

Eternity's Ledger © Anne Murchison, 1994
Not for commercial use.
Please feel free to copy for personal use.
Please credit the author.

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