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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - The Cross: A Debt Paid in Full

Charles Stanley - The Cross: A Debt Paid in Full

Charles Stanley - The Cross: A Debt Paid in Full
TOPICS: Cross, Forgiveness, Redemption

A debt is an obligation. And probably most people have been in debt at some point in their life or the other. And nobody likes debt because it's a pressure that seemingly increases over a period of time. And usually people will try to pay off their debts but some people have no intention of paying off their debts. And so somebody else has to suffer as a result of their being unable or unwilling to pay their debt. Well, it's one thing to owe something to someone financially and to be able to pay it back. But there is a debt that you and I cannot pay back. There is a debt that all of us have incurred in our life. It began way back yonder very early in our life.

And some people try to pay it off but they really can't. And so I'm not talking about a material debt but I'm talking about a spiritual debt. Because, you see, the truth is that all of us who've sinned against God have a debt of sin. And people will try to pay that debt off one way or the other but the truth is you cannot because, you see, the only way you could pay off a sin-debt is by righteous living. And no one can live a righteous life apart from Jesus Christ. And when Jesus Christ comes into a person's life, you don't have to pay it off. God has already taken care of it. And so the issue is how do we deal with this sin-debt that we have?

And that's what this message is all about. And the title of it is "The Cross: A Debt Paid in Full". And I want you to turn if you will to the book of Colossians. I'd like for us to read just a couple of verses in this second chapter of Colossians. Paul is talking about what God has done for us and this is a wonderful book because it magnifies the Lord Jesus Christ from beginning to end. And in this second chapter here's what he says beginning in verse thirteen: "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions". Not some of them, all of them. "Having cancelled 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".

Now here's a perfect example of a passage of scripture that would be sort of meaningless to us unless we understood what the Apostle Paul is doing. What he's doing is painting a picture to these Colossians who would understand exactly what he meant when he said in this verse: "Having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us which was hostile to us; He's taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross". What in the world does he mean by that? Well, here's what the Apostle Paul is doing. He's using something that is very clearly evident to the people of that day exactly what it means and applying it in a spiritual way.

For example, when a person incurred a debt that they could not pay, what would happen was that the person to whom they owed it would write out their debt listing how much they owed, or maybe just certain things that they owed for. And then the person who had incurred the debt would have to sign at the bottom. And they would nail that, or place that on the doorpost of their house so that everyone who walked by, or everyone who came to see them would, would know that they are in debt. Now they usually placed that on papyrus and the ink that they used did not sink in. It sort of laid on the surface, and it could be erased with a sponge in such a way that you could erase all of that and there wouldn't be any trace that it was anything there or ever had been there. Or, it may be on the other hand, they had another way of canceling it out or indicating that it was cancelled. And that is by driving a nail through that certificate of debt.

So Paul is simply saying this, here, look at this now in light of that. He says God has forgiven us of our transgressions, having cancelled out, wiped out and destroyed, the certificate of debt which consisted of decrees against us. That is, all of us have violated the law of God. We've broken the Ten Commandments, we've violated the things that our Lord has taught us so we've all, we have all violated the law of God so there is, we all have a debt list. And what he says is this. That having forgiven us all our transgressions and canceling out, wiping out, destroying our debt list which consisted of these decrees against us, which was hostile to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When he says taken it out of the way, he uses a perfect tense of the Greek which simply means this. He took it out of the way and the result of that is continuing even until now. That is, taking it out of the way, it's not gonna come back on me.

So when God forgives us of our sins, He doesn't forgive us of our sins for a temporary period of time. When they're forgiven, they're forgiven. They're wiped out, they're destroyed. It is absolutely a clean slate. And your name may be at the bottom but there's nothing above it because we have been totally forgiven. If you'll notice he says we have been forgiven for all our transgressions. Now when he says He nailed it to the cross, what he was simply referring to is this. That is exactly what God has done in your life and my life for all of us who have received Jesus Christ as our personal savior. What has He done? He has absolutely wiped out our debt, separated us from it, freed us from it, destroyed it, it's no longer there. We're absolutely free and what did He do? He nailed it to the cross in the person of Jesus Christ.

Now with that picture in mind, I want us to see what the Apostle Paul is saying here because I do not believe there is a subject anywhere to be found in all the Bible, not a single subject anywhere as important as what we're going to talk about. Because if you don't understand this, you'll never understand what God was up to in the very beginning. If you don't understand this, you'll never understand why and how God has done what He's done. You won't understand why people still try to do their best to be saved and to be forgiven of their sin to no avail. And so I want you to listen carefully, remembering that God offers forgiveness to every single one who is willing and ready to receive it.

And what I want you to notice here is simply this. And that is that the cross is God's answer to our sin-debt. All of us have incurred that debt the moment we sinned against God. Therefore, a penalty was resting upon us because we couldn't pay it back. There's no way for a person to become a righteous person. Somebody says, "Well now, I'll tell you what. Let's say that I'm going to change my way of living and from this point on, from this point on I'm going to live a righteous life. I'm going to be absolutely obedient to God. I'm going to do exactly what He says do". Well, I'll tell you what that would be like. Suppose for example that you ran a grocery store and I came in and, and suppose you gave me credit. We don't have credit cards. Suppose you just gave me credit.

And so about three or four months goes by and I'm still buying groceries and you are still charging them up to me and one, one day I walk in and I say, "Look, you know what? Something good's happened to me. From this day on I'm paying cash money. I mean it's gonna be cash every single time, so just don't worry about a thing. From now on it's going to be cash". Well, that's fine, cash from now on if I could do that, but what about that debt back there that I owe? Just because I'm gonna pay cash from this day forward does not erase that debt. Well, first of all, spiritually I can't live a righteous life until I deal with the past. So therefore, that part doesn't work. And so all of us have incurred a debt. Either we're gonna have to pay the debt of our sin or somebody else is gonna have to take care of it.

And so what Paul is simply saying is this. The cross is God's way of dealing with the sin-debt, not a single person, not a single one of us could possibly deal with because we are incapable of doing it. Now the question comes. What was God's ultimate motive for sending the Lord Jesus Christ in the first place? Well, he had two motives in mind. And if I should ask you, what do you think the first motive, or not necessarily in this order, but what's one of those motives that Jesus had? That is, what motivated Jesus to come and the Father to send Him into the world to die on the cross? What would be the first thing that would come to your mind? What was the motive? Come on, what was it? Love, all right.

One of His motives certainly was love because the scripture says in John three sixteen, "For God so loved the world, listen, He so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". So we understand, that motive's very clear. But there's a second motive, listen, equally as important. God is not simply a God of love, though He is a God of unconditional love. But He is also a God of justice as well as a God of love. You can't have the one true God without having a God of justice and of love. Because when you think about who God is and what He says in His Word, then what we have to ask is: Who is this God? He is a God of love. And He is also a God of justice. Listen, it is the justice of God, it is the justice of God we have to deal with. And so because you and I have sinned against God and we have this debt resting upon us.

Somebody says, "Well, why can't He just, why can't He just erase it"? Because He is a God of righteousness and He's the one who decreed that sin must be paid for. And so therefore, I want to I want to show you another passage of scripture in a few moments which I believe these two passages together are two of the most important to be found in the scripture when it comes to what God does in our life. So, God was required by His very nature to find a way to justify, declare not guilty, wipe out your sin-debt and my sin-debt, declare us no longer guilty, make us clean and righteous in His eyes and at the same time, be the righteous God that He is.

So how would He do it? Well, in this passage of scripture, He certainly gives us a hint to how He's going to do it. God could have done one of three things. He could have said "All justice". He could have said to Adam and Eve and to every person who was born after them, "I am going to execute justice upon humanity," which would have meant there would have been no mercy, no help, no salvation, but nothing but eternal punishment because that's what man deserves because God cannot fellowship and relate to a person who is living in sin. Something has to happen to the issue of sin in a person's life. God is an absolutely holy God and a righteous God.

And my friend, if you're one of those persons who says, "Well now, you know, I talk to God and God and I are friends, but this Jesus bit, I'm not interested in that". No, you cannot have fellowship with a holy God, listen, you cannot have fellowship with a holy God when you have a sinful nature that is bent away from God until you have been transformed by the grace of God until something awesomely spiritual and supernatural has happened in your life. No, you can't. And there's not a single verse in the Bible that says you can. That's why, listen, the only answer to our having a personal relationship with God is the cross. And so if He had said, "Justice is the answer," every single person would have been condemned. Suppose He'd-a said, "Love is the answer".

That would have meant that there would have been no moral law. That a person could do whatever they choose to do, whenever they choose to do it, no moral law. If there is no moral law, then there is no penalty. And what kind of world would we have if anybody could do anything they wanted to, there were no moral laws, because there's no penalty. And so the whole world would be a hellish place to live if in our sinful nature everyone could do what everyone wanted to do, when they wanted to do it and there was no violation of a law and no penalty. So God certainly could not have chosen that alternative. So it can't be all love and it can't be all justice.

So what did it have to be? God chose the only thing He could do. And what is that? He chose Himself to send the Lord Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, into this world. Sinless, perfect and righteous and holy, for the primary purpose of taking the debt of your sin and my sin upon Himself, paying that sin-debt in full. Therefore, in that way and only in that way could God, who is holy and righteous, declare guilty sinners no longer guilty and at the same time remain righteous.

I want you to turn if you will to Romans chapter three. Romans chapter three is an extremely important passage of scripture, for here Paul explains this very truth. Listen to what He says. Chapter three and verse twenty-three, Paul says: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". We have all have a debt problem with sin. Look in verse twenty-four, "Being justified," which means declared no longer guilty, therefore forgiven, "being justified as a," what? "As a gift by His grace," goodness and love and mercy in spite of what we deserve, "through the redemption," through the purchase that Jesus Christ did at Calvary, "which is in Christ Jesus".

Look at that. He says we have been, we have been justified, declared no longer guilty as a gift. Therefore it's not something we can do. There's not enough works, not enough giving, not enough praying. He says we've been justified as a gift. This is something God gives us, he says, by His grace, that it's motivated by His love, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, that's His redemption. Listen, who, watch this: "Whom God displayed publicly," on the cross, stretched Him out, "as a propitiation or as a sacrifice in His blood through faith". This was for what purpose? "To demonstrate the righteousness of God, because in the longsuffering, the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed". What does he mean by that? "For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at this present time that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus".

Now here's what he's saying. How can, how can a person who is guilty be declared not guilty? He says this is the way. It is through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, His crucifixion, he says in that way, God demonstrates His righteousness. For example, if God said, "Well, that's what I said, but this is what I'm gonna do," you and I would never be able to fully trust God for a single promise or answered prayer because if He ever violated His own law, then His truthfulness is in question. If He ever violated His own principles, then His, His ways would be in question.

So therefore, here's what he says. In order for God to demonstrate, yes, He is a righteous God, he says in the forbearance of God, that is in His patience, He passed, watch this now, He passed over sins previously committed. Here's what it does not mean. That does not mean that God overlooks all of our sins, listen, before we were saved and from that moment on it's a different story. God cannot ignore sin. He does not ignore sin. There's not a single verse that it says He ignores sin. When he says He overlook, that He passed over them, what does that mean? Here's what it means. For example, in the Old Testament when a person sinned, they were required to bring a lamb and the throat was cut and the blood was shed.

Well, did that mean that the shedding of that blood, of that animal brought them forgiveness of sin? No, it did not. That was a foreshadowing. That was the picture that God, listen, He etched in the mind of those Hebrews. Because that blood didn't do anything for the person. Were they forgiven of their sin? Yes, but on the basis of what? Here's what happens. Now watch this so you will not misunderstand what I'm saying. God forgave every one of those Old Testament saints who came to Him, He forgave them of their sins on credit. Did you get that? On credit. They didn't have credit cards. It was on credit.

Well, how can God forgive on credit? Here's the reason. Because in those thousands of years before, God was forgiving them on the basis of not what they did, but on the basis of what the Son of God would do in the future. So because God sees all time just like this, therefore God, God isn't limited back here or over here, but God sees beginning to end. Therefore when He saw all the Old Testament saints sinning against Him, what was He doing? He knew that here's the cross. And the cross was there always in the mind of God. So what God did in forgiving their sin as they obeyed Him in the sacrifice of an animal, that forgiveness was not based on that act, that forgiveness was based on what Jesus Christ would do in the future.

Now that's very important because when we come to the crucifixion of Jesus in a few moments, you'll understand why that's so very important. Therefore he said, "God passed over". What did he mean by that? That didn't mean, He didn't ignore their sins. He didn't just wipe them out, just say, "Well, you know that's past". But rather He, He held them in a, listen, all the punishment and all the sinfulness He held in abeyance until Jesus Christ came. So that's what he's saying. Now he says to demonstrate His righteousness in the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins of previously committed, "For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at this present time, in order that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ".

Now listen carefully. The only way, the only possible way, and nobody can answer this question any other way. How could God who is absolutely perfect and holy and righteous justify, declare not guilty, wipe away sin of one who is sinful, wicked and vile when the law of God says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die". How can He do that and still remain a righteous God? The Father, the Apostle Paul says there is only one way and that is through the crucifixion, the atoning death. That means the payment death of Jesus Christ. He paid for your sin and my sin at the cross at Calvary. In one eventful act, your sin-debt, my sin-debt was wiped away for all of us who are willing to accept that as payment and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

That's what the cross is all about. That's why Jesus Christ had to come. He came to be sin for us in order that you and I, listen, who could not pay our sin-debt because we're sinners, could not pay our debt, would be eternally lost. He who had no sin-debt took upon Himself our sin-debt, paid the penalty in His own life, therefore setting free every single person who's willing to believe in Him and making it possible for us to spend eternity with God and not to be eternally separated from Him.

Now, when you say, "Well, now one of these days when I die and go to heaven, here's what I'm going to say". No, you're not. You're not gonna say anything because, my friend, listen to me carefully with all of my heart, you will stand as the Apostle Paul said when he said, "Wherefore oh man, thou art inexcusable". Having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, there will be no excuse. Having known that the Son of God died for your sins and suffered in your behalf, there will be no excuse.

Remember who you will stand before in the judgment. The same Christ who laid down His life at the cross, who suffered physically, emotionally in every fashion, bearing the sin of mankind, abandoned by even God the Father for those hours, and suffering the wrath of God. You will stand before Him and offer an excuse? No, you will not. And if you die without Him, there will be no hope on the other side of the grave. That's why week after week I plead with you, plead with you to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins.

You say, "Well, how do I apply all this to my life? I've heard what you've said about why God sent Him, because of His love and because He's just. And that in order for God to remain just and remain righteous He had to send Him. He was the only one who could take my place. Right, what do I do"? Here's what you do. You acknowledge your sinfulness, and you acknowledge the fact you don't have any other way. The cross of Christ is the only way. And therefore, you say to the Father:

Father, I know that I've sinned against You. And the worst thing I've done as I listen to this message to realize I've ignored the Son of God. I've rejected the Son of God. I do believe what the Bible says that you sent Him to the cross and He paid my sin-debt in full. I'm asking You with all the sincerity of my heart to forgive me of my sins. I do here and now accept, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I do believe He's Your eternal Son. And I'm asking You to forgiven me of my sin, based not on anything within me that's found good, but based on the fact that He died for me and You said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled back to God, made one with Him.' And so Lord Jesus, heavenly Father, Jesus, You died for me. Heavenly Father, I'm thanking You, praising You for the forgiveness of my sin.

Now, you don't have to say all those words. You don't have to say it the way I said it. But there are certain things that are important. You acknowledge your sinfulness, and that when He went to the cross, He paid your sin-debt in full, listen carefully, paid your sin-debt in full. Ask Him to forgive you. Accept His forgiveness. Surrender your life to Him as your savior.

Now listen carefully. Jesus had to die on the cross for our salvation, our forgiveness. He did not go to hell. He is not spending eternity suffering for you and me for this reason. If He'd had to suffer on and on and on and on, our sin-debt would not have been fully paid. It'd still be getting paid for. When He says it is finished and He died, that settled the issue once and for all. All your sin, past, present and future has been paid for, atoned for, settled once and for all.

When you and I sin against God because we still live in the flesh, we ask Him for His forgiveness knowing that that forgiveness has already been purchased at the cross. And what that does, it keeps our fellowship with Him right. Is there any other way for God to be a just God and pay our sin-debt in full except through the cross? The answer is no. That's why the cross stands at the center of the Word of God, at the center of the universe, the center of all time, past, present and future. Herein lies man's only hope in the person of Jesus Christ.

And Father, how very grateful that You loved us beyond our comprehension and that You love us still, love us unconditionally. How I pray with all of my heart, Father, that every single person who hears this message, would You grant them the freedom, Father, to pray in their own words that simple prayer of confession? Confession of their sinfulness, confession of their faith in Christ at Calvary to pay for their sins, and confession of their faith that they believe that You indeed will forgive them if they ask. I pray the Spirit of the living God will sink this message so deep that even those who reject it now, that deep in their heart it will penetrate. That one day somehow, somewhere before it's too late, out of their mind, out of their spirit, this message will be resurrected. And they will remember the cross and the debt that was paid and receive You as their personal savior. In Jesus' name, amen.

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