Our kids are getting old enough to watch some of the movies my husband and I grew up watching. So every couple months we’ll pull out a classic from the 80’s and 90’s, like “Surf Ninjas” or “Parent Trap.” Recently we watched “The Princess Bride.” Amongst all the one-liners, adventure, and plot twists, there is a torture scene. Only instead of the usual array of knives and whatnot, the hero is hooked up to a machine with hoses and suction cups. This machine sucks out years from his life. He ends up losing something like 50 years, just to protect his true love. He sacrificed his future for his right-now.
Watching this as an adult, it made me think of credit cards. Only instead of sucking time through hoses and suction cups, they suck out the time it’ll take to earn the money that will need to be paid in the future. The greater the debt, the further into the future the proverbial credit-machine sucks, in order to pay for a right-now cost.
The problem, of course, is that debt can so easily get out of hand and grow until it overshadows life. It can be so hard to get ahead once it’s there. One could even be in a season of financial increase, but it doesn’t feel like it because all the increase is going down that hose, into the past. It can be so hard just to get to zero, when one is under debt.
A while back I was sitting in a women’s bible study, watching the video that went with the study. The teacher was talking about Romans 3:9-10, talking about how we are all under sin. “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’” (Romans 3:9-10 NKJV)
It got me thinking how much sin can be like debt in its effects on our lives. The consequences of sin just keep adding up and weighing down until it’s hard to get ahead of it. It starts to sabotage our future, and suck the hope out of life. It can take an increase and flip it into the negative in a flash, and grow to overshadow everything.
That’s why Jesus is such good news. He bought our sin-debt with His blood on the cross. He broke its power over all who believe in Him when He rose again on the third day. So that He can look at each of us and say, “Your sins are forgiven, your faith has made you well.”
The debt is cancelled, paid in full by Jesus. Only, He takes it a step further. He doesn’t just spiritually bring us back to zero, He fills the account to full. He doesn’t just remove sin from over our lives, He lifts us up into the light. The light of His love through His Spirit.
In John 16, Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to send Holy Spirit, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. […] When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:7, 13 NKJV) Holy Spirit fills us, and walks with us and teaches us the true meaning of grace and love.
Romans 8 really fleshes out what life with Holy Spirit is like, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2 NKJV) Paul sets the stage here: If you are in Christ, then your debt is paid. You’re free. You’re no longer under sin, but now in Christ. On top of which, you have the Spirit and He’s walking with you.
Paul goes on to further compare life lived according to the whims of sin (flesh) or one lived according to the Spirit in our actions, thoughts, and relationships. One brings death, and one brings life; and if we happen to fall back into death, the Spirit is waiting with a fresh touch of life for us.
It doesn’t stop there, Holy Spirit also tells our spirits that we are children of God. Then He teaches us how to call God Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom. 8:15-16 NKJV) Paul explains that our adoption into God’s family means we get the same inheritance as His Son because we become joint heirs. Heirs in suffering, and heirs in glory.
After talking about what this means for creation, Paul gets back on the subject of Holy Spirit and what that means for hope. We have hope in Jesus, and the future restoration of the created world and our physical bodies when Jesus returns. But until then it can be hard to hold onto that hope. So Holy Spirit teaches us how to hold on through prayer, “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom. 8:26 NKJV)
Not only does Holy Spirit teach us how to pray while we wait and hope, He picks up where we leave off in prayer. He takes our hearts and our tears, our groans and our silences; and He turns it into intercession. He tells us everything’s going to work out for good, just keep loving God. Keep living out His call on our lives. Every messy, exhilarating, mundane, beautiful day lived according to the Spirit changes us and prepares us for every promise that will be fulfilled, every blessing poured out, even unto glory.
Romans 8 ends with the end of living this way. Holy Spirit, and everything He reveals is pointing us to something. Or rather, to Someone. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which in in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39 NKJV)
It’s all for love.
Paying our debts of sin, and taking us out from under it: done because Abba loves us.
Filling the emptiness inside of us with Holy Spirit: done because Abba loves us, and wants us to know it.
Growing us up into maturity in Christ: done because Abba loves us, and when we know it we want others to know it too.
The LORD loves us with an everlasting love. A love that desires that none should perish. This love will not be stopped by sin, or cut off by death, or exhausted by time, or wearied by the world. His love conquers sin, takes the keys of death, and overcomes the world. All so He can look us in the eye and say, “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”