On the Difference between Sin, Sins, and Credit Card Debt

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Colossians 2:13–15 NRSV

And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

CONSIDER THIS

In law school I learned two rival conceptions of reality that I have forever mixed up until now. The terms are de jure and de facto. De jure means “of law.” De facto means “of fact.” Something can be true of law, yet not be true of fact.

A couple can be married de facto and not be married de jure, though it is unfortunately more often the opposite. Consider the difference between de facto sovereignty and de jure sovereignty. Though Jesus is the true, or de sure Sovereign over our lives, sin manages to hold on to rogue, or de facto, sovereignty in our experience. Why is this?

How could this be, given this word from today’s text?

And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

I think it is because we don’t understand the difference between sins and sin. Do you see the distinction in the text? There are “our trespasses,” and there is our legal indebtedness. We are not in debt because of our sins. We are in debt because of sin. To be sure, our sins have added to our debt, as the interest on a debt adds to the debt, but our legal indebtedness is sin itself. It has stood against us from Eden and condemned us from the moment we were born. If I’ve said it once on the Daily Text, I’ve said it a hundred times: we aren’t sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.

As I write, I have a credit card debt that I can’t pay back at the moment. Every month the bill comes back around, and I have a choice. I can pay any amount I want, from the minimum to the whole thing. Know what happens? Because I can’t pay it off, I usually pay some approximation of the minimum (which may cover some portion of the interest), because there are other bills who don’t permit such a slavish privilege. You too? Now, regardless of my payment, the debt keeps going up, and with that the payment.

Are you seeing the analogy to sin and sins? I get that Jesus has paid my legal indebtedness. I am de jure out of debt. So why do I keep making the de facto payment? When we keep on sinning, we effectively pay the interest on a debt that no longer exists. This is why Jesus probably spends a lot of time scratching his head!

Have you ever been to a note- or mortgage-burning ceremony? It’s a beautiful thing to see the record of legal indebtedness go up in smoke before our very eyes. Well, this is exactly what the cross was and is and forevermore shall be.

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. (v. 15 NRSV)

The note on our sin, the record of our legal indebtedness, has been cancelled—nailed to the cross, no less. Reminds me again of the third stanza of the classic hymn, “It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford:

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Domino #2/14, let’s call it The Mortgage Burner.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Awaken me to my sin, and help me to understand the difference between my sin and my sins. Come, Holy Spirit, and witness to this gospel to my own soul. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Have you looked upon the cross and seen, not just your sins, but your sin? See the difference?
  2. Have you ever preached this gospel of Colossians 2:13–15 to yourself or to those brothers or sisters you are banded together with?
  3. Are you still paying interest on a debt that no longer in law exists? Why?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I understand that “sins” are the individual acts of disobedience against God’s perfect will as revealed inHis moral law. Whereas our “sin” is referring to our sin nature, that is, our proclivity towards doing evil as a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. These truths are often confused by many in the contemporary church because of false or lack of orthodox teaching. I’ve attempted to bring clarity to this by reminding folks of the fact that because our first parents disobedience in the Garden, that every one us is born into this world spiritually dead. This is why we must be born again, by water and the Spirit. I love the part of this Scripture where it states: “ He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it”. What a “bummer “ that must have been for Satan and his hoard when they realized that Christ’s death on the cross just canceled the debt that held Adams race hostage to them.

  2. Sin no longer has the legal right (de jure) to fence people in. The Cross made all humans legally free. Now we are all (whosoever will) invited to be led by the living Jesus across the fence of sin and to be trained and empowered by Him to live in genuine forgiveness from our past sins and to humbly walk in His presence and power to avoid present sins. This is the glorious liberty of the children of God that we are called to demonstrate to the world (de facto).

  3. Clearly stated, J.D.
    Jesus paid the mortgage in full! The devil (sin) no longer lives rent-free in my heart and soul! He has been evicted! Oh, he tries to subtly move back in at times, but he can’t get by the Armor of God! As long as I keep it on!

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