Think back to when you responded in faith to the gospel. Did you experience a weight of guilt removed after your conversion? Some people do. Others grow into an awareness of the grave burdens relieved by the finished work of Christ.
But were you aware there was also something given to you, something you desperately needed and still need every day?
The Courtroom Swap
Imagine an elderly retiree of modest means receiving a letter from the Internal Revenue Service reporting that he has underpaid his taxes every year since the age of eighteen. Thanks to interest and penalties, the unpaid taxes add up to an exorbitant debt he can never repay. Unless some miracle takes place, he’s in foreclosure. Maybe even going to jail!
The court date arrives and the man is fully expecting to be found guilty and sentenced for what he owes. Suddenly there’s commotion around the judge’s bench. Something shocking is happening. The judge calls for order to make an announcement. Someone who dearly loves the man has paid his debt. The judge declares him free from the debt.
Flabbergasted by the news, the man’s knees buckle.
But there’s more! The judge then informs him that the one forgiving the debt has also become a benefactor; one who transferred ten trillion dollars into his bank account.
In one incomprehensible moment, the man has gone from guilty to wealthy. In the blink of an eye, the problems of guilt and his standing before the court were permanently reversed. Not only was his guilt removed, but it was actually replaced with an unimaginable bank account, overflowing with wealth.
The man entered the courtroom guilty; he left rich beyond his wildest imagination.
The Real Swap
Our sin puts us in far deeper trouble than the guy hauled into court. In Adam’s disobedience we all fell. “One trespass,” Paul wrote, “led to condemnation for all men. . . . by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:18–19). We have a double problem: we inherited Adam’s guilt, and then, on top of that, we have piled up enough debt of our own to condemn us.
To fix this problem, we certainly needed a Savior who could take away the problem of what we owe. And that’s exactly what Jesus has done.
But when a sinner stands before a holy God, it’s not enough to simply have sin taken away. An absence of sin is impressive when compared to the gunk in my heart, but it’s not a ticket for eternity with God.
The clearing of our debt was a job half done. We needed something more. We needed a Savior who could give us the perfection we did not possess.
Enter the Perfect Man, Jesus Christ.
In Adam’s failure, we all failed. But Christ came to do what Adam did not. As “the second Adam,” Christ met the demands of the law. He sustained perfect obedience over an entire life, and even through death. Christ succeeded where Adam failed.
His record of obedience in life and death formed the account of righteousness transferred to us at the cross. The death of Christ removed our debt and returned us to a zero balance. And the obedience of Christ put unimaginable wealth into our bank account. “By the one man’s obedience many [were] made righteous” (Romans 5:19). A positive righteousness—a transfer of the riches of Christ’s righteousness to us—was needed to open a way for a holy God to accept us. We needed righteousness, tons of it. And we got it, far beyond our wildest imagination.
What It Means for Our Aspirations
What does that mean for my ambition? It frees it. You see, we don’t have to pursue lofty goals to earn a righteous standing with God. We get to labor for the Lord. We don’t work as wage-earners, but as children.
Set your sights on ambitious tasks today. Do it in confidence, not fear. Your debt is paid. Your moral bank account before God overflows with wealth. In fact, you can’t earn any more than you’ve already received. Having been set free, having reckoned to us the very righteousness of the Son of God, we can now work hard for God’s glory. But we don’t labor to secure God’s approval. We work hard because we have it.
Tenacious Tuesday Questions
Have you ever done something in the past to try to earn the Lord’s favor? What does Paul’s amazing declaration in Romans 5:18–19 mean for how we think about working in the service of the Lord? What can you do today for God’s glory that does not seek his approval, but exalts in it?
Heavenly Father, you gave me the righteousness of your Son when I least deserved it. Thank you for that astounding work of grace. Forgive me for the ways I have tried to earn your favor in the past. Help me to walk today in the freedom I have as one of your blood-bought children. Amen.