Published April 26, 2011

Paul's Epistle...

Collectively, debt is devastating us.

Last week, Standard and Poor's – an internationally recognized provider of credit ratings – warned that if the U.S. government continues its profligate spending habits, there is a 33 percent chance it will downgrade the nation's AAA credit rating within two years, which would make our debt even more expensive. Ouch. So much for the "full faith and credit" of the federal government.

Uncle Sam has been spending like there's no tomorrow. In fact, even with all the talk coming out of Washington these days about spending cuts, the President's 2012 budget actually increases the national debt to 116 percent of gross domestic product, even with a massive tax hike. That means that if the value of every product and service produced in the United States for one entire year were somehow diverted toward paying off the nation's $14.3 trillion debt, it still wouldn't be enough to pay it all off. And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the nation's debt increases, on average, by $125 billion each month. Each month!

In a very real way, the government is simply a reflection of society. Where once thrift and savings were valued and a pay-as-you-go mentality was prevalent, today the availability of easy and convenient credit makes it possible to spend well beyond one's means – at least for a while. Total revolving personal debt in the USA is currently $852.6 billion – 98 percent of which is credit card debt. And today's younger generation is much more likely to file bankruptcy than were their parents, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

But just as the government is a reflection of society and society is a collective reflection of individual values, individual values are a result of spiritual condition. And the spiritual condition of society in general today — it seems too obvious to say — is not good.

In financial matters, a big part of the problem seems to be acknowledging that a debt problem actually exists – and must be dealt with. It's easy to "kick the can down the road" while the consequences of paying off the debt seem remote. So it is in spiritual matters. A big part of the problem is acknowledging that a "spiritual debt" exists – and must be dealt with. It's so easy to ignore the spiritual debt, when society and the media are increasingly turning against things of God – especially if one doesn't even believe there will ever actually be any consequences. Spiritually, too, people are "living like there's no tomorrow."

So, what is this spiritual debt?

Children born today inherit a tremendous financial debt due to the unwise government financial policies of their parents' generation. In like manner, children born today inherit a spiritual debt due to the unwise actions of their original parents – Adam and Eve. Their sin against God caused separation from God for the entire race – and that separation (with all of its appalling implications) is the debt owed because of their sin. It is a debt that not one of us can satisfy on our own.

Throughout the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed as a blood sacrifice to God. God had nothing against those innocent animals – but their slaughter foreshadowed Christ's ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that "without the shedding of blood [there] is no remission [of sins]." God's greatest creation was life. And "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11). So only the sacrifice of God's greatest creation – life – could pay for man's greatest transgression – sin.

That sacrifice was Christ, the "lamb of God" Who was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13.8). As Christ told His disciples at the Last Supper, His blood "is shed for you" (Luke 22:20) "for the remission of sins" (Matt 26:28). He died a gruesome death on the Cross so that the spiritual debt could be overcome.

We don't really see the once-common "debtors' prisons" anymore for those who can't pay their financial debts. But spiritually, there is a much worse condition awaiting those who don't accept the requirements attached to Christ's payment of the spiritual debt. The penalty is, in fact, eternal separation from God — the unsatisfied spiritual debt. It is, in fact, eternal punishment in hell. Nothing less.

Our nation's financial creditors are highly unlikely to forgive our national debt. The Chinese – major creditors – certainly aren't. But, thank God, HE has a much better plan. He – in His grace and mercy – has offered to forgive the spiritual debt of each of us individually, if we individually accept the fact that the price has been paid. Although His payment was "once for all" (Heb 10:10), each of us must accept the terms individually to have our account stamped "Paid In Full."

You've undoubtedly heard about people who have worked hard to eliminate their credit card debts — and how "freeing" it was when the debt was paid. I remember when we paid off the mortgage on our home. That felt good! Then I remember when we paid off the much larger mortgage on our office building. What a freeing experience! But accepting individually the fact that our spiritual debt (the penalty for our sin) has been paid – well, that's the ultimate "freeing experience!"

Phil Cross, in his classic song, "I Am Redeemed," put it this way:

I was a slave in a foreign land,
So very far from the Father's loving hand.
He rescued me one glorious day
He brought me out, paid a debt I could not pay.

Christ paid the ultimate price so that "whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The sinless Son of God paid a debt He did not owe – to cover, with His blood, a debt we could not pay.

- Paul

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