I think I'm coming to realize that what Jesus does to save me is not only to relieve the penalty of sin that I commit but to also save me from sin itself.
Here's what I mean.
When we think about the need for salvation, the need for a Savior, the need for Jesus, I believe we think of it in only one dimension - that of avoiding hell and eternal punishment. This is what I mean by the penalty of sin. We sin and therefore deserve punishment. Jesus saves us from the punishment, but what of the sin?
This is why there's such a struggle with legalism vs. antinomianism. That's why we like to deceive ourselves and justify sin by saying that, "Hey, there's no longer a retribution for sin because of Jesus, so we can sin and know that, ultimately, it's okay."
And, therefore, we deceive ourselves.
Sure, there is a punishment for sin apart from Jesus. We'll be 1) separate from God who is life 2) we will suffer eternal torment for our rebellion.
What we fail to realize (this is so very important!) is that sin itself is death and punishment. Sin by definition is the state and act in which we separate ourselves from God. And separation from God is what, class? Death. We taste death not only as an ultimate experience, but in every instance we separate ourselves from fellowship with God.
And you see? Sin, as opposed to the penalty of sin, is a whole another problem! We are saved from the ultimate payment for sin which will be dispensed when Jesus returns, but we have to deal with the reality of sin itself in our everyday life. It tempts us and ruthlessly fights to rule over us, and, without a savior, we will not be free from its grip.
That's what's remarkable about Jesus who saves us, not only from the ultimate, eternal penalty, but sin itself in the present. He gives not only the vindication on judgment day but power today to live in fellowship with him, in all righteousness, joy, and truth. This, my friends, is a beautiful thing, and it's what Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is making it real in our lives, more and more. Everyday.
It's reason to rejoice and be glad that we have such a savior. That both the future and the present are up for redemption. Yet, at the same time, it gives us reason to view and apprehend sin for what it really is: that it will kill us not only in the future, but in the present, as we seek it.
We studied 1 John in small group yesterday, and, my, it rings so true tonight.
1 John 2:1-6