Summary: God in Christ will enable us to remove the penalties of sin and our guilt and shame by creating a relationship with us and by taking into Himself our limitations.
This past spring, when my wife and I went to Britain, I knew that driving there would be quite a challenge. Not only do you have to drive on the left side of the road; and not only to you have to decipher the lingo on the road signs -- anybody know what a "dual carriageway" is? -- but also you have to learn the rules of etiquette at the numerous traffic circles, called "roundabouts". And most of all, you have to learn how to park.
Now when I say parking is a challenge, I am not referring to backing a five foot wide car into a five foot two inch parking space, while sitting on the right side of the car, remembering how to work a clutch and a gearshift. No, that was a piece of cake. When I say that parking is a challenge, what I mean is finding a spot in which parking is legal and available! Ancient roads, barely wide enough for one car, let alone two, make parking scarce in many places.
And so I could hardly believe our good fortune when we arrived in the city of Worcester. Hard by the great cathedral of Worcester and dangerously close to the outlet shops of the Royal Worcester China factory there was an available spot, ripe for the taking, the only caution the sign which said, "Two hours limit."
Hey, no problem. We can easily see a cathedral, visit a couple of other historic sites, and shop for china to our heart’s content, all in two hours, right? Wrong! We could have shopped to my heart’s content in two minutes, but I was clearly not in charge of the calendar that day.
The result was that when we came back to the car there was a gentle pink greeting for us from the Royal Borough of Worcester, demanding some 15 pounds for overstaying our welcome. That’ s about 25 dollars in real money.
All right. What shall I do? I am an American, soon to go back. How would they ever collect? I have a rented car. How will they ever trace me? What shall I do? I’ll tell you what I did. I tore up the ticket. Tore it up in little pieces, this missive from the law, and forgot all about it, secure in the belief that I had scoffed at the law and saved my twenty-five dollars.
In July, however, there came a letter from the car rental agency. It was written in a scolding tone, sort of like, “You Yanks think you can come over here and do what you jolly well please." And on my Visa card account the agency placed not only the fine, but also the penalty for not paying the fine, a service charge for their trouble, and, I think maybe a charge for wear and tear on international relations. The twenty-five dollars I had saved now cost me ninety dollars.
Tearing up the ticket gave me a rush while I was doing it. I felt above the law. I didn’t believe that the consequences of lawlessness would ever catch up with me. But I ended up paying extra for my attitude.
Tearing up the ticket on God gets the same result. Sin may very well give you a rush while you’re involved in it. You just can’t imagine that God would go to the trouble to deal with a little sin here, another little sin there. But scores of us know, if we but admit it, that, as Scripture says, "your sins will find you out." And somehow it all ends up with a high, high price. Tearing up the ticket on God brings a penalty called guilt and a price called shame.
But what if God Himself were to tear up the ticket? What if our God were to say, "I know you broke my law. I know you scoffed at the way of life I have commanded. And there is a penalty attached to that, there is a high price. But I’m going to tear up the ticket. It’s gone, it doesn’t exist, I don’t even see it." What would you think about that?
God does have plans to tear up the ticket. At least that’s what He told the prophet Jeremiah more than 600 years before Christ. God told Jeremiah that He knew that His people had broken His law. But there was a new plan, and someday that new plan would be in place, and it would mean that God would just tear up the ticket.
How can God tear up the ticket and remove the penalty? The key is that He will create a relationship with us. He is going to establish a relationship with us, so that we will know Him personally, and that will make breaking His law a whole different matter.