Since God will not overlook sin, or just forgive it, the only way we
could have forgiveness was for Christ to die in our place (Joshua
24:19). That means that without Christ's sacrificial death on our
behalf there would be no forgiveness (Acts 4:12). And, without the
forgiveness that Christ secured for us by His death on the cross, we
would all spend eternity in hell (1Corinthians 15:3, Revelation 14:11,
Moreover, because Satan is well aware of that fact, his greatest efforts are directed at preventing people from looking to Christ for forgiveness. He may lead them to deny their sin, or imagine that they can pay for their own sin, earn forgiveness, or just get forgiveness for the asking without ever placing their faith in Christ. However, the words, “Neither is there salvation in any other” make it clear that such ideas are a delusion (Acts 4:12). Furthermore, all who trust in that delusion are throwing away their one chance of salvation (Mark 16:16, 2Corinthians 6:2).
Satan deludes some by leading them to try to motivate themselves by the threats of the law and fear of punishment. Those who fall into that trap cannot admit that they deserve hell without losing their motivation. He leads others to try to atone for their own sins, or satisfy God’s wrath by austerity, self-denial, and self-inflicted punishments. However, the important thing is not how he deceives them, but the fact that they are deceived. For, by placing their faith in what they do, they have failed to place their faith in Christ (Galatians 1:6-9 and 5:4).
In order to be saved, we must be delivered from the delusion of self-righteousness, and come to the place where we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Nevertheless, coming to that place is not easy. It is only by the grace of God that anyone receives the truth of the Word, when it exposes their sin and tells them that even their “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
Part of the problem lies in the fact that whenever we put forth an effort, we want to believe that we are gaining something as a result of that effort. Therefore, when we resist the sinful yearnings of our flesh, the carnal mind wants us to think that we are more worthy or righteous because of the effort. However, Instead of seeing our efforts as evidence that we are righteous, God sees our sinful yearnings as proof that we are wicked (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 7:18). And, those who trust in their own efforts actually receive greater condemnation, for they are not trusting in Christ (Romans 10:3).
As long as someone clings to the idea that the law can make them righteous, they will not be able to understand the gospel aright, for they will wrongly assume that freedom from that law is the freedom to be unrighteous. It only as we come to the place where we can say with Paul, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing,” that we can understand that freedom from the law is freedom from condemnation, not freedom to sin (Romans 7:18). Instead of allowing us to get into heaven without being righteous, the gospel is what makes us righteous, as it is written, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
One of Satan’s delusions, is the idea that forgiveness is cheap. Those who are under that delusion fail to understand that God would not forgive any sin, if Christ had not take those sins upon Himself, and died in our place (Joshua 24:19). Because they have no understanding, or appreciation, of what Christ had to go through, they imagine that forgiveness comes just for the asking. However, if God required us to pay what our salvation was worth, no man could ever meet the price for its value is far beyond anything we could imagine, much less pay. Furthermore, because the price was so high, God would have never sent Christ to the cross if anyone could have been saved any other way (Galatians 3:21). If infants could be saved because of their own goodness or innocence, God would not have sent Christ to the cross. If some people in heathen lands could have been saved without Christ, then God would not have sent Christ to the cross. And, if works could have saved anyone, then God would not have sent Christ to the cross. Yet, as horrible as the cross was, Christ went to it willingly, and took upon Himself the condemnation that we deserved, because He knew that there was no other way that we could ever be saved.
Because Christ died in our place, all who trust in Him have been raised from spiritual death to everlasting life (Colossians 2:12-13 and 3:1). It does not matter whether the Bible refers to that spiritual resurrection as quickening, begetting, regeneration, or a new birth we receive it through faith in Christ alone. Works have nothing to do with it! [Ephesians 2:1-6, James 1:18, 1Peter 1:3, 1Corinthians 4:15, Colossians 2:13 and 3:1, Psalm 119:50,93, Titus 3:5, 1Peter 1:23.]
The forgiveness that we have in Christ makes us righteous in the sight of God, the children of God, the apple of His eye, and citizens of His heavenly kingdom (Mark 1:14-15, Luke 17:21, Colossians 1:13). Through that forgiveness, every blessing of heaven is ours, and because God no longer sees any fault in those who are forgiven, He will bless those who bless us, while heaping coals of fire on the heads of those who hate us. [Genesis 12:3, Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 3:29, 1 Corinthians 3:21, Galatians 4:26, Proverbs 25:21-22, Romans 12:20.]
Knowing the deceitfulness of the human heart, we have a responsibility to bring our thinking into accord with the written Word of God (Romans 12:2, 2Corinthians 10:5). That means, that when we read the words, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” we need to weed all contrary thoughts out of our mind (Romans 7:18). At the same time, we need to recognize the fact that those who undermine the gospel by teaching works righteousness, are false prophets, and that includes all who claim that their nature was made less sinful when they were born again. What happens when we are born again, is that we are delivered from the power of Satan and have the help of the Holy Spirit in resisting the flesh (Acts 26:18, Galatians 5:17). However, sin will not be removed from our nature until the resurrection (1Corinthians 15:52).
Trusting in Christ, we should walk in a clean conscience, knowing that because of the forgiveness that is ours in Christ, no sin will be imputed to us. Because our conscience needs to be tender before God, it is important for us to admit our faults instead of excusing them. We should want to do the right thing because we appreciate the righteousness that is ours in Christ, not because we are trying to make ourselves righteous. However, in saying this I need to add a word of caution because people tend to confuse the conscience with guilt. Our conscience tells us that something is wrong, while guilt is the condemnation we feel when we do what is wrong. In addition, the carnal mind generally tries to deal with guilt by excusing the sin (rather than repenting), and those who excuse the same sins over and over again, often cease to feel any guilt. Nevertheless, the absence of guilt does not mean that they have a clean conscience. On the contrary, if they had a clean conscience, they would never have had to make an excuse to begin with.
It is also important to avoid sexual sin, for such sin not only robs us of God's blessing, but also brings with it a hardening of the heart that can destroy the soul. In fact, God wants our refusal to become involved in such sins to be a mark of distinction that sets us apart from the world (1Thessalonians 4:3, 1Timothy 5:22, Hebrews 10:26, 1Corinthians 6:18). For that reason, it is hypocritical for those who are willfully immoral and unrepentant to claim that they are trusting in Christ. Since Christ died to deliver us from the bondage of sin, not to help us continue in that bondage, the Bible calls them enemies of God (James 4:4). I might also add that, the gift of faith is given to those who condemn their shortcomings, not to those who justify their sin (1Corinthians 6:9, Acts 2:38, Luke 18:10-14, 1Corinthians 11:31).
We should never take the forgiveness that we have in Christ for granted. Not only did that forgiveness cost Christ immeasurable suffering, but if he had not loved us enough to go to the cross on our behalf, we would doomed to hell. Moreover, because the forgiveness that He won for us is a treasure of greater value than anything this world can offer, true love requires us to share the good news, and to make sure that it is preserved and passed on to future generations.