I heard a story yesterday about two brothers who were struggling financially.  The older, more responsible brother took odd-jobs and graveyard shifts to try to make ends meet and take care of his younger brother.  The younger brother lacked this same ambition and spent much of his time on the street, where he found less reputable ways to make his money.

One day, the younger brother got in over his head in an attempt to rob a man on the street.  The man ended up dead, and the younger brother ended up drenched in blood.

The older brother walked into their apartment that day to find his younger brother frantically removing his blood-stained clothes.  It didn’t take much effort to piece together what had happened.  With the echo of approaching sirens in the background, the younger brother escaped out the window… and without thinking twice, the older brother walked over and put on the blood-stained clothes.

You can guess what happened next.  The older brother was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for murder.  When the younger brother learned what had happened, he turned himself in and begged to be charged with the crime that he had committed.  He was told it wasn’t possible—someone had already paid the death penalty.

In a way, this is a reflection of what Christ has done for us.  His death paid the debt we owed for our sin.  Because of His sacrifice, we have received freedom, and His cross is our offer of forgiveness—but have you accepted that freedom and that forgiveness?

I struggled with pornography as a teenager.  I had grown up as a Christian, and I knew what the Bible said, but nevertheless, it was a cycle I fought for years to break.  One of the hardest aspects of that struggle was both accepting the fact that God was willing to forgive me and being willing to forgive myself.  Each time I gave into temptation, I would vow never to come back to it.  I broke a lot of those vows.  This served to compound the self-condemnation I wrestled with.  Even though I would pray for God to forgive me, in my heart, I questioned whether He actually would.  I would constantly beat myself up about it.  I felt like I should constantly feel awful about what I’d done, and I felt guilty even at the thought of being forgiven and released from the punishment I deserved.

It may have seemed like piety at the time, but this actually only served to perpetuate the cycle.  I felt so much pain for what I had done, and I had to find a way to dull that pain.  Not trusting in God’s forgiveness to set me free, I would turn back to porn to numb the feelings.  The relief, though, was ever so temporary, and the pain of crashing back into the same pit of filth got worse and worse each and every time.

I had to come to the realization that Jesus Christ has already paid the death penalty for the sins of the world.  That is the beauty of the grace of God—we don’t deserve it, but He offers it anyway.  God didn’t have to sacrifice His Son for us, but He did anyway, because He loves us.  The freedom has already been purchased; the offer of forgiveness is always on the table.  The question is:  will you accept it?  You have to be willing to trust in God’s grace for forgiveness, and you have to be willing to forgive yourself as well.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).