A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store with both of my kids doing my weekly grocery shopping. I went to the self-checkout line, scanned my items, and pulled out my debit card to pay. “Declined!” It said. “Try a different card.” What? How was that possible? There was supposed to be money in that account, and yet, for some reason, it wouldn’t work. And what could I do about it? It was 9:00 at night and I was frazzled with trying to get the things I needed within my budget while keeping my children from having a meltdown. I didn’t HAVE a different card to use! Standing there with a screaming baby and a pre-schooler running circles around me, trying repeatedly to use the card with the same result, I started to panic. I wondered if I would have to put all the items back, and that was such a humiliating thought. In that instant of chaos and indecision, panic and the realization that I had no possible way to pay what I owed, suddenly I heard a stranger’s voice ask, “Anything I can help you with?”
I turned to see a young man standing beside me, holding out his debit card. I began to tell him what the problem was but couldn’t even finish before I burst into tears. He simply said, “Hey, I’ve been there before.” Then he swiped his card and said, “Done!” I thanked him profusely through my tears. He gave me a hug and said he was glad to help, then left me standing there sobbing silently in shock and utter disbelief. I replayed what had just happened over and over in my mind as I struggled to grab my bags and leave so the next person could check out. I just could not believe it! God was SO good! My heart was so full I felt ready to burst. I was on cloud nine. God CARED about me! He saw me, He knew what I needed! What a blessing. As I meditated on God using that man to help me, I vowed to be that person to someone else if I was able. Blessed to be a blessing! I kept thinking. And that was my train of thought until I replayed the part where the man said, “Done!” as he swiped his card, and that’s when I overwhelmed and reminded anew of the amazing truth of what Jesus had done for me. Fresh tears filled my eyes and I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart as I left the store.
Just like my grocery bill, I had a debt I couldn’t pay. My sin had condemned me to an eternity apart from my Creator. I had no way of making that up to Him, no way of making myself worthy in His sight. I was lost and dirty and hopelessly doomed to a loveless, godless life. I was nothing, the worst sinner of sinners, with no chance of making myself righteous. But many Christmases ago, God, in His goodness and love for me, sent Jesus! And just like that kind man who volunteered to buy my groceries, He came willingly and paid my debt for me. While I was still a sinner, He shed His precious blood and died for me. We were strangers and still He covered my debt. Before I was even reconciled to God or understood my need for Him, He made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the price—the price I owed and should have had to pay— to forgive my sin. Jesus wiped out the handwriting of requirements against me, the demands of the law, and paid the highest price for my soul. He who knew no sin became sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21) It is done. Finished. Paid in FULL! And I am free! Free from doing works to try to please God, free from the condemnation of the law. Free to just trust and rely on Jesus for all things, free to serve Him in love. Wow! I am made fully righteous in God’s sight, adopted into His family, and, because of Jesus, I am worthy to receive all those good things a child of a King would receive. Yet amazingly, nothing I did enable me to have it. It was ALL Him. His love, His kindness, His goodness, His grace that was greater than all my sin. Jesus paid it ALL. Now all I can do is stand in awe of Him, in thankfulness, in wonder, in amazement, that He would do THAT for ME. All I want now is to live my life to glorify His great name, to exult in His goodness, to bow down in worship to this amazing Savior who loved me enough to give His own life in exchange for mine!
I was humbled and awed as I left the store that night. Changed. Reminded of what’s important, and of what a price Jesus paid for me to be in relationship with Him. And I’m so, so thankful that His love was enough to rescue me and set me on high with Him. For my rags I have riches, and for my shame I have worth! I am a daughter of the King, seated in heavenly places with Christ. He has purchased for me an eternity with Him and I now am and have all that He is and has. What a glorious exchange!
It may sound cliché, but as we prepare for this holiday season, let’s remember what Christmas is really all about. Let’s rejoice that God sent Jesus as a lowly babe to this earth wrapped in our humanness and yet infused with the perfection of His Father. Let’s be ever amazed at His sacrifice, when as a man He willingly took on all of our sin that we might be brought into right standing with God. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Rejoice, for He has paid our debt, once and for all and we are free! We owe nothing to the King except our faith and our love! Amazing. No wonder we celebrate His birth! For Jesus truly is the most precious gift of all.