There is an important misapprehension in the words of the messengers of the Gospel in the New Testament. It is wrongly thought that they threaten us with punishment because of sins we have committed, whereas in reality their message is of forgiveness, not of vengeance — of deliverance, not of evil to come.
No man shall be condemned for any or all of his sins that are past. He needs not dread remaining unforgiven even for the worst of them. The sin he dwells in, the sin he will not come out of — that is the sole ruin of a man. His present, his live, sins — those pervading his thoughts and ruling his conduct, the sins he keeps doing and will not give up, the sins he is called to abandon and clings to — these are they for which he is even at this moment condemned. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
It is the indwelling badness, ready to produce bad actions — the indwelling sin which leads to sins — that we need to be delivered from. Against this sin, if a man will not strive, he is left to commit evil and reap the consequences. To be saved from these consequences would be no deliverance; it would be an immediate, ever deepening damnation. Jesus came to deliver us, not rescue us from needful consequences. It is the sin in our being — no essential part of it, thank God! — the miserable fact that we as a very child of God do not care for our Father and will not obey him, causing us to desire wrongly and act wrongly — this is what he came to deliver us from, not the things we have done, but the possibility of doing such things any more.
— George MacDonald, Hope of the Gospel, “Salvation from Sin,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, edited by Michael Phillips, p. 40-41.