But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NRSV)
We are all familiar with reward and punishment as a learning and training method—the behavioral psychologist BF Skinner even gave this theory a name, operational conditioning. You may recall his experiments with rats and mazes (Skinner box). More commonly, we know this theory as "the carrot or stick." When we do something good, we are rewarded; something not so good, we receive negative reinforcement. We use this concept in everything from raising children, and training pets, to managing people in business.
No surprise to us, Jesus Christ, while fully human, demonstrated a value system of righteousness, often doing the opposite of what the world holds dear. Who else would provide a reward for bad behavior? Face it; if salvation were based on our actions, we should receive nothing but mild electrical shocks. Christ, knowing that we are sinful, died for us anyway! The atonement for our sin is not based on our behavior but purely from his grace.
God does not want us to sin. It's not a situation where the more we sin, the more we are rewarded -- read Romans 6:15. What our loving God has provided through Jesus' sacrifice is a path to salvation, not a guarantee. We are still expected to reject sin with all our might. Knowing that this is a constant struggle, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. We give thanks that, although undeserving, Christ died for us.
Precious Lord, we give thanks for your love. In your Son Jesus, you took human form and died on a cross for our sins. We freely confess our unworthiness and give you thanks for this selfless gift. We give thanks for the help of the Holy Spirit. Please help us this day to reject evil and glorify you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.