“No one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law. But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets— that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Justified! Never again can I be condemned, not by man, not by myself, not by the master accuser, because God Himself has declared me righteous.” (Romans 3:20-24)
When a believer sins, he doesn’t forfeit his relationship with God. However, he has damaged that relationship by hurting and grieving his Beloved. If the person’s conscience has been sensitized by the Word and by a close walk with the Spirit, he feels appropriate guilt—a conviction that he has done something wrong and a discomfort in his spirit. But his relationship with his Heavenly Father is still intact. He is still a Christian, and his salvation is still ensured. How can this be?
A judicial transaction has taken place between the holy God and His Son so that I walk free, not only forgiven but also declared righteous on the merits of Christ’s atoning death. Hear the exulting voice of the apostle Paul by re-reading the verse for today.
What voices seek to condemn you as you walk with God? Is it Satan? Some authority figure? Perhaps a sibling? Sometimes it can be someone at school or work, even yourself!
Paul wrote, “Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:33-34). Rejoice that the blood of Christ has fully justified you in the sight of God.
What about someone who claims to be a Christian but persists in continually unrepentant sin? John makes it clear such a person is not a Christian at all (see 1 John 3:6-15). Not forgiven, not made new, not justified. But if one is truly in Christ, the evidence of a transformed life will prove it. For the true believer there will be confession, repentance, and restoration when he sins. That’s the one who proves he has been justified by the atoning death of the Savior. He is free indeed!
Trust is another step in living free of guilt. Though yielding and trusting are essential elements in biblical faith, most of us don’t respond and grow at equal rates in yielding and trusting. For example, in gaining freedom from guilt, we may plead guilty—”Yes, Holy One, I’m the chief of sinners”—but we can’t get free because down deep we’re not so sure of the forgiveness or justification. We agree with God about our sin, intellectually assenting to our forgiveness, but we don’t feel forgiven. Yielding to God’s will in this matter can and should take place instantly and permanently, but trust must grow. The more we know Him, the more we trust Him. The secret to breaking out of bondage to guilt feelings is not more self-examination but a cultivated God-focus. When we truly know Him, we will trust Him to keep His promise to fully forgive. Run to His embrace and exult in the forgiveness and justification He provides for every failure. You are free from guilt through Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross.
Think about God’s forgiveness of a recent confession of sin, perhaps one you confessed recently. Do you feel forgiven, or do you still feel guilty? If you still feel guilty, spend some time in prayer. Remember that it is not your actions or feelings that bring forgiveness but His faithfulness and righteousness to forgive and cleanse (see 1 John 1:9). Place your trust in His power to forgive.