“But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by being good enough and trying to keep His laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says He will accept and acquit us—declare us “not guilty”—if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like.” Romans 3:21-22 LB
Imagine a courtroom scene. You are on trial, the defendant. The crime you have committed is horrible. It deserves the death penalty. As the days drag on, your wrongs are laid out before the judge and jury, one by one. The case is clear and the evidence is unquestionable. The prosecutor is eloquent and prepared, as if he has committed the entire book of your life to memory and can recall each mis-step and sinful act with clarity and conviction.
You know of your guilt. You sit in the wooden chair behind the courtroom desk. Sweat drips down your forehead. Your lawyer scribbles notes. You gaze at your feet the entire time, never looking the jurors in the eyes. You can’t bear the burden. You have no case to offer in defense. You pray the case itself will just go a few days longer, as it is your only option to avoid, for a time, the inevitable conclusion.
But it’s case closed. The prosecution and defense rest. The deliberations follow but it’s a mere formality. You know the words that will come from the judge’s mouth as that white slip of paper is passed from the foreman, to the bailiff, to His Honor on the bench. In the back of your mind, you wish, you pray, for another chance, just one more opportunity to set right what could never be set right. You need a miracle, but are sure one is not forthcoming.
And then you hear it. “Not guilty.” But how? Everyone in the room, including you, knows that can’t be right. You are, indeed, guilty, but the declaration has just been made. Mercy has been shown. You are free to go. Free from punishment. You stand silent, mouth agape, unable to speak, even think. How could this happen?
This drama is played out in the heart of every Christ-follower. Jesus takes our guilt, our punishment, for all of our sin. It is laid out before God on the cross. He died. He rose. Our debt is paid. Our sin is no more. And we don’t deserve it. And we know of our guilt. But God looks at us at that moment and sees Jesus, and declares us, “Not guilty.” It is, indeed, a miracle of grace.
God, thank You for saving me from my sins. Thank You for sending Jesus to die for me, and to be reborn so that I could have eternal life. I know I don’t deserve it. I know it is only by Your grace that I am free from the punishment of sin, from death. Please help me to live for You each and every day, to enjoy the freedom from my wrongdoing, and to participate in Your mission to declare others “not guilty” by the blood of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.