If you’ve ever been present for a serious criminal trial, you know the degree of stress that’s involved. The accused stands before the court, and his or her guilt or innocence is put to the test. Whereas one’s defense attorney strives to make a case that the defendant is innocent, the prosecutor does all in his power to condemn the person accused. The arguments presented by the prosecution can be terrifying and brutal.
I was once present for a trial at which someone I loved was accused of a serious crime. I could not imagine myself being in her place. Whether guilty or innocent, one’s life is laid bare before many strangers. Accusations are made by the prosecution that would make anyone look like a merciless killer. I hope I’m never placed into a similar situation.
And yet, we’re reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV) that:
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
What will it look like when you or I stand before God, the ultimate judge? What will happen as the books containing the details of our lives are cracked open and Satan, otherwise known in Scripture as the Accuser, points at us and seeks to share details of the many sins in which we indulged?
The truth is, we’ve all sinned, and are guilty. Romans 3:23 makes it plain that, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” There is no one who ever lived, aside from Jesus, who has not sinned. God cannot accept sin, and we are therefore separated from him and unworthy of his presence.
The wonderful news is that this is not the whole story. Here’s the passage in context. Romans 3:19-26 (NIV):
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
This is the heart of the gospel, the good news. Jesus will stand between those who trust in him for salivation and Satan, the Accuser. God will not look upon our sin. Instead, he will see the righteousness of Christ when one who trusts in Jesus for salvation stands before the judgement seat. We may live, we may enter God’s presence forever, based only on the fact that we received the death of Jesus on our behalf. Those who reject Jesus as savior will have to plead their case on their own merits.
This is the basis for peace that is spoken of so often in the New Testament. Over and again the peace available to Christ followers is mentioned in Scripture. Just this week this hit me as I read Colossians 1:1-2 (NIV). Like some of his other books recorded in the New Testament, Paul starts this by saying:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
As I read this, it suddenly dawned on me that there’s no peace without grace. It’s only by the grace of God, who gave Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins, that we can look to the future and to eternity with hope. We have eternity with God to look forward to because of God’s grace to us. This is the basis for peace in the life of a Christ follower. Jesus paid for our sins, and God will therefore not count them against us.
There’s so much in this world that seeks to push us down and to condemn us. A few days ago I heard of yet another member of the larger security community who apparently took his own life. So many today live with little or no hope. What about you? Are you trusting in Christ for salvation? Have you received Jesus as your Lord? If not, I encourage you to consider praying in this way:
God, I confess that I have sinned and fall short of your glory. I ask for your forgiveness through the death of Jesus. On my own I am not worthy to be in your presence. I receive Jesus as my Savior, and I ask that through your word and your Holy Spirit you’ll teach me to follow Jesus as Lord. I give you my heart, my soul, and everything else that I am. I pray this in the name of Jesus.
If you pray this with sincerity, you’ll be forgiven no matter what you’ve done. You’ll begin a life that’s based on grace and is filled with hope. No, the problems of this life will not suddenly disappear, yet you’ll have Jesus to help you through. As you trust in him, read God’s word, and bring your burdens and joys to God in prayer on a regular basis, you will change. You will begin to experience peace that you never thought possible. Even in the midst of intense spiritual and physical battles, you will know the grace and hope that brings peace.
I pray that the Lord will continue to open my eyes, and your eyes as well, to the wonders and mystery that is life and faith in Christ. Amen!