"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
When I think of how the sin of believers was washed away with Christ's blood, I also reflect on how it doesn't mean that every sin thereafter is disregarded or doesn't carry significance. This is because God is a just judge and all sin, my sin...all sin I've ever committed and I commit today, tomorrow and until I go home to be with the Lord...is and was punished. Every sin was punished when Jesus was whipped, ridiculed, dragging a cross through the dirt with thorns piercing his head; when the nails were forced through his hands and his feet and he hung to die. That moment is punishment for every time I turn away from Him. When I sit and think about the reality of THAT, it stirs my heart. My heart swells and tears flow. The love that entails is unimaginable. That day on the cross about 2,000 years ago was my God knowing me, pursuing me and dying for ME.
This indescribable day, is God's way of justifying his people before Him. An analogy that has helped my understanding of God's character in this justification is this: In no way could a guilty murderer stand before a judge and be considered innocent - that would be unjust. If every piece of evidence undeniably pointed to guilty and this man was able to walk away unpunished, we would be irate. It would discount any integrity this judge had. But in Jesus Christ we can go before a just and righteous God and he can look at us and lovingly declare the verdict of, not only "not guilty", but INNOCENT. Clean. Perfect.
This is possible because in Christ - meaning in union with Him - there is a "great exchange". I think of a marriage. When we marry another, we acquire their assets as well as their liabilities, or debts. That is exactly what happens when we unite with Christ. However, there is one very distinct difference between these unions: In our union with Jesus, we have no assets. Only debt. We have a debt that is so incredibly extensive that it is humanly impossible to repay. In Him, my debt is not only wiped clean but I also acquire his asset of righteousness. THIS is how God remains a just judge. In Christ, God is able to look at me clothed in Christ's perfect righteousness and call me innocent. I am justified. And it happened because of the cross.
Today, I think about the cross and what that means for me and how this sacrifice paved our way to be with the Lord through this incredible and undeserving exchange. My prayer today is that I live with conviction of my sins (not guilt) and unwavering gratitude that they are forgiven.