Have you ever experienced a moment in your life when you began to doubt the promises of God? I recently blogged about this when I shared Sanctus Real’s song Promises a few Fridays ago, and these moments are something that John Piper addresses in the introduction to his book When the Darkness Will Not Lift, which I am so excited to start sharing!
For me, such moments as the one I described above have happened on really rough days–those days when a trigger reminds me of a painful event in my past, when things don’t seem to be going my way or when I just feel defeated for no good reason. These days are usually filled with negative thoughts that loom over me, forcing me to feel the crushing weight of my own sin and forget that I am redeemed. So the only way to escape this is remembering that my joy is in Christ, which, as Piper explains, starts with accepting my own sinful nature, repenting of my sins and receiving what Christ did on the Cross as the only way for me to find forgiveness and eternal life (and joy!). Sanctus Real might call that “holding on to the promises,” but Piper calls it “gutsy guilt.”
“Gutsy guilt means learning to live on the rock-solid truth of what happened for us when Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead,” Piper writes. “It means realizing that in this life we will always be guilty. Therefore in ourselves we will always be guilty. This will prove emotionally devastating if we do not discover the reality of justification by faith, that is, the secret of gutsy guilt. This is not the only weapon with which we fight for joy in the darkness of discouragement, but it is one of the most foundational and the most important” (14).
Piper goes on to discuss more about justification and its implications for us.
“[Through justification] I am legally absolved of guilt and credited with a righteousness that I don’t have,” Piper explains. “That is, I am declared righteous in the courtroom of heaven, where God sits as judge, and where I, without justification, would stand condemned by his law” (15).
So, what happened on the Cross, exactly? It might seem obvious to any believer reading this, but I want to touch on it for anyone who doesn’t know what Christ’s death means for us.
“To make a way for us to be saved, God sent Christ to live a perfect divine-human life, and die an obedient death,” Piper writes. “In this way Christ became both the substitute punishment for our sins (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 15:3, 1 Pet. 3:18) and the substitute performer of our righteousness (Rom. 5:19; 10:4; 2 Cor. 5:21, Phil. 3:9). Therefore, in the courtroom of God, my guilt for sin is removed by Christ’s blood…and my title to heaven is provided by Christ’s obedience. I am declared just–freed from the punishment of sin and now possessing a title to heaven” (15-16).
Lastly, Piper notes that “the capstone of its joy-producing glory” is that this justification happens by faith alone. There’s nothing that you or I have to do, aside from repentance, to earn righteousness and become a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 3:28; 4:4-5)!
“The best news in all the world to the ‘ungodly,’ who grieve under the cloud of darkness and guilt, is the news that God, by faith alone, counts them as righteousness because of Christ,” Piper notes. “This is the rock where we stand when the dark clouds gather and the floods lick at our feet; justification is by grace alone (not mixed with our merit), through faith alone (not mixed with our works) on the basis of Christ alone (not mingling his righteousness with ours), to the glory of God alone (not ours).”
And, if you ask me that’s a reason to celebrate! I am free because of Christ. His promise is that I am forgiven, redeemed and set free. There is NO condemnation for me (Romans 8:1), so I will choose to live with joy, knowing that because of Christ I am righteous. And my feelings are no match for that!