Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Christ shared these words with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. It was meant to give them comfort and reassurance in what would be the darkest hour of their faith. Since that time Christians down through the ages have drawn comfort from Jesus’ words here, to sustain them through their most difficult trials.
Yet today many Christians do have troubled hearts and do live in fear. I know from the many letters sent to our ministry that many believers are secretly plagued with panic, turmoil and sleepless nights. Jesus adds yet another assurance in the same verse: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Yet many Christians find themselves unable to find peace of mind. For many, peace comes and goes, leaving them worried, restless, battered by stress.
In Luke’s Gospel, the prophet Zacharias said of the coming Messiah, “He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75).
Here is one of the primary reasons Jesus came to earth and died for sinful humankind: that we might walk with God without fear, enjoying his peace all the days of our lives. This seems impossible when facing disasters, afflictions and awful sorrows, and in periods of suffering, testing and uncertainty. In times like these we feel overwhelmed and fear grips our heart. How can we stay in peace when all seems out of control?
Zacharias said this about the Messiah: “To give them light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…to guide our feet into the way of peace” (1:79, my italics). He was saying that Jesus would guide us all in the path of peace — not into restlessness, emptiness or fear, but into calm and rest. This is his promise, but to some the path seems just the opposite.
In this world we will face tribulation, persecution, fiery trials, “fightings without and fears within,” as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:5. We will be tempted and we will suffer. But still we are to serve him in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul’s prayer for the church was for peace in every circumstance: “May the Lord of peace himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NAS).
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). There must be a solid foundation for our peace. Scripture says that foundation is justification. We are able to have peace because Jesus Christ has justified us before the Father.
Justification entails two principles. First, it says that my sins are blotted out. I have been acquitted of all iniquity by the blood of Jesus Christ. Those sins are no longer held against me, because when Christ went to the cross he paid for them all.
In short, this justification is by faith in the Rock, our foundation of all peace in God. To “justify” means to pronounce one guiltless. It is to proclaim our debt fully paid by Christ and that God is satisfied. Jesus was “delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). He was raised to declare us free from all blame.
Yet being justified means more than just being forgiven. Jesus not only cleared me of all my sins; he also made me acceptable to the Father by his sacrifice. This is the second great part of justification. Not only have I been declared innocent and guiltless, but I also have been declared holy in God’s eyes.
You can work hard to have victory over every besetting sin. You can be faultless, gaining control over every habit, conquering your temper or evil thoughts, casting aside all evil speaking. Yet through it all you may still be building on the wrong foundation. Why? Because your peace cannot come from what you do or how you feel.
I acknowledge I have lived this way at times in my life. During those brief periods, I knew in my heart I’ve been saved by grace through faith and that my good works would not save me. Yet like so many others I expected God to bless me according to my performance. My peace would come and go; failure of any kind would bring despair and a loss of peace.
Perhaps you’ve had this struggle. You so want to please the Lord. But you judge your standing in God by “how you’re doing” rather than what Jesus has already done for you. You are judging your inner peace and even your salvation by your performance. May it never be! You cannot justify yourself by any human means. And you can’t know God’s peace through Christ until you understand its foundation. It comes only from knowing you are right in the sight of God through Jesus’ shed blood. It is for this reason alone you are “accepted in the beloved.”
The people of God are to pursue peace in a much different way, by entering into the truth of what Christ has done for us. His Word says, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
Jesus will keep on justifying us, all the way until we meet him in eternity. And our faith in him will continually produce in us a sanctifying power. “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).
Why would God invite you to his throne if he is mad at you? You may condemn yourself because you had a bad day or did something you knew grieved the Holy Spirit. But at such times, what does his Word call you to do? You are to run to the Lord, crying, “Jesus, my heart is repentant. I know you can blot out all my iniquity.”
The Father hasn’t turned his back on you. Yet many Christians live as if he has. They live with constant anxiety, thinking they’re saved one moment and unsaved the next. They live with needless confusion because they don’t have this foundation: “I am justified in the sight of God, by the blood of the Lamb. And not only am I made righteous in his eyes, I am also accepted by the Father as holy. I have a right to enter into his presence.”
That is what the story of the Prodigal Son is all about. Not only was this gross sinner forgiven, kissed on the neck and given a robe and a new ring, he was also invited to sit at his father’s table to enjoy the feast. That is the true picture of justification: We are not left to try to appease God and work ourselves into his good graces. He has done it all for us.
Satan stands right now before God, charging you with all kinds of sins: unfaithfulness, lies, dishonesty, shortcomings. He has a long list of every wrong thing you’ve done recently. “The accuser of our brethren…which accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). The devil says to God, “How can that one be saved with all the things I’ve seen him do? I want justice! You can’t be a just God if you let him get away with that.”
The devil is right in many of his accusations. You have failed at times. You have fallen short of God’s glory. You have done things that are unlike Jesus. But our Judge is unmoved and unimpressed by any accusation. He tells our accuser, “You have no case, father of lies. You’re bringing accusations against someone I have already acquitted. Now, be gone!”
We need not be afraid of our Judge. He is on our side and has blotted out all our transgressions: “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isaiah 38:17). “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25). I see the King of glory standing before our accuser, demanding, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (Romans 8:33).
As you read this, you may be living beneath your privileges. You are carrying a load of guilt and worry that you need not carry. God wants you to know how clear you are in heaven, that even now you are ready for glory. And he wants you to appropriate the peace that is yours.
In his second epistle, Peter speaks of a final world meltdown. Yet even in the midst of such a horrendous time, at the world’s most troubled hour, we are called to have peace of mind: “All these things shall be dissolved…the elements shall melt with fervent heat…Wherefore beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11-12, 14).
On that day when we stand before the Lord, we’ll look at his nail-scarred hands and realize the Source of our justification has done more for us than we ever could accomplish with a lifetime of penance or performance. Beloved, God wants us to appropriate his blessing of peace right now. Our Father wants us to be able to look at Jesus’ wounds and declare to the devil, “That is payment for my sins. You can’t accuse me of those things anymore, Satan. Jesus pleads my case for me. And because of him I am justified in God’s sight.”
Recently I prayed, “Lord, I want your peace at all costs. I won’t listen to the devil’s lies any longer. I know my salvation is not in my performance. No, Jesus, you alone plead my case. I rest in what you’ve done for me.” Can you say the same by faith? That you’re not going to try to work your way into God’s good pleasure? That Jesus has taken on all your sins, and that you are able to enter God’s presence through him?
The fact is when God looks at you he sees Christ. He doesn’t see the “old man” Paul refers to, but a new creature in Christ. As Jesus is in glory, so are we in this world: redeemed, justified and set free.
So, are you worried or afraid? Are you condemning yourself ? You don’t have to live in guilt or anxiety anymore. If you’ve confessed your sins and trust in the blood of Jesus, those sins are gone, blotted out completely. You are justified.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). God says, in effect, “I didn’t give you this fear or condemnation. The devil put it on you. Get rid of it by faith, saying, ‘I am washed and cleansed by faith in Jesus. And I know God loves me.’”
If you have done this, the Lord is pleased with you. You are giving him great joy! That is why he says, “Come boldly into my presence, make your requests known to me, and ask largely that your joy may be fulfilled.” This is true peace!