There is a story of a Judge who had a long career of being knows for being just, honest and always making the ethical decision. One morning as he was waiting for his next hearing he sees his very own son being brought in with his feet and hands shackled together and taking a seat in front of the bar. He soon finds that his son is in fact guilty of stealing a car and for manslaughter when he struck someone on the road while he was trying to evade the police. The next instant the judge brings down the gavel and states that his son is free to go. As he is rising from his chair he begins to take his robe off and state that he would take the full penalty for his sons crime with no questions to be asked.
This is exactly what the doctrine of justification is. The moment God saves a person they are seen as legally free from sin and given Jesus’ righteousness, with Jesus taking their sin upon himself. 2 Corinthians 5.21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” There is no longer a penalty for our sins, for we are both legally declared righteous, and given Christ’s righteousness.
The Apostle in the book of Romans says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Even though in this life there may be consequences for the stupid decisions that we make (like prison, fines and possibly even loss of life), ultimately when a person is saved they are eternally declared righteous from their sins and their lawless deeds are remembered no more.
Even though this is incredible, the very first thing that we would do once being declared morally neutral is mess it up. This is why Jesus also imputes to us his very righteousness or record of when he lived on this earth. When Jesus was murdered on the cross something known as “The Great Exchange” took place. Jesus was bearing the wrath and punishment of all the people on earth who would believe in him while also imparting to us his perfect life record without sin. We now have the very righteousness of God, and when God the Father looks at one of his children he sees them just as blameless as his Son Jesus.
Because of this, we can truly move on and forget the past mistakes and look forward to the future with hope.