I was shuffling through my iTunes the other day while cleaning the house and came upon a message John Piper gave back in 2004 at the Reformission Conference at Mars Hill. In the second half of it he explained the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.
I know this doctrine. I remember the specific sermon Pastor Mark did on it that opened a door of understanding for me during a time in my life when I was experiencing a lot of condemnation. I was not battling against it, and as a result there wasn’t a lot of good fruit being produced in me.
I remember reading 2 Corinthians 5:21 with new eyes: ““God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of Christ.”
Listening to Piper explain this doctrine was that same door opening again for me. I can’t say that I felt it swing wide open, but it opened enough for me to get a breath of fresh air. The Holy Spirit was giving me more faith. It seems almost too good to be true. But it is true.
The love of the Father in Christ is a lavish thing.
Although reading the transcript is not nearly the same as listening to Piper’s voice, here is an excerpt from this message, the part that I identified with the most and found the most joy in.
Don’t Deny Your People the Joy of the Doctrine of Imputation
If you believe in Jesus, not only will all the junk of your past be wiped away, you will not be left as a morally neutral zero hovering between A+ and F-. Rather, in Christ, all Christ’s fulfilled righteousness and obedience is imputed to you and you are A+ in God’s sight . . .
John Bunyan, you remember perhaps in reading his Grace Abounding, struggled in his mid-20s, he was about 25, with whether he was saved or not. And his conscience condemned him horrifically. He had no assurance of faith. And he was walking one day among the groves, feeling suicidally depressed:
“How in the world can I ever be righteous enough? How can I even know if I’m righteous enough? What if I were to become improved and sanctified–could I ever be righteous enough?” And he said, “There came into my mind, a thought”–and then he went home to find the verse–but just the thought,
Your righteousness is in heaven and it is perfect.
It isn’t in you!
Luther had this great gospel phrase that he loved called extra nos–“outside of us”. The glory of the gospel is that it was accomplished outside of us on the Cross, and that the righteousness that counts for me in heaven before the Holy Judge, is a righteousness outside of me. Christ is my righteousness. In Christ His righteousness is commended to the Father; I stand clothed in Christ! His righteousness is my only hope.
Now I say, this is a weapon in the arsenal in the counseling of depressed people that I do not want to surrender. Because one of the hardest things in dealing with introverted, introspective, depressed and insecure people, who, every time you give them a promise, divert it this way, deflect it that way, and can’t wear it . . . ultimately there is no answer for people like that except the miracle . . .
“Would you please stop thinking about yourself? Let’s pray that God would set you free from the mirror, the curse of the condemning mirror, and let you begin to think of Christ.”
And then just say, and there are many things you can say at that point about Christ, but one of the precious things is, that “Your measuring up will never happen on planet earth. You will never be good enough-ever, ever, ever. Relax! You will never be good enough.
There is One who has been good enough, and only one, and He has died in a climax to that obedience, such that your sins have been taken away and the righteousness you so long to have, has been provided perfectly in Christ, before the Holy Judge. God looks upon it and says “I count you perfect and all that are in you, my Son.”
And you may be in Him by simply falling on Him. Can you fall? Let’s practice. Try falling out of that chair. “If you don’t fall, I’ll push you out of that chair!” That’s how the Holy Spirit works.
I don’t know how to help people who are desperately dealing with their own condemnation if we lose that half of justification [the imputation of righteousness]. It is a precious and glorious half. And not only is it valuable for the people, but it is a great honor to Christ when we say “Not only did you bear my sins, but you provided my righteousness.”
And so I hope at this church and at all the churches where you come from, that you will keeping singing those songs, that Christ is my righteousness and my perfect dress.
Don’t let your people miss the pleasures, the peace, the power, the glory of the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ by faith alone, on the basis of grace alone, because of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, learned about in Scripture alone.