When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
Finished. Ended. Completed.
Jesus didn’t say, “Here’s something to get you started. I’ve paid the price for your past sins. Now that your account is no longer in the red, try your best to behave or else you’ll throw the whole thing into jeopardy.” He didn’t say that. Jesus said, “It is finished.”
“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18). What Adam had started in the garden, Jesus ended on the cross. Jesus provided the way to reconcile us to God. Now, those who have trusted Christ’s work can commune with God just like Adam did originally in the garden.
Paul introduces a legal term here: “justification.” Commonly, we’ll say, “Well, if you feel justified, go right ahead.” Whether we mean that the person is justified by a reason or an excuse depends on our confidence in their decision. In the case of salvation, justification is not after the fact. We are justified at the beginning. It’s a declaration. The judge looks at our sin, and then looks at the price Jesus paid, and declares believers to be righteous. It’s a done deal. It is finished.
We cannot make ourselves righteous. We cannot earn righteousness. We could never measure up. If we try to depend on our own righteousness or goodness, we’re in trouble. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It’s the only way.
Now, if Jesus’ work is finished, and if He has declared us to be righteous, why do unrighteous thoughts and behaviors keep cropping up? God declares believers to be righteous. It is finished. But, when we look at ourselves, we might say, “not so much.”
So, we look to another theological word (boy, you’re getting your money’s worth today), sanctification. This is the practical working out of our salvation. Justification is a done deal. Through sanctification the Spirit empowers us to live our lives every day. On the days that we blow it, we remember that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). The act of our salvation was finished at the cross and declared when we crossed the line of faith. The daily part is, well, daily. It’s not working harder. It’s surrendering and allowing the Spirit to do His work in us and through us.
If you’re tempted to beat yourself up today, remember that there are no A+ Christians or D- Christians. God isn’t finished with you yet, but what He provides was finished at Calvary.