[Excerpted from John Piper's talk at Passion '07]
For You and Outside of You
Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Those last words are the most crucial. This—this record of debt that stood against us—God set aside, nailing it to the cross. When did that happen? Two thousand years ago. It did not happen in you, and it did not happen with any help from you. God did that for you and outside of you.
Make sure you see this most glorious of all truths: God took the record of all your sins—all your sexual failures—that made you a debtor to wrath, and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, he put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and nailed them to the cross.
Whose sins were nailed to the cross—or more precisely, whose sins were punished on the cross? My sins and yours—the sins of all who despair of saving themselves and trust in Christ alone. Whose hands were nailed to the cross—or more precisely, who was punished on the cross? Jesus was. There is a beautiful name for this. It’s called a substitution.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:3, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” He condemned sin in the flesh. Whose sin? Ours. Jesus had none (it was the likeness of sinful flesh, not sinful flesh). He condemned our sin in the flesh. Whose flesh? Jesus’ flesh, not ours.
Have you ever wondered what the next verse in Colossians 2:15 means? Right after saying that God nailed the record of our debt to the cross, Paul says, “[God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” This is a reference to the devil and all his demonic hosts. How are they disarmed? How are they defeated? Don’t they prowl around like a roaring lion today (1 Peter 5:8)?
The answer is: They have many weapons. They can do much damage. But they are disarmed of the one weapon that can damn us. The weapon of unforgiven sin. Be sure you see the connection between Colossians 2:14 and 15. In 2:14, it says God nailed the record of our debt to the cross. It’s punished. It’s finished. And in the next breath he says that God disarmed the rulers and authorities. He triumphed over them. Sure, they can beat us up. They can make us see weird things on the walls of our rooms. They can shake your house and cause lying signs and wonders. They accuse you and call you a loser, but they cannot damn you. That weapon is out of their hands. Only unforgiven sin damns. And that was nailed to the cross for everyone of you who despairs of saving yourself and trusts in Jesus.
A License to Sin?
I know that there are hundreds in this room right now who see so little of the beauty of Christ in this salvation that it simply sounds to them like a license to go on sinning. If all my sins are nailed to the cross, then let’s all sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). Paul confronted that blindness in his own day and said, “Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8). The reason they will be condemned is that we are saved by grace through faith. That’s plain in Colossians 2:12, “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God.” This faith connects you with Jesus so that his death counts for your death and his righteousness counts for your righteousness (compare Romans 5:1, “by faith” and 8:1 “in Christ”). And this faith receives Christ. It’s not a performing. It’s not an adding to what Christ has done. It is a receiving. Saving faith receives Jesus as Savior and Lord and Treasure of your life.
And this faith will fight anything that get’s between it and Christ. The distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection. The mark of faith is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight anything that dims my sight of Jesus as my glorious Savior. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme Treasure of my life. Anything that stands between me and receiving Jesus faith fights—not with fists or knives or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ.
So if all you can see in the cross of Jesus is a license to go on sinning, you don’t have saving faith. And you need to fall on your face and plead that God would open your eyes to see the compelling glory of Jesus Christ.