Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 5:1
The first thing that you learn as a Christian is that you are justified by faith. To help us understand what that means, the apostle brought in the example of Abraham in chapter four. Before the Law was given, Abraham was justified by faith. He was declared to be acceptable to God. He was God's friend. Abraham didn't earn that. He was given that right at the beginning of his relationship with God, when he believed God. That is what faith means. When Abraham believed that God could and would do what he had promised, Abraham was declared the friend of God and he entered into that close relationship with God that characterized his life. That is what it means to be justified by faith. You receive this with no merit on your part, but by faith alone, by believing God's promise, according to the work of his Son. That is justification.
Then, Paul says, there is a way by which you can test whether you really do believe that and have been justified by faith:
Since we have been justified by faith, the sure result is that we have peace with God. As you think about your life and your relationship with God, if you really have believed that God justifies the ungodly, you will have peace with God. You are in the family of God. The war is over. All the conflict between you and God is ended; you are at peace with him.
I was in Honolulu when World War II ended. We had gone through the excitement and joy of VE Day some months before, when the war had ended in Europe, but that was a long way from the South Pacific. Though we were glad that the fighting in Europe had ended, we still had a war to fight. Out in the South Pacific there were many bloody battles yet to come. I will never forget the day it was announced that peace with Japan had been signed. All over the world, World War II was at an end. In Honolulu the people poured out into the streets. There were thousands of people jamming the beaches and streets of the city, rejoicing because they were at peace. That is what happens in the heart when we understand that we have been justified by faith. The war is over, we are at peace with God. All conflict has ceased.
If you do not have that sense of peace, the way to get it back is not by working on your feelings but by reviewing your justification. Go over the facts again, remind yourself of what God has declared. Then your faith is restored and you can handle these doubts and fears. If you have peace with God, you have an answer to the accusation of your own conscience when you sin. I know that many young Christians, in that glory and first flush of love in their relationship with the Lord, really think that they are not going to sin again. They cannot imagine going back and doing some of the things they once did. But eventually they will be back doing some of those things. Perhaps they will not go back to all that they did formerly, but they will fall back. What do you say to your accusing conscience that says to you then,
Are you a Christian? Could you possibly be a Christian and act like this? That is where justification by faith comes in. You remind yourself:
My standing and my acceptance by God does not depend upon me. Even my sin doesn't cancel it out. The whole essence of this truth is that God has found a way to put aside my sin, by faith in the work of his beloved Son on my behalf. In that truth, Lord, I confess my sin, and put my trust in you.
Thank you, Father, for these riches that are given so freely in Jesus. I don't deserve them, but I have them because I have believed your great and mighty promise. I have peace with God, I have been reconciled. I have acceptance in your presence and continual access to your help.
What is the alternative to our feelings when we are anxious and fearful about our relationship with God? Does peace with God depend upon us? Do we need to review the facts about our justification by faith?