Jesus died on the cross to atone for the guilt of our sin before a holy God. This is amazingly good news. But the cross of Christ also liberates us from our enslavement to sin’s power. Peter captures this when he writes, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
On one hand we rejoice in our legal justification before God. On the other hand we rejoice that we have been liberated from the tyranny of sin, liberated to obey, liberated to pursue godliness, liberated to holiness. This is good news. Or is it?
In a 1994 sermon, John Piper asked:
Does this feel like good news to you? Or does it feel like the good news of the cross is being given with one hand and taken away with the other. Does it feel like good news that the message of the cross on the one hand is a lifting of guilt and on the other hand is a laying on of burden? …
There are many people today who feel the first work of the cross as liberating good news and who feel the second as burdensome bad news. For them, the grace of the cross is one thing: liberation from guilt and shame. And when they hear that the grace of the cross is not just liberation from the guilt of sin, but is also liberation from the power of sin, it doesn’t feel as good. …
Yet, he writes,
the design of the cross to liberate from the enslaving power of sin as well as the guilt of sin does not diminish the good news; it doubles it.