"The good news is not that God has provided an overwhelming picture of his love to induce us to repentance. It is not that thinking about the cross will help us do better in the future.
It is that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves: The righteousness that God requires has been given to us as a gift because Jesus Christ has lived a perfect life in our place, died for our sins, and then been raised for our justification (see Rom. 4:25). The good news is not that God offers us a clean slate and a fresh start-although he does. The good news is far greater than that! It is nothing less than the blessedness about which Paul speaks in Romans 4: "And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (v. 5).
If you are a criminal, it is easy to trust a judge who acquits criminals. But God does not acquit criminals. He justifies them.
He does not pardon them even though he still considers them guilty; he declares them righteous, so that, as far as justice is concerned, they have perfectly satisfied all requirements of the law.
This is not (as some say) a "legal fiction," because Christ has perfectly kept the law for us and his righteousness is truly credited to us as if we had done it ourselves. But God only justifies the wicked. He justifies the wicked as wicked. He does not leave them in their wickedness, but he does justify them while they are still wicked on no other basis than the life, death, and resurrection of his own Son." -Michael Horton