Monday, May 11, 2009

justification...

Lately I've been thinking about justification. And by that, I don't mean reflecting upon the finer points of a deep theological doctrine, though that's certainly important and honorable. Maybe it's been on my mind because Marc is teaching a 2-day seminar on it at our national RUF Summer Conference this week. But I don't think so.

You see, lately in my interactions with people, both Christians and non-believers, it's just become rather obvious the innumerable amounts of ways we attempt to justify ourselves. And ALL of us do it-- ever since Adam and Eve tried to "cover" themselves with fig leaves in the garden, as part of the Fall our default mode is to find something that will cover the guilt and shame we carry.

So as I listen and observe people, as well as examine my own heart, I've been pondering the many ways we literally try to make ourselves worthy. What gives you value? What is it that you want to known for? (I mean, really. Deep down. Not just the Sunday-School answer.) What "fig leaf" are you using to cover yourself? How are you defining yourself? Do you tend to justify yourself...
  • by what you own- what car you drive, the square footage of your house, what latest phone or gadget you have, what brand of purse or shoes you wear
  • by what you do for a living- how much money you make or what kind of work you do, or even how hard you work
  • by your outward appearance- by how much you weigh or how well you ate that day, how well you look (or how well your children look and behave), how healthy you are or defining yourself by how many medications you do or don't take in a day, trying to appear like you "have it all together"
  • by your academic achievements
  • by how busy your calendar is
  • by how many people like you- or how many people are romantically interested in you, or how many people complimented you today, or if your family approves of you, or by working to fit in with those around you
  • by who you know- or what family (or town) you came from
  • by how moral you are- and focusing on what you do RIGHT and others do wrong, or how well your children behave
Most of these things are not bad things in and of themselves, you know? (and there's probably a million more we could add to the list) But it's how we take these things and then USE them for our own justification that is so messed up. The Bible tells us our hearts are utterly wicked and deceitful, and after thinking through those various ways we try to give ourselves glory, I see how many of those things I use to prop myself up before others and before God.

But the only TRUE righteousness that I have and claim comes from nowhere within myself. It has nothing to do with anything I have done in the past or continue to do. It has nothing to do with how well I performed or some great decision I made. It is utterly OUTSIDE of me.

The Gospel is that not only did Jesus Christ DIE for my sins, (yeah, yeah, we all know that, right?) but justification teaches that he also LIVED a 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK PERFECT, SINLESS LIFE FOR 33 YEARS (I can't get through a DAY without some kind of selfish motivations!) and in trusting Him, THAT perfect life is credited to me. Oh what glorious news! And so humbling!

And while we all spend our days seeking after our own justification and righteousness like rats on a treadmill, we who are believers are ALREADY living in the only justification that matters... we are beloved (and totally undeserving!) sons and daughters of Christ.

May THAT be the only justification we cling to.

"What shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-- but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." -Romans 4:1-8

4 comments:

  1. I think sometimes we use justification to try to allow people to know and understand us, our thought patterns, for example (not necessarily a bad thing). This especially happens when it doesn’t coincide with “what we want to be known for” as you mentioned. i.e. “I normally wouldn’t (..fill in with whatever) but I am for the following reasons: (..again, fill in).”

    According to dictionary.com, justification: “a reason, fact, circumstance, or explanation that justifies or defends.” We, as humans, think this is needed, and to stay socially acceptable it generally is required in some way. Although I think many times it is more for ourselves than others, because the people you are justifying to, mostly are not thinking of how well your justification held up, but rather are likely thinking of themselves, and perhaps, their next justification. Of course, the entire above rant was a justification within itself, so we really can’t win thinking of it in this way.

    Maybe, as Ames sugested we should stick with the other definition: “The condition or fact of being justified.” i.e. what we are in Christ.

    Anyway, great, thought-provoking post. A good read for my lunch break.

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  2. Amy, Many thanks for your thoughts on justification. God has gifted you with spiritual insight which makes it possible for you to touch the heart of the reader. I not only enjoy the depth of your thoughts but the manner in which you bring them to life in everyday experiences.
    Grandpa Barnett

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  3. Nanny & PapaMay 11, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    I'm just so grateful to the Lord Jesus that we are justified by grace through faith in Him Who died for us, so we don't have to die. Praise Him, Praise Him.

    Nanny & Papa

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  4. well said, sister! hope you are having fun in FL! Jealous! (typing one-handed!) :-)

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