Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Justified!

Justified

by Dennis Pollock

At the core of the Biblical revelation is an amazing concept known as justification. And while some ministers refuse to mention the term or approach the concept for fear of alienating or confusing the seekers, in truth there is no doctrine the seeker needs to grasp any more than the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ.

 Thousands of years ago a man named Job was grieving over the loss of his children and nearly all of his property. Beyond this, he faced the accusations of his friends, who declared all his woes were due to his wicked life. Job knew he was a better man than most, and that he had made a diligent effort to be just and compassionate toward his fellow men. As his friends continually insisted that God was punishing him for his sins, Job cried out, "How can a man be righteous before God?" The doctrine of justification answers that age-old question. 

Definition 

In Romans the apostle Paul writes, "As through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Romans 5:18). By making such a contrast we can see thatjustification is the exact opposite of condemnation. Through Adam's offense men were condemned; through Christ's redemption men receive justification. And what is the meaning of condemnation? It is a legal term, meaning to be found guilty and deserving of punishment. When the jury comes out of their deliberations and announces, "We find the defendant guilty," they have condemned him – he has been found guilty. The judge then finishes the process and pronounces sentence.

 Since justification is the opposite of condemnation, justification therefore means "to be declared not guilty and free from all punishment." It is a more powerful word than pardon. When a governor pardons a criminal, he is saying, "Yes, he may be guilty, but he has served long enough, and I am releasing him." When Christ justifies us, he makes us truly just as if we had never sinned, and therefore not the least bit susceptible to punishment. The Scripture declares, "Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9).

 The Scriptures make it plain that it was absolutely imperative for God to provide a means of justification for us before He could accept us as His children and receive us into heaven to live with Him forever. He could not simply dismiss our offenses out of pity, for to refuse to punish any and every sin would make God unjust. Imagine a judge who routinely dismissed murderers, rapists, child molesters and criminals of all types. Feeling unable to be so "mean" as to actually put men behind bars or sentence them to death, he would instead give them a short lecture on good behavior and send them on their way. Would we call such a judge a "good man?" We would think such a man a monster, utterly unworthy to be in his high position. He would soon be put out of office.

 The Almighty, the Judge of all the earth, needed to find a way that would enable Him to justly allow sinners (as we all are) to be forgiven and accepted, and still maintain His own integrity and justice. The answer, and the only answer, was the cross of Jesus. It was only through Jesus' substitutionary death on our behalf that God "might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). 

Blameless in His Sight 

The Bible says some pretty astounding things about our position in Christ once justified. We are declared blameless before God and are said to have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. This hardly seems to fit with our own experience and what we know about ourselves. Is this some kind of game of "let's pretend"? Is God telling us something we know is patently untrue? Is it like the mother of an ugly daughter, telling her she is pretty when they both know she is lying?

 No, God is the God of truth and incapable of either lying or exaggerating. Our righteous standing in His sight is based upon what happens to us at our new birth. Having received Christ we were "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" and the Spirit of God enters our life with a mission. He immediately begins His program to shape us into the exact image of Jesus Christ. His goal is not simply to make us nicer or smooth off some of our rough edges. The goal is Jesus Christ! The Bible declares, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Again it is written, "Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…" (Romans 8:29). The goal is Jesus, the agent is the Holy Spirit, and the result is certain. "He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Still, though we may be headed toward the likeness of Christ, we all recognize that we are clearly a long ways from the goal. We don't have to look too hard within us to find selfishness, pettiness, immaturity, and sometimes downright carnality. We may have begun the journey, but our destination seems a million miles away.

 This is true as far as it goes, but it does not take into account the omniscience and foreknowledge of God. Because our Creator sees "the end from the beginning" and calls "those things which do not exist as though they did," He is not overly concerned about the distance between us and Christ. He sees the future with the same perfect clarity as He sees the past. With God it is not only hindsight that is 20/20; foresight is as well! He not only sees our immaturity and blunders; He also sees where the Holy Spirit is taking us. He has complete confidence in His own ability to shape us into the image of Christ. Some of this will occur in this life and will be gradual. The rest of the gap will be made up when we stand in the presence of Jesus on that Day and will be instantaneous. But if we have truly trusted Christ as our Savior, we will get there!

Justified by faithBecause of this God transfers the righteousness of Jesus to our account right now. We are given "the gift of righteousness." When we pray in the name of Jesus we can expect answers as surely as if they were prayed from the lips of Jesus Himself. Over and over, Jesus tells us to pray in His name and expect answers from heaven. Receiving answers to prayer is not dependent upon attaining a certain level of spirituality or having an especially good day. Indeed, when we approach prayer after feeling we have been doing pretty well, that is when we are the least likely to receive.

 This helps us understand why God sometimes uses people with major flaws and personality defects while others with far better personalities and more disciplined lifestyles sometimes seem to achieve far less in kingdom matters. Answers to prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives are not God's reward for our good behavior – they are a demonstration of God responding to the prayers and faith of His children, justified and clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Anyone who is truly in Christ can experience this. God is not rewarding a level of maturity or piety; His power and blessing on a ministry is not based on how many good days we have been able to string together. He is responding, as He always does, to the faith and fervent prayers of His redeemed, justified children. And sometimes when we see that the vessel is marred and has some pretty serious cracks we are tempted to challenge God's wisdom and to suggest another vessel with smaller cracks and fewer blemishes. But God cares not for our suggestions. He just goes right on moving in the lives of those who recklessly approach Him with faith, clothed in the righteousness of His Son.

 The healing revival of the twentieth century in America is a great example of this (especially from 1920s – 50's). In those days healing evangelists were setting up tents all over America and holding healing and evangelistic campaigns. People came by the thousands to see and hopefully experience the dramatic miracles, signs, and wonders that were happening in these meetings. It was a powerful time for Christianity in America, and there were good results. Many came to Christ in these campaigns. But when you research the men and women God used in such a dramatic fashion, you can get a little disappointed. Few of them had sterling characters. One man died in an alcoholic binge in a room strewn with pills and liquor bottles; another measured the most popular evangelist's tent, and then went and purchased one slightly larger, in order to boast he had the largest tent in the country. They were often hard to get along with, and sometimes taught doctrines that went well beyond the Scriptures. One of the major healing evangelists became convinced he was the modern day Elijah. A famous woman evangelist married a preacher who divorced his wife in order to marry her, claiming God had shown him that if you didn't love your wife when you married her, you weren't truly married.

 In spite of all of the problems and confusion, God used these individuals, and many people were blessed through their ministries. Although the average man or woman sitting in the pew admiring these evangelists was often of a far more stable character (and probably easier to get along with), these pioneers of healing had one thing in common: they had enough faith to trust God and believe for miracles as they prayed in the name of Jesus. And God honored that faith.

 This is not to suggest that God cannot see our flaws and sins - or that He will not discipline us for them. When we break the laws of God, we will pay the price. Most of these healing evangelists died before their time. In many cases their ministries crashed and burned. Scandals brought shame and humiliation to some. Justification does not do away with God's discipline, for "those He loves He chastens."  What it does mean is that we do not have to go through our lives constantly worried about our relationship with God. We are not justified on Monday and in a state of condemnation on Tuesday. Imagine an adopted child who was told that if he stepped out of line, he would be kicked out of the family and put out on the streets again. His father and mother would disown him. What a fearful and miserable life he would have! Our Heavenly Father would not do such a thing to us. He may rebuke us, He may chastise us, but He is not going to "unjustify" us. He who began a good work in us will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. 

Equal Footing 

Equal

There are no levels of justification. You cannot be more justified than any other Christian. Every believer, from the least to the greatest, from the newest convert to the most mature saint, is equally justified. We all face the temptation to try to fix other believers when they don't seem to have grasped the things that are important to us. How can they watch soap operas and call themselves Christians? How can they have been saved for three years and still don't have the discipline to read the Bible daily? How can that lady wear such outrageous makeup and tacky jewelry? One of the great blessings of understanding justification is this: knowing we are all justified by faith, and headed for the same goal (which is Christ) we can relax and enjoy our brothers and sisters and not be so concerned about the fact that their experience in Christ does not precisely match our own. They may be behind us in some areas (and we are probably behind them in others), but we will all get there! God is faithful.

 Because of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we are accepted in God's family – on our good days and on our bad days, when we read the Bible three hours daily or haven't found the time to read it in several days, when we are feeling full of the joy of the Lord, or when our hearts are filled with depression. In all circumstances we can still sing, "It is well with my soul."




For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

     

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