Some churches and parachurch organizations in the United States begin the New Year with a scripture or theme to gather around for the year, others the call to prayer, still others because of our current tax structure—make one last plea for year-end giving.
I would like to begin our New Year thinking large and deep on the great doctrine of Justification. This is important. To put it bluntly, if we get Justification wrong, we get the gospel wrong. We are deeply sinful people, even after our redemption. Our motives are shaded. Our self-interest promoted. We say, do and think things we should not say, do and think. We need Justification to be true. Thank God it is. Below is a good definition of Justification.
Justification is an act of God’s free loving grace, wherein He forgives all our sins and accepts us forever as righteous, spotless, blameless in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.
In other words, Justification is a legal act by God, based on the imputing to us the righteousness of Christ, by means of faith (given as a gift from God).
Justification is incredible. Its benefits immortal. Enjoyed and increasingly applied will help us frame our view of ourselves, of others and the world in acutely useful and authentic way. I am certain there are many ways to apply this glorious doctrine, here are at least four.
Frankly, there will be days when we simply will not think ourselves Justified. There will be down days, wobbly, angry, sinful days which make us the question, “Am I even a Christian?” The doctrine of Justification by faith alone, cuts through the Christian’s muddle-headedness reminding us we have been born again and are “in Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He has completed His redemptive work. He has satisfied the justice of God the Father and has sealed us with His Holy Spirit. Therefore, we will never need to be re-justified. As Paul writes so clearly, “Therefore, since we have been Justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Christian, on those heavy days, drink this in.
At the end of Romans 8, Paul comes to our rescue writing, “who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus…died” (33-34). By God’s grace, Justification protects and defends the believer against any accusation from the enemy—foreign (the kingdom of hell) and domestic (the people of this world).
In that, remind yourself—God has declared you righteous. Therefore, even though I have rebelled against all His commands, and kept none of them, and I am still inclined to evil; God by His grace and not our effort, grants and imputes to us the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ as if I never have nor will commit any sin—ever. It is as if I obeyed God like Jesus in order that I live in His obedience and what His obedience has accomplished for me. To be sure in our current context as a culture the door is open for all kinds of people to make all kinds of condemnations which would threaten to undo us. Here we can flee to the citadel of Christ finding refuge in God who accepts us fully and always through His Son.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “by grace (we) have been saved through faith. And this is not (our) doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is from God. In order that, “no one may boast.” If we are Justified by faith alone, there is nothing in which we can boast about. When we properly grasp this, there is no room for pride. In fact, quite the opposite. Knowing that God has removed our sins, placed our sins on His Son, credited His Son’s righteousness to our account and declared us righteous through the worth, excellence and obedience of His Son—this should humble us profoundly. Christ bled and died for our eternal life.
The Bible tells us not to pretend we are practically perfect, but instead confess our sins remember God is faithful, and will forgive our sins for Jesus sake. The obedience which matters most is Jesus’. Justification says, “Come come Christian now be honest, even though God knows you just as you are, He sees you just as Christ is –perfect!” Justification is not like therapy, rather it is more like surgery. Surgery, which fixes things once and for all. Therein our stability does not rest in our own progress in holiness, which will never be what it should be, but rather on Christ’s death which atones for every one of our sins and on His perfect righteousness. Stability!
Loved ones, Christianity was never meant to be the survival of the fittest. Rather it is stability and joy for the weak and honest. If we have believed God has sent His Son for us and died as our substitute, if we have confessed and repented of our sin, we are Justified. Hallelujah we are Justified!
May we all be maintained this year in this truth.
This comes to you with all my love in the Lord Jesus Christ,
P.S. Happy New Year!