When I set out the themes at the beginning of 2021, knowing what lay ahead, I kept telling myself “it’s in the future, don’t worry” when I saw words like ‘justification’ awaiting me. Now that it’s here, I’m a bit taken aback.
Why, you may ask? I regularly need to Google the definition of justification to remind myself exactly what it means. It’s a big word with a complex definition. Or at least it feels complex to me.
To simplify it for myself, I started thinking about how we use the word today. Typically, we use the verb form of it – ‘justify’. We justify our actions, emotions and responses. I know I justify many things in my mind – I can totally buy this plant, I deserve it; what’s another 10-minute snooze; I’ll have quiet time tomorrow. Some of them are valid, some of them are just to make myself feel better.
More often than not, it’s to make myself feel better about my own decisions, actions or feelings.
What is godly justification?
The definition of it is this: justification is God’s righteous act of removing the condemnation, guilt and penalty of sin, by grace, while, at the same time, declaring the ungodly to be righteous, through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Read that again, I know I do.
Justification would not be possible without the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only reason it exists. The cross is “God’s righteous act”.
He removed “the condemnation, guilt and penalty of sin” by carrying it on the cross with Him. He died to remove that on our behalf. And nothing we can ever do, or have done, made that happen. It’s all “by grace”. Therefore, each one of us as sinners, has been declared righteous through our faith in God – by believing Jesus died on the cross and is our Saviour.
Jesus justified our actions, decisions and thoughts, so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of our sin before God – when we live in faith and obedience to God. We have been justified by Christ, for Christ – to live in relationship with Him.
What does that mean for you and I?
Considering we recently went through the Easter season… I think the reason for the cross, and the importance of it in our lives, is still fresh in our minds. We know Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we can live in freedom from sin and death, and in relationship with God.
Take a moment to think about the act of justification. When I justify my actions, I do it to make myself feel better (generally). Or to validate a decision I have made. What Jesus did was purely sacrificial and for our benefit. He justified all of our sin at no benefit to Him, so that we don’t have to. So that we can live in freedom with Him – He did it for our good, not His.
But we shouldn’t leave it at that – Jesus making a huge sacrifice for our benefit just so that we may go on with our lives and pursues our desires. We shouldn’t use the cross to justify our actions, our decisions, that don’t align with God. The reality, and gift, of the cross, should transform us. It should make us want to live a life glorifying to God because of what He did for us on the cross.
We’re no longer slaves to sin, fear or death. WE ARE FREE! And the way we live should reflect that. We should reflect Jesus. We should proudly bear the identity of the One who created us, set us free and wants a relationship with us. Justification is not just a gift given to us sacrificially, it is an action on our side too. We need to act and live our lives to reflect God’s transforming truth in our lives. It’s not something we need to do alone, God is with us as we walk with Him through life. But it is a decision we need to make to allow His word and presence to transform us and renew our minds on a daily basis (Romans 12:2).
It’s not easy. But neither was the act of justification that Jesus sacrificially, and lovingly, took on our behalf. Words like justification may seem overwhelming, but the truth of it is simple – Jesus died to free us, so we must live like we’ve been set free by Christ.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”(Romans 3:23,24)