Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
October 2, 2005
Dr. Marilyn S. Murphree
“Justification: So? What Does it Mean?”
Our great plans for our life look so easy to carry out. We might “read the directions” but sometimes things just don’t go as planned. We try one thing after another to solve the problems that life throws at us or that we deliberately walk into and find that things get more messed up than ever. Our lives get mangled up by sin and the route that we are taking. Sometimes we feel that our lives are never going to straighten out. Most of the time we fail to allow the Lord to be in on our plans and actions. Going it on our own can never straighten out the mess of our lives but we are not doing so well with our relationship with God either. Scripture says in Romans 3:23 that we’re all in the same boat for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In today’s scripture Paul talks about a word that we seldom hear anymore and probably don’t understand when we do hear it. That word is “justification.” You might say, “So” What does it mean? Why do I need to KNOW what it means?”
“Justification” is what is needed to bring about a right relationship with God. It is a central teaching of Paul that needs to be understood by us today.
To be “Justified” is to bring our lives into a right standing with God--to be declared righteous--to be acquitted.
How does “justification” change things for us? The example that best explains it to me is this:
Illustration: When I was typing the manuscript for my book, I had ragged edges on the right margin. Some sentences were too long and some were too short. They didn’t look good.
Before we come to the Lord, our lives are like the ragged looking edges of an uneven manuscript. They are out of whack and they need to be brought into alignment.
We try on our own and can’t seem to get them brought into alignment no matter how hard we try. On the manuscript I pushed the SELECT ALL button on the computer which highlighted the text. Then I found the RIGHT JUSTIFIED button and pushed it. In a moment the uneven lines were brought into perfect alignment on the page. The computer worked a miracle for setting the text right and it looked good when I printed it out.
How does justification change things in a spiritual sense for us? We bring our out of whack messed up lives to the Lord by FAITH in the work of Jesus on the cross. In the previous chapter 4, Paul refers to Abraham’s FAITH rather than by working to EARN right standing with God.
What would it matter to you whether a right relationship with God is a GIFT TO BE RECEIVED or a PRIZE TO BE EARNED? You might say, “It probably wouldn’t” but think about this.
1. How would you know that you did enough to earn right standing with God. When would He say, “You’ve done enough?” You would always be trying to do more to “live up to some impossible standard.”
2. If you were trying to EARN right standing as a prize a lot of people would be left out because everyone would not be a WINNER.
Justification by faith changes things for us in that we are brought into right relationship with God through what Christ did on the cross and not by what we do.
Verse 9 says, “since we have been justified by his blood we have been
1. saved from God’s wrath
2. we were reconciled to Him
3. we have peace with God (v. 1)
4. we have access
These are some of the benefits of justification. If we have peace WITH God we have acceptance with God. Ephesians 1:6, 7 (KJV) says “he hath made us accepted into the beloved in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
To set us right with Him--or to make us fit for him--we have it all together with God because of Jesus.
The Message Bible puts it this way:
“When we throw open the doors of our heart by faith--[not works]--we find to our amazement that he has ALREADY thrown open his doors to us.
We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand--out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace--standing tall and shouting our praises to God.
We’re never left feeling shortchanged. In fact, we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into us through the Holy Spirit.” (taken from chapter 5)
Paul is saying the first of the blessings of justification is PEACE WITH GOD. Peace means in this setting the believer’s HARMONY with God rather than the peace OF God. Peace WITH God means that we are in right standing and it happens the minute we allow Christ to do it for us. Give up your struggles to be righteous. You can’t do it for yourself. He has ALREADY done it on the cross. Justification is God’s ACT of declaring us not guilty for our sins. You might say, I don’t FEEL like I am in right standing. How much is FEELING? Feeling is not FAITH.
How much of God’s peace and hope need to begin with a FEELING? With HEAD KNOWLEDGE? With a CONSCIOUS CLAIMING OF HIS PEACE?
When you come to the Lord by faith you are as “righteous” or in as “right standing” as you will ever be. You don’t have to work at it--or earn it--you don’t have to straighten your life out first. You just come to the Lord as you are.
Justification means that he has ALREADY done it for you on the cross. You have to believe it and receive it.
We now have ACCESS by faith into this grace wherein we stand. We are INTRODUCED as pardoned offenders. We were not born in that state. By nature scripture says we are children of wrath. We have been BROUGHT INTO IT strictly by what Christ did on the Cross.
Now that we have been set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life. This is where the word “sanctification” comes in. It is the continual growing process in which our lives are continually being shaped and we are being formed in the image of Christ. God sees our value and our potential. Over our lifetime he chips away at our rough edges and never gives up on us. It reminds me of this story:
The Golden Buddha
In 1957 a group of monks had to relocate a large, clay Buddha from their monastery to a new location in order to free up some land for highway construction. The monks brought in a giant crane to lift the giant Buddha from the pedestal where it had sat for centuries.
When they tried to do this, the weight of the Buddha was so tremendous it began to crack. What’s more, the rain began to fall. Concerned about damage to the sacred Buddha, they decided to lower the statue back to the ground and cover it with a large canvas tarp to protect it from the rain.
Later that evening they went back to check on the Buddha. They shined a flashlight under the tarp to see if the statue was staying dry. In the flashlight beam, they noticed something gleaming back at them and thought this was strange.
Taking a closer look, they wondered if there might be something underneath the clay. They got a chisel and hammer and began to chip away at it. The gleam grew brighter. Many hours later, the monks stood face to face with the solid-gold Buddha.
Historians say that centuries before as the Burmese army was about to invade Thailand, the ancestors of those monks covered their precious golden statue with clay in order to hide it. The Burmese slaughtered all the monks and their secret went to the grave with them. Only in 1957 was the gold Buddha rediscovered.
When we see ourself with just an old rough clay exterior and give up on ourselves, remember that God sees our value and our potential. That’s why he sent Jesus in the first place to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. His desire is that we give him permission to do His work in our lives--to justify us and bring us into right standing with God and to draw us closer to Him through sanctification.
Let us pray: