Justification concerns our standing and status before God. This article reflects on the implications of being justified by faith.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 2000. 2 pages.

Is My Lifestyle Justified?

To some people sunglasses have become an expensive fashion statement. However, to others they are just plain good sense because they shield the eyes from glare. Either way, they change the way we look at the world. They colour all that we see.

Justification is to a Christian life what sunglasses are to outdoor living. It is a doc­trine that is to colour our whole life per­spective. It is a doctrine through which Christians must view the world, and the life they live in that world. Sunglasses may be an option for the believer, but he can never view life apart from this pivotal doctrine of justification.

Justification concerns our standing and status before God. Calvin described justifi­cation as “the main hinge upon which reli­gion turns” (Institutes III, 11, 1). Calvin correctly saw that unless we understand our relationship to God we will neither know the foundation upon which our sal­vation is built, nor will we know how to build our relationship with God. In other words, we will not know how we stand with God, nor how we are to live in God’s world.

Justification teaches us that though we are sinners, we are declared acceptable to God on the basis of the work of Christ for us. Jesus’ death on the cross is the means by which the righteous God is able to declare us, the unrighteous, righteous in his sight (Romans 3:21-26).

Such an acceptance is received by the believer through faith, which is the gift of God. Justification is the verdict of God the judge that we are in a right standing with him because of the work of his Son on our behalf. It is this great truth upon which the whole of our Christian life turns, and which should colour our liv­ing. How, then, should it affect our liv­ing?

Justification is a motivation for obedi­ence and godly living. It should lead to our sanctification, which is the process of becoming more like Christ. Paul says in Romans 12:1 that we are, in the light of God’s mercy, to place our life totally at God’s disposal. The “God’s mercy” to which Paul refers is wide and deep but includes God’s grace by which Jesus died for us and thereby provided for our justifi­cation.

In the light of this mercy of justification, Christians are to serve with the gifts God has given to us (Rom 12:3-8); to love one another (Rom 12:9-13); to respond appro­priately to persecution (Rom 12:14-21); to submit to authority and pay our taxes (Rom 13:1-7); to clothe ourselves with Christ (Rom 13:8-14), and to care for the weak (Rom 14ff).

If we are having difficulty with obedi­ence, then we need to look once again at God’s justifying mercy in Christ. As we contemplate this truth, it is a motivating force upon the will of the believer. The gratitude that will flood our thinking when we correctly comprehend the justifying grace of God will compel us to obedience.

Justification also colours our own understanding of our performance as a Christian. Justification tells us that God chooses to regard us as what we are not. We are regarded as righteous, not because we possess a personal righteousness of our own but because God accepts Christ’s righteousness on our behalf.

With justification the slow and painful process of sanctification, becoming per­sonally righteous, begins. We are, to para­phrase Luther, at one and the same time righteous because of Christ’s work for us, and a sinner. If you, as a Christian, experience the pull of sin and you fail to live always as God wants, then such an experience is normal. Our acceptance is, however, not based on our performance but upon the performance of Christ on the cross. So be encouraged, meditate on Christ and his work and continue to press on to be what we are in God’s reckoning but not yet in ourselves righteous.

Justification tells us that our value to God as a person does not depend on what we do. God does not value us for our con­tribution to his wellbeing nor on the basis of what we can contribute to our justifica­tion. On the contrary, Paul tells us that when we were powerless and ungodly Christ died for us. Furthermore, it was when we were enemies that we were recon­ciled to God. In short,

God demonstrated his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Rom 5:8

The doctrine of justification means that our status in God’s sight is something that is given from God and not something we have earned. The esteem in which God holds us, and thus the esteem in which we hold ourselves, is, and should be, grounded in the grace of God and not in our own achievements.

This is very liberating for the Christian. God is not a God who changes as we do. He has, as a reflection of himself and his character, fixed his love upon his people and this is a love which is undiminished and unwavering. God, through the doctrine of justification, is affirming that our value resides in him and not in ourselves and our performance. If this is the attitude of him on whom all things depend, then this is the only opinion in the universe that ultimately matters. For what shall it profit us if we should gain the esteem of the whole world, but not be esteemed by the living God?

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