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Justified by Faith - Part 2

9th August 2019

Last week, we studied these words from Paul's letter to the church in Rome. We saw how they explain the Gospel message, that through faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, our sins can be forgiven, our relationship with God restored and our eternal destiny guaranteed.

Romans 3:20-28
Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
But a righteousness from God, now apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

This week, we'll consider how the doctrine of justification by faith affects our life on earth.

Firstly, it affects our self-image. Many of us don't feel very clean, don't feel very worthy of love, don't feel accepted. But if you've put your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour then, as we saw last time, God accepts you completely, 100%. And since God accepts you, anybody who doesn't accept you is arguing with God. If somebody tells you you're too stupid, too old, too young, too unwell, or too sinful to be accepted, God says different. God says you're completely accepted. So they're wrong. Anybody who seeks to condemn you or exclude you is wrong, because God says otherwise.

This means, of course, that Christians really, really must accept each other. God says your bother and your sister in Christ are 100% accepted, too. They're accepted on the same basis, and just as much, as you are. So how can we exclude or judge one another?

It also means that you can accept yourself. If you put yourself down, if you don't like yourself very much, if you think you don't have the right to be involved with God's people, then you're arguing with God. God loves you, God accepts you, and God welcomes you into His family. And since God accepts you 100%, you can accept yourself 100%.

If you've put your faith in Jesus, then you've been justified by faith, 100%. So you never, ever, have to justify yourself. Remember the prelude to the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Luke 10:25-29
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher, " he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life? "
"What is written in the Law? " he [Jesus] replied. "How do you read it? " He answered, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'"
"You have answered correctly, " Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live. "
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?"

And that's why Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan. This teacher of the law, this scribe, felt a need to justify himself. That's not about how he'll fare on the Day of Judgement. It's not about his eternal destiny. The scribe wanted Jesus and the people around him to think he was clever and wise. He asked Jesus a question, and he hadn't fully understood Jesus's answer, and he was afraid of looking stupid.

We can fall into the same trap. We can try to say things that impress people, so we'll be accepted. Sometimes we can be afraid of looking stupid, or awkward, or unacceptable in one way or another. But we don't have to. God accepts us, so if other people don't accept us, they're arguing with God. God says we're OK, so we're OK.

Some of us would find it very helpful to say to ourselves, "God accepts me, so I accept myself. I don't need to justify myself to anybody, ever again ". That's the truth. As Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 4:3
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human agency.

You are free to be yourself. God has justified you. It's nice to have each other's approval, but you don't need it. You have God's approval. God says you're OK. So you're OK.

But how can you be OK with God, since you still do things that are wrong, and still fail to do things that are right? Psalm 103 says:

Psalm 103:8-12
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

You've probably heard the Christian saying, "Hate the sin, love the sinner ". God is really good at that. God really, really hates your sin, but He really, really loves you.

We just read that, if you're a follower of Jesus, God's love for you is as high as the heavens are above the earth, and God has removed your transgressions from you as far as the east is from the west. God separates you from your sins in His mind. He knows you do bad things. He knows everything. But when God looks at you, He sees you. He sees you pure, justified and holy. When you look west, you turn your back on what's east. When God looks at you, He turns his back on your sin.

This doesn't mean that sin is OK, or that it doesn't matter. Sin is horrible. God truly hates your sin. Sin damages you, it damages other people, and it damages your relationship with God. He doesn't love you any less, but you lose some of your ability to receive from God.

Every true follower of Jesus will repent of his sin, and seek God's help in overcoming it. But God accepts you 100%, and so you should accept yourself 100%. Just as God hates your sin, and you should hate your sin, God loves you and so you can love yourself.

The only person whose opinion of you is really worth listening too, is God. And God completely loves and accepts you.

When we admonish one another, as sometimes we must, we must be careful to speak against a person's sin but never speak against the person. We may have to speak to somebody, saying "This sin is harming you, or harming others, or both" but we can never reject the Christian we're speaking to, because God accepts him 100%.

And perhaps you look back on your life, and see some of the mistakes you've made, some of the sin you've committed, the people you've hurt, the damage you've done. If you've never apologised to God for those things, I suggest you do it now.

1 John 1:8-9
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

See again, God purifies us from ALL unrighteousness. He separates us from our sin. Whatever you've done, whoever you've hurt, if you're a follower Jesus, and following Jesus does involve repentance, God accepts the person you are, right now, 100%, because you've been justified by faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.

You never have to apologise for you who are. You will sometimes have to apologise for what you've done. But you are not your sin.

Jesus has paid the price for your sin, so you don't have to. God accepts you 100%, so you can accept yourself 100%. You are a loved child of God.