Today we are going to look at our new series titled “Unwrapped.” We are just a few weeks away from Christmas, and I know everyone loves a great present to unwrap. However, these presents are temporary no matter how well they are made. Let’s dive into something that is extremely valuable and eternal!
Wherever you are on your personal journey, whether you are a non-believer, new believer or veteran in the faith, there is a gift that once unwrapped only needs receiving. This gift is called justification. Sounds important doesn’t it? Well, it is and you will see why. I think we can all agree that just because we accept Jesus, it does not mean that we instantly understand all that there is to know about Him.
Look at the thief on the cross who was one of two criminals who were crucified along with Jesus. He was very aware of his crimes and knew he deserved to die. However, he saw Jesus suffering on the cross and knew that He was innocent and that this man and His teachings should be loved and followed. He didn’t have time to get saved, attend church for years or even be baptized. That being said, he cried out for Jesus to allow him to follow Him wherever He was going. Through scripture we know that Jesus told him that he would join Jesus in Paradise.
The other thief on the other side of Jesus mocked Him and criticized Him for not calling on angles to deliver them. What was the main difference between these two criminals? A repentant heart! That is all it took for Jesus to show mercy. After all, the entire reason Jesus was on that cross was for sinners.
There is certainly not enough time or space here to totally unpack justification, but we will look at some of Paul’s writings on the matter. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Praise God forevermore for the grace that has been made available to us.
Romans 4:2 says, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.” God made it so that we are justified by Him, not anything we can do. It’s human nature to try and boast about something, but not grace, that can’t be earned or accomplished on our own. Grace is an amazing free gift from God our Father. However, God does require us to make a move towards Him by repenting. In this way we don’t earn it, but we accept it.
Romans 8:33 says, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” I don’t know about you, but that verse makes me want to shout a bit! This tiny verse says so much! We see the reality in the fact that as we have mentioned before, God chooses each of us! He wants us all and He provided a way for that to be possible when we turn from our wicked ways and accept the grace and forgiveness provided by the cross! It also speaks to the fact that no matter who your accusers are on this earth, God has the final say because only he justifies us.
It can be confusing sometimes when we read scripture that says that it’s not by our works that we are saved, yet read other verses that talk about faith without works is dead. A simple illustration to help with this is with the sun. You feel the heat and see the light coming from the sun. It’s the same with faith. We receive the free gift of salvation from God and then it’s out of that relationship that we perform works FOR God.
One more scripture for today found in II Corinthians 5:19 says, “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Once more we see a loving Father that made a way for His creations to come back to Him. When He looks at us, He literally sees righteous children instead of sinners. This is the case for all that receives Him.
We should all take a moment and give praise for what God has done for us, in us and through us. He knows that we will still undoubtedly sin, but He has made a way for our forgiveness and we are justified before Him. Let’s also remember this when dealing with difficult people in our lives as well. Not only are we justified, but your brothers and sisters in Christ are as well.