"There is Now NO Condemnation for those IN Christ Jesus!"
Once we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, and have trusted Him with the forgiveness of our sins, what happens to our GUILT??
Often, we try to handle this on our own with a little thing called Self Justification! Think with me of the parable Jesus shared in Luke 18:9-14. You may be familiar with this but I want to encourage you to think on it again. Luke tells us that Jesus shared this parable with people who TRUSTED in THEMSELVES for Righteousness! Jesus speaks of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector who went up to the Temple to pray. He first describes the Pharisee who marched right in and “took his stand!” He proceeded to Justify himself before God standing on two things, his MORALITY and His RELIGIOSITY! He drew attention to the fact that he was a morally good person AND that he was extremely religious! I wonder how many of us today try and stand on something similar? We justify ourselves by comparing our morality to that of others, by making a list of all the religious activities we are involved in, or by making a myriad of excuses. We say, “If I had the time, I would.” Or, “If I wasn’t so exhausted.” We also justify ourselves by using the oldest method in the book, blaming someone else! Think back to Adam and Eve. When confronted with their sin, Eve blamed the devil, and Adam blamed both Eve, AND GOD Himself! Truthfully though, we do the same thing. We blame our spouses, our co-workers, our pastors, our kids, and even God Himself! The truth is, however, that no matter how hard we try we can never justify ourselves before a Righteous and Holy God. His is the standard by which we are judged. We are not judged by comparing ourselves to each other or to a standard we have made. We will be judged compared to the standard of the Holy, Perfect, and Righteous Creator of the Universe! The Bible is crystal clear about this. Paul lays this out in Romans 1-3. The Bible repeatedly tells us that there is NO ONE Righteous! There is No one who is without sin! Jesus tells us that unless our righteousness EXCEEDS that of the scribes and Pharisees we would NEVER enter the Kingdom of Heaven! In fact, God will let NO UNRIGHTEOUNESS into His Kingdom. Only those who are Perfectly Righteous will be able to stand before a perfectly righteous God! This is why we see in the Old Testament that anyone who got NEAR the Glory of God would fall down as if dead! Now, that was only “coming near” His Glory, can you imagine standing directly in His Full Presence? So, if only the Righteous can stand before a Righteous God, and we know that there is NO WAY that we can make ourselves righteous before God, then where does that leave us? It should leave us asking the same question Job asked in Job 9:2, “How then can a man be made right before God?” I want us to go back to the parable in Luke. In verse 13, Jesus tells us that as the Pharisee took his stand, there was a tax collector standing far off, who couldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven, but kept beating his chest saying, “God, turn your wrath away from me, I am a sinner.” You see, this man had it right. He knew it would take an act of GOD in order to be made RIGHT! Jesus tells us that it is this one who left fully Justified!!
This is the Doctrine of Justification!! It is this Doctrine that changed the life of Martin Luther, and it is this very understanding that began the Protestant Reformation! In fact, Luther said, “If Justification stands – the Church will stand. If it collapses - the Church will collapse!” So what is Justification? According to the biblical definition of the Greek word, Justification is 2 parts! 1st, it is “A sentence of Acquittal – By which God acquits men of their guilt – by Christ’s Sacrifice! 2nd, “It is a Concrete Declaration of Righteousness - Through the Confirmation of Christ’s Resurrection!” I want us to understand that Paul is clear in Rom. 3:26, 28, 5:1, 8:33, and Gal. 2:16 that Justification takes place once we have placed our faith in Christ! This standing is by faith ALONE, In Christ ALONE, Through God ALONE! There is NOTHING we can do to earn this!!! Think about both parts for a moment. First, there is a Legal Declaration that takes place. God declares that there is NO Penalty we must pay for our sins!! We are declared NOT GUILTY!! Our debt has been canceled! Think about the powerful moment in a courtroom where a Judge makes the final declaration that the defendant is Not Guilty! Can you feel the release, and the freedom, knowing they can never be tried for that crime again! The decision is Final! The case is dismissed! Now, if God had ONLY forgiven us of all our sins, that would have been amazing, wouldn’t it? But we still would have had a problem. We would have only been neutral before God. This is where the second part comes in! God not only Declared us Not guilty, but He declared us RIGHTEOUS!!! The Bible tells us that He imputed the Righteousness of Christ to us! That means that He did not only erase all my debt, but he added to my account the Righteousness of Christ! What if someone came up to you and said that your physical debt was gone, that it had all been paid off! That would be amazing! But then imagine that the same person said, “Oh and by the way, I also deposited 3 trillion dollars into your account as well!” How would you feel then? You could never possibly spend that in a lifetime. You will never have to worry about money again! This is what God has done for us! After he emptied our account of all our debt, He then Imputed to our account the Full Righteousness of Christ!! THIS IS HUGE!!! When the Bible speaks of the Righteousness of God, it is referring to His “Perfect Nature, and His Perfect Actions!” This is your standing before God now!! He sees a person who is sinless, and who has His Perfect nature and a record of His Perfect Actions through His Son!! This is the Hinge of Christianity! Not by any works of your own, but through Faith in Jesus Christ! You see, the great substitution was that when Christ died for us on that cross, ALL our SIN was imputed to him! All our sin was placed on Him. And now, when we have trusted in Him for our salvation, God places All the Righteousness of Christ on us!! A wonderful passage on this in found in Rom. 5:18-19!
You may have heard the little explanation of Justification that goes like this, “JUST – AS – IF – I’VE - NEVER SINNED!” That is SO true, but I want to tell you there is more! Yes! God looks at you now just as if you’ve never sinned, but Justification also means, “JUST – AS – IF – I’VE – ALWAYS OBEYED!!!” He keeps NO RECORDS of WRONGS!! Your sins are removed as far as the East is from the West, and it is just as if you’ve never sinned. But now, you also have the Righteousness of Christ (His perfect nature, and Perfect Acts) imputed to you as well. It is Just as If you’ve Always Obeyed!!! This is Justification! Please understand this is not the same as Sanctification, which explains how God transforms us into the likeness of Christ through an ongoing process. THIS is OUR ETERNAL STANDING before God for all eternity!
I love a story told by Dr. Roy Gustafson, who talks about a man who wanted to travel through Europe in his Rolls Royce! As he was traveling, something happened to the motor in his car and he cabled the Rolls Royce Company in England. They promptly flew a mechanic over to his location. The mechanic fixed the motor and the gentleman resumed his vacation. Once he was home, he wrote to the company to ask what he owed them. This was the reply he received: “Dear Sir, There is No record anywhere in our files that anything Ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce!” This is Justification! There is No record Anywhere in God’s Files that you have EVER Sinned!! You have been declared Not Guilty and You have been declared Righteous! It is Just as if you’ve Never Sinned AND Just as if you’ve ALWAYS Obeyed! This is our STANDING before God today, tomorrow, our whole life, and as we stand before Him in Eternity!!!
“When He shall come with Trumpet sound, Oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ALONE. FAULTLESS, Stand before the throne!”