Justified

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

imageOur exploration of atonement began as a Lenten devotion moving us steadily closer to Calvary on that Friday afternoon. Leading up to this post we have examined two images—propitiation and redemption—that illustrate facets of salvation, but not the entire picture. To these we add a third, justification.

Redemption locates us in the slave market, in bondage to sin with no hope of escape. One who has the will and the means to enable our freedom pays the price to loose our shackles and to walk free. The cost, often dismissed on the 51 weeks away from Resurrection Sunday, was the blood of Christ.

Free, we are still held to account for our sin. Redemption did not enable us to avoid the consequence. That requires a judicial decision: guilty or not guilty. The concept of justification serves this purpose. It stands us before The Judge who declares us not guilty. The verdict comes vicariously, the guilt being assigned to an Innocent.

We must also be cautious to not confuse justification with amnesty. Amnesty means that we overlook guilt or innocence, it is simply put aside without rendering a verdict. The holiness of God does not provide for this option. Holiness requires that only the not guilty stand in His presence. This requires the courtroom and the gavel of God to pronounce humanity’s status. Without it we have the ability to walk free, all the while walking toward the eternal consequences of our fallen nature. The removal of guilt enables us to, at a minimum, stand in the presence of God.

Grace and peace to you…

image Tim Ellis

Psalm 7 – Acquit Me O Lord

The psalmist expresses his innocence against all charges in this prayer by casting his fate completely into the hands of the Lord. We are not told what the charges are, but they must rise above the level of even human judgment. David cries out his appeal;

O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe – then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. (vv 1-5)

Only the pure of heart can make this bargain for we who approach the throne must know that God searches our hearts and knows what a human judge could not decipher without proof. This becomes even more critical if we follow the psalmist in crying out for satisfaction in judgment against our accuser.

O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. (v 9)

Before this becomes our prayer, we too must walk the path of light. If any portion of us remains in the shadows we will be tempted to hypocrisy in accusing others of similar guilt. The Spirit searches us day and night and, if we listen, will exert a pull to us out of the dark and convict us when we choose to stay. We are thankful for the imputed righteousness that we have received as believers but our task is to be transformed so that we reflect to a higher and higher degree the source of the righteousness.

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (v 17)