I Am Justified
Who Am I? Seeing Your True Identity Through God’s Eyes ❧ Part 5
This morning I want to begin by asking you what may seem like a strange question. Here it is: are you a monkey Christian or are you a cat Christian? Strange right? I read this question this last week and thought to myself, “What a weird question?” But when I read the explanation, I realized it wasn’t so weird after all. It’s a very important question.
Have you ever noticed how a mother cat carries her young – by the knap of the neck? The baby kitten’s security rests completely on her mother’s ability to carry her. The baby monkey grasps its mother’s neck with its tiny paws – and hangs on for dear life! So, let ask you again, are you a monkey Christian or a cat Christian? Does the security of your relationship with God rest your ability to hang on to God or does it depend on God’s ability to hold on to you? Important question, isn’t it?
Essentially, what I’m asking is: How can you know you’re right with God? Are you right with God by works – a monkey Christian or by grace – a cat Christian? Amazingly, many Christians have confused grace and effort.
If that’s not bad enough, the confusion between grace and effort ultimately leads to a confusion of our true identity in Christ, who we are in God’s eyes. If you’re confused about God’s acceptance of you, you’re going to be confused about who you really are – your true identity. As a result, many believers are stuck in spiritual quicksand. The more effort they exert to live the Christian life, the deeper they sink and the more helpless they feel. In fact, the number one problem most believers have is they are living out a false identity; they don’t understand their true identity as God’s children in Christ. Instead of knowing and believing who God says they are, they define themselves by their family heritage, social standing, or racial distinctions.
Let me ask you, if you see yourself as someone different than God sees you, who is mistaken, you or God? In the opening words of his book, Who I Am In Christ, Neil Anderson writes: Tragically, most Christians never come to appreciate who they are in Christ. From the time of birth we are programmed by our environment and the people in our lives. We interpret the meaning of life’s experiences through the grid of our personal orientation and react accordingly. For the many who have experienced rejection, abandonment or abuse from earliest childhood, entrenched in their belief system is an attitude that says, “I am of no value,” “I don’t measure up,” “I am unlovable.” Even those of us whose childhood seemed wholesome have been victimized in some way by the enemy’s subtle deceptions (N.T. Anderson, Who I Am In Christ, p.7). Only by knowing who you truly are in Christ will you be able to confront your false identity shaped by the past and replace it with who God says you are. That’s the heart of these messages: seeing ourselves as God sees us. Last week we saw that because of our faith in Christ we are saints. Being a saint does not point to your maturity but your identity. You’re a saint because God made you one when you trusted Christ.
This morning we’re going to look at the fifth message in our series: Who Am I? Seeing Your True Identity Through God’s Eyes. How can we know we’re right with God? Answer: I am justified in Christ. What Justification means
I. I am completely forgiven in Christ. To say that I am completely forgiven means just that, I am completely forgiven – past, present, and future. That’s what Paul is saying to believers in Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). The word justified means God in His grace declares the believing sinner to be right with Him based on the finished work of His Son on the cross. We’ve looked this before, but it is well worth repeating for an important reason. We need to know our forgiveness in Christ is permanent and what makes it so.
When Paul says we’ve been justified by faith in Romans 5, he’s answering a question that sooner or later his readers would ask. He’s has just finished carefully explaining justification by faith alone reaches all the way back to Abraham, the father of the Jews. Abraham was made right with God based on his faith in God (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). Paul goes on to say the same is true for those who follow in Abraham’s footsteps; they too are made right with God by faith (Rom. 4:5). But God didn’t simply declare us to be right with Him without the wrongs we’ve done being paid for. That’s the wonder of what God did for us. God is just. He cannot go against His own character. That means sin had to be paid for. Christ paid for your sin on the cross. For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Through Christ’s death God was both just and gracious. On the one hand, His wrath against our sin was satisfied (the Bible calls this propitiation [1 Jn. 2:2]). On the other, God was gracious in that He offered us forgiveness by confessing our sin to Him and asking His forgiveness.
Most of us know this. But, like us, the first people reading the book of Romans would wonder sooner or later, “Okay, so I’m made right with God by my faith in Christ. But how long does being right with God last? Can the joy of knowing I’m forgiven last if I don’t keep the Law, if I mess up? What about trials and sufferings? What about the coming judgment?” When Paul penned the words in Romans 5:1 that we have been justified by faith, he wrote in the past tense, meaning it is once for all time. If his readers missed this, he tells them our forgiveness is so certain one day when we stand before God, we don’t need to worry about God’s judgment. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Romans 5:9).
Your forgiveness is permanent. Were God to call you home this very moment, you do not need to worry about your sin. Some mistakenly believe that when they die all their sins will be put on a giant screen for all to see. Nothing could be further from the truth. Justification means that when God looks at you, He sees the righteousness of Christ. Your old unrighteous self is no longer true of who you are. How can we know this for sure? Galatians 2:20 says we have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer us who live, but Christ who lives in us. The old you with our past no longer exists.
What this means is you can let go of the past! I recently read that if you take a glass jar, punch some holes in the lid, and put several flies inside the jar, they will fly around desperately trying to get out of their glass prison. If you leave the lid on for awhile something very interesting happens: when you take off the lid, the flies don’t fly away! Even though the lid is gone, they’re free to go, the don’t. They keep circling around inside the jar as though the lid were still there. Why? Because they still believe they are trapped.
We’re no different. We fly around in stuck in the past, even though the lid is gone and we’re free to let go of the past. If you’ve come to Christ and asked Him to forgive you, then walk in the freedom He offers through His forgiveness. You can let go of the guilt and shame of the past. Don’t wait for a feeling or an experience. Take God at His Word. If you’ve asked His forgiveness, then make the choice to start living in it.
Somewhere I’ve read the great reformer Martin Luther had a dream one night where the devil was accusing him. Luther, how dare you to pretend to be a reformer of the Church? Luther, let your memory do its duty – let your conscience do its duty: you have committed this sin – you have been guilty of that sin; you have omitted this duty, and you have neglected that duty: let your reform begin in your own bosom. How dare you attempt to be a reformer of the Church? Luther, with the self-possession he was characterized by said to Satan, Take up the slate that lies on the table, and write down all the sins with which you have now charged me; and if there be any additional, append them, too. With delight, Satan began writing down a long and painful list of Luther’s sins. Before the devil was finished, Luther asked him, Have you written all down? To which Satan answered, Yes, and black and dark is the catalogue, sufficient to deter you from making any attempt to reform others, till you have first purified and reformed yourself. Luther then said, Take up the list and and write, My sins are many; my transgressions in the sight of an infinitely holy God, are countless as the hairs of my head: in me there dwells no good thing; but Satan, after the last sin you have recored, write these words: ‘the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Luther then had peace and Satan knowing the source of his peace, had no more advantage over him. God no longer sees you through your past, but in Christ. Justification means I am completely forgiven.
II. I am completely accepted in Christ. One of our greatest needs is to know we are unconditionally loved and accepted. Those needs came from God and can only be fully satisfied in Christ. Justification means I am completely accepted by God in Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God (Romans 15:7).
Like God’s forgiveness, His acceptance of us is based on our faith in Christ. We cannot do anything to gain it or sustain it. God is not deceived in some way as though He doesn’t know who you truly are. God knows you better than you know yourself. He has known you longer than anyone. He knew you and chose you before the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:4).
Why is this so important? The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6 I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Phil. 1:6, NLT). God wants you to be rock-solid in knowing He will never give up on you. Other people might, but God won’t. You don’t need to be threatened by the rejection of others because you are secure in God’s acceptance.
I want you to hear someone tell you about God’s acceptance in their life (Chantell).
Over a century ago, author J.B. Stoney wrote: The blessed God never alters or diverges from that acceptance in which Has received us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ… Many suppose that because they are conscious of sins, hence they must renew their acceptance with God. The truth is that God never altered. His eye rests on the work accomplished by Christ for the believer. When you are not walking in the Spirit you are in the flesh; you have turned to the old man which was crucified on the cross (Rom. 6:6). You have to be restored to fellowship, and when you are, you find your acceptance with God unchanged and unchangeable. When sins are introduced, there is a fear that God has changed. He has not changed, but you have (Miles J. Stanford, Principles of Spiritual Growth, p.17). Justification means I am completely accepted in Christ.
III. I am completely secure in Christ. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:11).
In the Bible, to drive home God’s forgiveness, acceptance and security in the lives of believers, it is not unusual for God to rename people once they’ve placed their trust in Him. After Abraham stepped across the line of faith, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. Before Paul was Paul, his name was Saul. Before Peter, which means rock, was known as Peter, his name was Simon (John1:42). Out of them all, I think Peter must have been the most shocked. No one had ever called him a rock before, maybe a pile of sand, but not a rock. No one had ever said he would be a man of authority, but Jesus did. No one ever said he would charge the very gates of hell, but Jesus did (Matt. 16:17-20). Jesus does the same with each of us as well. The Bible says we’ve been given a new name which refers to God’s acceptance and security that we belong to Him (Rev. 2:17). In fact, God has a number of names in which He now calls us. We are now called God’s saints (Eph. 1:1). We are God’s friend (Jn. 15:5). We are God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16). The list goes on. But one of the most significant names I want to leave you with is God now calls you His child (1 John 1:12). He is your Father. You are His forever child in which He will never reject you.
I think it is this truth that really needs to be heard by so many in our day. Fatherlessness is an epidemic that has left many children feeling unwanted, unloved, insecure without have a father. Sometime ago sociologist Christian Smith did a study on culture and spirituality regarding teenagers. Shortly after this, he did another study of young adults after highschool. His research was telling for sure. He concluded that most teens and young adults hold what he calls a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). The basic ideas is as follows:
1)There is a god who made the world but lives far away. He watches life on earth but isn’t involved in any meaningful way, and we won’t meet this nameless, faceless god unless we live a good life so that we can go to heaven (this the Deism of MTD).
2)We’re not sinners who need a savior, but rather, basically good people. We’re each supposed to live a moral life by being good, fair, and nice to people as taught in the Bible and most religious and ideologies. All religious teach basically the same moral message (Moralistic of DTM).
3)The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good. So, we should take the encouraging and empowering information we find in the disciplines such as psychology and spirituality, and integrate it together in ways that work for us. Then we can make good decisions and live good lives we’re proud of and happy (Therapeutic of DTM).
Mark Driscoll writes: This widespread view of God by young people tragically resembles so many of their earthly fathers. In their view, God is basically a dad who left the family when we were too young to even remember Him. Still, he’s a decent enough guy, and though we don’t know him and he doesn’t visit, he nevertheless wants us to be good people an live good lives.
The only answer to the unconditional forgiveness, acceptance and security we long for can be found in the God of the Bible. He does not want us to be confused insecure orphans wondering why we’re here. He wants us to know who we are in Him. The only way we can do that is by trusting His Son Jesus Christ embracing His forgiveness, acceptance and security as a new creation, as God’s very own child. Have you done that?