March 30, 2011 - Justified
Rev. Ken Bushey
I find it easy to rejoice in many things—in fact a few of my favorite things are the gracious blessings Paul mentions in the first two verses. But if we are honest, we might have difficulty with verse three. Suffering is not normally counted among the items in which we rejoice.
Paul explains that it is the thought of being justified that causes him to rejoice even in suffering. I remember a time of suffering when I was happy that I was justified. My older brother hurt me. I felt justified in hurting him in return and admit I might have rejoiced for a moment in my vindication. Justification can cause one to rejoice in the midst of suffering… that is, if he or she was the victim, not the perpetrator.
But these verses remind me that I was not the victim. I was the perpetrator.
It is a troubling thought to consider how the creatures God formed from dust have audaciously argued with their Creator, been ungrateful and disrespectful, been hurtful to the ones he loves, and have even attempted to sit on his throne. On the scales of justice, his wrath makes sense. He is completely justified in destroying his creation.
And yet he doesn’t. In his mercy, God chose to spare us and leave the scales horribly out of balance.
We cannot justify how we have treated God. Nor is there any way we can make it right. Even the blood of animal sacrifice isn’t sufficient (Hebrews 10:4). The only justifiable penalty for sin against a holy God is execution (Romans 6:23).
Yet, this is the gospel: we have not only been spared through God’s mercy—he didn’t give us what we justifiably deserved—but we have also received God’s grace—he gave us what we didn’t justifiably deserve.
Let this sink in: God justifies us. We were not justified in how we treated God. He was completely justified in destroying us. Yet, God sent his only Son to set the scales right—not to kill us, but to die in our place—in order that we might be justified in being in his presence.
The proper response to this amazing grace, Paul says, is joy… even in our sufferings! His mercy is so rich, his grace so marvelous that our temporary sufferings can’t even compare to the crucifixion that could have been—and should have been—ours. Only because of the sufferings of Christ, you and I are justified to come into God’s presence. Indeed, its “just-if-I’d” never sinned.
Jesus, I owe you my life. In my momentary afflictions, call me to remember the extent of your suffering for me. When tempted to justify my behavior against another, remind me of the debt I’ve been forgiven. In my times of weariness, restore to me the joy of my justification. Amen.
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