Two Ways to Justify Our Self

I love when I get the opportunity to talk with and teach students. They are at the stage of life where they are simultaneously beginning to define their self while trying to understand how their faith relates to the life they want to live. Yesterday we were talking about what sin is and how we overcome it. Broad topic. One common response in our discussion was that we overcome sin by following the rules. And while for the students, they are just beginning to explore if this is a good spiritual strategy, for most of us, it is our default way of functioning in our spiritual life. When push comes to shove, just try harder to stop sinning! This is simply our attempt to justify our self before God. “Here I am God, I’ve made my self good enough.” It is the Lie, another way – although a religious way – to pursue wholeness apart from God. Because we are broken image bearers, our focus is self-centered. As disciples, that concept extends to the functional ways we attempt to be right before God. Self-justification is the idea that being right before God is up to us. Our effort. Our results. It is the attitude that says grace was OK for salvation, but grace is not part of sanctification. And there are two patterns that we follow to do this. They are extensions of the old or false self  that is comfortable and familiar and at war with our new self in Christ. One pattern of self-justification is by following the rules. Then we can look to God and say I...

An Encounter with the Older Son

In Luke 15 we find one of the most memorable stories of our faith, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Chances are, even if you are not an avid church goer, you have heard of or read this story. The younger son wants identity outside of the father’s household – he lives to satisfy the false self. So, this son pursues a life that seeks wholeness apart from the father and his standards. Yet, this path ends with the son becoming aware of his own brokenness and his lack of satisfaction. Within it are many of the qualities that make following Jesus unique – grace, God’s faithfulness, mercy, and covering to name just a few. What makes this story of God so beautiful is that it is the father – the father who was wronged, disgraced, and sinned against – who waits for the son. The father runs to the exhausted, repentant son. The father forgives. The father provides the sacrifice. The father declares righteous. The father clothes. The father celebrates. There is an oft overlooked character in this parable. He is treated as an insignificant addendum. The older son. The one who will inherit all that is left. What if the father had left him in charge and given him the ability to speak on his behalf. How would the parable be different if these two brothers had interacted directly? Adapting their words from the text of the parable: Prodigal: “I have sinned against heaven and before our father. I am no longer worth to be called his son.” Older: “Look these many years I have served him, and never disobeyed his command, yet he has never given me a young goat, that I...

Author and Perfecter

The celebration of Christmas and the birth of the Christ will be gone before we know it, and for many that brings on the holiday blues. Fun is over. Bills will come in. The extra weight is here to stay. But while the celebration is over, the reality is that Christmas never leaves us. In fact, everyday Christ is active in this world. Our celebration should be all the year through. Hebrews 12:2 is our reason to give thanks everyday: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. There is a lot there for which to give thanks. But my eyes today, in the shadow of Christmas, are on author and perfecter. The NIV uses author, in the ESV it is translated founder. Either way it means that Christ is the enabler of the value of our faith. He’s the foundation. This is the theological idea of justification. Few of us seem to have a problem giving Jesus charge over this aspect of our salvation. By the sinless life, sacrificial death and resurrection, we are declared righteous. Christ is essential. He’s the author. But this verse does not just declare Christ as author of our faith. Giving us a new status. It also declares him the perfecter. This is sanctification, the process of being saved. This is where we have trouble. For we often function as if perfecting our faith is up to us. Here are three quick observations about this...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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