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 did everything right. In this paradigm, God isn’t really even necessary. It is religion – looking for salvation in the law rather than the God who made the law.

It is what Jesus scolded the Pharisee for.

But, there is a second pattern of self-justification. It is simple and so common we probably don’t even realize we do it.

We change the standard entirely – getting comfortable with how we have covered our own brokenness and proclaiming it OK.

I’ve done this. You’ve done this. Maybe right now.

It is OK for me to commit adultery because it is filling my need for intimacy.

Homosexuality is OK because is is my source of acceptance and affirmation.

Intentionally over promising to a prospective client is OK because I need the commission to maintain my financial sense of value.

(Insert sin here) is OK because (insert what it contributes to your false sense of self).

Be careful not to call good what God has called bad.

But also remember that God does not call it bad because He hates you, He hates the separation, He hates the enslavement, He hates that we ignore the better way.

God knows the world is broken. He knows the temptation of the systems and standards of the world.

That is why He provided a place for us to work it out. Without shame. With his grace. With his compassion.

Your stable and secure sense of value and significance is available despite your weaknesses and failures.

In Christ.


I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.

Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching,  speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.

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