“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24
Have you ever been in a casual conversation with someone when suddenly you realize that you’ve been ever-so-slightly lying? Not huge, whopper kind of lies, but just little lies that make you look subtly better than you actually are. Or maybe you realize that you’ve been eager to slip some of your most recent accomplishments into the conversation.
“What is wrong with me,” you might think. Well, you are trying to justify your existence. That’s right, you are trying to justify yourself…your value…your meaning. We all do it, often without even noticing.
Why would we feel the need to justify ourselves like that? It’ probably because we feel guilty. We don’t feel like we are quite good enough. And as we’ve already talked about, the reason we feel that way so often is because we are broken. In other words, we are guilty! We don’t love God or our neighbor the way God created us to love. In fact, the Bible actually says, “There is none righteous, no not even one!”
So, often we actually feel insecure and like we don’t measure up. And as silly as it may seem, the way we sometimes compensate for that is by telling little lies about ourselves or simply trying to make ourselves look better than we actually are. We are trying to justify our existence.
Jesus once told a story that goes like this:
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
As you can see, God’s not exactly impressed with our attempts to ‘justify ourselves’. What he desires instead is for us to have an attitude like the tax collector. He doesn’t need all of our fancy explanations, all he needs if for us to cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Did you hear what Jesus said about this man? “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.” But he didn’t even do anything except admit that he was broken and needed God to be merciful to him! That’s exactly right. It is God the one who justifies us, not us that justifies our existence to him.
But how does he justify us, if we are ungodly and sinful? He provides a substitute for us. Jesus is that substitute, he stands in our place, takes on our sin, and God declares him “GUILTY!” so that he might declare you and me “NOT GUILTY!”
The good news today is that you don’t have to justify your existence or pretend you’re better than you are. You can admit your faults, and then turn and rejoice for ONLY ONE who is righteous…Jesus!