Are You Raising A Pharisee?: Modeling Justification


“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5.1

I recently listened to a sermon by Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian where he talked about justification by faith. In his own brilliant way he explained in an easy to understand manner how justification by faith works. My huge takeaway was that most lifelong Christians really should begin to repent of the ways they try to justify themselves. In other words many of us start conducting our lives in a way that says, “even though Jesus through his perfect life, his death, and his resurrection has become my justification, I am going to eventually justify myself by being a good Christian. By reading my Bible, Christian service, giving, church attendance, local church involvement, moral obedience, evangelism, ministry involvement, etc, I will eventually earn my peace with God through my deeds and behavior.”

He used the illustration of a job resume. That when we apply for a job we are looking for more than a source of income. We are seeking the acceptance and approval of the person making the job hire. Our resume is more than just a listing of our previous job experiences and qualifications. It is the deeds that we use to justify ourselves even applying for the position in the first place. Being hired is more than just getting the job over and above the other applicants, it equates to being accepted and approved of.

This got me thinking a lot and one of my thoughts relates to how we parent in this respect. How are we modeling justification? Sure we may teach our children John 3.16 and that God’s love for us is unconditional and that there is nothing we can do to cause God to love us less or more, but how are we modeling justification? This is a crucial question for all of us to be in the habit of asking, especially if we tend to be people pleasers, or pursuers of the approval of others. If our drive to attend church, obey God’s moral conduct code, and practice spiritual disciplines is centered on pleasing God then you are modeling a faith in your deeds not in Christ. If your pursuit to please and gain the approval of others runs your life then others have become the god you seek to be justified before and have peace with.

Warning signs that you might be modeling a justification in something other than Christ can be seen in how much you value any of the following.

  • Success
  • Promotions
  • Image and Appearance
  • Where you are seen and who you are seen with
  • How clean your house or car is
  • How busy you are
  • Your social calendar
  • Fitting in
  • Finding others who are just like you
  • Having it all together
  • Being on time

Notice that any number of those things are in and of themselves good things or values neutral (not bad), however, if we demonstrate an inordinate amount of importance on those things with the displeasure and disapproval of others or God as the consequence to be feared then it has become your justification. I know in my own life the things I tend to confess are the very things that I secretly fear God will or should hold against me. Without or them or because of them I’m endangering my status of being accepted and approved of by God. Now having a daughter I’m curious and concerned about how I will model an understanding of justification before God through my lifestyle as opposed to what I say.

Justification by faith is modeled correctly when you are freed to simply be in the presence of God and of others without the constant worry and fear of keeping the peace with them. By faith we know that we can never lose the peace with God because of Jesus. By faith we know that while uncomfortable losing the peace with others isn’t the end of the world nor defines us because they are not God.

Author: Cedric Lundy

Perpetual Seeker of Solidarity with God through sharing in the life death and resurrection of Jesus The Christ Pastor Communicator Shepherd Coffee Lover Snob and Roaster Sports an but to rational to be a fanatic Native Michigander living in the Carolinas Son Brother Friend Husband Father

2 thoughts on “Are You Raising A Pharisee?: Modeling Justification”

  1. Thank you for that. I am joyfully at a church where being me does not cause a letter to be sent to the elder board. Your post helps me take a deep breath and relax in the love of God and not worry about the thoughts of others. Love you, Ced!

  2. Gotta love the Keller. His works have been crucial for my own walk and ministry to others. I can say that while this truth has been the most liberating to understand, it’s also the easiest to forget as I go about my daily life. I need to constantly be checking my heart to see where I’m getting my acceptance.

    Keep it up!

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