Thursday, July 1, 2021
As I pulled onto the interstate yesterday morning, the car in front of me was not accelerating fast enough. I pulled into the left lane and got up to the speed limit. For a moment I was tempted to go faster and set the cruise control about four miles per hour over the limit. But then I noticed two dark vehicles parked in the median facing me. I set my cruise at 70.
The car behind me stayed behind me until we were over the next hill. He then accelerated to about 80 and zoomed past me. In his mind the threat of being caught for breaking the law was gone, so he could do as he pleased. I’m not sure if he ever did get caught, but I wondered what excuse he would use with the officer to justify his actions.
We all seek to justify our actions in one way or another. We are driven by a strong desire to be declared right, even when we know we are wrong. So in order not to be wrong, we change the standard of right by rewriting the law to suit us. We argue with the true law because we believe we deserve a better law, one that better meets our needs and serves our purposes. Somehow we are convinced that our attempts to justify breaking the law will result in being excused from the consequences, and the officer will let us off without even so much as a warning.
Such is the case in our relationship with God. He is the standard of righteousness. When we fall short of God’s perfect righteous standard, and we all do, we seek to justify ourselves with actions and excuses we think will satisfy God and remove the consequences. But think about that for a moment. If we believe we can justify falling short of the perfect standard, then we also have to believe that the perfect standard is negotiable. And if it is negotiable, then we have declared ourselves to be equal with God. Only the Author of the law has the right to declare someone innocent or guilty, and that’s why we seek to write our own laws. It’s the only way for us to justify ourselves.
But Paul declares we are incapable of achieving a right standing with God. He says that the works of the law can never justify anyone. In fact, in one verse he says it three times.
Galatians 2:16 “…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
When I spend time with my grandchildren I get to see a reflection of my own attempts to justify myself. When being corrected, a child will make excuses for their choices and attempt to justify what they did. They so want to be right. So do I. So do you. But we must never rewrite the standards. There is a perfect standard of right made visible and knowable to us in Jesus Christ. We can never measure up to it, but we can possess it. God made it possible for us to have a righteous standing with Him. “For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
It’s time to end your efforts to justify yourself. They only lead to death. Accept the righteousness of Christ as your own, and live.