Why Justification Matters
by Kristen Hatton
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Romans 8:1, 10-17
I lead a small group Bible study of senior girls whom I’ve had the privilege of being with since they were sixth graders. Along the way of observing and investing in these individual girls, I have also gained a deeper understanding of teens universally.
One major realization is the lack of Gospel impact in their lives despite attending churches, para-church ministries and Christian camps. I believe the reason for this is the result of a Christian culture working so hard to make Christianity appealing and non-offensive that the Gospel has been left behind. Furthermore, we’ve made Christianity more about being good and doing good than seeing how good Christ is for us. We hear about how we should be like Christ, but miss seeing that the power of the Gospel comes in hearing who He is for us, personally.
Therefore, when I ask my small group to tell me what justification means, I am met with blank stares. Some have at least heard the term, but many others have not. I explain that “to be justified” is to be made right with God. They nod their heads in agreement. They do believe Jesus’ death paid the penalty for their sins and made them right before God. But for them, and many of us, what justification has to do with anything practically speaking doesn’t translate.
In our passage in Romans, Paul tells us that for those who are in Christ, we have been set free from the penalty of sin and viewed by God only according to Christ’s righteousness put upon us. Along with this great exchange, He adopted us as His children and bestowed upon us all the privileges that come in being an heir. This means everything that is true of Jesus is true of us.
So in Matthew 3:17, when God says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” this is how God views us, too. Jesus received the wrath and judgment we deserved so that we could get grace. Therefore, we can rest knowing God delights in us instead of thinking we live under His frown.
Does this seem to good to be true?
Do you struggle to believe God is really pleased with you?
Do you still live as if you must atone for your own sin and failures?
Do you base your worth on your own performance instead of His?
Do you feel unworthy? Insecure? Forgotten?
If we are honest, all of us have to answer “yes” to these questions at times. That is why we must camp out at the cross to grasp the good news of justification. At the cross, Jesus defeated Satan, dealt with sin, and declared, “It is finished.” At the cross Jesus won, which means at the cross we won too! Now our identity is found wrapped up in His identity.
An identity that says:
• “No matter what my peers say about me, I am deeply loved.”
• “I don’t have to prove or elevate myself because God accepts me as I am and His opinion is the only one that matters.”
• “Even when I have messed up for the thousandth time, God calls me righteous.”
• “Although I got passed over for the promotion or lost my job, my significance and worth is in Christ.”
• “Changing diapers, cleaning house, and intervening in my children’s fights are valuable Kingdom work given to me by God.”
• “His image in me makes me beautiful, regardless of my appearance or how I feel.”
Do you see why justification matters?
When justification penetrates your heart you will no longer define yourself by your deficiencies, weaknesses, struggles, sins, or brokenness. But by the power of the Gospel, your heart will be reoriented to see how He is your true source of life-giving identity and security.