But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. ~ Ephesians 2:13
Dear People of God,
The term ‘justification’ means something along the lines of “to be made right in the eyes of God.” Or, even better, it means “to be reconciled to God.” It is important to know that God does not want us to have ladder theology where we feel we have to impress God by how good of a person we are to make God love us.
No, it’s an established fact that God loves us and that we can know this for certain because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—who on the cross shed his blood and gave us his body, that we be brought near to God. In Christ, God has done everything to restore us to a life-giving relationship to himself, to each other, and to all creation. Not only has Christ done this, but he freely gives us justification, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation without any stipulations. All out of a gracious, kind, and compassionate heart. And in fact, in Christ is the only place that God wants us to know him.
Let us consider the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (read for yourself from Luke 18:9-14). Here we have the Pharisee in the temple praising God that he is unlike those others, those sinners, and even like this tax collector. The Pharisee praises himself because he looks at his own actions and how religiously he lives his life, and deems himself righteous and holy because he leads an honorable life.
Whereas, someone who was deemed the dregs of society, the Tax Collector, dares not to turn his eyes to heaven, but in humble submission admits “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus boldly proclaims it is the Tax Collector who went home justified rather than the Pharisee. And this is true because there is no righteousness or justice without Christ the Lord. As Christians, we confess and believe “Christ is our righteousness.” The only goodness in the world flows exemplified with Christ shedding his blood, that we may be brought near to God.
We are justified by grace, through faith, for the sake of Christ, apart from works. That is the gospel in a nutshell. It is in this way that we are “brought near to God by the blood of Christ.” This gospel is brought to us in the Word proclaimed and the sacraments administered. And, received through faith. When the world seems illusionary and terrifying, turn your eyes to the Christ—who warmly welcomes you into his arms and guards you with his wings.
Remember your validity doesn’t come from yourself—how good of a person you are, what you look like, what you do, what you can’t do. No, your value comes for the sake of Christ who died for you. In his blood is healing and wholeness. In him, all things are made new.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY