Justification / Striving For A Perfect Heart, Not Perfect Performance

“Justification is the free and gracious gift of God bestowed on those who receive by faith the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” If you are a child of God, you know that, even though you are justified, considered innocent of sin, and headed to heaven someday, trying to live a victorious Christian life daily is a very difficult process, especially after sinning. For many of us, we struggle with fears of condemnation and not being forgiven, especially after committing sins we are ashamed of. Or, if we sin too much, God will stop accepting and loving us as His children. In essence, feelings of guilt and much anxiety interfere with our attempts to experience daily intimacy with God, as we fear God will get angry at us.

Justification means we will always be considered perfect in God’s eyes, because of the cross, even though, in reality, we still sin on a daily basis. Because we are justified, we will always be union in Christ, have perfect peace with God, and be totally loved, accepted, forgiven, and considered good in God’s heart, for forevermore. Unfortunately, many Christians perhaps don’t either trust in or fully understand justification, being fearful and worried of angering God or not being forgiven, if not perfect in their actual performance toward righteousness. They may try to “earn God’s grace” through “good works”, when in reality, they will always have God’s infinite mercy and grace every time they sin, thanks to justification. As we daily strive for intimacy with Abba Father, we must daily trust in justification principles, especially after sinning, or when having fears of committing future sins.

Unless we develop a rock-solid understanding of grace and justification, it can be really difficult to experience real peace in our lives, the kind God intended for us to have when Christ died for our sins. I hope this article can help with that.

Grace is “God’s willingness to lovingly forgive us each time we sin.” Believing “God will lovingly forgive us each time we sin” in faith is needed in order to live the victorious Christian life and to fully enjoy God’s intimacy in the meantime. If we don’t trust in God’s grace, especially after sinning repeatedly, our overall faith may suffer when we fail Him. Satan takes advantage of our distrust of God’s grace, due to our possible ignorance of justification, to disable us from becoming the person, and living the life, God intended for us. So, let’s talk about justification, hoping it will help strengthen your faith of God’s grace.

What justification truly means to the Christian?

“Justification is the sovereign act of God whereby He declares righteous the believing sinner while he or she is still in a sinning state”. (Chuck Swindoll)

I. Justification is the pardon of sins.

After we commit a sin, God has to decide how He views our transgression. Justification states: “God declares us righteous while we are still in a sinning state.” “To declare us righteous” means God decides, in spite of all our committed sins (past, present, and future sins) that He still “declares us righteous” in His eyes, every time we sin.

God is a holy God who cannot simply ignore or dismiss sin. He doesn’t just “ignore” our transgression each time we commit it; the Judge does the same thing every time we sin: God remembers that Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, determines that Christ’s payment on the cross is sufficient payment for the transgression, and chooses to pardon (forgive) the sinner. Justification states that God’s grace does this every time that one of His children commits a sin, regardless of the severity of the transgression, and who the Christian sinner is.

Colossians 2:13-14 states: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

Justification states: God forgives every sin from every believer and also every time the same person sins.

2. Justification is the gift of righteousness.

Not only does God forgive every sin of every believer, God also chooses to impute (put in its place) righteousness (and right standing between God and Christian) into the “moral account ledger” every time one of His children’s sins. Rather than just refusing to impute our sins to our “account’, God’s grace instead places “Christ’s perfect record of obedience” to our “account.” So, when we sin, if God looked in His record books of our good and bad behaviors, He will not find that sin we just committed being recorded. In God’s eyes, when we sin, it’s almost as if we never committed the sin. God chooses to forget our sins, because of justification, grace, and His infinite mercy.

Romans 4:6-8  reinforces these points: “David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one, whose sin the Lord will never count against them.””

3. Justification is God’s Acceptance of Christ Given to the Sinner

Because we are always forgiven, and God chooses to forget our sin and not put them into His record books, there is no reason for God not to accept us, in spite of any or all of our transgressions. God will always accept and love all of His children, regardless of who they are, or what they have done or will do.

In Romans 8:38-39, Paul declares, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principles nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing, not even our sins, “will ever separate us from God’s love.”

Abba Father will always accept us as His beloved. Regardless of our sins, we will always have peace with God. If you do sin, confess it, and God will always mercifully accept you as His endeared children.

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:9-10)

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

Every Christian is in Christ, and therefore has gained the same acceptance Jesus Christ had with God the Father, and will experience it fully daily.  This will never change, regardless of any sins we would ever commit or already have committed.

“There is no condemnation from God to those who belong in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We are free from experiencing any wrath of God, which started the moment we became a Christian and will last forever on earth and in eternity in heaven.

When we sin, we should never fear the back hand of God whipping us.  He may discipline us in love, in order to make us into better and more mature, sanctified Christians, so we can do good works for His glory, in which God will, in return, show His great love, and reward us in heaven someday, as we do them on earth. Abba Father’s discipline may seem painful for a bit, but He does it out of love – to discourage us from doing something foolish and sinful that would cause harm to ourselves and or others. Like any loving parent, our Heavenly Father, may correct our bad behaviors, but He will never punish us out of anger and wrath.

Sin often causes us to temporarily lose intimacy with God. If we sin repeatedly, we may temporarily lose connection with God until we repent. If God sees our sins causing us constantly lose intimacy with Him, He may discipline us out of love, in order to bring us back to Him, so we can experience His love and intimacy more deeply again.

Everything Abba Father does to us is out of love, for God is Love.

Learning To Trust In The Grace and Mercy of Abba Father

Many of us have had bad earth fathers who may have been abusive and rejecting to us when we made mistakes. Their presence in our lives may have had a negative effect in making us fearful of our Heavenly Father, treating us similarly when we aren’t perfect in front of God.

Our unbelief problem that God will not forgive us or accept us when we constantly sin is a greater problem to us than the actual sins we commit daily. God will always unconditionally forgive and accept us every time we fail, but if we don’t believe it, we won’t receive it. God’s infinite mercy desperately wants us to feel loved, accepted, and forgiven, but His hands are tied in enabling us to experience it, if our unbelief in justification and grace refuses to trust His Love. How can God rehabilitate us and help us overcome our weaknesses when the stronghold of disbelief constantly makes us afraid and fearful of God punishing us if we are not always perfect? How can His Love heal our hurts, how can we fully trust in His deliverance when facing overwhelming trials, when in the back of our minds, we have doubts of God’s continual goodness toward us if we sin too much or commit a particular sin that we fear God hates more than others? Trusting in justification and in God’s perfect mercy and grace is the path toward freedom.

Instead of trusting, many of us resort to continual trying to “earn grace through good deeds” in hopes of appeasing God and avoiding His anger. We don’t need to earn grace, it is already ours, it is a gift from God’s infinite mercy. We don’t need to perform or try to live holy lives, with the objective of winning or maintaining God’s approval and or mercy. Christ satisfactory paid the penalty of all our sins; therefore, God chooses to forget our sins and not put it into His record books. As Joyce Meyer once said, in response to this issue: “We don’t have to pay, for there is nothing to pay.”

Your Sin Is Not Greater Than God’s Mercy”

Nauman Ali Khan once said: “Your sin is not greater than God’s mercy.” This should be one of the mottos of justification, for it is so completely true, and so relevant to the concept of justification.

We can never do so much wrong that God’s mercy will choose not to forgive us. Charles Spurgeon once said, “God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the see of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God.” A.W. Tozer states: “Mercy is not something God has, but something God is.” Never fear making God angry with us, because to the Christian, His mercy is always greater than His anger.”

“The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 145:8). He isn’t an abusive stepfather, condemning and rejecting, looking to punish and find fault with you. Instead, He is Abba Father, perfect in love, mercy, and grace, revealed when Christ paid the penalty for all our sins, even when we were enemies with God. God is omniscient. He knew every sin you and I would ever commit before He chosen Christ to suffer in our place for our sins. The sufferings that Christ went through, to purchase our salvation and to pay the penalty for our sins was enormous.  Christ – being a perfect deity who knew no sin but became sin for us, so we can spend life on earth and eternity in heaven in an intimate love relationship with Him and the rest of the Trinity – definitely shows the love and mercy of God every time we sin. And God who knew every sin you and I would commit before He formulated His justification plan, which means every time we sin, He will choose not to impute our sins to our account, but rather Christ’s perfect standing of obedience to our moral records ledger, gives God no reason not to accept us each time we sin. Because we are perfect in God’s eyes due to grace and justification, there is no reason for God to choose to condemn us anytime we sin.

We need to believe in the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and justification by faith plan, in order to be free creatures. We shouldn’t try to be perfect in our performance of not sinning, being motivated by a purposeless need to win His approval and to avoid His wrath and rejection. We need to take captive our thoughts, every time the devil tells us “God is Mad at us”. And remember the truths of justification by faith. We don’t need to pay for our sins by trying to be a better Christin, in hopes of winning God’s approval, but to realize that Christ already paid for our sins, and each time we sin, there is no obligation for us to pay at all. Each time we sin, we must remember there is no record of sins in our account, because Christ already paid the price of our sins, and thus, God chose to pardon us of all wrongdoings and placed Christ’s obedience to our account.  As Professor Joe Rigney once said, “We need to know sin is in our hearts, and we need to feel the ugliness of it, but then we must also remember that Jesus covers all of it.”

 Here are some verses in relation to God’s forgiveness of our sins:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

 “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”. (Hebrews 8:12)

God’s forgiveness resulting from justification is complete. Every sin, including every past, present, and future sin, is always forgiven. If future sins aren’t always forgiven, then it would be impossible for us to have no condemnation. According to Romans 8:1, “there is no condemnation to those who belong in Christ Jesus.” If there was condemnation for future sins; in another words, if God didn’t forgive every sin, then we would stand guilty and unjustified if we committed what we perceive as the “unpardonable sin”.  The Bible states we experience no condemnation and we are forgiven; if we don’t believe it, we are inferring “God is a liar.” This obviously isn’t true.

In Christ, according to justification, we are completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God (Romans 5:1); free from all condemnation (Romans 8:1); righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24); forgiven of all my sins (Ephesians 1:13-14) – all because of God’s perfect grace and mercy. All glory goes to Abba Father and also to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember: You are justified. God will never stop loving you, regardless of how much you sin. According to this website (5 Things You Should Know About How God Sees You – Grace thru faith), there are five things you should know about how God sees you:

  1. You Are His Child Forever 
  2.  You Still Sin, But He No Longer Counts Your Sins Against You 
  3. You Are Perfect In His Sight, As Righteous As He Is 
  4. You Cannot Be Condemned For Any Reason 
  5. When You Stand Before God You Will Be As Perfect As He Is

Overcoming Desires to Be Perfect In Front of God

“You are His child forever” . . . “you still sin, but He no longer counts your sins against you”. . . “you are perfect in His sight, as righteous as Christ is” . . . “you cannot be condemned for any reason” . . . “when you stand before God, you will be perfect as He is” – all of these true statements should encourage you not to feel the need to be perfect (in order to be loved, accepted, forgiven, and be considered good in God’s eyes). Because of justification, we will always be all that, and more, by God.

Harriet Braiker once said, “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” No matter how hard we try, we can never have a perfect performance toward not sinning – no man except Christ will ever be sinless, so we should not try. Instead, we should daily strive for excellence, to do the best we can, through the empowerment of the Spirit. Don’t fret:  because of grace and justification, we are considered perfect in God’s eyes, even though, in reality, we are still in a sinning state.

We shouldn’t try to be perfect with the objective to please God and win His approval. Because of grace and justification, we will always be accepted. Being unconditionally accepted by God isn’t earned, it is His gift of grace. Again: “Mercy is not something God has, but something He is.”

If we tried to earn God’s mercy, we will never be good enough to do so. However, because of grace and justification, we have no reason to even try.

If we daily try to have perfect performance in our walk with God, we will fail. God doesn’t expect perfection, for He knows all things, including our frailties. The very reason God had Christ die for our sins proves God knows we are incapable of being perfect. So, we should not even try, but instead strive for continuous improvements in our sin life, through the power of the Spirit, and our gradual progressions would become eventually excellence. Excellence is not perfection.

We should never again strive for perfection in not sinning. However, we can and should try to have a perfect heart toward God. There is a difference between the two.

Striving to have a perfect heart

David had a perfect heart toward God. In 1 Kings 11:4, it says:  “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”

 David was called by God: “a man after my own heart”. He had a perfect heart toward God in God’s eyes. David loved God wholeheartedly, having the desire in his heart to wholeheartedly obey God the best he could possibly do. David wasn’t a perfect man; for he was an adulterer to Bathsheba, and a murderer to Uriah. However, after sinning, David repented thoroughly, loved God “with all his heart, mind, and soul”, and continued to do the very best he could in serving and obeying God.

Striving to Wholeheartedly Love Abba Father, But Still Making Mistakes

Like David, we should daily strive to love God “with all our heart, mind, and soul.” This involves daily putting God first in our lives, and spending a lot of time in communion with Him, seeking to make Him a priority in our lives. Try to value Abba Father over everything else; make Him your greatest passion. Follow Him with all your heart, and do the very best you can to do to obey Him. Realize you will never be perfect in performance, but still have a burning desire and passion to do right.

God looks at the heart more than He looks at the actions of a person. The Pharisees tried to follow the law perfectly, but their hearts were far from perfect. David’s heart loved God wholeheartedly but his actions made the mistakes of adultery and murder. David sinned, and God disciplined him severely, but David repented thoroughly and continued to love God wholeheartedly and tried to do the very best he could in serving and obeying God. David had a burning passion and desire to please God, but like any other human, David made mistakes.

However, the fact David made mistakes didn’t mean he didn’t wholeheartedly love God. David was an imperfect man who had a perfect heart. And God called David “a man after my own heart.”

In Joyce Meyer’s book, “God is Not Mad at You”, I read a story that I believe really portrays the message I can trying to expound about right now. I think Joyce found the story a long time ago on the Sicklerville United Methodist church website. The publication showed how “a flawed gift can be utterly perfect in the eyes of a parent”:

 “Picture a sunny, humid and very hot August Saturday afternoon. You are mowing your lawn. You are about three-quarters finished and you are perspiring greatly. Your five-year-old has been playing in the sandbox. As you turn to make another pass with the lawnmower, you see him standing in front of you with a glass filled with ice and water. As your eyes meet, he lifts the glass toward you offering its cold refreshment. You turn off the lawnmower and reach for the glass. As you take it, you notice the sandbox sand is mixed with in with the ice, clippings of grass are floating on top and dirty droplets of water are running down the sides of the glass. That is a picture of Christian perfection and of what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Be perfect even as my Father is perfect.’ Was that ice water absolutely perfect? Not at all; it had grass, sand, and dirt floating in it. What made the glass of ice water perfect? It was a pure, genuine, sincere and loving heart of a little boy wanting to do something kind and loving for his father.”

In this story, the dad is Abba Father and you are the five-year old son, which represents your relationship with Abba Father. Like the five-year-old son, you may have a great desire to please God because you really love Him. You try to serve Him and not sin in your very best effort, but your actions are flawed: the glass of water you give to Abba Father contains grass, sand, and dirt. However, like the dad in the story, I believe Abba Father sees your heart and desires to please Him, even though glass of water is contaminated, even though in your life you makes mistakes and sees your sins, He is pleased with you because He sees the intentions of your heart is pure and good, and the great love you have for Abba Father.  He is happy because, although like five-year-old our performance may be flawed, but the intentions of the heart are perfect. God is more pleased with a perfect heart than He is with a perfect performance.

Joyce Meyer said, “All God really wants is for us to love Him and out of that love do the best we can to serve and obey Him.” If you try to do that daily, God will always be pleased with our mistakes. Even our glass of water contains grass, dirt, and sand.

“God already knows that you and I won’t manifest perfection and has already decided to forgive us” (Meyer again). Believe that daily and you are well on your path toward living the victorious Christian life.

Other quotes by Joyce Meyer:

“We cannot have a perfect performance, but we can have a perfect heart toward God. That means we love Him wholeheartedly, and we want to please Him and do what is right.”

“Jesus died not only for the sins we have committed in the past, but for every wrong thing we would ever do as we live. All of our sins are already forgiven, past, present, and future, and all we need to do is to admit them and thankfully receive God’s forgiveness.”

“I don’t have to be perfect, and I am not angry at myself. God is not mad at me”.

Facing False Guilt Each Time You Sin

Every time we sin there are two courts that judge our sins: the court in heaven, and the court in our soul.

The court in heaven has God, being the Judge. The Judge in heaven, as already stated, completely forgives, forgets, records Christ’s perfect standing in our account, and thus, accepts us, every time we sin. Will the court in your soul do the same to yourself?

Guilt can be hard to live with daily. Our conscience is often a worse critic than God, and it is the judge that influences our freedom immensely. God unconditionally forgives and accepts you, and you must do the same.

Many times, we agonize over false guilt. Due to an oversensitive conscience, false guilt is the guilt that lingers on after we confess our sins to God, or the feelings of guilt we feel over things that aren’t wrong except in our own minds. In either case, false guilt is destructive and can curb our ability to experience intimacy with God and or live the victorious Christian life.

The following is an excerpt from Joyce Meyer’s book, “God is Not Mad at You”. These are Meyer’s principles about dealing with false guilt:

  1. Once we asked for and received forgiveness for any sin we committed, there is no longer any guilt. If we feel guilt after that, it is false guilt.
  • When Jesus forgives sin, it is completely removed and He remembers it no more. It is as if it had never happened.
  • We are justified through faith in Jesus and that means we stand before God as is if we never sinned.
  • This promise is for all who are redeemed in Christ.
  • When your conscience makes you feel guilty, remind it that although you have sinned, you have also been forgiven and made right with God.

Final Thoughts of Justification

Joyce Meyer once said, “the password to God’s presence is “I BELIEVE”.

To become a Christian, one must be justified; you must believe in Christ and in grace in order to be justified, a child of God, and going to heaven.

To overcome guilt, and also to feel forgiven, accepted, and loved by God, you must believe in justification principles. Trusting in justification and in grace enables you to enjoy an intimate, love relationship with God and also stabilizes and strengthens you, making it easier to live the victorious Christian life.

Do you believe?

Grace Upon Grace song by Matthew West

 

Sources:

God Is Not Mad At You, Joyce Meyer

https://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/spiritual-life/5-things-you-should-know-about-how-god-sees-you/#:~:text=You%20Are%20Perfect%20In%20His%20Sight%2C%20As%20Righteous,was%20to%20make%20us%20conscious%20of%20our%20sinfulness.

https://www.gotquestions.org/justification.html

https://lifehopeandtruth.com/change/grace/what-is-grace/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIf%20we%20confess%20our%20sins%2C%20

https://www.lightsource.com/ministry/biblical-resources/devotionals/todays-insight-from-chuck-swindoll/the-risk-in-grace-todays-insight-november-6-2019-11817025.htmlhttps://www.therandomvibez.com/gods-mercy-quotes/

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