Adventures in Self-Justification…

I don’t know if you read many “blogs.”

There are a whole lot of good ones out there. There are also a lot of bad ones. Some of the bad ones are pretty sad ones, because it doesn’t take much time reading many of those blogs, and we’re talking about “Christian” blogs, to discover that sometimes people who know a whole lot about the Bible can be mean.

Obviously that shouldn’t surprise us.

It shouldn’t surprise us that people who know a whole lot about the Bible can act in mean ways, because for one thing, we know ourselves. We know what we know about the Bible and at the same time we know the kinds of things we think and the ways we relate to others.

The question we’re thinking about is why is that?

We’ve seen that the Bible helps us understand how “spiritual” people who read the Bible frequently can talk about love while being unloving.

We “justify” ourselves.

I want us to think today about some of the differents ways the Bible says we have of doing that.

Sometimes people justify themselves when confronted with their sin by enmeshing the
themselves in technicalities and minutiae

I think that’s probably what the lawyer who asked Jesus what the greatest commands was doing. After Jesus tells him to love God and love his neighbor with everything he’s got, he asks Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”

“Well of course I know God says love my neighbor, but wait a second, slow down here, who exactly is my neighbor?”

Talk about missing the point.

Much of the confusion about what the Bible says is not about the Bible being difficult to understand, it’s about people wanting to find ways not to obey it. “Who is my neighbor? I would love him but I mean how can I if I don’t know who he is?”

What this question illustrates is that sometimes when a passage of Scripture exposes someone’s guilt they’ll seek to justify themselves by misdirecting their attention from important issues to secondary matters.

“I know who the white horse in Revelation is and if you don’t you are just ignorant…”

Other times people seek to justify themselves when confronted by telling flat out lies.

This was Cain back in Genesis 4, God comes and says to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And Cain says, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” which was of course pure deceit. He was denying reality. He fully knew. I mean, he murdered him.

James talks about this over in James 3.

He says that there are people whose hearts are filled with selfish ambition and bitter conceit and yet who claim to know God and be wise. And you know what he says to them? “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition and in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth.”

Don’t say you are one thing and pretend to be something that on the inside you are not. Don’t lie.

We often do the same thing when confronted with the commands of Scripture.

Sometimes we lie outright to others or even to ourselves so that we don’t look or feel bad. “Oh yes, I need to love my brother. That’s powerful…” when we don’t intend on doing so.

Or we deny the reality. “Oh I didn’t really mean it. Oh it wasn’t that bad.”

Other times our lies are more subtle. We’ll embellish the facts, we’ll use innuendo, we’ll exaggerate, we’ll put a spin on what really is taking place. We try to explain away what we did or what we thought or what we said or why we failed to act, and some of us are so good at doing that, that we can actually get people to believe that we really did mean well when in our heart of hearts we know of course we didn’t.

Sometimes people justify themselves when confronted by blaming others.

This is what Adam and Eve did – it’s that woman you gave me. This is what Aaron did when Moses confronted him – it’s the people Moses. This is what Saul did when Samuel confronted him – same response it was the people Samuel. And it’s what we do so often instead of truly repenting.

We use other people as a scape-goat for our lack of love. “If only he hadn’t said that, they just really know how to push my buttons…” “If only that person hadn’t cut me off…”

We play the blame-game. Instead of really dealing with our own sin we’re constantly attacking others, bringing up all these different things that they have done. You see this in marriages all the time, a wife or husband, instead of seeking to really love their spouse the way God describes, justifies their lack of love by harboring all kinds of bitterness for the terrible things their spouse has done, and whenever they start to get convicted by the Scripture about failing to love their spouse, they just bring out that little laundry list and start work their way through all the terrible things their spouse has done through the years so they don’t feel so bad, so they don’t have to actually repent for their own sin.

We work so hard at justifying ourselves. Tomorrow we’ll look at a couple more ways we go about it. I want to close today though by reminding you that in doing so, we miss the point. We can’t. We can’t justify ourselves. There is only one person who can justify us and that’s Jesus Christ. When confronted with our lack of love, let’s put down our excuses and silly attempts at self-justification, rejoice in the justification God has provided for us, and repent.

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