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Our Need for Justification

Notes & Transcripts

Our Need for Justification

Acts 25-26            January 28, 2001

 

Introduction:

          The desire for justification is a universal human phenomenon.

We all seem to have an inherent need to be vindicated or proven right.

          Justification can be the process by which arguments are carried on for years in families and even in churches where people will not let an issue die but keep trying to prove themselves right before their own eyes and the eyes of others.

Typical Church Situation with a New Pastor

          It often happens when a new pastor comes to a church that it isn't long before ongoing feuds are presented to him in various ways. Most often, a strong personality on a particular position will come to him in private about complaints against the other and seek his support for the way things "should be". And then it isn't long before the other person comes to present their viewpoint. Each person or side wants vindication or justification against the other. Most often these are long-standing struggles on entrenched positions or between certain personalities competing for power. Or perhaps certain people don't want to accept the decisions of leadership to save them from themselves and keep bringing up the same old issues time after time, not letting it die, because they want to be proved right in their own eyes.

Justification can be extremely divisive.

          In the same way, justification can be extremely ridiculous.

Seven Prison Escapees from Texas

          The last two to be captured were Patrick Murphy and Donald Newbury in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. But before surrendering they got their chance to attempt to justify themselves. They got to discuss their complaints against the Texas prison system over TV station KKTV whose news they had been watching at the Holiday Inn near the Garden of the Gods during the night. During the five minute live interview, Newbury said, "The system is as corrupt as we are and if you are going to do something about us then do something about the system too." He said he got 99 years for a $68 robbery. Murphy was up for parole before making the prison break and said, "I'd eventually become an outlaw again anyway because of all the parole stipulations, so there is definitely something wrong with the system." They got their few minutes of fame and police persuaded them to give up without firing the two loaded shotguns and ten loaded handguns later recovered from their motel room.

Big Question:

          What can we learn from the life of Paul about the process of obtaining justification in an unjust world? (Paul was in prison for two years awaiting justice.)

Paul has had much experience in being a prisoner and he will have yet still more.

But the fact is, he is not really the prisoner of Caesar but the prisoner of Christ as Paul oftens refers to himself (Eph. 3:1, 4:1; Col. 4:10; 2Tim. 1:8; Phm. 1:1, 1:9, 1:23).

 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

 (Ephesians 3:1 NIVUS)

 

 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

 (Ephesians 4:1 NIVUS)

 

 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)

 (Colossians 4:10 NIVUS)

 

 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,

 (2 Timothy 1:8 NIVUS)

 

 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker,

 (Philemon 1:1 NIVUS)

 

 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul— an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

 (Philemon 1:9 NIVUS)

 

 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.

 (Philemon 1:23 NIVUS)

Ivan Ramirez On Hold in the Cook County Jail

          Ivan Ramirez was arrested for a gang-related murder near his home on the southwest side of Chicago in the summer of 1997 at the age of 18 or 19. I first met him when I was doing volunteer chaplaincy work in the Cook County Jail. Ivan was a star pupil in the discipleship work I was doing. About a year later he was released on bail and I met him again at Moody Bible Institute during the fall of 1999 where he had begun studies. He had always maintained his innocence but early-on had become quite willing to allow God the sovereign hand in his life. It wasn't until October, 2000, that he had his final court appearance and was exonerated.

          Justification can take a long time but it is ultimately in the hands of God.

          Yes, justification can take a long time and ultimately be in the hands of God, but it can also be quite agonizing.

Rev. Scott and Janet Willis

          Scott and Janet Willis lost six children in a 1994 crash involving a trucker licensed through bribery when Gov. Ryan was Sec. Of State. They don't want any politics from the new Republican administration in Washington to hinder the ongoing federal corruption prosecutions by replacing the federal attorney who was appointed by the Democratic administration, especially now that Dean Bauer, Ryan's personal friend and former inspector general in Ryan's office, pleaded guilty last week to obstructing justice. Although previously cautious about any statements they made about the case, the Willises' now are openly calling for Gov. Ryan to resign. Federal officials have said that at least #170,000 in bribe money had found its way into Ryan's campaign fund.

          Paul has appeared several times now on the charges presented by the Jews, and as we have just noted, he has been in prison now for two years awaiting justice.

          We turn now to our continuing series in Acts as we focus today on Acts 25 and 26 which you will find on page 1737 of your pew Bible.

          In today's passage, Paul appears once again, but this time before a new governor, Governor Festus.

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 25:1-12)

          B.      Implication

          The process of self-justification is a subtle trap that can be dangerous.

          C.      Illustration

Some Drivers Take Law Into Their Own Hands

          Many motorists are increasingly calling the cops on account of vehicle violations they either witness or are involved in. But there is also an increasing number of them that take off after violators in sometimes deadly vigilante pursuit, like happened recently at a Tri-State Tollway plaza when Karthik Koilada backed into the vehicle belonging to James and Stefani Novotny. Koilada took off without stopping and the Novotny's followed in hot pursuit as they relayed ongoing information to the police over their cell phone. In outrage, taking the law into his own hands, Novotny swerved into Koilada's lane and they collided just north of Dempster Street. Koilada, a 27-year-old software programmer from Prospect Heights, rolled into a ditch, broke his neck, and died ten days later, having never emerged from a coma.

          D.      Application

          This is the first time Paul specifically and pointedly asks to appeal to Caesar.

          Previously he had just reminded them of his Roman citizenship in his pursuit of justice.

          Now I wonder if it is at this point that he has truly taken ownership of this particular way Christ has given him to take the gospel to Rome (23:11).

         

II.      Cycle Two

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 25:13-27)

          B.      Implication

         

The process of worldly justification is a matter of opinion.

          C.      Illustration

          TV courtroom dramas in real life?

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 26:1-23)

          B.      Implication

The process of heavenly justification is a matter of our testimony about faith in Christ.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 26:24-31)

          B.      Implication

          The process of heavenly justification is the Supreme Court of appeal before which all other opinion is ultimately silenced.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five (v. 26:32)

 

          A.      Narrative

          B.      Implication

          [But in the mean time we must render unto Caesar what is his.]

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

 

          What can we learn from the life of Paul about the process of obtaining justification in an unjust world?

          The process of self-justification is a subtle trap that can be dangerous.

          (And) The process of worldly justification is a matter of opinion.

          (But) The process of heavenly justification is a matter of our testimony about faith in Christ.

          (And) The process of heavenly justification is the Supreme Court of appeal before which all other opinion is ultimately silenced.

          [But in the mean time we must render unto Caesar what is his.]

Timeless Truth:

 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

 (Matthew 10:28 NIVUS)

          The only real justification we can find in this world is by our faith in the next (eternity). [Do you think that anyone who is not a Christian really believes in Hell?]

The wheels of worldly justice may grind slowly, but the wheels of heavenly justice have eyes all around (Ezek. 1:15-18).

Our real need for justification is not before Caesar but before God.

          Indeed, the heavenly court is not blind in the manner that all too often characterizes worldly justice (wrongful death penalties).

          The true justification that results in freedom is a matter of faith in Christ.

          Do you have it? It is only a prayer of faith away.

          If you truly have it and understand it, it will free you from the trap of the world's way of justification.

          And if we in the church truly understood the doctrine of biblical justification, we wouldn't need to justify ourselves before one another.

          If we know we are right before God, then he himself is our defense and we wouldn't need to attempt proving it to one another.

Romans 3:4  Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge."

Scripture Reading: Unison reading of Romans 3:21-4:8

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