Living in the Two Hearts

My Spiritual Insights and Musings

Sin & Redemption Part III… Justification

Posted by Anne Elizabeth on August 7, 2008

Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude [correctness] of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us. ~CCC 1991

“Ecumenically, this is a great commonality we have with our separated brethren.” ~ Curtis Mitch

This part on Justification is courtesy of Curtis Mitch, who asked these three questions:

1) What is Justification?
2) How are we justified?
3) What kind of response is needed from us to God who justifies us through His Son?

Let’s begin with question one and work our way up.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals. ~ CCC 1990

So, justification depends on God’s Love, His Mercy, and His forgiveness of the iniquity (sin) of mankind in order to reconcile man with God AND to free man from his slavery to sin.  Thus, Justification IS Freedom, Mercy, Love, and Forgiveness.  Gee, isn’t that the same thing that God has offered His people with each new covenant?  And if so, then the perfection of this covenant has to have been achieved in Jesus Christ whose Love for mankind brought about man’s Freedom from the result of sin (death), by pouring out His Mercy and Forgiveness so that we may “be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” ~ Rom 5:9,10 (cf Jn 15:12; Lk 23:34; 1Peter 1:3).

How are we Justified?  By Christ and His obedience, nothing more, nothing less. Paul tells us, “Just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” ~ Rom 5:18

Which means all who accept Christ are brought into His righteousness, just as we are brought into His death and resurrection at the time of our baptism (cf Rom 6:3-4), thus this righteousness is different from the “everyday virtue” in that it is infused and not obtained by our own merits, but by the merit of Christ’s obedience “grafted” onto us:

…In order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God… ~ Phil 3:8b-9

This, my friends, is Pure Mercy on the part of God.” ~ Curtis Mitch

It’s available to all who will come to Him with their hearts open and yearning, ready to receive forgiveness of their sins, Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. ~ Acts 13:38-39

Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.  For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:6-9

Did you know, the definition of con-version is: the turning of oneself towards God, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart”, drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. ~ CCC 1428.

That brings us nicely into the answer of the third question: What must we do to respond to this free gift offered to us by God through the obedience of His Son?  Are you ready? …  Really? … Here it is, the “magic formula”…

Listen AND Respond.

The Hebrew word “to listen” is Shema – and its implication includes a response that is required to complete the process of Listening to the word of God.  What did Jesus say at the beginning of His public ministry?  We read, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.'” ~Mark 1:15; Mt 4:17; cf Luke 4:43

However, this Listen AND Respond, this Repent AND Believe doesn’t happen just once. No, it is on-going!  What do you mean it’s on-going?  If I accept Jesus into my heart, isn’t that enough?  Well, let me ask you this.  If you were baptized as an adult, do you still sin?  I’m guessing the answer would be “Yep”

I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. ~Rom 7:15, 18b-19.

Therefore, constant repentance and the seeking of forgiveness for our sins is the daily life of a real Christian, that is someone who not only accepted Jesus into their hearts once, but accepts Jesus into their hearts every day, hour, and minute!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man“. ~ CCC 1989

How is that renewal to happen when your still stuck in your sinfulness?

Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom.  On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent: ~ CCC 1993

Can you have freedom if you are still enslaved to your sinful lusts and desires?

Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” ~CCC 1428; cf LG 8:3

Repent!  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  What part of “Repent”do we not understand?

Justification is the most excellent work of Gods love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. ~ CCC 1994

The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the “inner man,” justification entails the sanctification of his whole being… ~ CCC 1995; cf Rom 7:22; Eph 3:16.

Or as St. Paul tells us, “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Rom 6:20-23

Justification entails the sanctification of the whole being … guess that’s our next topic, huh?  Justification from the forgiveness of our sins, as merited to us by Jesus the Christ, who died for our sins, also Sanctifies us – makes us holy and set apart for the work of God.

It’s a constant movement here, folks.  Constant need for con-version (turning towards God) by repenting of our sins, always seeking His promise of everlasting life.  Remember what Jesus said, Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” ~Rev 3:19-22

Next Post: Sanctification and the part it plays in Sin & Redemption… Part IV

Need a refresher course?  Sin and Redemption Part I
Sin and Redemption Part II

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