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Raised for our justification

According to a 2007 poll by George Barna, 75% of Americans believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. What amazes me is not that 1/4 of Americans deny the resurrection (we would expect there to be skeptics today, just as there were in the time of Christ), but that 3/4 of Americans say they believe in the resurrection, and yet it makes no difference in most of their lives! For example, I noticed far more media hype about the iPad last week than the empty tomb of Jesus.

But if the tomb really was empty, it should radically alter our lives. Why does Easter matter? Because in Romans 4:25, Paul says that Christ was "raised for our justification." Without Easter, there is no justification. With Easter, we have the opportunity to be justified of sin. Last Sunday, I posed three questions about justification:
  1. What is it? 'Justification' is an idea completely unique to Christianity. It is a legal term that means to acquit or pardon. It speaks not only of absolving guilt, but of being declared righteous by God. In the book of Romans, it serves as a bridge between the early chapters of condemnation (Rom. 1:18; 3:10, 23) and the later chapters of reconciliation (Rom. 5:11; 8:1). Justification is not something we can earn by works, but something we receive through faith. 
  2. What does it look like? In Romans chapter 4, Paul gives us a model of justification by faith. He points us to Abraham, the "father of a multitude." For many years, Abraham waited on God to fulfill his promises (Gen. 12:1-3), and even when he was old and "as good as dead," he did not waver in unbelief (Rom. 4:19). Because he trusted in God despite his circumstances, "it was credited to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:22). In other words, God justified him by faith.
  3. What difference does it make? These things were not written merely for Abraham, but for us as well (Rom. 4:23-24). We have committed a heinous crime (sin). There is a heavy sentence for that crime (eternal death). But God has punished His Son in our place (the cross), and now declares us righteous through faith (justification). It is not enough to intellectually believe in the facts of Christ's death and resurrection, but to humble ourselves before God for our sin, and to look to the cross as our only means of pardon.
Questions for thought and discussion:
  • What does it mean to be 'justified'?
  • How do you think Abraham must have felt to wait 25 years for God to keep His promise?
  • Read Genesis 21:1-5. Did God eventually give Abraham a son?
  • Read Romans 3:24 and Romans 5:1. What is the only way a person can be justified? 
  • According to Romans 5:1, what is the result of our being justified?
  • Have you trusted in Christ -- not merely in your head, but in your heart?
  • Write a prayer to God, thanking Him for His amazing work of raising Christ for our justification
Sunday's sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site and is available for free download.

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