Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Merritt - Authenticity, The Real Deal

James Merritt - Authenticity, The Real Deal

  • Watch
  • Audio
  • Donate
  • Shop
    James Merritt - Authenticity, The Real Deal
TOPICS: Mirror Image, Authenticity

Well, good morning to you, good morning out our campus at Mill Creek, to those who are watching online, those who are watching by TV, thanks for being a part of us today. In the mid 20th century, one of the most famous comedians in the world was a man named Groucho Marx. And one of the reasons he was so funny is he was so self-deprecating. He loved to poke fun at himself, kinda knew who he was and knew who he wasn't. And one of his most famous quotes was this quote. He said, "I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member". And what he meant was if the standards of a club are that low they would take me as a member, then it's not worth joining.

And when I read that quote, I thought about a particular club that I have joined more than once. To my shame. And I'm not proud of it. It has perhaps the lowest standards of any club that you'll find. The only requirement to join the club is pretending to be something that you're not. The chairman of the club is peer pressure. The one benefit of the club is acceptance. The chairman of the club, or the name of the club is hypocrisy. And if you're honest I bet most of you would say you've applied for membership in that club one time or another.

We're in a series on character that we're calling "Mirror Image," and what we've been saying is this. Imagine you had a mirror that would show you what you look like not on the outside but on the inside. Not what you look like physically but what you would look like morally, what you would look like ethically, what you would look like spiritually. Which character traits would be absent. And so in this series we've been sharing the bricks of virtue that we believe go into building the house of character. Today we're going to look at one that I think is sorely missing, one that is desperately needed, one that people desire everywhere, and that is authenticity.

Now you say, okay, what do you mean by authenticity? Let me make it very simple. When you're authentic, you're the real deal. You're not one thing in public and another thing in private. You're not one thing when you're with this group but you're another thing when you're with that group. When you're authentic, you're always the real you in real situations. As the playwright Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken". And that's true. Be yourself. So here's what we're gonna do today. I've never really preached from this passage before, and the more I got into it the more it really spoke to me.

Today we're going to look at a passage of scripture, it's a story of two spiritual and theological giants of the early Church, and they clashed, they went toe to toe because one of them sold his authenticity out to the counterfeit currency of hypocrisy. If you brought a copy of God's Word, we're in a book called Galatians. It's a letter that a man named Paul wrote to a church in Galatia, which is over in Asia Minor. It's in your New Testament. It's just a few books over from the Gospel of Matthew. We're in Galatians chapter two. Now if you like drama, you're gonna love this story. If you like confrontation, some people shy away from it, some people gravitate toward it. I'm gonna be honest, I'm one of those people that kinda gravitate toward it at times. You're gonna like this story.

If you like just a good old-fashioned throw down, you're gonna love this story. It's one of those in-your-face, nose-to-nose, dirt-flying battle between two of the biggest names in the early Church. Let me kind of set up this story and why it's such a big deal. If you had lived 2,000 years ago and you were a brand new Christian, you wouldn't have been around very long, you would have realized that there was what I call the Fantastic Four. There were four big names in the early Church. They were recognized as the big leaders in the early Church by all accounts, by common consensus. They were the big guns. Four of them wrote books in the New Testament. One was James. He was the half-brother of Jesus.

So you can imagine he'd get a lot of respect. One was John, who Jesus called the beloved disciple. He was one of the closest friends Jesus had. One was Peter, who was the leader of the 12 disciples. And then one was the apostle Paul who became the greatest missionary, the most prolific writer, the greatest theologian of the early Church. So you've got these four big guns. Well, Peter and Paul are in a city called Antioch which was the chief city of Syria. It's where the Christian mission began, it's where Gentiles began to be reached, it's where the disciples were first called Christians. That's where the name came from. In Antioch they were first called Christians. So Peter was the primary gospel preacher to the Jews. Paul was the primary gospel preacher to the Gentiles.

Now before I get into the story I want you to understand, they both loved Jesus. They both loved the Church. They both loved each other. But that doesn't mean they always got along, it doesn't mean they always saw eye to eye on every theological point. Some of my dearest friends are in this church. We don't always see eye to eye. I'm a Georgia Bulldog and some of my best friends are Florida Gators, and some of my other best friends are Tennessee Volunteers, some of my other best friends are Auburn Tigers. They're all on my one list, by the way. I'm trying to win all of them to Christ. But we just don't always see eye to eye on these things, but we love each other. Well, that was Peter and Paul. They loved each other, but they had this huge disagreement.

So Paul opposes Peter to his face, calls him out in public, rebukes him, condemns him, not because of what he was saying but because of what he was doing. You say, what was the problem? Very simple. Peter had quit practicing what he preached. He would say one thing but he would live another thing. His talk differed from his walk. And the person he was being was not lined up with the person that God had called him to be. And Paul reminds Peter, "If you're gonna be a disciple, if you're gonna be a follower of Jesus, if you're gonna be a preacher of the gospel, if you're going to be a leader of the church, Peter, you have got to be a man of authenticity. It is a big part of character. Peter, you need to be the same person in private that you are in public. You need to be you regardless of where you might be or who you might be with".

And then Paul shows us what authenticity is, what it looks like, how it acts, and why it is important. So I just wanna ask you to ask yourself an honest question. Am I authentic? Am I the real deal all the time? Or is there hypocrisy in my life that I need to deal with? And so in this little passage we'll look at today here's what we're gonna learn about authenticity. And by the way, you may say, well, I wanna be authentic, and I believe you mean it if you say that, but be careful what you wish for because I wanna tell you in the day and age that we're living in today it's very difficult to be authentic. Very easy to cave in when you're with a certain crowd at a certain time in a certain place.

So here's what will be true. If I am authentic, I will confront hypocrisy. If I'm authentic, I will confront hypocrisy. Now here's what's going on. Paul's in Antioch and Paul's heard some things about Peter, and when Peter comes to Antioch, Paul does the right thing. Paul confronts Peter. He displaces with the niceties, he didn't have any chitchat, he gets right to the point. He cuts to the heart of the problem. We're in Galatians 2, we'll pick up in verse 11. "When Cephas," that's just another name for Peter. "When Cephas came to Antioch, I," that is Paul, "I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned". Now right upfront Paul's letting us know because he's authentic, "I'm not gonna talk about Peter behind his back. I'm not gonna believe every rumor that I hear. I'm not just gonna get one side of the story". He did what we all ought to do when we hear something about someone else. He went to them directly.

By the way, in the Greek language, it literally says they were face to face. It wasn't an email, it wasn't a text, it wasn't a phone call. It was face to face. Now if that's possible, and it isn't always possible, but if it is, that's what authentic people do. So let me just be honest, you're ready? Authentic people don't gossip. Now you may say, well, I'm authentic. Oh, it's worse. Authentic people don't listen to gossip. If you're authentic, you don't gossip, you don't listen to gossip. They don't talk about people, they talk to people. If you're authentic and you've got a problem with somebody, you man up, you woman up, you go to the person you've got a problem with, and you talk it out. And the reason why Paul opposed him to his face was, he said, he stood condemned.

Now notice it wasn't Paul that was condemning him. He said, "You stand condemned, you've condemned yourself". And as you're gonna see, he was condemned by three things. He was condemned by the God that he represented. He was condemned by the gospel he was preaching. He was condemned by the grace that saves all of us, both Jews and Gentiles. You say, wow, what in the world did Peter do? What in the world did he do that left him condemned? Here's what happened. "For before certain men came from James," Peter, that is, he, "he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived," you'll see who they are in a moment, "he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray".

So evidently here's what happened. Peter goes to Antioch, and Peter begins to preach the gospel, and these Gentiles begin to get saved, because it was primarily a city made up of Gentiles. So Peter begins to hang out with his new Gentile friends, he begins to hang out with these Gentile Christians. He begins to go to their home and he begins to eat with them and hang out with them and fellowship with them. As a matter of fact, the tense of the verb is a tense that lets you know this had become a habit with him. He regularly did it. He didn't worry about the fact that they were uncircumcised or about the food that they eat, but they ate food that Jews normally didn't eat.

And the reason why Peter did that was he understood we're all equal before God, we're all equal before Jesus. I'm a Jew, you're a Gentile, that doesn't matter. We're both Christians, we're both followers of Jesus. We've all been saved by the grace of God, everything that comes from God is good. So he would go and eat at their house and they would come and eat at his house. Now it wasn't just who he was eating with, it was what he was eating that if you were a Jew would be really kind of shocking. Because if you had gone to one of their potluck dinners, here's what Peter was eating. Baby back ribs, shrimp on the barbie, crab cakes, raw oysters. They probably topped it off with sausage and biscuit from Bojangles. I mean, he's eating all of these things. And everything I listed to you in the Old Testament was forbidden by the Jewish law. If you were a good Jew, you couldn't eat those things.

And yet Peter is just eating up. Because all of those foods that had been previously forbidden God had shown Peter, "They're clean. You can have anything you want. You're under grace. I've given you richly all things to enjoy". So things are going great. Peter's acting the way Peter ought to act. He's fellowshipping with people he ought to be fellowshipping with. He's accepting and affirming people he ought to be accepting and he ought to be affirming. And then this little three-letter word enters into the narrative. "But when they arrived, who belonged to the circumcision group".

And you say, okay, fill me in. There was a group of people, they kind of had deputized themselves as Jewish theological policemen. They were spiritual busybodies. They professed to be Christians. But they come to Antioch and they see Peter eating with these Gentiles, and they came and they said, "Wow, wow, time out". And they began to tell all these Gentiles, "You may follow Jesus and you may love Jesus, and that's all well, that's all good. But you've gotta be circumcised. You can't just be a Christian. You've got to be a Jewish Christian. You still have to follow the law of Moses to be totally accepted by God. It doesn't matter that you believe in Jesus, it doesn't matter that you've been baptized, it doesn't matter that you're part of a church. It is improper for a circumcised Jew to have fellowship with an uncircumcised Gentile. It is wrong, Peter, for you to eat all of these foods that you know a Jew should not eat".

And then, to kinda make sure that they had the authority that they were saying this, they even claimed that they came from James. Now biblical scholars believe and I do that they were lying, that James didn't have anything to do with it. It doesn't matter. Regardless of that, they basically make their point. So they're shaming Peter, they're putting the Gentiles down. What does Peter do? "He began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid". It was a crushing blow to his Gentile buddies. It was a crushing blow to the families he used to hang out with and eat with and fellowship with. The little kids didn't see Uncle Peter come around anymore.

The little boys and girls didn't get to play with Uncle Peter anymore. Because Peter had decided, "I've got to please this group. I've got to stay in their good graces". Because back in that, even, by the way, this is true even today, in the Middle East, the highest form of acceptance, the way you show somebody you approved of them was to eat with them. Either go to their house or come to their house. Still to this day in the Middle East hospitality is a big deal. And even though Peter knew it was wrong, he rejected the crowd, listen to what happened now, he rejected the crowd he should've accepted so he would be accepted by the crowd he should've rejected. He told the right group, he told the wrong group, the group that was, he told the group he shouldn't have told to take a hike and fly a kite. When he should've actually been telling the other group exactly the same thing.

You say, why did he do that? We're told in the text he was afraid. Because fear is the enemy of authenticity. When you get afraid, but what will they think? What will they say? What will they do? Authenticity goes out the window because fear will cause you to bow to pressure rather than surrender to principle. So here's people who had previously enjoyed unrestricted social and personal and spiritual and relational fellowship with Gentiles who were just as good as he was. They were just as saved as he was. They were just as right as he was. He was speaking their language, he was eating their food, he was drinking their wine, he was playing with their children, he was sitting in their homes, and all of a sudden, overnight, starts treating them like they've got leprosy. Doesn't speak to them when they're walking down the street. He's always too busy to go over to their house.

And the word that is used to describe what he's doing, is used twice in the passage, is the word hypocrisy. And it's something that is alive and well in the Church 2,000 years later. You say, why do you say that? Because hypocrisy is what has kept and is still keeping many churches segregated because of skin color. It's what's caused the Church to treat certain sins as felonies and other sins as misdemeanors. It's what's caused the Church to slap certain sinners with the hand of judgment while turning a blind eye to other sinners that we deem acceptable. Hypocrisy is why we fail to extend grace in a gracious way to everyone who needs it just as badly as we do. It's why the term hypocritical has become the primary way that young people see Christianity.

85% of young outsiders, 85% of young people that do not come to church today said the number one thing they think about when they think about everyday Christianity is hypocritical. That's where we are. And if we're gonna be authentic as Christians and as a church, we must confront hypocrisy wherever we find it. That's what authentic people do. But not only are we going to confront hypocrisy if we're authentic. If we're authentic, I will confess hypocrisy. I won't just confront it, I will confess it. So here's what Paul is saying to Peter. "Peter, come on man, let your life be real. Come on bro, let your life be authentic. Quit being a phony. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Say the same thing with one group that you'll say with another group. Stick by what you believe. When your life doesn't match your lips, own up to it. When your behavior doesn't match your belief, admit it. Just come out and say so".

But listen, there's something even greater at stake here that I don't want you to miss 'cause this is such a big deal. 'Cause I know some of you might be thinking, why is this even in scripture? So two guys had a disagreement, why is this even in the Bible? Now you're gonna see why Paul was so worked up. This is the most important thing Paul says. "When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'"

You see, here was Paul's biggest problem. It wasn't just the hypocrisy that they were displaying. It was the truth they were denying. The very truth of the gospel was at stake. That little phrase, acting in line, in the Greek language is the word, by the way, it gives us the word orthopedic. We've got some orthopedic doctors here today. He gives us the word orthopedic. It literally means to walk uprightly or to walk straight. That's what it means. What Paul said was, "You're not walking straight in line with the truth of the gospel. You have veered off the road of gospel truth and you've landed in the ditch of hypocrisy because it's so easy to do".

Now I'm gonna answer a question. How do you get out of line with the truth of the gospel? How do you know you're not walking in line with the truth of the gospel? Well, you see right here in this passage, there are three things that will knock you totally off line with the gospel. First of all, racism. Racism will knock you off line of the truth of the gospel. And you know what racism is. It's when you refuse to see other people as equal as you are, and the reason why you don't see them as equal as you are is because they don't have your skin color. They don't have your ethnicity. And any time you're thinking racially in that way, you are not walking in line with the truth of the gospel.

The second thing, believe it or not, is religion. Religion will knock you off line. When we refuse to have fellowship with other people just because they don't dot the same religious Is and they don't cross the same religious T, particularly those that are not important, they're not essential to biblical principles, we're not walking in line with the truth of the gospel. Listen, I have my beliefs, and you know this, we have our beliefs about baptism. We believe people should be baptized after they're saved, not before. We believe baptism should be by immersion. It pictures the death and the burial and the resurrection of Christ. And we don't make any bones about it, we don't apologize for it.

We say to anyone, if you've never been baptized after you believed by immersion, we do not believe you've been biblically baptized. But there are some great godly wonderful pastors and churches and people that absolutely don't agree with what I've just said. It doesn't affect my fellowship with them. It doesn't mean we can't be friends. It doesn't mean we don't love the same Lord. If doesn't mean we don't preach the same gospel. There's all kinds of things out there that we may not agree on and we may not see eye to eye on, but there's too much division in the body of Christ over things that just don't matter. So racism will knock you off line. Religion will knock you off line. Righteousness will knock you off line.

You say, what do you mean? When you start thinking that you're superior to other people because they don't do things that you do, or they do things that you don't do. We fail to realize we're all continuously sinners in need of the grace of God. When we do that, we're not walking in line with the truth of the gospel. Some of you don't believe it's right to drink, some of you think it's okay to drink. Some of you don't think it's okay to go to movies, some of you do. We could list all kinds of things that we don't always agree on, that's okay. What we cannot do is ever say, well, he must not be as good as I am because he does that but I don't. She must not be as good as I am because she does that and I don't. Righteousness will knock you off line with the truth of the gospel.

So, since Peter's not gonna confess what he did, Paul says, "Okay Peter, I'll do it for you". "I said to Cephas in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not a Jew. How is then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'" Now here in effect is what Paul said to Peter. He said, "Peter, you've been pretending to be something that you're not when you're with the Gentiles. Now you want the Gentiles to pretend to be something they're not when they are with you. And Peter, you're making a difference when there is no difference. And you are not only just denying the truth of the gospel, you are destroying the unity of the church".

Now I don't want you to miss what a big deal this is because I want you to imagine, now listen to this. If Paul had not confronted Peter, and if Paul had not confessed for Peter, if Paul had not confronted him and looked him in the face and said, "Peter, you are filling the church with hypocrisy. You are a hypocrite". One of two things would have happened. The church would have even gone back to the ways of Judaism and legalism, or there would have been a permanent division between Jewish Christians on one side and Gentile Christians on the other side. That would have been a disaster for the church. And so Paul did not confront Peter out of jealousy. It wasn't out of one-upmanship. He wasn't trying to prove who the real boss of the church was. He wasn't showboating. He did it for one reason.

The truth of the gospel was at stake. He said, "Peter, your biggest problem and something I will not stand for is when you don't walk in line with the truth of the gospel and you try to lead other people not to walk in line with the truth of the gospel". 'Cause hear this. Nothing will ever be more important in the life of a church, in the life of a Christian, in the life of any denomination, than to make sure that we preach the truth of the gospel and we practice the truth of the gospel. And that may mean confessing hypocrisy in your own life. So if I'm authentic, I'll confront hypocrisy. If I'm authentic, I'll confess hypocrisy. And if I'm authentic, I will correct hypocrisy. Now the whole problem with Peter was, Peter, you're not being authentic. You're not walking in line with the truth of the gospel.

So what does Paul do? He does what I'm glad he did. He says, "Peter, can I remind you of the truth of the gospel? 'Cause I think you've forgotten it. So can I just remind you of what the gospel is all about"? So what Paul is about to do, he's about to give the most simple, the most succinct, but the most upended definition of the gospel, and he's gonna tell us this is what separates Christianity from every other religious faith you will ever find anywhere, including the Bible. If you wanna know what makes Christianity different from Judaism, what makes it different from Hinduism, what makes it different from Buddhism, what makes it different from Islam, he says, "Okay, I will be more than happy to tell you". That's why we should walk on one street. It's called truth. And it's why we oughta always walk in one direction, toward the gospel.

So he reminds Peter and he reminds us, look, we're all in the same boat. Whether we're Jews or whether we're Gentiles, we're all in the same boat. Okay, so watch this now, listen to this. He says, "We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law". I will say that one more time because church people need to hear that, unchurch people need to hear that. Believers need to hear that, unbelievers need to hear that. People who believe in God need to hear this, people who don't believe in God need to hear this. "A person is not justified by the works of the law". Let's repeat that together, you're ready? One, two, three. "A person is not justified by the works of the law".

Turn to your neighbor right now and tell them that right now. Just go and turn to your neighbor and tell them that right now. Now you say, okay, why do you that? Because I'm still amazed at how many people still deep down believe that's true. Deep, deep down so many people, even church-going people, even people who claim to know Christ, somehow they still have this idea that, yeah, I know you've gotta have faith, I get that. But somehow there's gotta be something here about what I do and about my obedience. He says no, "A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified".

So here's what Paul is saying. "Peter, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew that was born into the covenant family of God by birth, or you are a Gentile born outside of that covenant family. Peter, neither your birth nor your behavior will ever make you right with God or before God". Because the first part of gospel truth, he says you've gotta walk in line with the truth of the gospel. What is the truth of the gospel? Well, the first part of the gospel truth is everybody is born a sinner, everybody. Jews are born sinful, Gentiles are born sinful. You don't have to teach a Jew to sin, you don't have to teach a Gentile to sin. That is the bad news. The worst news he then says is there's nothing we can do to take care of our sin problem because no one will ever be justified by the works of the law.

And to press that point, Paul uses that phrase three times in this passage. Not by the works of the law, not by works of the law, not by works of the law. Three times in this verse. Because let me tell you one thing, and you're welcome to try. Make this a year-long project. If you've never read the Bible through, this may be a good reason for you to start doing it. Start in Genesis, go all the way to the end of the Book of Revelation. You will never find one time, not once, where anybody ever got right with God, ever got justified by God, ever got accepted by God because they kept the law. No one ever got right with God, no one ever came to know God, no one was ever justified by God because they were good enough for God. As a matter of fact, this is the thing people don't understand.

People think, "I know why God gave me the 10 Commandments. God gave me the 10 Commandments because that is how I get right with God". That's not why he gave the 10 Commandments. He did not give the 10 Commandments to show how good we can be. He gave the 10 Commandments to show how bad we are. Listen, God's law is a mirror that condemns us, it's not a medicine that cures us. Law has nothing to do with it. You know, the law is like a CAT scan. How many of you have ever had a CAT scan or MRI? How many of you have ever had one? Okay, I have. You know what a CAT scan or MRI does? Listen. It will show you what's wrong with you, it will not cure you. It will show you what's wrong with you, it will not cure you. That's the law. The law says, you know what? Look at all the 10 Commandments.

Let me tell you something. How many 10 Commandments do you think you've broken in your life? That's an easy answer. You've broken all of them. Oh yeah, oh yeah, you've broken all of them, okay? Somebody's, well, wait a minute. I've never stolen anything from anybody. Really? Did you ever cheat in an exam? You stole somebody's answer. Did you ever say something about someone to later find out it wasn't true? You just stole from their reputation. Now we can go down the line. Here's the good news, listen, this is good news for all of us, okay? We're all equally bad. We've all flunked the test. We've all made a big fat zero when it comes to keeping the law, because that's not why the law was given. It was given to show us how bad we are, not good we can be.

So that's why we all need a word that Paul uses three times in this verse. It's one of the greatest words in the Bible. It is the word justified. Sir, can I ask you a question? Do you wanna be right with God? I really do, pastor. You better be justified. You wanna know God? I do really wanna know God, pastor. Then you've got to be justified. When you die, you wanna spend eternity with God? Yes, I do. Then you'd better be justified. That's what we all need. Now what does that mean? Big term, big word. Justification is a legal term. Sounds like it, right? It is borrowed from the court of law. It is the exact opposite of condemnation. So you've got justification or condemnation. In fact, let me just make this real easy. Every one of you right now are living under one of two roofs. Either you're living under the roof of condemnation, or you're living under the roof of justification.

That's where we all live. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. It's real simple. Condemned is when you are declared guilty. You're declared guilty, you're condemned. Justification is when you're declared not guilty. So we all need to be justified. Now watch this. That word tells us two things that we absolutely know for certain. If you need to be justified, and you do, and I need to be justified, and I do, and we all then to be justified, and we do, if that is true, then there's two things we know for certain, you ready? Here's what I know, number one. There is nothing wrong with God. If I need him to justify me, there is nothing wrong with God.

Here's the second thing we know for certain. There is something wrong with us. If there's nothing wrong with him but there's something wrong with me, I need him to do something for me so that I can be right with him. Because, listen to this, if those two things are true and there's something wrong between us and God, and it's not him but it's me, then only God can make it right. Well, how does he do that? By justifying us. And the way God does this, this is what's so beautiful, you're ready? My son's an attorney, so he'll appreciate this. The way that God does this is not the way it usually happens in the court of law. And this is what a lot of people don't understand, they don't get it. When we stand before God, we're guilty. Every one of us. When we stand before God, we're guilty. We know we're guilty. He knows we're guilty. We know he knows we're guilty.

So we have to confess that we're guilty. So watch this. You stand up at a court of law and the judge says, "How do you plead"? You say, "Your honor, I'm guilty". What happens next? You're condemned. He's gonna send you to jail or whatever the penalty for your crime is. You are condemned. We must confess we're guilty, right? Here's the difference. We stand before God, and we confess we're guilty. Buckle your seatbelt. But the moment we confess to God we're guilty, he declares us not guilty. That gives me chill bumps. I'll just be honest, it just gives me chill bumps. You say, what? Yeah. When you plead guilty, he says, "Not guilty". By justifying us, that's the way it happens.

You say, how does he do that? He declares us not guilty because Jesus has taken our sins, and Jesus has taken our punishment for us. And by the way, great news, there's no double jeopardy even with God. So the moment God looks at you and says, "James, not guilty". You can never be declared guilty again. No double jeopardy. Justification, and now this is important. People say, okay, what you're saying is God forgives me. Well, he does, but justification is not simply forgiveness. Because you can be forgiven and then you can go out again and do something else bad and you become guilty all over again. That's why it's so different from just a pardon. Justification is not just a pardon.

You say, what do you mean? If I'm a criminal and the governor or the president decides to pardon me, the good news is I do go free. The bad news is I still have a record. But when we're justified, the slate's clean. The file is empty. The record is erased. So I'm justified. And when you look at my past, you know what you see, according to scripture? Nothing except white beautiful snow. No blemish, no blot, no stain. Record totally expunged. Oh, wait a minute. But you are sentenced. You say, what? Yeah. No no, you are sentenced. So here's what it works, you're ready? You're gonna love this. This may make you a Pentecostal. So you come before God as a drug addict, alcoholic, pornographer, pimp, prostitute, or just an ordinary run-of-the-mill dime-a-dozen hypocrite, and you come to God and he says, "James, I have all of this against you. How do you plead"? Lord, I plead guilty. "Well, James, I declare you not guilty".

Thank you, Lord. "Well, no. But you do have to be sentenced". I knew it, Father, go ahead, okay. "I hereby sentence you to eternal life. I hereby sentence you to complete forgiveness. I hereby sentence you to total redemption. I hereby sentence you to the love and the joy and the peace that only I can give. I hereby sentence you to a home in heaven. I hereby sentence you to a resurrection body". And since every person who comes to Jesus is justified, no Christian's more justified than any other Christian, which simply means this. If God accepts everyone on the same basis, then once God accepts us, we should accept others.

That was the whole point that Paul totally missed. And the way we should accept others is the way God accepts us. And you know how God accepts us? It has nothing to do with the color of our skin. It has nothing to do with how good we try to live. It has nothing to do with how many times we've attended church. It has nothing to do with our social standing. It has nothing to do with our financial status. It has nothing to do with our gifts, has nothing to do with our abilities, has nothing to do with our talents, and thank God it has nothing to do with our politics. We accept others because by the grace of God he has accepted us. And that's why, listen, that's why we don't have to pretend to be something we're not. Because in Jesus every one of us is exactly who we need to be. And that's what authentic Christianity is all about.
Are you Human?:*