I’ve had to ‘fess up to many things in my life, but few were as disgraceful as the photocopier incident.
The twilight of my teen years and the height of my vigor were upon me. I was a summer camp counselor for impressionable children. I built a reputation for loving fun and silliness. I would do anything for a laugh. I secretly wished my exploits would become the stuff of camp legend.
I would get my wish, but only when my unquenchable ambition drove me to epic failure.
In my folly, I neglected to treat my unpresentable parts with greater modesty (1 Cor 12:23). I believed a photocopy of my hindquarters would elevate my status. But wisdom was hindmost in my thinking, and hindsight confirms my terrible mistake.
I did not receive adulation that day. No, I reaped a few things that ended up being far more instructive to my soul. A broken glass tray. A huge gash on the back of my thigh. Unceasing ridicule.
And the opportunity to tell the camp director why the photocopier was out of commission. For some reason, no other counselor was willing to do it for me.
I had no justification for my actions. I couldn’t avoid blame.
So I manned up and took responsibility. What else could I do? My condemnation was just. With sparkling amusement, however, the Director’s first question offered me a little consolation. “Pants up or down?”
According the Bible (Rev 20:12), God will not be amused by our rebellion against him. He’ll gather great and small before his throne. He’ll open books that recount their deeds. He’ll require justification for what’s written there.
Some will try to avoid blame by listing all their good deeds (Matt 7:22-23, Luke 18:9-14) in the hope that these good deeds outweigh the bad ones. Others think they’ll avoid blame by comparing themselves with worse sinners (Luke 18:11). Some will simply blame other people or circumstances instead of admitting any sort of blame themselves (Luke 16:19-31, especially Luke 16:30). None of these tactics will work (Luke 18:14).
A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. (Gal 2:16, ESV)
There is only one justification that will effectively remove our blame. Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). He “gave himself for our sins” (Gal 1:4). God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
The only ones whose names are not written in the “book of life” are those who seek justification in anything but Jesus who is “the Life” (John 14:6, 1:4, 6:35).
How to Explain Justification
“Justification” is one of those big Bible words we often toss around. But can you explain the concept in plain language?
Vindication. Acquittal. Declaring innocence. Removing blame. Providing evidence. Proving rightness (or simply “being right”). Take your pick, and use ordinary language when you lead others. Just because the word is in the Bible, don’t assume everyone knows what it means.
Me: Did you finish cleaning your room?
Me: Ok, I want you to show me. Let’s go check it out, and we’ll see if your confidence is justified.
Son [struggling with something difficult]: Papa, I can’t do it.Me: Why not?Son: It’s too hard.Me: You’re right, son. You can’t do it. But someone else can. Who do you think that is?Son: Jesus?Me: Yes! Let’s trust him and thank God for him.