Justification by Faith

WHERE’S THE BEEF?!  I remember the popular fast food restaurant commercial where three senior ladies were staring at a less-than-adequate hamburger. As one lady peered at the sandwich she asked: “Where’s the beef?” Her question was a statement that, regardless of all of the trappings and accompaniments, the bottom line was that a hamburger should have some meat to it.

I know you must be wondering what this has to do with this week’s Sabbath school topic on Justification by Faith. It would seem more logical to talk about the powerful truth that a man, lost in sin and destined for eternal destruction, can have his past blotted away by the simple act of faith in Jesus.

It’s hard to believe that this truth, Justification and Righteousness by Faith, was once a hot topic within our church. There were those who feared that stressing the inadequacies of man’s efforts and emphasizing faith would lead to a lessening of the importance of commandment keeping. It was during this time that Ellen White wrote the following:

“As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth.” Review & Herald March 11, 1890

Now, one hundred plus years removed, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way. We are now champions of justification by faith. There will be a chorus of voices this week that will all say Amen to the truth that we are saved by grace and grace alone. But where’s the beef?

Justification by faith was never to be solely about the removing of our past. Yes, He washed our sins away and we stand before God free from guilt and the subsequent just rewards of our past. But what about power to live the life that goes on after our past has been removed? Where’s the power?

Absent from many of our conversations on the power of faith will be the subject of living a life in this present world free from the dominion of sin. We sing that there is “Power in the Blood” but is there power in our lives? Power to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” Hebrews 12:1

Those three ladies could just as well be addressing our church. We have all of the trappings and accompaniments – doctrinal soundness, including the 2300 days, mortality of the soul, Sabbath truth, and the second coming of Christ. We have an impressive organizational infrastructure along with avenues of information dispersion that rival any organization. We have extremely talented and gifted members that are labeled as world class. But as a people, those three ladies could still be asking us, “Where’s the beef?”

After all, if God is powerful enough to free us from the clutches of a sinful life, wipe our past away, He is also powerful enough to enable us to live as children of the Most High God.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” John 1:12

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “faith” mean to you in your own words? (Do not quote Hebrews 11:1)
  • What is James saying in James 2:1920: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
  • Describe a person who is living a life of faith.
  • What does “justification” mean to you?
  • What, if anything, should change in a person’s life after they understand and accept the teaching of justification by faith?
  • If one’s past has been forgiven, does that mean that they no longer deserve consequences from past actions? Why yes or no?
  • What does it mean to have spiritual power?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: God is more concerned with your heart than He is with your obedience. Explain your answer.

We close this week with the words of John who, like Paul, viewed forgiveness and the ability to live righteously as a package deal:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

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