In the last issue, we examined the first deterrent to overcoming, self-deception. The heart is deceitful above all things, and it first fools the self! In the end time, at least two of the seven church eras of Revelation 3 are totally self-deceived, so we must look honestly into the mirror of the law of liberty, God's Word, and not forget to remove the "dirt" we see in ourselves.
This month we will look at the inevitable next deterrent to overcoming. It is one that tends to occur as we begin to strip away our self-deception. We do not like what we see when we compare ourselves with the Word of God, and we begin to justify ourselves in what we do. Self-justification leads us to make excuses either for our behavior or for our unwillingness to overcome it.
1. When our sins are uncovered, what is our normal first reaction? Is it common to man? Genesis 3:10-13; 4:9; Acts 5:1-11.
Comment: From the first two human beings until now, men have always tried to hide their sins and failings from God, other men and even from themselves. Herbert W. Armstrong often said, "The hardest thing for a human being to do is to admit he is wrong." We will often go to great lengths—concocting a myriad of lies—to justify our thoughts, words and actions.
2. Does the Bible recognize the human tendency to justify itself? Does God look kindly on our ploys? Proverbs 20:4; 22:13; Ecclesiastes 5:6; 7:16; 8:11.
Comment: We will blame weather and even wild beasts in the streets for not performing our responsibilities! Solomon warns that this can destroy us.
3. What are some excuses we use in our daily lives to justify our lack of productivity? Do they impress Christ? Luke 19:12-27; Matthew 25:14-30.
Comment: We know the classic excuses: "Yes, but. . . ." "It's too hard." "There wasn't time." "If only. . . ." "I tried." "It's not my fault." "It's not fair." "I forgot." "I didn't know how." "That's how I was raised." "The Devil made me do it." Jesus Christ will judge us by our fruits as doers, not by our intentions.
4. Do we teach our children the same justifications, providing excuses for them? II Kings 21:19-21.
Comment: When parents sin, they provide their children with an opportunity to justify sin. The impact of such sin is devastating to a nation when the sins of kings influence their heirs. Some of the kings of Judah probably made excuses similar to those parents use today. How often parents excuse bad behavior by saying, "It's okay, honey. You didn't have your nap"; "You're having a bad day"; or "Johnny next door is a bad influence on you." Our society has become so good at self-justification that people who cannot find any plausible excuse commonly plead "temporary insanity." In most cases, it really is only a justification to get away with abusing our fellow man. It might succeed in man's court, but not in God's.
5. Does "After all, I'm just human" or "I'm a sinner and all have sinned" work? Proverbs 16:2; 18:17; 21:2; 30:12, 20; Romans 1:20-22; Ezekiel 33:7-20, 30-32.
Comment: We can justify ourselves to the point we really think we are clean in spite of our sins. We will use "all humanity" as our excuse, admitting we are sinners "just like everyone else," but not wanting to admit specific sins or faults lest we have to overcome them. God knows all men have sinned and fall short of His glory, but He is only interested in our repentance (change), overcoming and growth, not our excuses. "Everyone is doing it" does not justify our personal sin. God will forgive only as we repent.
6. Once we convince ourselves that our faults, sins and lack of growth are justified or excusable, what have we gained? Romans 6:23; Psalm 22:1-22; 50:22-23; I Peter 2:21-25; Isaiah 53:7-12; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
Comment: The penalty of sin is death. If we insist on justifying ourselves, we will die for our sins. All our self-justification will gain us nothing. Only the shed blood and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, who suffered mightily for us, will justify us. Otherwise, we cannot inherit eternal life. After what He suffered, He is in no mood for excuses. He is seeking people who will admit their faults and sins and work daily to overcome them.
7. What kind of example was David? Psalm 51.
Comment: David probably justified his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah just as any of us would: "The temptation was too great," "After all, I am the king," or any number of ways. When Nathan stripped his self-deception and self-justification from him, David bitterly repents. He loathes his sin and himself. He asks God to cleanse him, wash him, purge his attitude. He asks for forgiveness. He makes no further excuses, but determines to correct his future conduct and dedicate himself to serving God and His people instead of himself. He stands as a fine model of repenting and overcoming even the most grievous of sins. By following his example, we will be working out our salvation and seeking eternal life!