Acts 13:39 “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”
The laws God gave to Moses stretch across four books of the Bible, about 125 pages in my personal Bible. When God revealed his law to Moses, he never intended it to be some kind of self-help book. Endless lists of things that made people ceremonially unclean, and purification rights to go with them; detailed instructions about some of the most minute details of how they lived and worshiped; this was more than any reasonable person could do. It should have led them to see the futility of working your way into God’s graces. It should have led them to seek help, not to self-help. But this is just the way that Moses was misused.
Why? For the same reason we find ourselves doing the same thing today. Rather than coming to grips with sin’s hold on us, we choose to live under the illusion of personal goodness. The name on the laws we are trying to follow to a better life may not be “Moses.” But the law of Osteen, Dobson, Warren, or Lucado–or of the pastor who serves you personally, for that matter–will not be able to justify us, either. Come to your own pastor for counseling, and he may be able to apply God’s word to your situation. He may be able to tell you where you have broken God’s commands. He may help you with applications that improve your lives and make it tolerable to continue. He may have insights into what to do. It may be a good and wholesome thing for you to make those changes. But all by itself, this will not draw you closer to God. It won’t cancel your sin. It won’t justify you. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to do our best, but we find no peace that way.
God has provided a better way. “Through him (Jesus) everyone who believes is justified.” Jesus is superior to Moses, because Jesus actually provides what Moses could only describe–a perfect life. Justification and its companion word, “righteousness,” aren’t everyday words for us, at least in the way they are used by Paul. When we use “justify,” we are defending something or making a case for it. When Jesus justifies us, he is not defending us based our good behavior. He is defending us based on his good behavior. He isn’t looking for perfect performance that isn’t there. He is getting us off the performance treadmill. He is giving us credit for his perfect performance from the stable to the cross. He pronounces us righteous, he declares us free from sin through the forgiveness he has led us to believe.
You see, what Jesus wants more than that you try harder is that you repent and give your sins to him. Lay your burdens down in front of him. Stop trying to save yourself. Jesus will do what all your efforts could never do. He will make your very real sins disappear. He will give you relief from all your guilt. He will give rest to your troubled soul. Jesus is infinitely superior to every other avenue to peace, because his way is the only way that actually works.