The Subtlety of Self-Justificationby Cynthia Jennings on March 16, 2022
Has someone ever told you the truth about something and you got upset about it? On the outside you smiled and nodded along as the person spoke, you even humbly thanked them for sharing their concerns. But on the inside, you were anything but gracious. As you walk away, you mumble “who do they think they are?” “They have no right imposing their personal convictions on me!”
I’ve been there! And I’ve had several thoughts like that.
Looking back, I’m very remorseful about the ungracious thoughts I harbored against the person who was telling me the truth.
The deception of self-justification looks like this. Instead of being humble and willfully open to correction, I immediately attempted to justify my position. I would make a mental list of reasons why I felt I didn’t need to listen. The more I focused on things wrong with this person, the more I could justify the compromise I was allowing in my life. How convenient! Now that I had reasons not to listen to this person, I could go along on my merry way and not have to change…. what a relief! Or so I thought. (Proverbs 21:2).
The blindness of self-justification is one of the sneakiest and most subtle forms of deceit the enemy uses in the lives of Christians. When we are not open and eager for the Spirt of God to correct and refine us, we often spend a huge amount of time and mental energy trying to, or better yet convincing ourselves that we’re just fine the way we are(Proverbs 14:12). Then when fellow Christians challenge us with the truth it either hurts our pride or touches on an area of compromise in our life that we are unwilling to give up. Most often, the only way to avoid admitting that we’re wrong is to lash out at that person or try to discredit them. If the enemy can get us focused on the messenger’s faults and flaws (whether real or imagined), he can distract us from responding to God’s gentle tug of correction upon our soul. When we are blinded by self-justification, we often believe that we’re seeing clearly to remove the speck in someone else’s eye, when in fact we have a huge beam in ours the entire time (Matthew 7:5).
The self-justification (self-righteous) miss the message of Christ. This is evident with the Pharisees who were professional self-justifiers(Matthew 23:25-28; Luke 16:14-15). They were so busy proving to themselves and everyone else that they were just fine the way they were, that they completely missed the message of repentance and freedom Christ came to bring(Acts 3:19; Proverbs 28:13). It was a message that could have set them free. Instead, self-justification blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, thus they remained in their sins. As the Pharisees’ example proves, self-justification is not something to take lightly because the end result is bondage to sin and blindness to the light of Christ.
So how can we avoid letting this subtle sin creep into our lives? The key is being open and correctable to God’s Spirit at all times(2 Timothy 3:16; Proverbs 15:32). Allow God to do a major work in your life so that your perspective would change(Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). As the Spirit of God purified my soul (1 Peter 1:22; Ephesians 5:26)and purged my heart of sin and compromise, one of the biggest areas God challenged me in was my participating in the ungodliness of self-justification. That person who spoke the truth to me had been right. My ungracious thoughts were completely wrong. They were a tool that God wanted to use to bring gently, (better yet stern) correction to my soul.
When we truly love God through His Son Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and desire Him above all else, then we’ll actually welcome correction and Godly conviction. However, if we have idolatry in our lives (yes self-justification is idolatry), we usually reject correction and conviction because our sin is more important to us than being right with God. Dictionary definitions of idolatry speak of religious worship of physical idols or excessive reverence or devotion to something. In biblical terms, idolatry is worship of anything other than God. Colossians 3:5 links idolatry with covetousness; when we want something so much that we covet it, that thing becomes an idol. We seek it more than we seek God and God’s truth.
The gift of the Spirit’s conviction is a blessing. When you hear a message or when someone brings conviction to you, even if it stings, don’t immediately try to justify yourself or start criticizing the messenger. Instead, come before The Father with a humble spirit (James4:6) and ask Him to refine you (at whatever cost), correct you, and make you more like Him. Be willing to admit you’re wrong, have genuine repentance (specifically about the area you’re wrong, in this case, self-justification), and walk in the newness of your deliverance (John 8:32).
Being corrected by God’s Spirit is actually one of the most amazing gifts that God gives us. Yes, even if he uses someone close to you..in my case it was my husband..LOL. God corrects us because He love us (Proverbs 3:12).
So instead of gripping and grumbling when conviction comes or lashing out at the person who brings Godly correction into your life, humbly receive it and allow it to make you more Christ-like.
When you’re free from the sin of self-justification, you become a moldable vessel in the faithful Potter’s hand. Isaiah 64:8 “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
PEARLStoPONDER: Stop justifying what you know is contrary to God’s Word for selfish reasons.
Jeremiah 17:9--The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Psalm 51:10--Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[a] spirit within me.
Proverbs 14:12--There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Romans 8:1--There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Psalm 34:22--The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.