By Stephen Phinney

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Praying for a good name is the starting place for a good name. But before we put our building blocks in place, let us examine authentic justification, sanctification, and faith. 
The term “true justification through Christ” is much different than how most self-proclaimed Christians use it.  The actual definition of justification is that of the illustration of Passover – forgiveness.  Compromising, independent people try to forgive themselves without the appropriation of Christ’s redemptive justification or try to live up to a reputation they themselves put in place.  Justification is a gift and it comes to us through grace, a freewill offering from Christ.  It means to “remove one’s sins from someone.”  It is noted in the Greek text as “remission.”  Remission is the process of restarting or being given a second chance at His mission.  In order for this to happen, one’s sins must be put aside or “sent away.”  The Hebrew text reveals to us even a clearer understanding of this: “to place on the side, to disregard or bypass.”  In the Old Testament, man’s sins were removed, or passed over, until the next animal sacrifice took place.  The “sinners’ ” sins were placed on the animal and it was killed in order to send the sins away.  This is why Jesus had to become a permanent sacrifice for all sin – to permanently provide a pass over of all past, present, and future sins.  The Old Testament’s version of sacrifice did not change the heart or character of man; it simply, temporarily removed the sin itself.  The New Covenant (the blood sacrifice of Jesus) removed sin and its power, as well as, guilt. Jesus’ blood sacrifice also changed the identity and heart of the man.  In short, He made us just – just as if we did not sin.
People with compromising reputations are not only independent, but they tend to mock God by attempting to accomplish more faith, or prove their faith, by expecting fruit just because they have obtained faith.  In reality, faith is not accompanied by its inevitable and expectant fruits.  True faith is alive, active, and mixed with the love of God, which produces good works.  Compromising people of a bad reputation profess and presume faith.  The end result is a barren and destitute tree that cannot produce fruit.  Even demons have this kind of faith.  This type of “false faith” consists of the intellectual belief of sin and the work of Christ, instead of repenting and returning to God to rely on His promises.  Independents usually focus on getting themselves bailed out of selfish behavior or use God’s promises to prosper themselves.  They lean toward treating God like He is some type of slot machine.  When works are practiced instead of being a result of faith, they are false works, producing plastic fruit.
Can non-Christians produce real fruit?  This question demands an answer with a question.  Can pine trees produce apples?  Of course not!    This is one of the toughest doctrines for Christians and non-Christians alike to embrace.  All the “good works” of unsaved people do nothing.  They may see temporary benefits here on earth, but the eternal value is useless (James 2:20).  Unsaved people are in need of new life.  They need to ask the Lord Jesus to come and dwell within their mortal bodies.  This process is called being born-again.  Once a person asks Christ into his life, the Holy Spirit comes to live within him.  This process of sanctification converts him into a “fruit tree.”  Now the life of Christ, through the seed of faith (Matt. 17:20) that He places in the new believer, can begin producing real fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
Can Christians be a part of “false faith?”  One of the greatest controversies of Christianity is that of “sinless perfection.”  A Christian never becomes sinless because of the sin that remains within the mortal body of the believer.  Sin means “to miss the mark.” All Christians have the choice to sin, even though they are perfect spiritually in Christ Jesus.  Even the most obedient Christian cannot say that he has not sinned as a believer. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, NASB).  No Christian can keep all the mandates of God, nor does He expect us to.  This is why He sent His Son to fulfill the law in and through us.
Once we accept Christ into our lives, we are given a new nature, a new reputation – the nature of Christ Himself.  This reputation comes with a new past – the past of Jesus Christ Himself.  True authentic Christianity comes with a brand new reputation; a reputation, I might add, that is NOT earned, worked at, or acted out.  His reputation is given to us as a gift.  This is accomplished by God sending the Holy Spirit to live within our mortal bodies.  The doctrines of perfection come into play when the Spirit purifies our spiritual nature, which is what becomes perfect in Christ.  The mind and body remain vulnerable to our “flesh” (the trash the old man left behind) because sin continues to reside in our bodies and persists in affecting our minds.  We are given the power to resist indwelling sin (our old reputation) and choose life coming through our new spiritual nature.  This is why we are called to “put off the old self and put on the new” (Eph. 4:22).    When sin, flesh, decides to raise its ugly head through the body (Rom. 7:23) by way of the mind, we are to “consider ourselves dead to sin and our old reputation, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” and His reputation (Rom. 6:11). 
In our next blog, we will carefully review the authentic process of becoming a person of an authentic reputation – that of Christ Jesus.