Question: How can I explain Justification to an urban non-believer?

Excellent question. One parallel that I've found to be effective is that of a plea bargain. I normally start of by defining Justification as God's eternal "not guilty" verdict to sinners who took the plea bargain He's offered them. A plea bargain in our American legal system is where a criminal admits guilt to avoid trial and have stronger charges dropped in order to take a lesser sentence for the crime they may or may have not committed.

Spiritually speaking, we are all born dead (Ephesians 2:1-3) sinners (Psalm 51:5 & 58:3) who are guilty before a completely righteous God. This truth leads us to ask the question, "is there anyone who can endure the eternal sentence the righteous judge must hand out to all guilty sinners?" The answer to this question is yes, Jesus Christ.

In John 1:1 we read three truths about Jesus, He is eternally God, essentially God, and equal with God. In addition, Hebrews 7:26 informs us that Jesus is sinless and perfect. When we add these two truths together we see all other human beings are disqualified because we are neither sinless or God. Jesus then stands alone as the only qualified candidate to endure the entire eternal punishment of God's wrath on behalf of sinners.

The plea bargain God (the righteous judge) offers sinners is consists of three truths;

  1. Admit you are guilty of being a sinner who has sinned
  2. Embrace the finished work of Jesus Christ who took upon Himself the full eternal sentence of sin (1 Peter 2:21-25)
  3. Receive the fact the rap sheet which lists your sins has been removed from your account and has been replaced by the perfect life that Jesus lived. The evidence of this now being your reality is the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 4:22-25)

When we share this plea bargain with non-believers we must remember God is the one who saves sinners. John 3:3-8 reminds us that God the Holy Spirit is the one who causes dead sinners to become born from above or 'born again'. All we are called to do is share the good news of the gospel and pray the Lord causes the non-believer to embrace Jesus Christ by grace through faith.