Tag Archives: judgment

Better the devil you know…

 

…than the devil you don’t.

The world is a scary place.  For the unprepared, a simple trip to the grocery store can be an adventure.  For those stuck in the values of the 1950’s, the world is downright evil.

Imagine a young lady out on her own after leaving her legalistic family and church.  Who are the other tenants in her apartment building?  Are they all married?  How many of them are gay?  How does she deal with the advances of the single (or married) men?  What about the music that she has to listen to from the apartment next door?  Or that strange smoke smell?  Or the empty beer bottles left in the trash?

And that’s just her apartment building, the place where she sleeps and finds refuge.  At work or at school she encounters people whose morals and values and language and dress and hair and almost everything else is counter to what she was told was the only right way. 

Even at church, she finds people who have compromised with the world just like her preacher back home talked about.  The men have long hair and the girls have short hair.  The girls dress “inappropriately.”  The music is more like the world’s music she hears from next door than like what she grew up with.  The few people she looks to for support don’t connect with the church at all and she is left thinking that she has to reject everything she believed in order to survive. 

The world is a scary place, filled with devils and sin and compromise.  For all the pain and shame she suffered at her old church, at least the people tried hard to do what is right.  Of course, she isn’t so sure just what is right anymore.  The people who have been most kind to her would never be welcome in her parents’ home. 

We should have great respect and patience for those who are trying to escape legalism. 

And, when a legalist wants to continue in her faith, what message does she hear in church?  More legalism, but disguised as grace.  No one talks about what clothes you should wear, but you better be involved in a small group.  You can enjoy almost any kind of music you want, but the message from the pulpit is still about measuring up and doing what is right.  And those people who are so kind and supportive are still not really welcome.

And when she tries to sort out her feelings about her family and the legalist message, what does she hear?  The laughing of other Christians?  The mockery of the things she once believed were true?  She didn’t expect the people of the world to understand, but she wanted some support from the people who were supposed to be believers.

Who is explaining to her the difference between law and grace and why she suffered pain from a system that was supposed to help her?  Who is telling her that God loves her and wants only the best for her?  Who is helping her understand that God has already dealt with her sin and she doesn’t need to be afraid in His presence?  Who wants her to understand that she is accepted and valued and loved—just as she is?  It will be hard for her to find anyone who understands the real message of grace because there are so few who believe it.  Jesus has done it all and offers it all to you freely just because He loves you.  Who teaches that?

So this poor young lady faces a strange and frightening world.  Her only support comes from people who reject most of what she has believed throughout her life.  The church she finds out there offers both the compromise she expected and a redecorated legalism she finds all too familiar.

Eventually, the temptation comes.  Just go back.  It wasn’t so bad.  You can’t make it out here.  You can’t trust anyone. You were wrong to leave.  Just go back.

Although it breaks our hearts to see it, we can understand why some return to legalism.  It’s the devil they know.

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Generational Sins?

“Children suffer for the sins of their parents.”

This was a popular teaching for one legalist teacher I knew.  He believed that the sins of the fathers could be seen for many generations following.  He taught that believers should not adopt because they would be bringing into their families the sins of a different heritage.  He warned men and women that they would see the fruit of their sins in their own children.  Confession was important, but who could confess someone else’s sins?  Children were told to go to grandparents and ask for confession so they would know what sins to bring before the Lord.  Family stories were fields ripe for the harvest of supposed sins to confess.

Of course, children do suffer because of the sins of their parents.  This is obvious.  If a parent is an alcoholic, the children will almost certainly suffer.  If a parent is wasteful with money, the children will suffer want.  Parents make decisions that affect those around them.  We understand that the effect of a parent’s sin can be experienced by a child.

But does the guilt of a parent’s sin pass on to the children?  And do the children necessarily carry within themselves the seed of the same sin that held their parents in bondage?  And what about the cleansing Jesus brought to the parents?

Again, this is a large topic.  Let me offer a couple of thoughts.

First, no child is accountable for the sins of his or her parent.  The Lord made this clear way back in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 18, particularly verses one through four.  This passage is specifically dealing with the idea that sins are passed on to children.  We are told there: “The soul that sins, it shall die.”

In other words, the Lord deals with each person individually.  The children do not suffer spiritual accountability for the sins of their parents.  This was a word from the Lord, given under the Law, to make very clear that generational sins carried no spiritual consequence.

Second, no generational sin clings to the lineage of those who belong to Christ.  Doesn’t it seem odd that we would speak of generational sins that cling to the lives of family members when the Lord makes it clear that we have been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ?  If our sins were washed away so that we are no longer identified by them, as we are told in 1 Cor 6:11, then how can we say that there are sins we can still pass on to our kids?

I realize that this is a strong teaching for many people and I am treading on holy toes.  But we are either washed or we are not.  Our sins are either gone or they are not.  I find no exceptions in Scripture, no sin that is stronger than the blood of Christ.  Show me where I am wrong.

Finally, no offering remains if the blood of Christ is insufficient.  If the application of the blood did not wash away the generational sin, what will?  Good works?  Confession?   I see nothing left.

Please understand that parents can pass down behaviors and values and attitudes to their children.  Parents who lie will probably teach their children to lie.  Things like divorce, alcoholism, work instability, and much more are easily passed by the normal attention children give to the lives of their parents.  We do learn from them.

But we are not in bondage to any kind of generational sin so that we can find someone to blame for our problems.  It does nothing for me to go to the Lord and confess the sins of my father or grandfather.  If that made any sense it would lead all of us to simply confess the sin of Adam and consider the rest covered.  But the only one responsible for my sin was me and the only way of forgiveness was through the blood of Jesus Christ.

So go to the Lord yourself.  Take no one else with you.  Confess your own sins and receive the salvation He offers.  Trust that His blood washes away all sin from your life.  In Him, you move forward in freedom and victory.

Your thoughts?

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Preaching to the Choir

“You’re preaching to the choir, Pastor!”  In other words: “We’ve all heard it before.  We know it already.  You need to be preaching to the ones who haven’t heard.”

Two comments…

First, I have never been part of a church choir that didn’t desperately need to actually listen to the preaching.  Just because most of the members thought they had heard it all before didn’t mean they had actually opened their hearts to the message.  Church choirs can be nasty groups!  I doubt that you could find a more agreeable culture for gossip, judgmental attitudes, or adulterous affairs anywhere in the church.  So, yes, the choir still needs to hear the message.

Second, the comment should be considered.  Those who are set free do need to encourage each other, but there are so many who still need that freedom.  They are in bondage to the condemnation and guilt and they don’t know how to escape.  We have the answer because someone took the time to write or preach or share the message with us.  In fact, they probably told us many times before we actually heard it.

Or maybe you were like me.  When the time came in my life to be discouraged with lack of “progress” and a fatalistic sense of despair began creeping into my heart, I began to seek the Lord.  As I did that, He showed me more and more truth about Who He is and what He has done for me.  For a long time I would have said that I discovered this on my own, just the Lord and me.  But the truth is that the Lord used so many to plant seeds.  Some were just a little further on the journey than I was, but they told what they knew.  Sometimes we discussed these truths and we both grew.  Others were guides the Lord used, people who had led many to freedom through books or teachings.  But it was never just me.

So, ask the Lord to use you to help someone find the freedom and joy you celebrate in Him.  Don’t push, just be available.  And, when He uses you, let me know so I can rejoice with you.

And don’t forget to preach to the choir.

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But…but…but…

I had a nice visit with a friend in the hospital the other day.  Somehow this topic of the judgment came up and he said that he was confident that we would not be judged for our sins, but that we would be judged for the missed opportunities and the lack of zeal in our hearts for serving the Lord.  In other words, we would be judged for actions after our salvation.

Now, he said that he didn’t mean sins; he believed that our future sins were washed away with our past sins.  What he meant was our works for the Lord.  Perhaps I should say our performance.  It fascinates me that it always seems to come back to our performance. 

Once we become Christians, according to this way of thinking, we become responsible to perform according to a certain set of standards.  Failure to do so will bring shame and regret, perhaps even condemnation.  Could you lose your salvation based on poor performance?  Some believe that.  At the minimum, we will be judged somehow, someday, for our poor performance.   After all, we all know that we have missed opportunities to stand up for the Lord and we have even continued to do things that He considers sinful.  So, some type of spiritual consequence seems reasonable—according to this type of thinking.

But if we believe that our sins are removed and there will never be any condemnation for us, as the Scripture says, then the negative side of our performance is a moot point.  The fact that I miss opportunities or that I continue to do sinful things certainly does not surprise the Lord.  He knows that I am learning to walk with Him, but my flesh continues to have a strong influence in my life.  God knows these things and He still accepts me.

And the fact that some of my works are stained by my fleshly input isn’t a surprise to God or to me.  In some ways the surprise is that some of my works are not stained in that way.  Amazingly, wondrously, the Lord does use me and does bring glory to Himself through me.  So, if some of my works are burned up in the fire, why would that be a disappointment to me?  That’s what I expect.  The only emotion I will feel is the joy of seeing that somehow He managed to do His work in, through, and with me. 

Will I regret not giving more?  Will I be ashamed that I didn’t witness more or serve more?  I really don’t think so.  It isn’t that I am “doing just fine.”  I know that the flesh is still active and still influential.  I also know that all the glory for any good in me belongs to Jesus.

So, I told my friend that there will only be joy in that day, according to my thinking and according to what I believe the Scripture teaches.  He had to stop and think and I hope that he continues to think.

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The Judgment Seat of Christ 6

So I think that several things will happen.  In some sense, in that great Day, the judgment/bema seat will be set up and Jesus will sit on the throne.  As described in Matthew 25, all nations (every person) will appear before Him and He will separate those who trusted in Him from those who did not.  On one hand will be those who are saved.  On the other will be those who are not.  To the former He will say, “Come!”  To the latter, He will say, “Go!” An eternal separation will be accomplished on the basis of faith expressed during the time of the body (this life).  No believer should fear this time. 

Then He will focus on us.  He will welcome us and we will understand finally that it was nothing of us that got us there—it was all Him.  We will joyfully throw everything we think we have done for Him into the fire, knowing that only what He accomplished through us will survive.  (1 Corinthians 3:9-15)  Some of what we have done will not survive.  It will burn because it will be of us.  Those times when we thought we were doing something “for Him” but really were just trying to appease our own guilt or make ourselves look good.  We will “suffer loss,” but not very much because we will give every credit to Him anyway.  That will be okay with us, because we will understand the whole truth.

On that Day, we will see the walls that flesh and sin have created fall away forever and we will understand the truth.  Those divisions between us, between believers, will be seen in the light of His truth.  There will be no Calvinists or Arminians, no legalists or liberals, no Baptists or Episcopalians.  The labels will disappear and we will love each other with His love and accept each other as He has accepted us. 

And what a Day of rejoicing that will be!

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The Judgment Seat of Christ 5

The “bema seat” was simply a platform in an open area where people would gather to hear the judgment and wisdom of the authority.  It wasn’t always about punishment.  Sometimes the authority would settle disputes.  Sometimes he would establish or communicate laws.  Just like today’s courts, the bema seat judgment was used for more than pronouncing sentence on offenders.

In Romans 14 we are cautioned against judging each other when we have doctrinal disputes.  One believes he may eat all things, Paul says, while another may eat only vegetables.  What may be wrong for one may not be wrong in the heart of another and the only One who gets to make the call is Jesus.  He is the authority who will sit in the bema seat, not us.  If it is acceptable to Him, then it ought to be acceptable to us. 

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Romans 14:10(NKJV)

Who is right and who is wrong?  Let’s wait until our Lord tells us.  The basic message in this passage is that we must not set ourselves up in the Lord’s position.  He is the judge over what is acceptable and what is not. 

Notice that this, again, has nothing to do with salvation.  It doesn’t even have anything to do with rewards.  In the end, we will learn from Jesus.  He is our authority.  This presents a mystery for those who want to live by rules.  I envision a time when the Lord says, “Well done” to someone who smoked cigars, and “Well done” to someone who refrained from smoking.  The earthly rules of the legalists will found nowhere in this judgment.

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The Judgment Seat of Christ 4

There are a couple ways for us to take this idea of the judgment seat of Christ.  First, according to Matthew, all people will appear before Christ on the throne and He will separate the sheep from the goats. 

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Matthew 25:31-36(NKJV)
 

 

As Jesus addressed the Jews, He spoke in language they would understand, even if they might not have liked it.  They would have liked it if Jesus had told them that all the Jews would be on the right hand and all the pagans would be on the left.  That would have made sense.  Instead, He put it in the context of compassion.  And He clearly points out that “all nations” would stand before Him on that day.  So the Lord is saying that those who did what He would do, whether Jews or not, would be saved. 

We understand, from the teachings of Paul, that the Spirit in us moves us to do what the Lord would do.  We know that only believers have the Spirit residing within them.  What that means is that those who are led by the Spirit of God, those who live in relationship with the Lord, will be saved.  Ultimately, salvation does not come from the works themselves, but through the trust/faith that connects us to the grace of God in Jesus.  The deeds done in the body, mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10, are judged not by whether they are good works or sins, but by whether they are the work of the flesh or of the Spirit.  That’s why Paul says that we have put to death the deeds of the body in the Spirit.  The works of the flesh are “foul” (the word used in 2 Cor. 5:10) and the works of the Spirit are good. 

I understand that this can be confusing so let me try to make it simple.  On that Day, Jesus will look on all people and separate those who belong to Him by grace through faith from those who have trusted in something else.

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The Judgment Seat of Christ? 3

So what is this judgment about?  Even if we relieve the concerns about losing our salvation or finding out that we really were not “good enough” after all, the idea of judgment is still something that inspires a certain fear in us.  Some preachers have told their people that every event of their lives will be displayed for all to see.  (Wouldn’t that be fun?)  Their good works will be acknowledged and their secret sins will be exposed.   Then, after suffering through that excruciating experience, all their tears will be wiped away and they will be welcomed into glory forever.  No wonder they are afraid!

What about our sins being removed from us “as far as the east is from the west?”  What about the past tense of our cleansing in 1 Corinthians 6:11?  (“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”)  What about what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5, our passage, concerning the fact that the Lord will not “impute their trespasses to them”?  Are these important truths suddenly forgotten?

This is one reason I camp on the fact that there is no longer any sin on the account of a believer as far as God is concerned.  God has already dealt with our sin, past and future, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, we will already be sinless.  Sin is not an issue now and will not be an issue then.  (Now, I realize that some will be greatly concerned by this idea.  I am not suggesting that sin has no effect on us.  Of course it does.  Here and now.  Sin is still something we should avoid and we will avoid it as we follow Jesus.  But it is no longer laid on our account as something for which we must answer in the end.)

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The Judgment Seat of Christ? 2

Our salvation is secure in Jesus.  We did nothing to deserve or earn our salvation and we do nothing to maintain it.  We cannot.  If we could become saved or stay saved through our own effort or even in part by our own effort, then the whole message of the gospel would be quite different.  We would no longer be saved by grace through faith, but we would be saved by grace and works.  I will be very clear: if our works can get us into Heaven or keep us out, then we are not totally dependent on the love of God in Jesus. 

So, as we head toward the judgment seat of Christ, those who are believers have nothing to fear.  Either we are saved completely by the work of Jesus, or we have no hope at all.  We could never be good enough, even in adding “our part” to His.  If salvation is ninety-nine percent from Jesus and one percent from us, we have no hope. 

Bottom line: our salvation will not be up for grabs at the judgment seat of Christ.

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The Judgment Seat of Christ?

(Tackling a subject like the events of the end times or the process of eternal judgment is a challenge.  We simply do not have all the information.  We are supposed to trust in what we have been told and in the character of the Lord who loves us.  But I will take a stab at sharing how I interpret the idea of “the judgment seat of Christ.”  Please, I know that I appear to combine the ideas of the “Great White Throne Judgment” and the “Judgment Seat of Christ” and I know that some people have spent years dissecting Scripture and designing timelines and systems for explaining all of this.  My gut tells me that we don’t know as much as we think and that the unfolding of these events will surprise all of us.  These are just some of my thought.  Fools rush in….)

 

 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ”

That statement is found in 2 Corinthians 5:10.  It is the plain word of God.  Does it scare you?  Sadly, it is used in churches around the world to frighten believers into better behavior, more good works, and less sin.  Many who have been told that they are saved by the blood of Jesus have also been told that they will still be judged and may “suffer loss.”  Many believers live in fear and anxiety because of the threat of this judgment.

Yet, Paul seemed to look forward to it.  In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes about dying.  He knows that he has enemies and that his walk is dangerous.  He knows that he and his companions could be put to death for their message.  But, if that were to happen, he is confident in his standing with the Lord.  In fact, that is a key word in this text, “confident.”  He is “always confident,” he says.  Why?  Because the Lord has prepared him for ministry and for death.  Because the Lord has given him “the Spirit as a guarantee.”  Because he is “well known to God.”  Because he is a “new creation.”  Because God has already reconciled Paul to Himself.  And because God will not impute Paul’s sins to Paul’s account.  All of this is in the chapter.

So we learn that Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, people who are truly saved.  However, like Paul, we do not have to be afraid.  Those who will be saved through eternity will already be saved before they stand at the judgment seat.

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