December 24, 2014

God is quicker at forgiving me than I am

In talking about making enemies and making friends, someone told me that he had been treated badly by someone he thought was a friend, then that person started to avoid him. I asked what he did about it. He said that he confronted the other person, punched his nose, and now they were the best of friends.

After laughing about this odd result, we decided that people expect to be punished for what they do, and when they are, their expectation is fulfilled and they are relieved. Both of us could remember other incidents where this proved to be the case. It is very common to expect punishment for doing the wrong thing.

But is that how God wants us to think? In studying the mind of Christ, the mind of sinners, and the minds of Christians who often fail to surrender to the mind of Christ, I’ve realized how much we do not understand the thoughts of God.

Today I looked up a verse about the judgment seat of Christ and found two opposite notions what it means. First, the verse: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

The major response to this verse is that Christians will be judged at a raised platform much like Jesus stood on before Pilate. Knowing about this judgment seat is supposed to motivate us to do morally good things and avoid sin. We will be rewarded for the good we do and lose rewards because of any sinful actions. Some would add to this view that a believer’s deeds provide public evidence that shows our faith is real. This evidence is not the basis for salvation, but a demonstration of the genuineness of our faith.

The second notion about this verse says that the judgment seat refers to the place where the Lord will sit to evaluate believers’ lives for the purpose of giving them eternal rewards because it comes from the Greek word bēma. This was an elevated platform where victorious athletes (such as during the Olympics) went to receive their crowns. While this word is used in the NT to refer to the place of judging where Jesus stood before Pilate, the reference is definitely from the athletic analogy. Corinth had such a platform where both athletic rewards and legal justice were dispensed, so the Corinthians understood Paul’s reference.

But this is not the important part of this second view. It also says that the actions being judged in a believer’s life do not include sins because their judgment took place at the cross. As Ephesians 1:7 says, “In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

This means 2 Corinthians 5:10 refers to all activities Christians do but the idea of those Greek terms “good or bad” are not about moral good and moral evil because sin has been completely dealt with by the death of the Savior. Rather, God will be comparing worthwhile, eternally valuable activities with useless or worthless ones. The point is that I am free to enjoy wholesome activities, but warned to spend most of my time and energy with what has eternal value.

I know there is something in me that wants to be punished for my sins. There must be, because every time that I disobey God, He does not strike me with lightning, but I spend days beating myself up. Yet as soon as I confess the matter to Him, I am forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9). He may chasten me for my own good, but He is not punishing me for sin. God has already put my sin on Christ who bore my punishment.

From this, it seems safe to say that the mind of Christ and the normal human mind are simply poles apart!

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