January 29, 2017

Judging and judgment

There is an aspect of the Gospel that bothers even Christians; not everyone will be saved. We don’t understand the ways of God in that He chooses some and not others. We know salvation is by grace through faith and not based on our deeds, but His determination. That does not make sense.

Yet there is another aspect of Christian living that does not make sense either. We know God saves by grace, but some of us have the terrible tendency to judge other Christians by their behavior, as if that is the criteria for salvation. God reminds me . . .
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10).
If my sin was put on Christ, judged and punished at the Cross, why then will I appear before His judgment seat? This is a good question, yet resolved by a lesson in the Greek language. There are two terms concerning God’s judgment. They refer to two different events. One is that final judgment of unrepentant sinners at “a great white throne” spoken of in Revelation 20 where the dead are judged according to what they have done. This is not a judgment for those who are “written in the book of life.”

The other is called the “bema” seat of Christ and this is where the deeds of Christians are evaluated. Some will have been done in the power of the Holy Spirit and others in our own strength which will mean some will be acceptable and others like “wood, hay and stubble” and will be burned up. (1 Corinthians 3)

In other words, Christians will stand before the bema seat, not to have themselves judged for worthiness of eternal life, but their work judged to determine its eternal value . . .
If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)

Because of this bema judgment, I must walk by faith and in obedience, making it my aim to please God. I will “receive what is due for what (I have) done in the body, whether good or evil. (See 2 Corinthians 5)

That settles the final judgment issue, but also confusing is that Jesus says we are not to judge one another yet He also says we must judge righteously and use discernment. How can that make sense? If I’m to judge, but not to judge, what does He mean?

Reading those commands in their context is helpful. Matthew 7 forbids judging that is based on seeing my own problems in others and pointing fingers at their error instead of dealing with my own. If my life is clear of those problems, then I “can see clearly” to help others who have them.

In the very next verse, Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy . . . .” How can I know who are “dogs” and what is “holy” without making some sort of judgment call? I cannot do that if my own eyes are blinded by sin’s deception, nor can I do it if I think I am forbidden to judge anyone or anything. God does not intend that we be deceived and unable to evaluate such things as false teachers, sin that requires rebuke, etc.

I’ve wondered if I’ve ever used “Do not judge” as an excuse to avoid cleaning up my own life? Probably. If I cannot judge others, then they cannot judge me. This serves to make me accountable to no one. That is foolish too.

The other kind of judgment is about who IS saved and who isn’t. Jesus did say that we would know them (unsaved people) by their fruit (see Matthew 7). At the same time, we have no idea who WILL be saved. The salvation of the Apostle Paul was a surprise to the new church. Also, my sister became a Christian in an African country and came home thinking I would be the last one in the family to be saved; but I was the first. We cannot judge or decide someone is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The Word of God does not allow anyone to judge regarding that!

I’m not sure what that great white throne judgment will be like, only I know I will not be there because my name is already written in God’s book of life . . . .
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done . . . and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done . . . . And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11–15)
Jesus, what can I say that adequately expresses the wonder of being included in Your family, Your kingdom? You took God’s wrath on my sin and purchased for me eternal life without condemnation. Some of my actions have been worthless, yet because of grace some are gold according to Your estimation. I can only bow my head in gratitude that You have blessed me by mercy instead of dismissing me by judgment.

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