Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 3/29/09
"In most solemn truth I tell you that he who listens to my teaching and believes Him who sent me, has the Life of the Ages, and does not come under judgment, but has passed over out of death into Life" (John 5:24, Weymouth).
There's hardly a word that strikes more fear in Christian hearts than the word, "judgment." That's partly due to the bad press which the church has given it, but largely, I think, due to reading the scripture by the letter instead of by the Spirit. Strong's Bible Concordance offers this definition: "2920. krisiv krisis kree'-sis; decision (subjectively or objectively, for or against); by implication, justice (especially, divine law): accusation, condemnation, damnation, judgment." Our English word "crisis" comes from the Greek "krisis." Obviously, judgment IS a crisis, and one which many people all over the world are experiencing right now! You don't have to wait until you die to experience judgment!
Their dread of "Judgment Day," causes many Christians to forget that according to the Apostle John, God's judgment is FOR rather than AGAINST; ACQUITTAL rather than condemnation:. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24, RSV). Paul asked, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). Thus, we may conclude that when it comes our turn to stand in the Judgment Seat of Christ, whatever and whenever that may be, we can rest in the faith by which we stand, that we shall be acquitted, exonerated, and declared NOT GUILTY by the Righteous Judge of all the earth! That was Jesus' mission and He surely did NOT fail! (I John 3:8).
What a glorious promise that is, one which I never saw for years because I was too busy worrying about what seemed like the constant condemnation I found everywhere in church and in scripture. Thanks be to God who lifts the fallen and resists the proud that He opened my eyes to see Him as He is, and allowed me to feel and taste and experience the goodness and faithfulness of God to us in Christ Jesus our Lord! As I tell them at Medicalodge, we would all fall on our faces in worship of Christ our King and God our Father, if we thought we could get up again. Bad knees, hips and backs being the norm over there, we fall on our faces in Spirit and give thanks for the blood of the Lamb which has cleansed us from all unrighteousness and restored us to full fellowship with our Father.
We fare much better with God's judgment, which is secure in Christ, than we do with men's, as we shall see next.
Maybe Karl Barth, who suffered a lot of criticism from his peers, was leveling the playing field when he wrote, "All men are standing on the same step before the righteousness of God." That seems to be a perfect paraphrase of Paul's affirmations that "all alike have sinned, and all consciously come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23, Wey.). Yet still think that they are somehow "better" than the rank and file sinner because of their obedience to the gospel and their works. Like the Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray, they thank God that they are not like that sinner over there. Such spiritual blindness and fleshly pride brought Jesus' stinging rebuke: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23:27-28).
The Pharisee was engaging in a favorite pastime, "the blame game," which Christians play heartily. Jesus was very clear about not judging others and about getting the beam out of your own eye so you can better see the speck in your brother's eye. Judging others brings condemnation down on our own head: "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get" (Matt. 7:2). Judging others makes them want to avoid us like the plague and run screaming into the night the other way, which is exactly how the world feels about organized religion. It is impossible to share God's love with sinners while looking down your nose in judgment of them. Many Christians will not associate with sinners because a) it might ruin their reputation and b) they might be tempted to sin along with them. Unlike Jesus, they don't want to be seen in a place where sinners congregate, like a bar for instance, because they suppose it would ruin their witness. Or is it that they fear they would start drinking along with them? Hypocrisy is alive and well on planet earth, for only a heart transplant can eradicate it.
At the other extreme are those who apparently do not know that God has declared us "not guilty" in Christ. They still wring their hands over past sins, and present failures, wallowing in guilt and judging themselves and others as unworthy of the free gift Paul described in Rom. 5:15-16: "But God's FREE GIFT immeasurably outweighs the transgression. For if through the transgression of the one individual the mass of mankind have died, infinitely greater is the generosity with which God's grace, and the gift given in His grace which found expression in the one man Jesus Christ, has been bestowed on the mass of mankind. And it is not with the gift as it was with the results of one individual's sin; for the judgment which one individual provoked resulted in condemnation, whereas THE FREE GIFT after a multitude of transgressions results in acquittal" (Weymouth).
Paul's glorious 5th chapter of Romans is an expansion of the statement he made in I Cor. 15:22: "as in Adam, all died, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive." Weymouth's translation of this truth in Rom. 5:18, is clear: "It follows then that just as the result of a single transgression is a condemnation which extends to the WHOLE RACE, so also the result of a single decree of righteousness is a life-giving acquittal which extends to the WHOLE RACE." Clearly, we're all in the same soup kettle together, for good or for ill.
In spite of the FREE GIFT of God's grace, many Christians still judge themselves as guilty sinners, continuing to feel unworthy to accept or even believe that such goodness and forgiveness really belongs to them personally. There are many reasons why this is so, some cultural, some familial, a failure to see God's grace evident everywhere in scripture, Old and New Testaments alike. For them as for the Pharisee, the answer is a heart transplant to replace the letter of the Law written on tablets of stone with "the new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life" (I Cor. 3:6). He will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts so that we may know that He is our God and we are His people. The glorious result of this divine transplant will be, "And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest" (Heb. 8:11). What a day of rejoicing that will be!
These scriptures are the gospel God preached Abraham, that in his seed (Christ), would all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8, 16). Christians may be aware of this, but it seems to do little good in preventing them either from judging others or themselves as unworthy of God's unmerited favor. Why? I believe that guilt and judgment go hand in glove with unforgiveness of ourselves and of others. Before we can stop judging others and by God's grace forgive them, we must first acknowledge our sins which He has already forgiven and forgive ourselves!
When I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the day the heavens opened and I saw Christ on that cross for Jan, I didn't really know at a cellular level that I needed Him to die for my sins. I only had "head knowledge" of His death for me, having learned of it at home, at church and in the Bible, but I didn't feel very sinful, to be honest. When I "saw" Him there on the cross and knew it was for me, I wept tears of sorrow for my sins, which turned to joy for my salvation purchased at such a dreadful price.
Only when we have faced our own sins can we give up judging others, and we dare not face our sins until we know by the Spirit that we are forgiven! Sometimes I ask them at Medicalodge if they think Christ has to go back to the cross whenever they sin. They grin at me and say, "NO!" The point is that the blood of the Lamb took away the sins of the WORLD, past, present, and future. When by God's grace, we realize the full significance of our own sins and what our forgiveness cost, only then can we forgive others who trespass against us.
There is no commandment in the Law to forgive others. There are plenty of references about asking God to forgive the people, and David asked many times that God forgive him. For all his glory and his remarkable skills as a leader, David never lost sight of the fact that he needed personal forgiveness, which was the strength of his relationship with God. The Law allowed personal retribution of the grossest sort, to our way of thinking; they were free to return evil for evil: "fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man, he shall be disfigured" (Lev. 24: 20). The Law didn't ask a man to search his heart and see if he had sinned against the person who hurt him. No, it merely said he could exact punishment of like kind. (See also Ex. 21:24, 26.)
That being the case, one can clearly see that it is currently an unattainable goal, to expect the Israelis and the Palestinians to forgive each other and get along. Both are operating under the religious premise that retribution is a perfectly acceptable way of life. "Love your neighbor as yourself" didn't really come into the discussion until Christ came to reveal the Father's heart, although this commandment was part of the Law: "You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD" (Lev. 19:18). Jesus expanded the concept, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). I don't know how to reconcile an "eye for an eye" with "love your neighbor as yourself," and clearly, the stressed out folks in the Middle East don't either.
Besides, how can we expect the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael to get along when we have conflicts and problems in our own families and in our own churches? Why do we have so much trouble forgiving other people and ourselves? Why can't we just say, "God forgave me so I forgive you." Why? The answer to the problem lies, I believe, in the conflicted human condition. We were created in the image and likeness of God, meaning that we want the control. We want what we want when we want it. Our flesh is fearful, petty and small, jealous and threatened by others' good fortune, determined to maintain what we perceive as ours. Those are certainly not Godlike qualities, but rather, neurotic defenses flowing out of the deep well of our carnal nature (Gal. 5:19-21). The remedy is easy to say, but impossible to attain by ourselves. Only by His grace, can we surrender everything in our lives to God.
The Judaizers hindered Paul's work, telling the Gentiles that they had to keep the law; they had to be circumcised or they couldn't please God. Circumcision is a metaphor for all the things we are told we must DO to please God today. Paul was clear about this: "Mark my words! I Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again, I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law, have been alienated from Christ; you HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE" (Gal. 5:2-4).
Why can't I forgive someone else? It may be because I have not asked God to show me my own sin in the matter, or because I haven't acknowledged either my sin, or God's forgiveness of me. If I have NOT been able to forgive myself, it is impossible to forgive anyone else, until by Faith, I receive the heart transplant God promises us under the New Covenant. He has already done everything for us "in Christ," a phrase the New Testament uses some 89 times. When we try to do it on our own, we are putting our faith in the work of our own hands, making Christ of no value to us; we have clearly fallen from grace!
Several years after my divorce from my first husband, I was still very angry with him. When I asked John Gavazzoni, then pastor of the church I attended, "Why?" He replied, "Guilt. Wrap it up in a bundle, lay it at the foot of the cross, and move on into resurrection." That's a metaphor for surrendering it to God, which by His grace, I did. Forgiveness has flowed for my "Ex" from then until now. Unforgiveness is a very heavy burden to carry around, proving once again that only His judgment is righteous. Ours is not!
The Gospel is Good News, not tired admonitions, warnings and a "to-do" list that always fails. Whatever our difficulty, be it anger, guilt, forgiveness, fear, envy, or lust, it is covered by the blood and it is forgiven. May the Spirit reveal to us the length and breadth, the height and depth of Paul's declaration: "Who shall impeach those whom God has chosen? God declares them free from guilt" (Rom. 8:33, Wey.). May God enable us to surrender all to His will for our lives, so that by Grace, we shall stand on Mount Zion's lofty peaks.
Father, you are beautiful beyond words, marvelous beyond knowing. Your love is wider, deeper and more vast than the Universe. We thank You and praise You for Your judgment of us as "not guilty," in Christ Jesus our Lord. Make us instruments of Your peace, a Light to Your world, and a Joy to Your own heart. In Christ, wherein all good things abide, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson 17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail) Surrendering to God is Harder than Giving a Cat a Pill Working for Jesus? Surrendering to God, II
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When Parents and Churches Fail, Surrendering to God, XIII
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This created was created on 3/26/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last updated on 07/29/09.