Romans 2:1 | No Excuse Judgment

I would hate to be a judge. I can’t imagine presiding over a court where the judgment might alter life of an individual forever. Sentencing someone to life in prison is harsh. What kind of hope and what kind of future is that for the one life we have to live? Yet I do judge and I do condemn but thankfully I don’t have authority to imprison and thankfully some of the most judgmental people I know are not in charge. We should all be circumspect before writing others off or judging someone as not worth an effort of relationship.

Paul after detailing what a sinner looks like in Chapter 1 of Romans pivots on his audience and tells them to not to judge the sinner. Casually reading Romans his warning is well timed because right after the details on how people rebel against God and what that rebellion looks like my mind started to think of certain people or certain types of people that fall into these sinner categories. But that is not what Paul wants the reader to think so he drops a rebuke on that.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1 ESV

Lest I forget I am a sinner also Paul puts a hold on his narrative to warn the reader. Because when I go back to Chapter 1 I can find myself in this list.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Romans 1:28-31 ESV

I have gossiped. I have been greedy. I have been deceitful. I have been arrogant. I have been loveless. I could continue… So Paul provides a well-timed rebuke to me. Do not condemn others because you yourself are in the same boat. It is like two people in a life raft in the middle of the ocean and me pointing to the other person and saying “You are a looser and you are going to die in this raft.” When the same reality applies to me as the other person is the same situation.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38 ESV

Jesus talks about my judgement toward others as a negative response. If all people are created in God’s image. If all people are descendants of Adam and Eve then no matter what they have done they are still of the same flesh and blood that I was made from. Jesus contrasts the negative judgment and condemnation done by me, with the restorative and positive of forgiveness and giving. Jesus is saying don’t judge your neighbor but forgive your neighbor because God has forgiven you. Give love and compassion to your neighbor because God has shown love and compassion to you. God wants not that we tear each other down but God wants his followers to build up.

Jesus then jumps into one of the most famous parables

41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:41-42 ESV

Look at how Jesus challenges the listener to get themselves right so they can help the other person. It is about building up. If I can only condemn and judge the other person to tear them down where is God in that? How is he glorified?

While I am not a judge (thankfully) there is a real judgement against all of us sinners. A righteous judgment that only God can give because only God is sinless and perfect.

7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:7-8 ESV

Paul is telling us that as followers of Christ we must be persistent in seeking God’s glory and God’s kingdom and he tells us what that looks like by describing what a judgmental sinner looks like.

Self-Seeking: Judging others is selfish. God made us and saved us to reflect the love, the mercy, the grace, and the forgiveness he has poured out through Christ who is the perfect embodiment of love, selfless sacrifice, grace, and mercy.

Reject Truth: God has told us what is right and what is wrong. Yet those who are judged by God willfully reject his truth and what is right. By rejecting what is right they reject God. Christians do not judge others for rejecting truth we double down with more selflessness, more mercy, and more forgiveness as an overflow of what God has already given us.  

Follow Evil: It is never enough to reject God and God’s truth. It necessarily follows that by rejecting truth that those condemned by God will choose what is evil. There is no middle ground of neutrality. Following what is evil proves that God’s judgement is justified.

I am not here to judge but I know the Judge. I am not here to condemn but I do plead and witness to anyone who will listen how to meet the Judge’s standards. I am a witness to the good news that Jesus died taking on my shame and my sin to make me right before the Judge. That good news is available to all who would seek his glory.

Exodus 7:4 | The Light’s Great Act

There is a misconception in the culture that the God of the Old Testament is a vengeful and angry God but the God of the New Testament is loving and wants everyone to do whatever they want to be happy.  The result of these two narratives is that those who hate God and his church will talk about how unjust the angry God of the Old Testament is so that they can justify curtailing God and the church in the public square. And those who proclaim a judge-less God of the New Testament a God that desires everyone to be happy use this view to justify their own “truth” of selfish desires and hedonism. Any challenge to this judge-less God is immediately thrown out with the lecture we are not to judge others.

Both narratives are wrong about God. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. If God changed then he would not be God.

First let us look at the judgmental God of the Old Testament. Moses traveled to Egypt to free the Israelite slaves from the oppressive Egyptians. God tells Moses that He will free the Israelite people through signs and wonders and he also tells Moses that the signs and wonders will be a judgment on Egypt.

3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. Exodus 7:3-4  ESV

Here is the God of the Old Testament condemning the Egyptians to a painful judgment that ultimately ends in the first born throughout Egypt being killed by an angel of God. This final plague and judgment was so overwhelming that the Egyptians begged the Israelites to leave.

Was this a vengeful and angry God who had no right and therefore we can condemned his action or was this a righteous judge who is justified to judge Egypt in this manner? Before answering this question remember that the Egyptians are holding the Israelites as oppressed slaves. These are the same Egyptians that set about to murder every boy born to the Israelites.  These same Egyptians that rejected God to serve after false gods. As creator of humanity and sustainer of the universe God created us to worship him and him alone.

Fast forward to the New Testament where Jesus explains God’s purpose in judgment. Jesus the loving and compassionate tells a religious man exactly what God is doing and what God is doing is not a judge-less God wanting the people to just do whatever they want.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:17-19 ESV

The cultural narrative is that God loves everyone. And that is true. Jesus says that God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world. The cultural narrative also says that God just wants everyone to be happy being whoever they want to be and doing whatever they want to do. This is not true. Jesus spells it out “this is the judgment” that Jesus is the light of the world but selfish, evil, and hedonistic humanity loves the darkness and does not want the salvation of Jesus because humanity’s works are “evil”. Jesus described humanity as “evil” that includes me and not just people outside of my affinity group. Furthermore Jesus states clearly that anyone who does not believe in the Son, Jesus, and the light he brings stands judged “condemned” by God.

Just as the Egyptians were condemned because they loved the darkness wanting nothing to do with their Creator so too will we who love what is contrary to God. God has brought light and truth into a dark world yet just as the Egyptians rejected the words of God so too is this current culture stand condemned. God has not changed who he is and we have a choice of salvation through Christ or to continue to love what the darkness wants to be important. Just understand that God and the evil done in darkness are not compatible. One cannot choose this world and what is popular in this world and then stand before God without condemnation.

Dear reader Christ stands at the door to your life. Would you love the politics, the lifestyle, the anger, the disappointment, and the lust of this life more than the salvation that Christ offers where “whoever believes in him is not condemned”?

John 3: Condemned or Saved?

John Chapter 3 contains one of the most powerful and famous verses in all of the bible. John 3:16  

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[g] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV

 What powerful and comforting words. “God Loves the world” so much so he sent Jesus to save the world. People cling to this and champion these words. However few people know the entire context to understand what that really means.  

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. John 3:17-18 ESV

Jesus did not come to Judge the world. He came to save the world. For those of us who believe in Jesus and accept what he has done there is no judgment. But John recounting what Jesus told Nicodemus went on to say that anyone who rejects Jesus is already under judgment and has already been condemned to death.

 Do you get that? Judgment has already come. We have already been condemned. We are all already cut off from God. That is why Jesus did not come to judge when he became a man. In His conversation with Nicodemas Jesus first started off by telling Nicodemas that he must be born again.

 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,[a] you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” John 3:3-4 ESV

Jesus went on to explain that a new spiritual birth was needed. That spiritual birth is only secured through what Jesus did on the cross paying our penalty. New life in Christ is the only way forward out of condemnation and death.

 So those who reject Jesus, and God have a problem. They have chosen the death of this earthly world over an eternal future life. So by what standard does God judge those who reject His Word?

19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:19-21 ESV

Many refuse to yield to a new life in Christ. Most continue to pursue their own selfish ambitions. Many think the world revolves around their desires and wants. They think they can accomplish anything they want… If that is you then Jesus has just called you evil in John Chapter 3. Jesus says that you are condemned because you prefer the darkness of rebellion because you think it hides your sins. Each of person must reconcile the truth that Jesus proclaimed against their own motives. His offer is to continue under judgment or to be born again.

 

Keep Calm and Carry On…

Keep Calm and Carry On. Have you seen this mantra recently? I see it or variations on the windows of cars, on tee shirts, and on the web. I was curious about the history of such an interesting cultural phenomenon that I did a little research. This short video gives some background that the reader may find informative.

The context of Germany bombing England and the need to continue living life as normally as possible gives this mantra a powerful foundation that is legitimate and very British in nature. Since it was rediscovered in 2000 and has become more popular over the last few years even jumping into American culture I wonder why it has captured the imagination of so many people.

 The nightmares of the wicked come true; Proverbs 10:24a (MSG)

Within the context of contemporary culture we know and feel in our heart that the relative peace and relative prosperity that we struggle to keep each day is temporary. Look at the popularity in culture of post-apocalyptic movies and themes. Is anyone tired of Zombies yet? Fears about things like asteroids crashing into earth, climate change, terrorism, and Ebola or the next plague grip us to some degree or another. I think the reason is that we know and feel in our hearts just how precarious our lives are.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:19-21 ESV

Keep Calm and Carry On in the context of our current world seems like great advice. It resonates. The world has been subjected to futility and we feel it, sense it, and comprehend this futility of everything, but only on the fringes of our consciousness. It is there, but we dare not dwell on such thinking. Keep Calm and Carry On allows one to set that uneasiness aside. I feel the appeal of such a mantra, but then my spirit or I should say God’s Spirit in me burns with rejection of this lie.

I am stirring up your sincere mind … knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? … For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 2 Peter 3:1-7 ESV

Dear reader do you not know that this life will end? Either at your expiration or sooner when Christ returns in Glory. Of course you do yet you refuse to look the end in the face and recognize its power over you. It is one thing, a noble thing, to Keep Calm and Carry On against the Germany Army but it is an impossibility and sinful to think you can Carry On against the Judgment of Christ. The enemy has distracted you and you have chosen to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth. Namely you are not your own, but a slave to unrighteousness.

so God will allow them to believe lies with all their hearts, and all of them will be justly judged for believing falsehood, refusing the Truth, and enjoying their sins. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 TLB

Reject the lies of your heart. Reject the lies of this culture… More money, more fame, more job, more stuff, more sex, more of whatever you need to Keep Calm is a lie. God has dealt with the power of death that faces us. God has provided restitution for the judgment that is coming for us. God himself will provide peace in the chaos so that we no longer need to carry on in the face of death. Turn to him dear reader. Turn from death and turn to the only lover that can ever provide real calm.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV