-- "You will never be able to love somebody into the Kingdom until you feel the King's love personally." --
In my opinion, the greatest prayer in the Bible is the one Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians (emphasis mine):
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)If we, God's people, lack power today, Paul says it's due to our lack of knowing, understanding, and experientially feeling the love of God in Christ.
Evangelical pastors tend to motivate Christians to live right and do good works through threats of appearing before Christ on judgment day to give an account of our lives. This modern motivational tool is very similar to the Roman Catholic practice of indulgences that lasted seven centuries prior to the Reformation. This type of motivation is the very reason the church lacks supernatural power.
The Bible is clear that every person apart from union with Jesus will give an account for how he or she lived their lives. This accountability to God is understood by all, even the irreligious. The Bible is clear regarding what happens on Judgment Day.
"You are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done." (Romans 2:6)
"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." (Matthew 16:27)
"He repays everyone for what they have done; he brings on them what their conduct deserves." (Job 34:11)
"According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due." (Isaiah 59:18).
"But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him." (Deuteronomy 7:10)
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." (Romans 12:19).
"We make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment of Christ, that each may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:9-10).
Good News! Those In Jesus Escape this Judgment
This is truly Good News!
(1). If you've come to faith in Jesus, you are free to live your life without fear that God is measuring your performance. The only perfect performance in terms of how to live is the life Jesus lived, and the full approval He earned from God is yours by faith! This is God's love for you in Jesus
(2). If you've come to faith in Jesus, you never have to worry whether or not God is punishing you for your sins, because the full and complete punishment for every failure and shortcoming in your life (past, present and future failures included) have been completely punished by God in Jesus. This is God's love for you in Jesus.
(3). If you've come to faith in Jesus, you are assured of God's complete and fully devoted attention as 'the apple of His eye,' that your name is written 'in the palm of His hand,' and that your entire life is guaranteed to have all things "work for good." This is God's incredible love for you in Jesus!
So what does it look like to be so strengthened in your inner person by experiencing the fullness of God through coming to know His love for you in Jesus? What does it feel like to never have to perform for God, and to rest in the performance of Jesus? I think Jesus describes it very well in Matthew 6.
"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace." (Matthew 6:1-6 -The Message)
Passages that Seem to Teach Future Judgment for Those in Christ
Some Christians who have never been freed from the fear of God judging their performance in this life will point to several passages of Scripture that seem to teach Christians will be 'judged' by God for their actions in this life. I would like to address all these passages in future posts, but I'll close today's writing by examining just one such passage:
"But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the (judgment) seat of God. 11 For it is written,“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:10-12)This passage at first glances seems to indicate that every Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. In reality, it teaches just the opposite.
- This text (Romans 14:10-12) starts with a question: "Why do you judge your brother?"
This is an appropriate question for every one of us who follow Jesus. Let me ask myself that question in various ways: "Why do I judge any brother in Christ?" Why do I make any assessment that a Christian is lazy, unspiritual, or weak? Why do I "regard my brothers with contempt"? Why do I count them as nothing? Am I judging the way they live? Am I judging their actions? Am I judging the fact they live differently than I? Again, "Why am I judging my brother?"
Why should I not judge a brother in Jesus?
1). I should not judge my brother because God has accepted my brother.
"For God has received my brother" (14:3). "God is able to make my brother stand" (14:4). My brother, just like I, has been justified before God by faith. My brother is made right with God by the righteousness of Christ, just like I! He and I are "reckoned," "accounted," and "credited" as righteous by God in Jesus! This righteousness of God is "imputed" to me and my brother by faith. Why do I judge my brother when God accepts my brother and makes my brother stand before Him perfectly righteous, just as God does me?
"If the best of men had his faults written on his forehead he would pull his cap down to his eyebrows in shame." (an old Irish Proverb)
(2). I should not judge my brother because God makes us both stand before Christ.
"We (I and all my brothers) shall all stand before the bema of Christ" (Romans 14:10). The word "bema" is translated "judgment seat" in our English versions, but the word judgment is an interpretation, not a translation. Bema literally means "podium" or "throne." It is translated this way in Nehemiah 8:4 (Septuagint) where Nehemiah "stood on a pulpit of wood (bema)" to read the Word of God to the people of Israel. A bema is an elevated position of authority. We "Christians" all stand with Christ. However the ungodly shall not stand before the throne of Christ (Psalm 1:5).
"The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong" (Psalm 5:5).
-This text (Romans 14:10-12) continues with an Old Testament quotation... "For it is written 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.' (v.12).
Verse 12 is a direct quotation from Isaiah 45:22-25.
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.
“In the LORD all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.”
In this text God swears an oath. "As I live..." (v.12) "I have sworn by myself" (Isaiah 45:22). What does God swear? "That every tongue shall swear" (Isaiah 45:23) this word "swear" is also "confess."
What will men confess?
"Only in the Lord there is righteousness and strength."
In other words, when we stand before God on that day to come, those who swear, "I have no righteousness but Christ" shall stand beside Christ. All those incensed with Jesus shall be "ashamed" (Isaiah 45:25) and shall be judged by Christ for their actions on earth!
-This text (Romans 14:10-12) concludes with personal confession... "Every one of us shall give account..." (v.12).
The person who has been angry with Christ on earth shall find Christ angry with him in heaven (Psalm 2:12). The only sinner who will ever be judged by Christ for his thoughts, deeds, and actions on earth is that sinner who dies without the righteousness of Christ credited to him.
The word translated "account" (i.e. "Every one of us shall give account") is the Greek word logos which means 'to say, or to speak." It is the same word used by John to describe the coming of Christ to earth, "In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God" (John 1:1). It is also used 11 times in its verb form in Romans 4 to describe the action of God reckoning or crediting righteousness to the believing sinner. When God says or declares I am righteous in Christ, then indeed I am righteous in Christ.
God swears that He is honored and praised by the sinner who says or declares there is no true righteousness but that which is in Christ. Paul says it or declares it like this:
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from (my obedience) to the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and]the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11)
That's my confession. It's my confession today. It will be my confession on that Day. I will never be judged for anything in my life - what I do, what I didn't do, how sincere I was, how insincere I was, how well I performed, how poorly I performed, etc... - because Jesus is my righteousness, and God's love for me is so incredibly deep, wide, broad and long that ...
(1). I am free in Jesus to live and love others fully, because ...
(2). I am so full of God and His love for me I need nothing else personally, and
(3). I am without fear and can live my life boldly, courageously and incredibly joyfully!
That's what happens when the fear of any future judgment is removed. He's removed it from me; I hope He removes it from you as well.