Tag Archives: judgment

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?

He’s Got His Reasons (Jeremiah 10-14)

Jeremiah was fed up. He was following God, warning the Jews about consequences for sin, doing what God asked him to do to show the Jews they needed to repent, but they ignored him. Instead of repentance, sin ran rampant, and Jeremiah had had enough.

“Drop them off like sheep to be butchered,” he prayed. “Set them apart for the day of slaughter. Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the peoples who do not call on your name.” (12:3; 10:25)

I mean, he’s got a point. People who reject God, those who flaunt their sinfulness and persecute we who follow Jesus ought to be wiped out, they shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Right? “Get ’em, God! They deserve it.”

I’m reminded of James and John who wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who had disrespected Jesus. Jesus’ answer? “Move on, boys. Let’s leave these folks alone.”

Really? Jesus let them get away with treating him so badly?

Yes.

Yes He did.

And here’s why: After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle Philip went to Samaria and shared the Gospel. Many Samaritans were saved as a result. Most likely some of those James and John had wanted to incinerate came to know Jesus as their Messiah!

I guess the lesson here is, let’s go about our day doing what Jesus told us to do. Let’s love our neighbors, do good to those who mistreat us, pray for our enemies. Let’s go and make disciples, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.

Then let’s let judgment up to God. He’s got His reasons.

 

Exactly! (2 Chronicles 30)

God was very clear about how the Old Testament Jew was to approach Him. There were strict laws to follow, including a very important purification ceremony. They were not to participate in the Passover unless they first went through the process of purification spelled out by God Himself. These rituals were important and pointed to God and the coming Messiah.

So when a bunch of Jews came to Jerusalem to celebrate the first Passover since the Temple had been restored, they got there too late to do the purification thing. They jumped right into celebrating the feast without going through the prerequisites. Not good.

So King Hezekiah prayed God would forgive “everyone who sets his heart on seeking God… even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” (verses 19-20)

I had to stop and think about that because God has made it pretty clear that He has set the rules and His rules stand. You don’t just get a free pass if you are sincere. Yet these people seem to have been given a free pass because of their sincerity.

Is that what I should take from this? Does God accept any and all worship if a heart is sincere? NO! That is not the lesson here at all.

As I was thinking and praying about this, God brought to mind an example in my own life. Years ago I was the choir director at a Christian Church where salvation through baptism was preached. In fact, there were some dear people in that congregation who firmly believed heaven was being prepared for people of that denominational affiliation only.

Anyway, one Sunday I was shocked when, after the invitation during the morning worship service, two teenage boys went forward to pray to receive Jesus and be baptized. (The baptismal was always full and ready to go.) The pastor got on his knees with the boys at the altar and quietly prayed with them. He took a minute or so to have a private conversation with them, then stood up to face the congregation.

Now this is what shocked me: he announced to the congregation that the boys agreed to come back to be baptized during the evening service instead of right then at the end of the morning service. We sang a hymn, and the service ended.

I spoke with the paster after church. He had plans that afternoon and didn’t feel like he had time to baptize the boys and get to where he needed to be on time. I asked him if that wasn’t a bit hypocritical, seeing he preached you can’t be saved unless you’ve been baptized. What if the boys die this afternoon without being baptized?

He answered, “Well, then God will judge their hearts.”

EXACTLY!!!

I feel God brought that memory to mind today to emphases that fact. I think in the case of the Jews for whom Hezekiah prayed, God is giving a glimpse of the New Covenant, His rules after the cross. Salvation is NOT found in religion, or in religious activities, not in sacrifices, not in baptism, or church attendance, or reciting prayers, or doing things like carrying a Bible, abstaining from alcohol, not shopping on Sunday, or whatever else one thinks looks Christian.

God judges the heart.

Here’s the other thing, though. The Jews in these verses weren’t sincerely worshiping Baal or some other figment of imagination. They were sincerely worshiping the God of the Bible. Not religion. God.

The point is, God sees the heart. He alone knows which of us have confessed our sins and accepted the gift of grace through the blood of Jesus. That is salvation. Whosoever believes. (John 3:16) If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

It’s not a religion. It’s not a ceremony. It isn’t even praying a certain prayer. Hezekiah prayed for everyone who “sets his heart on seeking God.” It’s all about God.

So I ask you: Are you sincerely seeking God? If you are, you will have to look into His Word, seek Him as He revealed Himself in those pages of the Bible. You might have to give up your preconceived notions of ceremony or the rules of the sanctuary or denomination you attend.

But God promises that if you seek Him with all your heart you WILL find Him. (Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13, among others) He isn’t hiding or playing games here. He wants you to know Him. And He wants to forgive your sins if you’d just ask.

Let’s not get so caught up in religion that we miss the most important thing: our hearts’ condition before a Holy God. He knows what is in there. And He will judge us accordingly.

 

Do You Hear It? (Isaiah 27)

Isaiah continues to talk about God’s judgment on sin. But he also reminds us God will protect His children from the outcome His enemies will face. I love this picture:

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” (2b-3a)

I am part of that vineyard, God’s Church, through the blood of Jesus. God says He protects it, waters it, guards it against harm. I know that a healthy vineyard goes through pruning, and harvest, and that’s not always comfortable. But God assures us He’s got our backs even when we face the trails of life. It gives me such peace to know the One who cares for me.

Then God says something that I need to remember. Listen to verse 4:

“I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire.”

This verse should terrify some. God will pass judgment on anything and anyone who tries to harm His Church. And it will not be a gentle tap on the wrist. The idea of God going to battle against anyone, or condemning someone to that fire should throw fear into hearts. But God is not motivated by anger. He is motivated by love, and here’s how I know that:

“Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” (verse 5)

Do you hear God’s heart? I do. God’s will is that no one die without Him. He WANTS everyone to come to Him, to accept what He died to give. He WANTS to protect and defend and nurture and ultimately to spend eternity with each and every one of us.

Some people will go to hell. But that’s not what God’s heart wants.

Do you hear the tenderness in verse 5? He says He will destroy His enemies, but He’d would rather not. “Let them make peace with me.”

Have you ever heard the words, “I love you,” from that special person in your life? Those three words can bring such joy when you know the sentiment is true. What happens then, when that special someone repeats those precious words a second time? Maybe slower, softer, emphasizing each word?

“I love you. I. Love. You.”

That’s what I hear in God’s voice as He said these words in verse 5, as He talks about people who position themselves as His enemies. As He readies to go to war against them, to mete out that final judgment, His heart still cries out:

“Make peace with me. Oh, make peace with me!”

Is there someone I know who needs to make peace with God? May I hear the anguish in the heart of my Savior as He pleads with them to come to Him. May I be faithful to tell them how they can do exactly that, to introduce them to the Savior who loves them so much.

But sharing Jesus isn’t just about helping someone avoid hell. It’s about hearing God’s heart. Do you hear it?

 

 

When Bad Things Happen (Jonah)

Most of us have had bad news told us, or have gone through really hard times and have asked, “Why me?” If you’ve been with me very long you know I believe the correct question to ask is, “Why NOT me?”

But here we have  a boatload of men facing death at sea for no real fault of their own. Jonah was disobeying God. Jonah was receiving God’s hand of punishment. The sailors were merely caught in the middle. They were caught in the same storm Jonah was facing as a direct result of his sin.

So let me ask you: Are there people caught in the crosshairs of God’s judgment on you because there is sin you haven’t dealt with in your own life? Is your family facing difficulty because you are running from God?

When Jonah’s sin was dealt with, God calmed the sea. The sailors were saved, both physically and spiritually. Read the book of Jonah today. It is an amazing account of God’s grace.

I wonder, on a larger scale, if our nation is facing God’s punishment on Christians who are not dealing with sin in our own lives. Is the USA going through this awful unrest because the Church is trying to exist with Satan instead of fighting him?

I think the book of Jonah tells us when bad things happen, we need to first look at whether they are God’s punishment on us for tolerating sin in our lives. Then if God points out the sin we need to confess it, repent of it, ask God to wash it away and then live in obedience. If we don’t, that stormy sea will not calm. And we just might go down with the ship.

December 30; What Not To Wear

Revelation 15-18

So often we can become impatient for God to give our enemies what we think they deserve. But as I read John’s vision in the book of Revelation, I realize God is not out to avenge our enemies. But He will certainly deal with His.

His final judgment will be unimaginably awful for anyone who rejected Him during their lifetime on Earth. It is a truly frightening account of their future.

Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments. (16:7)

God isn’t going to arbitrarily torture someone just because He didn’t like them, or because of the color of their hair. But a painful existence is ahead for anyone who has ignored God’s wooing, His hand of correction, His conviction over sin, His constant attempts at winning the world. His judgments are true and just.

Jesus says, “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (16:7)

So let me ask us this: What are we wearing? What clothes are we hanging onto? Good deeds? Charity? Church attendance? Morality? Good luck with that.

Those are exactly the things NOT to wear. When those filthy rags disintegrate, and they will, you’ll be standing there as naked as the day you were born.

For me, I want to be awake, wearing the righteousness Jesus bought for me on the cross. I want to keep that robe close to me because it is the only ticket into heaven anyone has.

I want that for you, too.

 

December 11-14; And The Winner Is…

Revelation 11-14

When I read the book of Revelation as a picture of life, I see that life is messy. It’s chaotic. There are disasters and sorrow and struggles. Let’s face it. Satan is powerful and will continue to fight God, using us as pawns, until the final day when He who was, and is… has come!

I read about the battles, and Satan’s tactics to take as many of us as he can with him into hell. But then in chapter 14 I see the Lamb! I can almost hear the song of the redeemed, and I know we win! One day the earth will be ripe for harvest. That sickle will swing and life as we know it will end. Oh, how I long for that day!

But if you don’t know the Lamb, if you haven’t accepted the forgiveness of your sin through the blood of Jesus, you should be terrified at the thought of that day. Because you will not win. You will drink the wine of God’s fury.

As 2019 winds down, as we look forward to a new year, and a new decade, I pray you will be on the winning side, worshiping the Lamb who was slain for love of you. May God bless you, draw you to Him, and give you strength in the days ahead. Life’s not easy. We are at war. But be assured…

The winner is you, if you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!

December 17; The List

I Timothy 3-6

What is sin? Or is there such a thing? Is calling something “sin” being judgmental? Is something a sin only if it hurts someone else? Are there degrees of sin?

Well, first of all sin is anything that deviates from God’s holiness. A thought, an action, a word that isn’t absolutely holy is a sin. That’s not my definition. It’s what God has told us in His Word. And every one of us have sinned.

Sin has nothing to do with whether or not your feelings get hurt, or if you are directly effected by the wrong actions of another. But it has everything to do whether or not you’ve offended God. The Bible is clear – any time we deviate from God’s holiness, He is hurt. It grieves Him to the core.

Is it judgmental if I tell you that?

If I tell a liar his lies are a sin, am I being judgmental? If I tell an adulterer her affair is a sin, am I setting myself up as her judge?

Paul says this: “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them…” (5:24)

If some sins are obvious, there must be a list somewhere that defines sin. And you would be right to think that. God has inspired men to list obvious sins repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. For instance, I Corinthians 6:9-11. In fact, Paul not only gives us the list, he offers a solution. I hope you’ll read those verses today.

I would rather take the chance of hurting your feelings by pointing out a sin, than having you spend eternity separated from God. If your sin is reaching judgment ahead of you, I’d like to stop you in your tracks, and share with you how you can be transformed. You don’t have to follow your sins to hell.

Changing the definition of sin doesn’t change the reality of the sin. Calling homosexuality normal doesn’t take homosexuality off the list. Justifying an adulterous relationship by saying you can’t help who you love doesn’t take adultery off the list. Believing that spreading gossip under the guise of “you have the right to know” doesn’t take gossip or slander off the list.

And calling sin “sin” is not being judgmental. It’s reporting the obvious.

But, Paul has some good news for us sinners. He tells us, after listing some pretty obvious actions that deviate from God’s holiness, in other words “sins,” that some who have sinned have been washed, sanctified, justified in the name of Jesus!

I hope that is true for you. But if it isn’t, if you haven’t faced your sin and allowed Jesus to do His thing in your life, I pray you will do that today. Sin is sin. The wages of sin is an eternal death separated from God, more horrible than any of us can imagine.

I’m not judging you. Sin has judged you. The list is pretty self explanatory.

But there is forgiveness through Jesus! I’m praying for all of us today.

 

November 17; He Is Coming

James 4-5; Acts 11:19-12:25

My pastor preached from I John 2 this morning. John warned that this is the last hour, that Jesus is coming again, and time as we know it will be no more. For those who know Jesus, it is a day to look forward to!

James, in chapter 5, is saying the same thing. Except he gives a different kind of warning. In fact, he says “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.” How could John tell us to look forward to Jesus’ return, and James tell us to prepare for misery concerning it?

James goes on to talk about those who are ok with life as it is, who live in luxury, who live by their own rules. The Judge is at the door, he warns.

I don’t pretend to know when Jesus will return. Anyone who says they do are lying. The truth is I might die before that trumpet sounds. Or the clouds may part and Jesus appear before I’m done typing this today. I don’t know. No one does because Scripture doesn’t say.

But Scripture is clear that I – and you – will one day face the Judge. Everyone who has ever lived will be held accountable for the lives we lived on planet Earth. Until the day we stand before God Almighty, we have choice.

We can either align ourselves with God through the blood of Jesus, or we can live by our own rules, then stand before Him on that day on our own. I can absolutely tell you what to expect, without being your judge.

The Bible leaves no room for interpretation on this subject. With Jesus, you will go to heaven. Without Him, you will go to hell. Standing before the Judge, wearing Jesus’ righteousness, will usher you into a glorious eternity with God. Standing before Him wearing your pitiful attempt at goodness (which is nothing more than used menstrual pads) will usher you into an eternity more painful than anything our minds can even imagine.

There is no third option.

Jesus is coming again. When He does there will be no time to change your mind, no time to accept what He did on the cross when He paid for your sin. Oh, you can pay for them yourself with an eternity of hell if you choose. But I can’t imagine why you’d want to, when that debt has already been paid.

Jesus is coming again. It might be today. It might not. You may die today and face the Judge before the sun sets on your town. Or not. But are you ready to meet the Judge? You need to decide right this minute, my friend. Because when it’s over, it is truly over.

August 24; Getting Away With It

Jeremiah 43-44; Psalms 71 and 116

The people heard Jeremiah’s message from God – and they rejected it! They called the prophet a liar, and promised to go on living just the way they were living. In fact, they said that when they worshiped idols in the past, they’d had “plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.” They went so far as to say that trouble started only when they’d stopped worshiping their pretend gods.

What they chose to forget were the many times God had sent prophets to warn them, sent plagues or famine to get their attention. Their memory was selective, “We had it good without God.”

We all know there are people who have rejected God as blatantly as these ancient Jews rejected Him. And we are witness to the fact that God doesn’t zap them dead the minute they utter the words, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 44:17)

Many non-believers, enemies of God, prosper in this world. But don’t think for a moment God or some higher power or the universe is blessing them for their sin. Jeremiah tells us in verses 21-22 that God is not unaware of what they are doing. He tells us God endures their sin for a time.

Why? Why would God sit back and let people be wicked? Well the answer is, He doesn’t. God doesn’t sit back – ever. If wicked people prosper it is because God is patiently throwing out roadblocks, conviction, signs, messages, hardship, unrest, whatever… in order to help those people choose Him. You can’t know how God is working in anyone’s heart.

I’m glad the organizers of the NIV One Year Chronological Bible include the two psalms in today’s scripture. This is the testimony God wants every man, woman, and child to have for themselves: God is gracious, God is good, God is righteous, He protects, He gives hope, and He is worthy of praise. And I believe the Bible tells us God will keep working in the hearts of even the most vile offenders, until they die.

But Jeremiah also tells us there is a time when judgment comes. Just because wicked people seem to prosper, doesn’t mean they are getting away with anything. One day they will have to account for their choices. In Jeremiah’s day that involved disasters, sword and famine. But the ultimate judgment is so much worse. It’s eternal.

So, dear Christian, don’t get caught up wondering why wicked people aren’t suffering. God is working. Trust Him. They aren’t getting away with anything. That fact should cause us to grieve for them, to pray for them, and to allow God to use us to save them.