Jesus will judge, so everything matters

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

People who have tasted the sweet forgiveness of Christ’s cross become desperate to know how not to waste their lives. Redemption is too good to ignore. Yet, fleshly complacency sets in and sucks the life out of us like the afternoon heat. Thank God, Scripture leads us in this, too.

The Bible describes who Jesus is to a Christian in many ways: friend, king, shepherd, brother, healer, advocate, savior, shield. Each biblical term for the Lord is saturated with significance and layers of meaning. Naturally we gravitate towards some more than others. However, one crucial, repeated title of Jesus, that I fear we too often neglect, is that Jesus is our judge.

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. John 5:26-27

The remarkably modern-sounding book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew scriptures concludes this way:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

It is clear that the author is not using the word judgment here in the sense of condemnation, but rather in the sense of evaluation.

…on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:16

In 1 Corinthians 3, one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament, Paul speaks of a day when the fire of God will test all the things we devote our lives to building: our families, ministries, careers, reputations, possessions, identities. The worthless and vain things will burn and disintegrate. Only those things “built on the foundation” (verse 14), “which is Jesus Christ” (verse 11), will survive. Only Christ-founded endeavors will keep their value in the new heaven and earth. All else is vanity, destined to be forgotten.

Soon after laying out this teaching, Paul says this:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:1-4

To accept and daily live under the reality that “it is the Lord who judges me” drastically changes at least two things about the ways we typically think.

How our fellow humans judge and evaluate us becomes a “very little thing,” an insignificant addendum of which we ought to be as unaware as possible and about which we are free to be unconcerned. In the shadow of God, human commendation and condemnation become equally trivial. Together they amount to the immaterial opinions of small minds, which hold no weight in God’s court. “The Lord is my helper; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6) Amen, and the Lord is my judge. What can man say about me?

That the Lord judges me also means that everything matters. In this world, now, everything I do, and don’t do, counts. It all has dignity, significance, and potential. There are no parts of my life that God will not drag into the light on Judgment Day, whether I like it or not. That God will expose and judge every secret thing makes even my minor decisions very grave, and worth my attention. All things – all things – will be tested.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 2 Peter 3:10-12

Scripture says that redeemed people live in the love of God, in the service of him, in the worship of him, and also in the fear of him. No longer do we live in the fear of his punishment; without a doubt, Jesus dealt with that fear, one time, forever, with his death and resurrection. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, period (Romans 8:1). We live, however, in an honest recognition of his holy character and awesome power. We live recognizing the absolute claim of his ownership over us, analogous to the ownership of a potter over his clay (Romans 9:20).

Part of fearing God is admitting how unspeakably unworthy he is of our disobedience. If we properly understand God as he is, we fear displeasing him and grieving him (Ephesians 4:30) with our vanity.

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ… 1 Peter 1:17-18

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

To not waste our lives is to live for the Father to commend us, which is to establish everything we are and do on Jesus only. To establish our labor on Jesus is to give ourselves fully to him, no holds barred. “I am completely yours, direct me as you will” is perhaps the scariest thing we can pray; yet it is the only prayer that makes sense, given the cost he paid to make it true (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I think of it this way: if Jesus will judge me, and he will, I want to walk in the light, where he walked. I want freedom from the secrets and shame of the darkness, where neither God nor happiness live.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

Lead Me To The Rock

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

I’ve been mountain climbing desperately;
out of breath, building stairs of stones to nowhere,
ebenezers to my neediness.
Like Moses you gave me a glimpse of what will be,
what should be, what must be. I ache for the promised land, Lord,

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

I want to bring the ark, I want to lead the band,
I want to build your name a temple with my hands,
in doing so I disregard your explicit commands
if you are not the rock upon which my feet are standing,
upon which my handiwork is built. My God,

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

You have made the point well:
a shaking is coming that will show what stones are sturdy,
a fire that will prove what wheat is worthy.
Anything I build not built on you will fall, I know.
You are the sole foundation, security, and hope.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Mountain climbing is irrelevant: stair-stepping,
rule-keeping, crowd-pleasing, all is vanity without you.
You save, and you justify, so I praise, and I glorify,
and it comes down to: I believe this work is worth it
because you are God, and you are good.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

…and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4

meditations on Holy Week (3): the Passover lamb

Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:7
In the book of Exodus, God freed his people the Israelites from viciously oppressive slavery. In order to do so, he inflicted a series of ten miraculous plagues against their masters, the Egyptians, and the false gods the Egyptians worshipped. Each successive plague demonstrated the greatness and the “mighty hand and outstretched arm” of the true God, Yahweh, in comparison to the nonexistent power of the Egyptian idols. The last plague was the worst. In one night, God caused the firstborn son of every idolatrous family in Egypt to die.

Every family, except those who did this one thing: slaughtered an unblemished lamb and smeared its blood on the doorposts of the family’s home.

This ancient event constitutes the extremely important Jewish holiday of Passover, so-called because God “passed over” the houses with blood on them. Jews of all kinds celebrate it around the world today. Jesus and his disciples celebrated it 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, during the original Holy Week. They ate the traditional Passover meal during the “last supper,” Jesus’ last meal before he died.

Passover meant (and still means) everything to the Jews, because it so incredibly encapsulated the awesome interplay between God’s justice and his mercy, and it so vividly demonstrated his provision of grace. The reality is, though, that Passover absolutely pales in comparison to its true fulfillment at the cross of Jesus.

Jesus – the Holy One of Israel, the Chosen One, the Messiah – for the sake of love became, himself, the final Passover lamb, the sacrifice for the idolatry of the people. The spotless lamb, the man of perfection, shed his blood on the cross, on two wooden beams so much like doorposts, so that idolaters like you and I may be “passed over” on the coming Day of Judgment, when every hidden thought and deed is laid bare before the piercing eyes of a holy God. Not only passed over, but freed from slavery, redeemed, given an inheritance in the ultimate promised land, adopted as children of the Father.

The love of Jesus on the cross is what Christians celebrate today, Good Friday, and oh how good it is. This love is not clean, it is bloody, and incalculably painful; but it is pure. This love is extended to all who dare to listen, and it is good enough for all who dare to come. This love is what makes life make sense, it’s what quiets a guilty conscience, it’s what humbles the proud and raises the shamed, it’s what changes a life, it’s what saves a people, it’s what brings us to God.

Therefore: paint his blood on your door! Paint his blood on your door daily. There is never a day when you do not need it, and never a day when it is not sufficient for you.