authority and humanity
4) how to prepare for judgment
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and
you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite
me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison
and you did not look after me.'
They also will
answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or
needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
He will reply,
'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of
these, you did not do for me.' Then
they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal
Judgment and God's Word.
as death is sure, so is our judgment before God: "Just as man is destined
to die once, and after that to face judgment," (Heb. 9:27 NIV). The
two primary aspects to the final judgment will be separation of the righteous
from the unrighteous, and to what degree we lived according to God's will.
The first aspect determines where we will spend eternity; either in God's
presence (heaven), or out of God's presence (hell). The second aspect determines
how that eternity will be spent.
In other words, in heaven
there will be degrees of rewards for how fervently we lived after
God's heart and laws, and in hell there will be degrees of punishment
according to the degree we ignored or disobeyed God.
Though there is absolutely
nothing we can do to avoid either of these aspects of God's judgment, there
are certain things that we can do to prepare for that day.
We need to acknowledge
the problem at hand: first by realizing there is no escape from God's
judgment. There is no way around being judged because God judges everyone,
inside and out: "for the LORD searches every heart and understands every
motive behind the thoughts" (1 Ch. 28:9a NIV).
Second, we need to acknowledge
who God has appointed as judge at the end of the world. The judge is
Jesus Christ: "For he has set a day when he will judge the world
with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to
all men by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31 NIV).
Third, we need to acknowledge
the standard against which our every thought, word, and deed will be measured.
The standard is God's Word: "There is a judge for the one who
rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will
condemn him at the last day," (John 12:48 NIV).
the certainty of judgment, the identity of the judge, and the standard by
which we will be judged, there are three actions to take in response. The
first is examine ourselves to judge the state of our relationship
The natural state into
which we're each born is 'only human' in the worst sense of the cliché.
From birth our bodies and senses are estranged from God, undevoted to him,
and far more concerned with and in love with ourselves; this despite our
own sins, hypocrisies, and other vile imperfections. Unless we have received
God's forgiveness for our sins through Jesus Christ and have consequently
been born again into a new and righteous relationship to God, then we remain
under his condemnation. We are destined to have our separation from God
For those who have already
been born again, the self examination must look even deeper. For instance,
God's will is
explicit in the Bible, is often implicit in our conscience, and sometimes
also manifested in the world around us. In light of all this, how effectively
are you living by God's direction and commands? (How much you obey him is
actually how much you love him.) What
are all the specific ways in which you fail to love/obey God perfectly?
Such a moral inventory is foundational to the second action.
The second action is
to repent of each and all your sins. The more specific you can be
in prayer before God, the better it will testify as to your sincerity and
true contrition. To repent of something is not to merely cease from doing
it (or not doing it), but to embrace God's view of it.
Whether it's the commission
of something you shouldn't be doing or the omission of something you should,
you commit to giving it the same value God assigns it. If it's lust or drunkenness,
for example, then repent means to hate it like God hates it, and to turn
from it. Or if it's a lack of concern for others, or a lack of humility,
then repent means to instead love those characteristics (concern and humility)
as does God, and to practice them.
In general, repentance
is a method of discreetly turning over your life and attitudes to the will
of God one piece at a time. Except for love, probably nothing should characterize
a follower of Jesus more than being repentant.
The third action to
take is to continually turn to the Bible in order to better learn
and follow God's will for the rest of your life. God's will for us includes
a lifestyle of confessing our sins and applying his forgiveness for them
as they occur, turning away from those sins, forgiving others for their
sins against us, worshipping God, serving one another, and maturing ourselves
in his Word. God's will also involves asking him to reveal to us exactly
how we are to apply his principles and directions within our own unique
circumstances and personal desires.
While all believers
are to exhibit God's perfect characteristics to the best of their maturity,
God's plan for each person is as unique as that individual. Many are called
to the profession of the ministry, but most are called to minister right
where they are; as welding specialists, mattress salesmen, accountants,
engineers, window washers, and so forth. Some are called to long and prosperous
lives; others are called to poverty, sacrifice, or hardship. In the final
judgment, the only thing that will count is how successfully each of
us accomplished God's will for his or her own life.
-- NO SECRETS
The final judgment,
if prepared for, does not have to be a completely terrifying experience.
Right now only each of us knows how the darker corners of our lives measure
up to God's Word, and for that secrecy we should all be thankful. But in
judgment, there will be no secrets:
Nothing in all
creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid
bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13
Therefore it benefits
us to keep a short account with God. Don't
live as though you are living in secret or out of anyone's sight. Repent!
Be honest with God and confess and turn from your sins; don't let their
penalty be waiting for you at the judgment. Get them behind you by asking
God to apply his forgiveness, and then return to his Word as your foundation
If we confess our
sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify
us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him
out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:9-10
-- THE REALLY, REALLY GOOD NEWS
Having so prepared for
judgment, that moment before the Lord will actually have its wonderful aspects.
This is because God honors those who respect his Word:
This is the one
I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my
word.(Isa. 66:2 NIV)
God rewards those
who make sacrifices to follow him:
And everyone who
has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children
or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit
eternal life. (Mat. 19:29 NIV)
God will give his
kingdom to those who exercise his will:
Then the King will
say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take
your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the
world. (Mat. 25:34 NIV)
and God will rejoice
with us in the blessings we returned to him:
Well done, good
and faithful servant! (Mat. 25:21a NIV)
What is the gospel?