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“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.'” Revelation 15:2-3
Human minds will never more fully understand God’s justice than when we stand before Him in heaven. Then we will see Him face to face, even as He has always seen us [1 Corinthians 13:12]. Then we will know how all of His essence is one, even as He is also one [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29]. Then we will see our finite existence from the perspective of a holy eternity.
God is just because all truth is His truth. And justice cannot operate without truth.
God is just because He is also good and loving and all-knowing and unchanging. He is just because He is also holy and sovereign and wise and all-powerful. He is just because He is also transcendent and everywhere-present and faithful and gracious and merciful. He is just because He is also self-existent and self-sufficient and eternal and infinite.
All of His character works together as one unit, rather than as separate entities. He is never more or less any of these qualities, just as none of these traits exists outside of His person. God is just, because that is who He is.
He is self-existent and self-sufficient, so His justice is not counseled by any created being.
He is unchanging and He is holy, so His justice never wavers to the left or to the right [Proverbs 4:27].
He is all-knowing and wise, so His justice has always faithfully extended grace.
He is all-powerful and sovereign, so His justice is precisely exacted.
But He is also good and merciful and loving and gracious, so He provided a substitution for the wages of our sins [Romans 5:8 & 6:23; 1 John 2:2]. A substitute to accept our condemnation so that, by His grace, we could be considered righteous [Romans 3:20-24, 5:9-11 & 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8].
He is transcendent and yet everywhere present, so His justice is always objective while His grace and mercy are always faithfully at hand.
He is infinite, so His justice is not limited in any way. He is eternal, so His justice contains all of our finite existence, but will endure for all eternity.
God is just.
Have you ever found yourself questioning this truth? Do you know others who question God’s justice? Often this is because we don’t like that God’s justice means there is a right way and a wrong way. But as God said to Cain nearly 6,000 years ago, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]?
“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'” Hebrews 8:5
A copy is never identical to the original. But it is clearer and more accurate than subsequent copies. Meaning, if someone were to make a photocopy, then make a photocopy from that copy and so on, each copy becomes hazier and less accurate than the first.
It’s the same way with our understanding of and patterning after God. We are called to be like Christ [1 John 3:2]. If we are in Christ, our hearts are being built into a living tabernacle, acceptable to God [1 Peter 2:5]. We ourselves are to be a copy of the original.
God made us in His image at the Creation. Christ makes us anew and the Holy Spirit reforms the Father’s image in us, but only if we pattern ourselves after Him.
God is good. While our goodness can never save us, in Christ by faith we do the good works God intended us to do from the Creation [Ephesians 2:10]. Without God, how would even know what good is?
Many, however, accept hand-me-down faith. They attend church from childhood and become a copy of the people in the church. Maybe the pastor is a great man of God. Maybe the choir leader has a great heart for worshiping God. Maybe our teachers genuinely know and love God. Maybe our parents and grandparents are people of true faith. These are all good things. And these people are all good role models.
However, their lives–like ours–ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. They themselves are still in the process of being transformed by the renewing of their minds [Romans 12:2]. Patterning ourselves after any one of them will make us an untrue version of another person rather than a genuine copy of Christ.
God is good and we are the light of His goodness to the world around us. Are you patterning your life after the original through prayer and Bible study? Or are you living as a copy of a copy?
“Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips , and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5 [NASB]
God is transcendent. That is He exists outside of His Creation and He is not subject to its constraints. He is also holy. There is no sin in Him.
Just as He is infinitely above the caterpillar and the archangel, so He is infinitely above all sin. As much as food chains, corporate ladders, caste systems and authority hierarchies are leveled before Him, so every shade of sin stretches out to separate us from our God [Isaiah 59:2; 1 John 3:9].
Individual sins are indistinct from sin’s totality. The parts equal to the whole rather than the reverse.
As humans though, we tend to classify and, often times, justify sins by ranking them according to our perception of not-so-bad to absolutely-horrible. Lies are little and white, hence, not-so-bad. Murder, especially obsessive serial killings or mass genocides are absolutely-horrible. We don’t want to accept that while some sins seem harmless or invisible, only earning a human slap on the wrist, that they could in any way equate to unspeakable, violent crimes against humanity.
But in God’s eyes, sin is sin. Every act of moral disobedience that stems from the spirit of self-as-god–that foundational thought that says I am basically good, so therefore I should be allowed to choose all things for myself. [And, by the way, we are each allowed to choose all things for ourselves; Joshua 24:15. But therein lies the rub! Because everybody choosing for themselves leads to problems. No government would ever stand with such a willy-nilly system. There would be no end of conflict and no resolution either.] Every godless, irreverent, shake-a-fist-at-heaven or deny God’s existence defiance. Every perversion of His design for us–whether in word or deed, whether in body or in spirit, whether in self or in another–all is sin. Plain and simple.
All of it separates us from our holy God. All of it was pardoned by Christ’s blood shed on the cross.
But we have to recognize our distance from our Creator God. We have to understand that the gap between us is called sin. We have to know that all we like sheep have gone astray, everyone turning to their own ways [Isaiah 53:6]. That all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. That we are each born in sin, with the proclivity to do what is right in our own eyes [Judges 17:6 & 21:25].
For it is from the honest recognition of our true sinful station that we can understand our need for Christ and Him crucified [John 3:16].
Do you see sins in shades of grey? Ask the Holy Spirit to sharpen your focus on God’s holiness. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal divine transcendence to you in light of the truth of eternity.
“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” Exodus 33:19-22
It is not permissible to see God’s being with our human eyes, because He wants us to live to tell about Him, and our sinfulness would altogether overwhelm us in His holy and glorious presence.
But Moses boldly petitioned to see God’s glory. And God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, granted that Moses see just His back. In fact, God covered Moses with His hand and only removed it at the first moment when it was safe for Moses to look upon Him.
Why would God not want everyone to see His face?
Can you imagine the world of trouble that human beings would cause creating and recreating the face of God? Painting. Sculpting. Duplicating. Publishing and posting. Especially in our very visual generation. The face of God would be reduced to an all too familiar, flawed representation that in no way compares to who He truly is. And people would come to replace the real God with a mere likeness.
Just the chapter before, the people of Israel demanded Aaron make them a golden calf to worship [Exodus 32]. They sang and made offerings to a piece of over-sized bovine jewelry!
The same danger existed with God showing His face to them. Wouldn’t these same hard-hearted people have desired to sculpt God’s portrait in gold and precious stones? But to whose glory and honor?
He didn’t want an empty self-portrait. He didn’t need their offerings or to enslave them in religious rituals, prostrating themselves before His image. He wanted their hearts full of love for Him. Just as He wants us to passionately pursue a personal relationship with Him.
In every other world religion, the false god has a face, an image that the followers associate with their worship–because they are no god at all, just an image made by human hands. But the One True God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1 & 57:15-17].
He is holy [Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 2:2; et al].
He is beyond understanding and compare [Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:23; Job 36:26; et al].
And we will behold God when we stand redeemed before Him in heaven one day [1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2].
Are you living to see God face to face?
“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Exodus 3:13-14
‘Eh-yeh. The Hebrew word, translated I AM here also translates I have been/was [2 Samuel 15:34; Psalm 50:21] and I will be [Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 47:7; Hosea 14:5] in other scripture passages. Past, present and future. Eternally existent, in a word, is the Word through whom and by whom all things were created [John 1:1-3].
Remember that repetition was the biblical way to bold-type, italicize, highlight or otherwise emphasize an idea. So in giving His name to Moses, ‘Eh-yeh aser ‘eh-yeh, God emphasizes His existence. Not just the eternality, but the primacy or preeminence of Him. God was the first [Genesis 1:1; Revelation21:6 & 22:13]. All existence comes from Him alone, and without Him nothing and no one exists [John 1:1-3].
Not only so, but He created human beings in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]–our existence derived from His. So why is it that in 1637, French philosopher, Rene Descartes, coined the popular phrase, Cogito, ergo sum–I think, therefore I am? Satan’s perpetual lie to humankind is that we can somehow attain to God-status–or at least shed our need for Him–by attaining mere knowledge [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14].
Such thinking denies the truth of who God truly is. It tricks our finite minds into believing that we can reject His image in us and remake Him after our own image instead–that we can live, whether wholly or in part, of our own accord without any consideration that there is an infinite, sovereign God in heaven.
Through Asaph, the psalmist, God wrote that those who forget God are guilty of thinking that God, in His patient silence, is somehow like themselves [Psalm 50:21]. His quietude condoning their unrepentant sinfulness. But Paul says, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator [Romans 1:25]. An offense for which we can be forgiven, but for which we need to wholeheartedly repent.
God is not like you or like me. He is God. If we are to rightly know Him, we must start by putting ourselves aside and learning to understand Him for who He truly is. We mustn’t shade or in anyway manipulate His person to ease our conscious. Rather, we must allow Him to shape us and to purify us from all the unrighteousness that weighs down our consciousness before Him, the Holy God [1 John 1:9].
Are you remaking God to fit your image of who you need/want Him to be? Or have you surrendered everything to the Divine Potter’s hand, allowing Him to form you once again in His image?
“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2a
So many wish for peace on earth. And rightly so. Though human understanding of what this means and how it is accomplished is often far from God’s truth.
Does world peace mean no more war or even hostilities between bullies and their victims? Does it mean no more sadness, hunger, sickness and dying? Or does it mean just an internal state of being despite the external conditions? And is any of this really possible?
To find the true answer to peace on earth, we need to first understand why there isn’t peace here to begin with. In short, sin. Sin causes sadness, hunger, sickness, dying, hostilities, wars and the accompanying inner turmoil [Genesis 3:14-19]. If we could totally eradicate sin from the world, then we would have perfect peace.
And it is God’s will that we do return to the peace that He created us for. Right from the entrance of sin into the world, God set His plan of redemption in motion to restore peace among human beings and between humans and Himself [Genesis 3:15]. A plan that included coming to earth as a God-man in the form of the baby Jesus, living among us and dying both by and for our sins.
Jesus came to save the whole world through His death [John 3:16-17]. When He is Lord of our life and we grow more like Him, we learn to love one another as He loves us [Matthew 22:36-39; Mark 12:30-31]. As far as it depends on us, we live at peace with our fellow human beings [Romans 12:18].
More importantly, Jesus restored the peace between human beings and our Creator God. For where sin is, God cannot be also [Isaiah 59:2; Habakkuk 1:13; 1 John 1:5-7]. So before salvation we were God’s enemies [Romans 5:10 & 8:7; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4], and when by faith we accept Jesus’ forgiveness for our sins, it is Jesus’ righteousness that covers the sin in our lives so that we can be at eternal peace with God.
More than that, we look forward to the hope of eternal life. At that time, everyone who loves God and lives by His peace will inhabit the New Creation where peace on earth will finally be restored. No more sadness, sickness, war, death, inner struggles with sin or the like [Revelation 21:4].
As we sing our songs of peace, joy, love and hope this Christmas, understand what it all truly means. Understand that this is God’s will for your life and mine. Understand that we can begin to experience each of these virtues in some measure by God’s Spirit in our life in this world, and their perfect fullness in eternity to come.
Do you live the peace of Christ for all the earth to see God in you?
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:13-15
Jesus speaks to close the Revelation, much in the same way that He did to open it, declaring His eternality and, therefore, the sovereign authority of this book [Revelation 1:8 & 17].
The Alpha and Omega–first and last, beginning and end letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus is the spoken Word of God through whom all things were created [John 1:3; Romans 10:17; Colossians 1:16], have their being [Acts 17:28] and–by faith–are reconciled to God [John 3:17; Acts 10:43; Romans 5:9; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 4:9].
He is before all things that are in this world and He will always be, long after every stitch of grass and blade of sword have perished in the fires of judgment. Nothing on earth will remain in the New Creation, because nothing else is eternal. Like traversing the gravity-free reaches of outer space, nothing in the physical world holds any weight at all in the scheme of eternity.
Only what is done for God has any gravitational pull in eternity.
Extremely and eternally joyful will be everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus, accepting His forgiveness for their sins and thereby washing the proverbial robes of their soul [1 Corinthians 6:11]. There is plenty of Old Testament precedent demonstrating the need for physical cleanliness to be in God’s presence, much of which was prescribed in tabernacle and temple worship [Exodus 19:14 & 40:32; Numbers 8:21; Ezekiel 16:9].
It’s true that cleanliness may not be next to Godliness–as it is nowhere stated in scripture–but to stand before God we do need to be sin-stain free. Without spot, blemish or wrinkle. Justified. Redeemed. Washed in the cleansing blood of Jesus. It’s the only way to access the tree of life [Genesis 2:9 & 3:22; Revelation 2:7]. The only way to be granted access to the twelve gates of heaven inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and guarded by twelve angels [Revelation 21:12 & 27].
Outside is the trash heap of the heavenly city, the eternally burning lake of sulfur [Revelation 19:20, 20:10 & 21:8]. The gates to hell are wider than the imaginations of humankind and the paths more numerous than rope-fibers of the hangman’s noose [1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-6; et al].
All ways but One lead to condemnation.
One Way leads all who find it to life.
Which gravitational pull do you obey? The weightlessness of earth or the truth of eternity? Unsure? Check the path your walking on. Gain discernment by comparing and contrasting the sign-posts of your life against God’s Word [James 1:22-25].