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Justice Not Judgment

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though once we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Image result for light handGod is just, and He made us in His image. We are to act justly, as our gracious heavenly Father does. That is, we are to behave according to what is morally right and fair.

Who determines what is morally right and fair? Our just God–Creator of all that is. His character is our standard of morality. His person defines what is good and separates it from what is bad.

So how can we, as sinful human beings–prone to doing wrong–know what is good and right?

We develop a personal relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word [Hebrews 4:12]. We meditate on those things that His Word defines as good, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy [Philippians 4:8]. We allow the Holy Spirit to prick our consciences and to counsel us in God’s wisdom [John 14:26; Acts 2:37].

Yet while God is just and has charged us to live justly, justice–like vengeance–is not ours to mete out [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. That does not mean that we are not to establish courts of law or punish criminals. On the contrary, upholding impartial criminal justice is a part of living justly. But we are not to judge others [Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37].

When we judge how others are or are not measuring up to God’s Word, we invite that same judgment back on ourselves. Even Jesus did not come to judge the world, but to save the world through Him [John 12:47]. He proclaimed that God the Father would be the ultimate judge in the last day, and because of this, He would not retaliate for the wrongs suffered at the hands of men [John 12:48].

We can get so busy being judgmental of others and the sinfulness all around us. We can be so bound up getting revenge on those who wrong us, that we miss the fact that we ourselves fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. If it weren’t for God’s grace in my life and in your life, we would be nothing more than unforgiven sinners just like any other unbelieving person [1 Corinthians 15:10].

And God is just, but He is also gracious, merciful, loving and compassionate. He forgave us our sins and spared us our death penalty [Matthew 26:28; John 3:16; Romans 5:12-21 & 6:23].

Knowing this, how can we possibly stand in judgment on any other human being? Not that our condemnations will last past this life. And not that our judgments of them matter in light of their eternity anyway. Instead, the role that God has called us to play in His justice is simply this: to be an ambassador of His reconciliation message.

Do you play judge of the world? Or do you live justly, a light guiding others to a saving knowledge of Jesus?



One With Justice

“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

Image result for black and white justiceHuman 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]?


Temptation’s Deception

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Image result for temptationGod is faithful. He does not tempt us–which leads to sin and death, but rather our own desires do [James 1:13-15]. Yet through it all, no temptation is so great that we are incapable of resisting it [Genesis 4:7]. And especially when we see and know that God faithfully provides a way to escape the temptations that come.

What are these escapes? Well, the original Greek term here is ekbasin which literally translates issue. Moreover, the Greek term commonly translated as endure it is actually hypenenkein or to carry on under it. I don’t know about you, but this renders a different image in my mind.

When we are tempted–which, remember, comes by our own sinful desires [James 1:13-15]–God will bring the issue to light so that we can carry on under the pressure of the temptation. You see, in a way, it’s like the Garden of Eden all over again for each us. Not that we each usher sin anew into the world, but we each face the choice to love God or love self.

Why is that Adam and Eve weren’t tempted to eat from the tree of life and live forever? That tree also stood in the center of the garden near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:9]. Satan played on their desires, but also their ignorance. Since they didn’t know death, they didn’t understand that life could be taken from them. So they chose the love of self. Question God. Ignore God’s words. Satisfy self’s desires. Gain more for self.

God told Cain that he didn’t have to choose sin as his parents had done [Genesis 4:7]. Though we are all sinners [Isaiah 53:6-8; Romans 3:23], willful sin is a choice. Willful sin can be mastered. Including the willful sin to deny God’s existence and refuse to understand His Word so that we can plea ignorance of the law–except we can’t. Satan played Cain’s desires, but also his anger. In the end, Cain chose the love of self. Reject God’s words–both His law and His preventative admonitions. Indulge self’s desires by satiating self’s anger. Gain more for self.

In both accounts, the sinners had a choice. Yes, the temptation was there. But so too was the more excellent way [1 Corinthians 12:31].

You see, the biggest deception about temptation is that, while we temporary indulge and satisfy self, we do not gain the more that we desire. On the contrary, we lose the very thing we seek [Matthew 10:28 & 39 & 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 & 17:33; John 12:25]–a full life [John 10:10]. All of the temporary riches and positions hold empty promises, but laying them aside to pursue the kingdom of heaven in this life brings eternally abundant life [Matthew 6:19-20 & 19:24; Mark 10:25; John 3:16].

Are you listening for God’s faithful voice in the midst of your temptations? Will you take His more excellent way so that you can carry on under the weight of them?


We Say God Almighty

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!'” Revelation 19:6-7a

Image result for God's awesome powerGod’s omnipotence–His absolute and supreme power–will resound in our praises throughout eternity. After this life has passed by, we will see and know God face to face, in the same way that He already knows each and everyone of us [1 Corinthians 13:12]. So we will, uninhibited, lift our voices and take up the song of the cherubim who, day and night, never stop praising our Holy, Almighty God [Revelation 4:8].

Let this amazing truth penetrate the business of your thought life and any doubt or fear that vies for your attention. God is all-powerful. And He alone will be worshiped for eternity because He alone is Almighty God.

Did you feel the Spirit of that sentiment? Read it again.

God alone is all-powerful–everyone and everything else on this earth that presumes to exercise authority over human circumstance will one day take a knee before God alone [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11]. No evil will prevail over heaven’s gates, nor will Satan’s spiritual war tread anywhere near the new heaven and the new earth. None can trespass into eternity. Only God’s adopted children–by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9]–will have a place in His kingdom come.

And we will praise Him alone as should always have been done on earth as it is and will be in heaven [Matthew 6:10].

No one and nothing else even registers on the power scale as compared to God. Cancer’s got nothing. Murdering dictators will fall before God. Peer opinion. The pursuit of popularity. Self-induced panic attacks and world-induced economic depressions. War and death. None of it has any power whatsoever in light of Almighty God.

Let us not do as the world teaches and focus on ourselves. Instead, let’s get back to God’s Word and start living like heaven. Fix your eyes on your Creator God. Recognize His omnipotence at work in the world all around us and give all praise to Him alone.

Respond to His power and authority alone, refusing to succumb to the weak wiles of the adversary at work in the world. When the doctor says cancer, we say God Almighty. When the news says pandemic, stock market crash, war, genocide we say God Almighty. When the world says be your own god, do whatever feels good to you, we say God Almighty. When others mistreat us out of their own selfish godlessness, we say God Almighty. And when our breath at last returns to the Creator from whom it came, we will forever praise God Almighty.

What power holds your attention in this life? The things of this world? Or God Almighty and Him alone?


Wisdom in Temptation

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Image result for plant growing in heartGod is wisdom. And for us, He is the ultimate sound judgment applied in any and every situation we face.

Often, the situation is or contains a temptation–a very attractive and alluring yet unwise wrong that tugs at our desires. And more often still, people attribute the tests, trials and temptations of life to God.

But Paul, the writer of Corinthians, warns his readers from Israel’s own history, that this is not the case [1 Corinthians 10:1-13]. And James agrees that we shouldn’t say that God is tempting, trying or testing us [James 1:12-15]. Nor should we even believe that He would.

Paul writes from the backdrop of the Israelites’ desert wanderings. And when we reread those passages we see the words test and tested several times [Exodus 15:25, 17:2 & 7, & 20:20; Deuteronomy 6:16, 8:2 & 16, 13:3, & 33:8]. Each time the expressed purpose is knowing the Israelites’ hearts for God. But God is omniscient, He already knew their heart. He didn’t need to test anything.

Here we come again to Genesis 3 [vs.9. 11 & 13]. Three times God asks Adam and Eve a question and each time it is to open the eyes of their own understanding so that they could measure the distance of their newly sin-infested relationship to God.

Similarly, in the case of the Israelites, God proves–often translated as  tests or tries–His chosen people, not to Himself because He already knows. But a demonstration to Moses that the people can be instructed in the things of God. An opening of the Israelites’ own eyes so that they can see to enter into a relationship with their Creator.

And Moses uses the same vernacular about the Israelites behavior toward God. Not that human beings can test God, but that they were calling Him into question. They desired that He prove Himself to their demands.

But in this way, every thing in life can be considered a test, a trial of our faith, a proving of our heart. Will we choose to acknowledge God by our actions? Or will we affirm the lie of self-as-god instead? God already knows the answer. He has no need of testing us to learn it for Himself.

That is why James cautions, do not say that it is God who tempts–tests or tries. Because everyone is tempted and tested when our own sinful human nature encounters a moment of decision however small or great [James 1:13-14]. If we give in to the desire to deny God and promote self in each moment–for this is the essence of sin–then the sin has rooted and, unless checked and removed, will grow up in our lives until it strangles the life of eternity out of us [James 1:15].

But if we allow God to be our wisdom in each moment, then His will takes root and grows in our lives from here through eternity.

Is God your wisdom? Is there any moment or action that you believe is too small to consider according to God’s will? Will you allow God to change your speech about where the temptations, trials and tests of life come from?


The Person of Wisdom

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20

Image result for wisdomWisdom is the ability to apply knowledge [understanding gained from experience] to make good judgments in any given situation. God is wisdom, and He is infinite.

Therefore, God is the ultimate sound judgment applied in any and every situation we face.

He Himself possesses all wisdom because He is the all-knowing [omniscient], sovereign Creator of all. He is the eternal who can see every minutia from the beginning to the end of human history and consider it all at once. He is the infinite, unbound by the limitations that cause us to need the wisdom that He is.

But long ago, Satan, the adversary of God and the antithesis of wisdom, peddled a shrewd lie–you can be your own god. You can decide your own right and wrong. You need only to look inside yourself for all the wisdom you need.

Paul is writing to the Corinthians that Satan’s lie has been exposed! People created so many schools of thought to try to quantify this world we live in, to predict the uncertainties life holds and even to try to come out “on top,” so to speak.

But academics, without God, are just foolishness. Business savvy, with eyes fixed only on the temporal, is futility. People and emotional smarts are only helpful for the here and now. At the end of it all, only what was done for Christ will last [Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:11-13].

All science [knowing] comes from the all-knowing. All philosophy [love of wisdom] belongs to the One who is all love and all wisdom. All true understanding comes from He who was, and is, and is to come [Revelation 1:8]. Earthly wisdom is nothing more than shrewdness, finite judgment, limited in scope and applicability.

Do you need wisdom? Get into God’s Word [Psalm 19 & 121]. Do you need wisdom? Ask God [James 1:5]. Do you need wisdom? Believe on Christ and fear the Lord [Proverbs 9:10; Psalms 111:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30].


With the Omniscient

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” Romans 2:14-15

Hand In Hand, Holding, Hands, Holding HandsIn a world where conscience has become synonymous with being true to self, which in turn equates to self-as-god, let us return to the root meaning.

Con-with; science-knowing.

And as Christians, we can take this one step closer to the reality of eternity and understand that conscience is living with THE Knowing One.

God is omniscient–all-knowing. The fear of the Him is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom [Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10; Psalm 111:10]. Does that mean that we need to be afraid of God? Actually, the phrase the fear of the Lord refers to our reverence for God. If we respect Him to the fullness that He deserves, then we are on the road to true knowledge and wisdom.

He Himself becomes our wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Because–while we can never plumb the depths of the mind of God [Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34]–we have received the mind of Christ [1 Corinthians 2:16]. Therefore, we can tap into the wisdom from on high in any situation we face.

We have His Holy Spirit to remind us of everything that God, the Father and Creator, has spoken to us [John 14:26]. His Word is alive and active, judging every thought and attitude of our hearts [Hebrews 4:12], shaping us–as we allow Him–into the image of Christ.

When we live conscientiously or with THE Knowing One, then we have direct access to the truth of our situation. We do not live reactively. We do not live in fear. We do not live in slavery to our doubt, anger, sinful desires or anything else.

Our conscience, that is our God With Us, counsels us. It’s how we can rejoice always, even in troubled times [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. It’s how we can pray without ceasing while walking through our everyday life [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It’s how we can give thanks to God regardless of our circumstance [1 Thessalonians 5:18]. And it is precisely God’s will for us [1 Thessalonians 5:18].

Do you live with The All-Knowing One? Or is your conscience synonymous with self-as-supreme authority? Are you on the path to true knowledge and wisdom?