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“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
God 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?
“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]?
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
God is omnipresent. He is everywhere here with us, His Creation. When the mantle of leadership passed from Moses to Joshua, God promised His presence to remain with His people and His chosen leader [Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8].
Yet He knew the day would come when the generations would deny Him.
When His people turned their face to worthless wood and rock carved by human hands [Deuteronomy 31:16-18], His presence would faithfully remain. When He Himself averted His eyes from their shame, allowing them the very life and dead gods they insisted on, still, by His nature, He remained everywhere present with them. When He Himself could not take up the defense of His chosen people because they denied Him with all their heart, still God’s presence did not forsake His Creation, the apple of His eye. He did not then refuse to carry out His plan of redemption.
But you see, when we live as our own gods, we cannot then demand that God continue to work on our behalf.
Either we are our own gods and capable of commanding all the sovereign might and justice on our own behalf or we are not. We cannot live both lives. We cannot have all of the goodness and love of God, if we deny His existence. If we refuse to carry His cross and bear His name to our generation. We cannot be our own sovereign, and expect God’s sovereignty to control everyone and everything else around us to our specifications.
We cannot live our whole lives running away from God, turning our back on His presence, and then also expect His presence–though it is always everywhere here with us–to go before us like a bubble-wrap fairy godmother, keeping every other human’s choices from interfering with our self-as-god plans and desires.
Sin is an abomination for a reason. It separates us spiritually from God, though not physically from His omnipresence [Isaiah 59:2]. It’s the most awkward of awkward situations that can ever be. To be unable to hide from God, so that we continually and flagrantly deny Him to His face. So that we continually defy Him right before His very eyes. So that we stand everywhere here in His presence and proclaim that He’s not really there. Proclaim that we ourselves are better suited to be god than the one who lovingly created us. The one who set and keeps the universe in motion on our behalf.
But yeah, we keep doing us. Awkward as it is, and awkward as it will be when we see God face to face and have to explain all they whys that He already knows.
He is everywhere present with each of us. Will you, today, reach out your hand and take His? Will you, today, acknowledge His presence not only in the larger Creation but in your individual life? Will you, today, be the light of His presence to everyone around you?
“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
God 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?
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail.” Proverbs 19:21
If predestination is not an actual thing, then how can God’s purposes prevail over mans plans and man still have free will?
All of our plans concern the temporal, or time-bound world in which we live. From a young age, we dream and scheme about our future–houses, cars, jobs, vacations, having lots of money, getting married and having children or not. We love to plan about what we will do with our time, talent and money when we are old enough to choose for ourselves.
But God’s purposes exist outside of our time parameters. For His purpose is one, to redeem His Creation to Himself. None of the earthly effects that we gain or achieve will last, for none of them can pass with us into eternity. But many of them will bind up our hearts and minds in this life so that we lose sight of what we were truly made for.
Look at the life of Samson. Before he was born, an angel of the Lord announced the purpose of Samson’s life to his parents. He would deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines [Judges 13:1-5]. Did that mean that Samson wasn’t free to choose his own way?
Just look at how his story ends. He chose to carouse with a Philistine woman. He chose to indulge her and tell the secret of his strength. He chose to then fall asleep while trusting her after she’d already proved herself untrustworthy on three previous occasions. And as a result of Samson’s choices–made in his own free will–Samson gets captured, put in prison and his eyes gouged out by his enemies [Judges 16:1-22].
God didn’t desire any of that for him! But He did purpose that Samson would deliver Israel.
One day in prison, he remembered his purpose and, finding that his strength had returned, chose to fulfill what God had called him to do. Because of his previous choices, it cost Samson his life [Judges 16:23-30]. But even this was Samson’s choice. God didn’t make him decide to fulfill his purpose in this time and in this way. But God had always known how Samson would choose.
The thing about God is that, we are made in His image. And we were made to hope. The scriptures show us that God hopes too [Deuteronomy 5:29]. And just as our hope is in Him, His hope is in us. He knows that He knows that He knows what we will choose. But He hopes and He hopes and He hopes that we will choose life and to have it to the full [John 10:10]. Because He loves us.
Will you take a lesson from Samson? No doubt your plans are many, but God has a purpose for your life. Do you know what it is? Are you living out your purpose? Or are your choices all the things you want to do because you can?
“This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar–the Lord Almighty is His name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me,’ declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” Jeremiah 31:35-37
God never changes.
Though many have come to believe that the God portrayed in the Old Testament possesses a wholly different character than the God portrayed in the New Testament. Let scripture assure you, that the God of the Bible is one and the same [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29].
He created the sun, moon and stars to govern the light [Genesis 1:16 & 18; Psalm 136:9]. They mark out seasons, days and years for us. They have since the fourth day of Creation and they will until the earth shall be no more [Genesis 8:22]. We know this is true, because God promised us in His Word and His Word is truth [John 17:17]. His promises have never failed. And the governing light that He established will never fail.
In Jeremiah, we read that if in fact these bodies of light did fail, then God would no longer recognize Israel as His chosen, holy nation. And if human beings could actually measure heaven and plumb the depths of the earth, then God would hold all of the descendants of Israel responsible for their sins and reject them, rather than forgive them.
So is this evidence of the harshly hateful Old Testament God who is seemingly contradictory to the loving God of the New Testament? Not at all!
God declares this impossible circumstance to illustrate that He is unchanging and His love faithful despite our sinful shortcomings. The sun, moon and stars will continue as long as the first Creation. The seas will remain. And even in the end times when God’s wrath is visited upon the earth, mercifully only one third of the sun, moon and stars are blotted out, and only one third of the sea rendered useless [Revelation 8:8-12]. Even then, God’s love for His chosen people and all people will stay His hand and extend His forgiveness.
But in the new heaven and the new earth neither sun nor moon, neither stars nor seas will exist [Revelation 21:1 & 22:5]. Here Israel will cease to be a nation before God’s face–not because God has rejected His people–but because all the faithful in heaven will be one nation belonging to God. No people groups will be separate. Everyone will be citizens of one kingdom belonging to Jesus Christ.
Can you see God’s unchanging nature throughout scripture? If not, pray and read. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and reveal to you the truth of who God is.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23
Veiled in flesh, the Christmas hymn sings. Hail th’incarnate Deity.
Veiled means to be covered in or hidden behind. Flesh is human skin, while incarnate means that God came in that human skin. Deity is God. And hail means to enthusiastically praise in public.
We so often sing, quote, read and hear things that we’ve never really thought about. Words that we know by heart whose meanings have never penetrated the self-same heart.
God is beyond comprehension, self-existent and self-sufficient [amongst other things that we will soon get to], yet many see in the person of Jesus, just a person. Since He was able to be looked upon without people falling dead in His presence, then somehow–if in fact, Jesus is who the scriptures say He is–the Old Testament stories about God the Father must just be lore.
Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar, [Romans 3:4]! THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY by theologian A.W. Tozer puts it this way, “the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity, but of perfect humanity.” Jesus was fully God, but He didn’t expose us to the awful glory of the Godhead because no one could’ve survived it. Rather, being also fully Man–a perfectly sinless man–He clothed His deity to walk among us.
Jesus is the holy standard that we live to attain. We will never be perfectly sinless in this life, but when we grow in our relationship with Him, we learn what it is that God truly desires for each of our lives. He works the sin out of our hearts like a therapist massaging the knots out of strained muscles, and we become more like Him with each moment lived by faith.
Let us be oh so careful not to diminish the awesome power of God in our understanding based on the approachable smile of the painted reminiscences of His Son. But let us live a life worthy of the calling set before us [Philippians 3:14], having the covering of our own human sinfulness removed from our hearts [Deuteronomy 10:12-17, 30:6; Romans 9:25-29]. So that the Word of God can penetrate soft soil rather than ricochet off the hardened heart [Mark 4:8 & 20; Hebrews 3:8 & 15].
What is the condition of your heart–ready to receive God’s Word or impenetrable, hard-pan soil?