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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?



Hazy Copies

“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

Image result for copy of a copyA 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?


Created for Good

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

Image result for feeding hungryGod is good.

Many automatically respond to this truth with the pithy chorus, *All the time!* And while there is some truth therein, it is a limited truth turned into a reflexive, religious chant. How many reply in vain, having forgotten or never fully known what God’s goodness truly means?

And why don’t we realize the fullness of His goodness? Could it be because we don’t live it forward as we were created to do?

We were created in God’s image [Genesis 1:26-27]. So then each of His attributes were meant to be an integral part of our own character. But sin deposed God from the throne of our hearts so that humankind is not born basically good, as philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau surmised. Nor even basically evil, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued. Rather, we are born sinful–which means that we are separated from God because of our fallen human nature which itself desires to be its own god.

When self is god, then self gets to decide what is good. And self is only interested in what is good for self. God’s goodness, though, is panoptic and it is all-encompassing. God’s goodness flows from His infinite wisdom and omniscience. He sees all, hears all, knows all about all for all of created time, and He works toward the overarching good of everyone in all of human history.

That is quite the difference from our self-limiting goodness. Because when everyone does what is right in their own eyes [Judges 17:6 & 21:25], the result is that everyone visits evil on everyone else. Not always maliciously and intentionally, but even unintentional and accidental effects of our choices can bring great harm to others.

That is why scriptures implore us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48]. Not that we can actually, in this life, attain to perfect goodness at all times–we can’t. But we can become more like Christ everyday through the Holy Spirit working in us [Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23; John 14:26; Romans 12:2; Galatians 3:26-28].

And just as God breathed life into the first man Adam [Genesis 2:7] and proclaimed that His Creation was very good, so also Jesus’ last breath on the cross created us anew to do the good works we abandoned after the advent of sin [Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30; Ephesians 2:10]. But only if we choose to accept God’s grace by faith. And only if we then choose to surrender our lives to His Lordship so that we may be His instrument of goodness in a lost and dying world.

Are you allowing yourself daily to be made into the image of Christ? Does God’s goodness flow freely through your life?


Sin Plain and Simple

“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]

Image result for broken bridgeGod 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.


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?


The Creation Testimony

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

landscape sea coast water nature rock waterfall cliff iceland terrain body of water skogafoss mountains robust water feature wassefall dramatic photoGod is omnipotent, that is, He alone is almighty or all-powerful.

And in His eternality and infinitude God always has had, does have and will have all power. Not only that, but right from the beginning of human history, these truths have been self-evident. The Creation itself testifies to the power of God. Who else can speak anything into existence let alone speak everything into existence out of nothing?

No one!

Who else can set the cosmos in motion and explain the science behind it thousands of years before human beings could discover the truth of it? [Check out God’s Word–it’s in there.]

No one!

As the created, the evidence of God’s power in the Creation should call to the eternity within us. It should prick our hearts and minds to want to get to know Him. Not just to know about Him, but to actually form a personal relationship with our loving Creator. Yet many choose to harden their hearts against Him instead. They ignore the clear signs that God exists, that He loves us and that He has a purpose for each of our lives. They prefer self-as god and defer authority to no one.

But when instead we allow the evidence to return our thoughts to God, then we must get into His Word to get to know Him. There we will find the greater testimony of God’s infinite and eternal omnipotence.

Who else can pay the wages of sin and conquer death, hell and the grave so that we can have eternal life?

No one!

To whom else will every knee from every nation bow? And who else will be confessed as Lord and Sovereign of all by every human tongue?

No one!

Who else can make all things new?

None but our Creator God, His Holy Spirit and His Son Jesus Christ. To whom we should attribute all glory and all power forever. Amen.

Have you taken the time to acknowledge God’s power in the Creation? Have you taken the step from seeing His power to acknowledging Him alone as all-powerful God?



Conduits of Power

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Image result for water hoseGod is omnipotent, that is, He alone is almighty or all-powerful.

And He gives us His Spirit [Numbers 11:17; Judges 14:6; Acts 1:8; et al], enabling us, by His power, to bring glory and honor to His name.

By His Spirit, Moses and David led Israel [Numbers 11:17 & 25; 1 Samuel 16:13]. Samson tore apart a lion, effortlessly broke through sturdy rope bindings and battled dozens of men all at the same time [Judges 14:6 & 19, 15:14]. Mary bore the Christ-child [Luke 1:35]. Demons were cast out [Luke 4:36]. And we are empowered to live as witnesses to the truth of the gospel [Acts 1:8].

God’s Spirit doesn’t hide timidly inside us. So neither should we shrink back from a contrary world. Our friends and family might not want to hear about God anymore than they want to hear that eating vegetables and exercising are good for them, but they need us to speak God’s love boldly. They need us to live out the blessings–extreme joyfulness–of the godly, self-disciplined life.

Because–just like we once did–they need God. They need His power to transform their sinful hearts and finite lives into the eternal ones they were made for.

The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with that hope [Romans 15:13]. Did you hear that? Let me say it again. The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with hope!

By God’s power alone we have peace in a war-torn, hating world–even while we ourselves are persecuted for that peace who is called Jesus [Ephesians 2:14]. By His power alone we have joy–though we ourselves get sick, face financial hardships, lose loved ones, get mistreated and threatened for our faith. By the power of His Spirit in our lives we have an abundance of hope that exceeds our finite capacity to hold it, and He keeps pouring the power and hope in and through us until we overflow with hope to everyone around us!

The power of God was never meant to lift us, whimpering, out of the gutter of self-pity or guilt–but it does. And it will do so faithfully and without criticism time and again. When it does–and we have been filled with all the power, joy, peace and hope that we can possibly need–then it’s time to go to work. It’s time to walk around like a fountain with legs and gush God’s power and love into the lives of everyone we meet.

Anything less is denying God’s power in our lives. Anything less is disobedience. Anything less withholds our blessing, locked within the timidity of our hearts.

Are you ready to be a walking conduit of God’s power to this lost and dying world?