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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]?


Together for Our Good

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Image result for bound wristsGod is good.

And though He has not pre-planned our lives, being omniscient, He does know what we will face and how we will respond. For many, this understanding is enough to reject God as anything-but-good. Others find this verse in Romans and question how God can make good out of the bad in our lives–why He wouldn’t just start with ensuring that we don’t experience bad to begin with. Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

But with sin jamming up the spiritual rudders of human beings, bumper boats happen all day every day. What I mean is, our lives effect others and their lives effect us. Because of sin, the result can often be tragic. Sometimes these offenses are mishaps of close contact. Other times they are premeditated evils.

Joseph, Israel’s eleventh son, knew this full well. Motivated by sheer jealousy, his brothers beat him up, threw him in a cistern and sold him into slavery. They lied to their father, Israel, to cover up their hateful sin. And they believed the worst was behind them. Until one day, they found themselves standing before the mercy of the brother they had so hatefully mistreated.

But Joseph loved God. And Joseph knew that God had called him to Egypt for a purpose. What his brothers did out of hatred, anger and jealous spite, God worked for the good of Joseph and his father Israel [Genesis 50:20]. Really, for Israel’s entire household.

We can’t often change our circumstances or the people who mistreat us. God doesn’t condone sinful behavior, and everyone will have to answer to Him for their wrongdoings [Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5]. And though He calls people to step into these situations to right them, people don’t always listen or obey.

But that doesn’t nullify God’s goodness. Rather, when we keep our eyes on Him–our help, the author and perfecter of our faith–God reveals His goodness to us in surprising ways [Psalm 121:1; Hebrews 12:2]! He takes the lemons [excuse the cliche] that sin chucks at us and makes, not lemonade, but the most refreshing living water and satisfying bread of life–beyond what we could even imagine–if we allow Him to.

Are you in a difficult circumstance today? Have you come through a tragic past? Do you find it impossible to forgive your parents or other family members for any reason? Remember who your help is. Fix your eyes on God who is working in you to bring about your good despite what the world throws at you. Will you trust in His goodness? Will you let Him do the work He began in you [Philippians 1:6]?


If We Knew What Was Good For Us

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12

Image result for oopsGod is good–infinitely good. And we are created in His image to be good.

Yet sin spoiled our hearts, so that we are averse to God from birth. Everyone has gone astray to their own way [Isaiah 53:6], and though, as Christians, we all still ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], still goodness calls from deep within us to our Heavenly Father [Psalm 42:7].

Eternity is seeded in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11].

We each know that good exists, and while we understand just a glimpse of true goodness, we hunger and thirst for more of it. We want it all for ourselves. Though some are willing to see others’ need for goodness and to meet it [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; Romans 5:7], many sinfully look to no one’s good but their own.

These same people often believe that if God is good [which He is], then nothing bad should ever happen. They want to define a good God as one who walks around like a Bubble-wrap Fairy Godmother, ensuring that nothing ever goes wrong for them personally.

These same people often reject the idea of their own sin nature. They then reject the understanding of sin’s evils manifest in the world. From here they blame God for not really being a God at all or, if they can’t in good conscious deny Him, then they accuse Him of not really being good and refuse to know and love Him.

How ironic that it is the very goodness of God that cause so many to reject Him when His goodness is what every heart longs for.

Jesus assured his hearers that not only does God know how to, He actively gives of His infinite goodness to all of Creation without fail. And certainly when we ask, we receive of His goodness. Herein lies the rub. Because what we demand of God is not always good for us. And the worse consequence that He can give us is to give us exactly what we insisted on outside of His will to begin with.

So why do so many think that God is only good if He is their personal genie of the lamp, granting their every whim?

He gave us life and He sustains it in every way. He show us the way, the truth and the life [Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:28]. He gives more abundant life each day we spend with Him [John 10:10]. He gives eternal life when we lay our earthly selfishness aside and recognize Him for who He is. When we ask for His forgiveness for our sinful natures–yes, the ones we were born with–and believe on His Son Jesus, and Him crucified [John 3:16].

When you pray, do you seek God? Or do you hand Him a laundry list of your good ideas for life? Do you trust God to guide you in the best that He has for you?


If God Is Good, Then Why Is There Bad in the World?

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

Image result for tearsGod is good. And He is infinitely so. But what is that goodness? What does it consist of or pertain to? How and when does it manifest?

Many cultures have mythologies of gods that are sinister but powerful. The Greek and Roman pantheons were worse than the most corrupt human beings, acting selfishly in all their ways and disposed by whim to mistreat humans it suited their own immoral pleasures. Their character couldn’t have been further from the truth of who God is.

Good is the opposite of evil. God is not bad in anyway [Psalm 92:15]. He is morally upright, but more than that, He is generously kind and loving to all. His infinite goodness is the source of every blessing and joy, the source of our hope and the wellspring of His love and goodwill–mercy and grace–toward humankind.

He created for all our needs and faithfully provides for them, though we are unfaithful about cultivating our relationship with Him [Matthew 5:45] and though we fail to thank Him for His faithful beneficence.

He keeps His creation in motion, patiently waiting for more of mankind to turn and recognize Him as God [Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:9].

He hears our prayers and provides us with His Spirit to overcome just as He did. Because He is good, we can have peace [John 16:33], joyful strength [Nehemiah 8:10], hope in Him [Isaiah 40:31] and contentment waiting for our heavenly home [Matthew 11:29 & 10:24]. Because He is good, He strengthens us in our present circumstances [1 Peter 5:10-11]. Because He is good, He made a way to reconcile with us so that we could spend eternity with Him [John 3:16].

But our present circumstances are exactly the rub for so many who choose to walk away from belief in God. They shake their fist at heaven and ask, If God is good, then why is there bad in the world?

God is infinitely good. But His adversary, the devil, is full of every kind of evil intent toward us. Satan is angry that he will never attain heaven and angry at human beings that we can be redeemed. And he does everything he can, in his limited power of deception, to keep as many of us from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 5:8].

God is infinitely good, but we, His Creation, are sinful and therefore predisposed to love self and thereby wrong others in pursuit of self [Matthew 7:12 & 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28 & 16:31].

As believers, we must realize that we were redeemed to be a light of God’s goodness to this world, just the way He intended us to be from the Creation [Matthew 5:14-16].

Does God’s goodness flow through your life to others? Do others understand that God is good because they see His good work in your life [1 Peter 2:12]?


Omnipresence vs. Pantheism: A Heart in Search of Eternity

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

hand tree branch light white photography sunlight morning leaf flower spring green autumn arm season close up raise photograph stretch emotionGod is omnipresent, that is, He is everywhere present. There is nowhere that we can go out of His presence, nowhere we can hide from Him.

Many other cultures, having the seed of eternity in their heart [Ecclesiastes 3:11], vaguely remembered this truth about God, but re-presented the idea through pantheism.

Pantheism comes from Greek word roots that translate everything is a god. The trees are each a god, or at least a manifestation of His physical presence. The rocks are gods. The water is god. The air we breathe. The ground we trod. Sun and moon and stars. All is god. And god is all.

Except that it isn’t so.

As we have already seen, God is distinct from His Creation. While He is omnipresent–ever here with all of us–He is also transcendent, or equally separate from everything His hands have made. Created things are not God, and God is not in any way created. While all things hold together in Him, He Himself has no need of sustenance from His creation.

Not only so, but the Creation is meant to draw our understanding back to God the Creator [Romans 1:20]. It groans under the strain of sin, longing for the return of our Savior just as we ought [Romans 8:19-23]. And if we refuse to acknowledge God and praise Him, then the Creation will do it for us [Luke 19:40].

Here it is so important to remember that God loves the pantheist, just as He loves you and me. And that the pantheist has a heart seeking after eternity, a heart waiting for the good news of Jesus Christ, but lost in a half-truth. Satan is happy to keep them spinning in their partial-understanding, but God is not willing that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9].

Are you ready to give an answer for the hope that you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]? Can you be a light to the pantheists of this world?


Side by Side

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

See the source imageGod is transcendent. He is equally above the highest earthly authority and the basest of criminals. He is equally above the ordinary good guy and the saintliest of saints.

Just as we grade levels of badness, rank acts of evil and sort them from minor wrongdoings, so too we rate our own goodness. How do I measure up when compared to another human being? I’m not as good as Mother Theresa, but I’m not as bad as my drunken neighbor who beats his family.

But that’s all human perception, and actually, human misperception. Sure our faith should spur us on to good works [James 2:17-26], but those good works do not save us [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Rather, by God’s infinite grace, it is our finite faith that saves us. And while we will each have to give an account of ourselves to God [Romans 14:12], it is only the Christ in us that will justify us before our heavenly Father [Romans 5:1-2].

Consider walking across a beach. Each grain of sand is so small underfoot that we don’t register which ones are larger and which ones are smaller. We are equally larger than the minute variations in each of the millions of grains of sand that make up a single beach.

Or consider the stars. The distance to each one from the earth varies considerably. Yet to the naked human eye, the night sky paints them all as if they were hung side by side.

It’s not a perfect analogy–nothing is when we try to fit our infinite God into our finite understanding–but it gives us a very basic idea of all this transcendence business.

When we stand before God, it’s all going to come down to the same thing–faith in Christ. God loves each of us the same. God sees each of our sinful natures the same. And God’s goodness is equally above any and every good work that we find to do. He has no favorites [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]!

Do you think of yourself more highly than you ought [Romans 12:3]? Are you resting on your own merit? Or, through faith, are you resting on God’s grace–Christ?