The Hard Path to Life

Judgment. Today it’s deemed a strange word. It has fallen out of use. It was once an accepted reality. No longer. Many people have jettisoned this idea as being not credible. They cannot reconcile how love and judgment can come from the same source. Recently there has been a flurry of books that attempt to teach that love and eternal judgment are irreconcilable. Instead, we are confidently told that “Love Wins;” the idea that in the end, there is no such thing as eternal judgment. Sounds nice, even comforting; but what if such ideas are wrong?

Everything is at stake. It’s a winner take all, loser loses all proposition. But there’s the rub. For those who propose that there is no eternal judgment, it’s winner take all and everyone is a winner proposition.  It sounds good, but has no correlation to reality. Unfortunately, people have accepted the idea that they can live as they wish, embracing any form of deviancy, call it normal and expect God to approve of their decisions. But they are wrong, and it will cost them everything.

But some cry foul and say that is just unfair! After all, they assert that there is no such thing as sin, only choices, and man, not God, makes the distinctions. Such a response, however, is visceral. They “feel” that it is simply unfair to send someone into a state of eternal torment – because despite their sin, they are good people – just ask them, they’ll tell you so. And they’ll respond, “How could a god who ‘loves’ all people torment people forever?” On the surface it sounds like a good question – even reasonable – especially when the idea of love is expressed as feeling. Feelings are always nice – especially nice feelings. But the only effect they have is to free us from the responsibility of good thinking.

The current trend that judgment is no longer a credible truth is born out of a generation that has been raised in a toxic brew of narcissism were conclusions are based on a “me center” approach to … well everything. The central issue is, “How does this affect me?” Of course, eternal judgment affects people very significantly. If one takes time to consider the implications of their sin, then what follows is the possibility of someone having very bad feelings about themselves. Unfortunately bad feelings are no longer accepted in our culture. It no longer matters what people think, so long as they feel good about what they think.

When people “think” about God they above all, want to feel good about themselves. This has become the central concern of much of what passes for Western Christianity today. Books and sermons by the truck-load can be found where the main thrust of the message is that God wants to make you feel happy and encouraged. Truth is not of matter of God’s revelation. It is a matter of how I react and therefore feel about such things. The new measurement of truth is a barometer that moves only with good feelings. The more bad it makes me feel the more untrue it must be.

But what if God really does not care about how we feel? In fact, what if God wants us to feel bad about our sin? Unfortunately that is an unpopular message. Today people will stand in line for an opportunity to hear some good encouraging words. Welcome to American Christianity in the 21st century. From radio stations to endless books and the many televangelist of the new gospel of feel-goodism comes the mind-numbing message that God wants you to feel encouraged. Sin does not matter. Hell is not real. All that matters is that we love one another, and make people feel good about themselves.

However, many of such people still cling to an idea of sin. But only as an antidote against those who teach such an uncouth idea that there is such a place as hell. The real sin, it is believed, is making people feel bad about their decisions and behavior. We have developed new words for such people – all ending with the Greek word “-phobe.”

But back to the question: what if God really is not interested in our feelings? I have yet to hear someone raise the question. It seems almost weird writing it. After all, if one accepts the new trendy view of God, then the very question would be … a sin!  Maybe it should not be a question. I’ll be bold. God does not care how you, me, or anyone else “feels.” Self-esteem is not on God’s agenda. But I’ll tell you what is: sin, repentance and salvation. God does not care how we feel about such topics. They simply are a part of the fabric of life – as defined by God – and He demands that we take note and respond accordingly.

In fact, there is a very revealing passage in the bible:

“For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.  As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:8-10, emphasis added).

According to this passage we see that God is interested in how we feel. He actually wants to make us feel bad … for a season. Feeling bad is not a bad thing, especially when it leads to forgiveness and salvation.

The simple truth is that judgment is a reality of life. One does not even have to understand the Bible’s teaching on the subject to know that it exists. Most people have a well-honed sense of justice, and therefore intuitively know that justice demands judgment. When wrongs are done we want to be recompensed for that wrong. But from where did we get that sense of justice? We received that from God. He has written His law on our hearts.

When God is wronged He too wants to be recompensed for the wrong done. This is where our narcissism leads us astray. Most children who are spoiled have a hard time understanding that their actions affect other people. So too, we have a hard time understanding that our actions affect God. When we sin, we hurt God. When we break His laws, we offend Him. When we rebel against His ways, we wrong Him. God’s sense of justice is perfect. His character therefore demands perfect justice. And perfect justice will be meted out.

Enter stage right the reality of judgment. Because God’s justice is perfect, he awards accordingly. Sin is perfect rebellion against God. It is telling God that His character (holiness) is of little consequence, and that His will (righteousness) is of little account. God’s reaction against sin is in complete proportion to the offense. The punishment is equal to the one being offended.

God is not a man that He should overlook rebellion. He is the sum of all things. He is the fabric upon which all things exist. He is the creator, author, and sustainer of life. A rip in the fabric means the whole is affected. Sin rips at the very fabric of life, generating violence, chaos and death. But the fabric is not a disinterested piece of cloth separate from God. It is God. To do violence to the fabric is to do violence to God. Since God is the sum of all things, He has an obligation to prevent the tares, and to react with swift vengeance when they come. To judge sin is to heal the fabric and remove the cause of death. The God of life does not share company with death.  It is utterly and eternally abolished.

Enter God’s love. The reality is that we all have sinned. We all have torn that most sacred fabric of God’s being. God is under obligation to remove the offense. But being a God of eternal love, He was able to reconcile His love with the necessity of Judgment. Jesus is the answer. Only the eternal Son of God could withstand the eternal wrath of God. He took our place under that wrath. In so doing He removed the offense of our sin while at the same time opening a door for eternal restoration and life.

When I faced the fact that I was a sinner who stood condemned before a Holy God, I did not feel good about myself. Indeed, I wept bitterly. My prideful self-esteem suffered. But then I met the risen Savior. He died in my place. He healed the hurt of my sin. He rose from dead for me. Because He lives, I will also live. Today I am encouraged, but only because I grieved first.

To all those who scoff at the idea of judgment my encouragement for you is to embrace judgment. It’s the only path to life.

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