Saturday, 15 March 2014

Lent: Judgement & Condemnation

We all do it. We all judge other people. Their actions, clothing, lifestyle, choice of car. We judge.

Worse, we condemn. After passing judgement, we sentence the offender.

It's said that what a writer writes often reveals more about the writer than the subject. I accept that. I write about what's important to me, issues I struggle with and things that just plain tick me off. (Censored!)

I don't try to hide who I am. If you don't like me or my writing, it's unlikely you'll find me behind you with a large gun trying to force you to. (It doesn't work anyway)

Something that bugs me is judgement issued by other people on individuals.

Now I'm not talking about a juror weighing evidence and deciding if the defendant is guilty or not. It's the judgement we pass in our hearts on other people's choices.

Paul tells us we will judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), but nowhere does he allow us to judge one another. Jesus didn't condemn sinners during His earthly life. He will bring Judgement on the Last Day - something we conveniently forget in these days teaching about Grace and nothing but Grace - but it's His place to Judge, not ours. And the only unforgiveable sin will be blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29/Luke 12:10). Now my understanding - by which I mean what I have been taight by the (few) teachers I've sat under - is that the Sin referred to is to reject Christ's Sacrifice. That was the most significant work of the Holy Spirit - the Resurrection, and this fits with Jesus declaring nobody can come to God except through Him.

I try, thanks to the wisdom of several excellent teachers such as Andrew Wommack, Dave Duell, the late Paul Wilson (my old vicar in Buckfastleigh), and many others, to use the Bible as a commentary on itself. Many passages refer to other sections of Scripture and expound on them in more detail. This is seen in Kings, Chronicles, Psalms and several of the Prophets. Peter refers to Isaiah, Stephen refers back to the Old Testament saints and Prophets standing before the Sanhedrin and speaks more explanation than is found in the current texts.

Using this method you can glean an almost infinite amount of wisdom - limited only by our lifetime - about what and who God is, and His plans and desires for us.

But there's nothing allowing us to judge other people.

In fact, we are warned against it. If we judge others then we will be judged by the same measure we use. It's one reason I try to stop judging - I'll be in in serious trouble!

Condemnation is reserved for God. His judgement is final, and only He can condemn.

And condemn He will. Anyone who can read Revelation and not see the condemnation the devil and his followers will suffer is blind to the Truth in the book.

But we judge and condemn in our hearts. It's a dangerous path to walk. If we will be judged, then we surely will also be condemned. The wages - the condemnation sentence - for Sin is Death. There's no probation. Purgatory is not a concept I've found in Scripture (but please, comment with book, chapter and verse if you have it and I'm wrong). There's no "penalty box", no "time-out". Just Death.

Jesus said that Eternal Life was knowing God and Jesus Christ sent by Him (see John 17:3). Perhaps everlasting existence knowing God is there but being unable to have access to Him and His presence it the opposite - eternal death? Again, it's a theory - and one I've wondered about for a long time without being able to find an answer from outside my own thoughts and contemplations. And again, I want - no, I need -  to hear feedback from people on the idea.

A friend of mine is not a Christian for one reason - he can't reconcile "God" making him what he is with the sin in his "nature", then condemning him for it. The issue is that it doesn't matter what the sin is - God didn't put it there, Adam's actions that put a block between us and God did. Christ's actions removed the block, but there are sins which people fixate on as being worse than others. I never heard anyone say "I can't help being a greedy person - God made me that way", but greed is usually idolatry (if we possess the item already) or coveting (if we see others with it). Paul says he learned to be content in all circumstances: 
 "I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]." (Philippians 4:12-13 [Amplified])
Now it's irrelevant what the sin is. Greed, idolatry, murder, sexual immorality, any sin puts a barrier between us and our experience of God in a relationship. If I repeatedly do something that my wife can't live with then it will break down our relationship, and if I don't change then the relationship ceases to exist. Why should God be any different? It's our behaviours that lead to judgement - and our behaviours are motivated by our hearts.

King David is described many times as a man after God's heart, yet he committed murder to cover an adulterous affair. The issue was not his action, but the attitude of his heart when he was challenged. Saul flew into a rage when confronted with his sin. David repented and humbled himself before God. Saul was judged by God through Samuel. David was forgiven - the Grace of Christ extending through all time. Abraham was justified by Faith thousands of years before Jesus was born, but the Faith he had was in the mercy of God which we now see through Jesus. Lot's wife was destroyed by her unwillingness to let go of her past life in Sodom, but Lot walked on. Noah was righteous in the sight of God, but he failed after the flood. But although God reprimanded him, he wasn't condemned. Neither was Moses after he killed the Egyptian.

Neither was the woman caught in adultery.

Neither are we.

There will be judgement. For those guilty of the "unforgiveable" there will be condemnation.

But it will be God who passes sentence.

Until then, starting now in Lent and going on beyond, it's another thing we need to give up.

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