Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Only True Hope for 2013

For all the positive, uplifting news from 2012, there is no denying it was a horrific year for more people than not. It was a year of true darkness and human depravity. There were many heroes, many good guys and gals – many reasons to give thanks… yet the groaning of the human race is growing louder. We are devouring ourselves and our planet, and we are warring with one another ceaselessly.

Many will hope in the rationality of man to bring peace and joy to the world. 250 years of “Enlightenment” has left us no closer to salvation than in the medieval days.

Many will hope in science and technology to send us racing into the galaxy exploring new worlds, eradicating disease, poverty, and economic inequality. 150 years of breathtaking scientific revolution has left us living longer and more comfortably… to give us more creative ways to kill each other and steal each others’ property. We’re tinkering with the genetic codes of our food, for heaven’s sakes, and playing with disaster on every front, all in the name of human autonomy and wisdom. Do I really need to defend that with examples?

Many will hope in themselves, or will have faith in faith, or something warm and fuzzy within us all.

Need I make an example of how far that gets us?

No, the only true hope for 2013 is the answering of this prayer:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.
  Your will be done,
  On earth as it is in heaven.

‘Give us this day our daily bread.

‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

Let us all put our ultimate hope and trust in the only person who ever rose from the dead. Let’s trust His words; namely, that He is going to return to the earth to eliminate sin, to set up His kingdom of righteousness, and to give the earth back to the human race – a restored, perfect, harmonious re-creation. My hope for 2013 is the return of Christ Jesus, the submission of creation to His will, and the perfect adoration of God among all people for eternity. How about that?

Happy New Year, because Jesus lives!

-Justin

Categories: Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Devour Your Young for Pleasure

Concerning Russia, whose government just banned adoptions of their orphans by Americans, Dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Dr. Russell Moore comments:

Russell Moore (@drmoore)

Orphanages teem with children. Abortion rate is 73%. Faces demographic collapse. Mother Russia is a she-bear devouring her young.

As are we. The cost of unlimited self-serving pleasure – the dreams of our free-love, 1960’s revolutionary parents realized! The cost is only and simply the devouring of our children and collapse of our societies. Does this need much more commentary and argument?

The cost of embracing a stranger in fornication is merely a murder. The cost of loving oneself above all things is only the dislocation of everything in life. How cheap!

Thanks for thinking,

-Justin

Categories: Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

To Crush the Head of Cynicism: Christmas

The original cynic is the serpent in Eden: “Has God indeed said…?” (Gen. 3:1b). The first humans were created to love God, trust Him, and enjoy His fellowship unhindered. Satan slipped in just a small, harmless question to the woman – what would seem so innocent to ask, but the true face of it shows through. (Bear with a little embellishment of the imagination here).

Is God really trustworthy? He must be hiding something from you. Think of it, Eve, I mean… yeah! This garden is great. Sure, you get to eat anything you want, well; almost anything. Why has God withheld this one tree from you? What pleasure and joy has He kept for Himself? Don’t you think it was a little unfair of God to keep the best for Himself and to leave you with all of these mediocre treats?

CYNIC!

Here God created an entire universe to share with the humans. The earth was their glorious playground – open for their enjoyment and sustenance. But isn’t it the way of the cynic, to spot the one tiny little rule in the world of liberty and love, and to HAVE to break it? God must have been keeping something back from Adam and Eve! He sure was – death, disease, destruction, divorce, murder, adultery, drug abuse, war, lying politicians, mass-shootings in elementary schools, poverty, starvation, dysentery, and all the billions of other forms of brokenness we now have to live with in our once perfect world.

MAYDAY! SEND HELP!

The human race listened to the cynic, and fell hard. Each of us today is born under the curse of that first sin – that first questioning of God’s goodness and love. And don’t we still question Him there? When things go horribly wrong, whom do we blame ultimately?

Are you a cynic? It’s hard not to be when just about everything in our society is built on cynicism.

Yet Christmas is the crushing of the head of the cynic. Look at the promise God made to the cynic right after the fall of humankind:

So the LORD God said to the serpent: … I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:14a, 15).

BOOM! Head-crushing battle coming! Do you see the capital “S” for Seed in the second mention of seed? That’s because that would be… JESUS. Yahweh God, in the very moment of our greatest brokenness and need, promised a gift; a Savior – the very thing we would need most. God promised to crush the head of the cynic with the foot of His own Son.

But notice also that the seed of the serpent would bruise Jesus as well. Here is the gospel of Christmas right there in the 3rd chapter of the Bible: even though humankind sinned and did not trust God, but sided with the cynic, God immediately went to work to restore us and bring us light in our darkness.

He did it. He accomplished His promises. One lonely night in Bethlehem, Judea, a little baby was born in an animal stable. He was born from the virgin – the Seed of the woman! Jesus had come to do His Father’s will… and what was that? “that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:38b).  Jesus came out of heaven – He left His eternal throne of glory to be born a peasant child. God became flesh and walked among us, folks!

God forever refutes the cynic from Eden – He did give us everything He had, the very, very best that heaven had to give: JESUS THE SON OF GOD!

This is the point of Christmas. Jesus was born; God invaded our world as a common-man. He lived the perfect life of obedience and sinlessness that Adam and Eve failed to live… and Jesus offered His perfect life as a sacrifice to pay for our cynicism and sin. He accomplished redemption for His people! Christmas!

He crushed the head of the serpent just as He Himself was being crushed on the cross. Christmas!

He bled and died in the place of you and me. Christmas!

His love was on full display for a rebellious, ugly humanity. Christmas!

God is the true Santa Claus: He truly gives gifts to all people… but even better, He gives gifts to those who do NOT deserve it, have not been good little boys and girls, and actually deserve a lot worse than a lump of coal. CHRISTMAS!

And Jesus proved all of this by rising from the dead. Easter! Oh, wait…

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the giver of the gift of forgiveness, and you shall be saved.

Merry Christmas, 2012

Christmas Jesus

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrating Ten Years Since I was Born Again

Yes sir, yes ma’am. Ten years ago I was a lost little puppy, trying to punish God for having created me. I did everything I knew how to hurt God and hurt people, yet always had a spark of conscience to hold me back from all-out destruction. Thank the Lord Jesus for that! When He saved me, I didn’t even know it for a while. I just began to realize after some time that I was changed, my heart was new, and that I had a deep love for His Word. Around that time, I began to flourish in my creative thinking.

For years my mind had been suppressed by my sinful “freedoms” I was exercising. As the veil of death and darkness lifted, I began to write a lot of poetry and dream journaling. Much of it was unsophisticated and charmless, but some of it is actually very meaningful to me. In celebration of ten years of true life in Christ Jesus, I will share with you a little bit of the writing I did at that time. I’ll post these memoirs at least a couple times in the near future.

In honor of the Holy Spirit of God who saved me by giving me new life in the Son of God…

Agnes Holloway

She saw angels…

I believed her when I looked into her eyes,

All the neighbors told me to skip her door:

A crisp baby blue cottage with cream trim…

She must’ve been over a century’s hill.

There upon autumn’s eve, revelation and the tide of wisdom rose.

5/3/2003 by Justin Esposito

Deep Exploration

I’ve had no difficulty finding new trap doors,

Only half finished painting the walls,

And a new depth for which I stride…

5/3/2003 by Justin Esposito

Some haikus in honor of the glorious predator:

Northern Goshawk

Claws of fury flash

Red eyes gleam intelligence

Ceasing rabbit’s life

Goshawk

Magnificent bird

Cut the air and spy the field

Rodents cringe with fear

Swoop like lightning strikes

Razor claws dig into flesh

Goshawk reigns above

Sun darkened by wings

Look up, oh critters of earth

Demise from the skies

Brown speckled feathers

Handsome hawk your wings spread wide

Your perch, sacred space

Her hunting scream heard

Her razor talons flexing

Her humor is death

Why do the winds blow?

How high can the white sky flow?

Yes, the goshawk knows

4/2003 by Justin Esposito

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Artistic Creations, Meaning Woven into Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s the End, Again

Harold Camping’s ancestors in ancient middle America were known to have not only developed super-accurate, cool-looking calendars; they also invented bath salts. No, not the kind that makes people eat other people’s faces. Although the Mayans did practice some pretty violent stuff…

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, the Mayans had a chief named Gargamel, and Gargamel was not very good at math or science, but early in his high school studies his teachers noticed that he had other talents… and so pointed him to a career counselor to help him shape his future.

After many years of honing his skills, old G (as they called him) was able to accurately predict far into the future to calculate at what point in history the world would become most vulnerable and excitable to stupid, drunken prophecy. Gargamel did not have much luck hunting down the little blue people he always wished to taste, but the Lamanites were always a bit sneaky, erm… don’t google that…

So, where were we? Ah yes, so Gargamel looked into his polished golden mirror and saw such things as “fiscal cliff” cross stars with sweeping haired Canadian boy pop stars, “pigskin” holy-days, and of course, his distant descendant Harold, who fooled millions of atheists into thinking there was a god. And so Gargamel coordinated with the calendar committee, working tirelessly to build it just the right size. They had a knee-slappin’ good time, did some human-sacrifice, and left the calendar sitting on the calendar committee work bench, and all went out to What-a-Burger for lunch.

Only Known Photograph of Gargamel, in his early years.

Only Known Photograph of Gargamel, in his early years.

Sadly, Gargamel and the calendar committee were right. Their cruel hoax has indeed ensnared millions, as their timing was uncanny. Already I’ve read of someone leaping to their death as the apocalypse draweth nigh (again). Unfortunately for all their wiles, the Mayans were a bit careless themselves and were wiped out by a strange obsession with “watching shows” as they were called, in the form of live-action drama depictions they called “Survivor”.

Well, it took me years of research; blood, sweat, and beers to dig all that up. I hope you will spread this needed information across all the interwebs of your life.

Dedicated To the Romans!

-Justin

Categories: Artistic Creations, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Where was God During the Elementary School Massacre?

Antonio Lacerda / EPA

A woman places flowers at a makeshift Sandy Hook memorial in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Anthony Lacerda / EPA

The murder of 20 little children and 6 women in Newtown, Connecticut has shaken every person who has a conscience. I’ve watched my close family weep, and I myself have not stopped the tears as they have come. Who would do such a thing? We are getting clarity (as much as possible), on that question. Someone completely consumed with a wicked, depraved heart has done this.

Where was God during the elementary school massacre? Here we have the big question. Many anti-theists (AKA atheists) will give the simplistic, cop-out answer that there is no god(s). No thank you, anti-theists, for that non-answer which you yourselves know is false.

Next try: He was surprised and grieved by it like we all were. Many well-meaning folks will give this answer in an attempt to “get God off the hook” for human evil. It sounds nice on the surface (who would want to live in a universe where God knows ahead of time that things like this are coming and yet does nothing to stop it?), but it falls flat.

All complex argumentation aside, it is simply no comfort to say God did not know because He doesn’t know the future: well then, who is in control? Would it be more comforting to know that no one is in control? How about Satan, or human beings, or maybe the impersonal stars in the sky? No thank you. I am grateful that God’s Word doesn’t teach any of these things.

Another thought that is probably the most popular: God knew it would happen, and it wasn’t His will for it to happen, but He couldn’t stop it. This is another attempt to get God off the hook for human evil, but it breaks down as soon as we look at it more deeply. It is the answer the well-meaning priest in Newtown has given to the media. It is the answer some blog writers are giving, including on the giant sites like Huffington Post and CNN Belief Blog…

Yet, it is another false comfort. God looked at Adam Lanza suiting up with body armor, packing magazines of bullets, knowing what he was going to do, and didn’t so much as have the power to thrown a falling tree onto the guy’s car as he drove there? Why not? The answer given is usually that “God cannot stop human free-will.” My dear friends and neighbors around the world, let me gently refute this lie. I understand why it is believed, but ultimately there is no truth or comfort in it for the victims in this tragedy. God could have stopped this man, but He did not.

The Greatest Injustice in All History

God was right there in the midst of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. He was there, allowing Adam Lanza to do his evil, but He was also there with the teachers and children, graciously not allowing every single one of them to be hunted down. Yet even this monstrous act was not nearly the greatest injustice and tragedy to ever happen.

When the one, innocent, pure Man who ever lived was falsely accused, arrested, whipped, and crucified on a Roman torture device, evil was riding at its highest. Jesus was LOVE incarnate – He is God with flesh on, come to earth “not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17b). Jesus had always, eternally lived with God the Father, as God the Son – and the great love between them the Holy Spirit. Three divine, perfect Persons who are LOVE and sinlessness… and the Son chose to come to earth to bear the pain and penalty of human sin as a sacrifice for us; He did it in order to swallow death and sin just as death and sin were swallowing Him on the cross…

Have you ever stopped to think about this? When the crowds and the high priests demanded Jesus be hung from nails until He died, they were committing an atrocity beyond the scale of words. The evil in their hearts was breaking out at an all-time darkness and ugliness. Jesus had come to lead them to forgiveness and eternal life, they had spit on Him and called Him a liar. He had healed their sick, raised the dead, and promised fellowship with God for eternity, they were tearing His skin off with razor-sharp bone fragments embedded in leather whips.

What is human evil? It is best seen in the crucifixion of Jesus the Son of God.

Where was God during the murder of His precious, eternally worthy Son?

Right there. Right in the midst. Unsurprised. Unprovoked. In control.

Why is this comforting? Look at what Peter said a couple of months later as he spoke to the very people who had done it:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken[c] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death. (Acts 2:22-23 NKJV)

You see that? They were responsible for their evil choices, and God had before determined it to happen. They’re both there. We can’t do that level of math, but there it is without apology.

What is our comfort in that, and in the elementary school massacre? Only that God is working out His gracious purposes among a rebellious, sinful, murderous human race. We are surely allowed to exercise our creaturely freedom, and we choose real, horrific evils, but God exercises His sovereign freedom to either restrain or allow us to act.

He is in control, just as He was at the cross. All of those people who crucified Jesus thought that they were rid of Him, and that they were in power. They had a moment of power, but it was allowed by God in order to then make Jesus the sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through the most evil act ever committed, God brought salvation for the world, and through the evil of Adam Lanza, there will be good and precious outcomes brought by the sovereign God, yet those ends we cannot yet see.

Shall we cry against Him for allowing it? Only if we are willing to call Him unjust for determining the murder of Jesus as the means of our salvation. We don’t want to go there, beloved people.

—–

One last thing: I know my words may seem callous, or academic, or cold. I promise you that is not my intention. This tragedy goes way beyond my or anyone’s ability to simply fix with an explanation of God’s sovereignty. My hope, rather, is to plant the seeds of healing and restoration for those torn and broken by this act. There is hope, there is meaning in what God allows to happen. We cannot see it all, but we must trust Him in His rule of our society. He has promised to heal and completely forgive the sins of any person who comes to Him in faith – looking to that cross where Jesus paid for human sin. Do you see your sin being paid in His death? Do you believe that He rose from the grave to be your Savior and God? Then call to Him today and every day, never let Him go. He will destroy your sins, evil choices, and even your death someday… these will be defeated by His gracious power.

That is the power of Jesus the Christ – He has defeated the power of death, and draws all people to Him to share in His victory. I am praying for my neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut, that they would bring their broken, angry hearts to Christ. He is the only healer who can mend these kinds of wounds.

With so much more I could say, thanks for reading.

-Justin

Categories: Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Newtown Massacre: Special Edition of The Briefing

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Dr. Albert Mohler is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a high-profile interpreter of world events. His podcast is called The Briefing, a daily analysis of world events from a Christian perspective. Last night Dr. Mohler released a special edition of The Briefing, and I want you to listen to it. Click here:

The Briefing Special Edition – Connecticut Shooting

In this podcast Dr. Mohler discusses what our reaction should be to this ultra-tragedy, and he interviews Rev. Joey Newtown, a Baptist minister who is there with the families of the slain. There are blessed reminders of God’s grace and sovereignty in this edition of The Briefing, and I encourage you to take a little time to listen to it.

Blessings in Christ Jesus,

-Justin

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Newtown, Connecticut School Shooting: At Least 26 Dead

Another gunman dressed all in black has murdered a crowd of people in America. This time the target is elementary school children, 18 so far among the 26 or more dead. This just a couple days after a man in a mall near Portland, Oregon opened fire in public… this just months after the mass-killing in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado where another black-clad gunman took as many lives as possible.

Question: how do we interpret these and what seems to be countless other incidents like it in recent American history? Is this out of the ordinary with other cultures and human history? I think so. I think our nation is spiraling downward into a black hole of our own desires: God is truly giving us the freedom from Him that we have fought for.

In other words, the grace of God that restrains outbreaks of depraved violence is being removed in America. We have gotten what we want: to be gods and to make our own Law – so now the mask is coming off of the human heart. May God have mercy on us.

My heart is aching as I write these words; there is no imagination for how those poor babies feel right now who saw classmates murdered before their eyes. There is no human penalty great enough to avenge such deeds, although the news says he is already dead. So now what?

I already see the political right and left gearing up to promote their view of gun-rights. Despicable. This is not the time for that conversation. Wait until tomorrow for the sake of anything good… and maybe just shut-up about it all together for a longer time than that. Somebody just tore the lives of 26+ people in cold blood.

All I will say is that we have sown the wind of violence and secularism. We glorify war, gladiatorial games, personal “choice” to exterminate our children through abortion and after-birth dismemberment, we enshrine the lust for blood in every section of society. We have sown the wind of secularism; glorifying man above his Creator, teaching our children that human beings are of no worth above animals, and that our lives are accidents without meaning. We load ourselves up on prescription drugs to cure our sick minds when the problem is a depraved, wicked heart of godlessness.

The land is filled with blood.

Most churches are filled with silly, irrelevant entertainment and rule-keeping. Who will give the hope?

The schools are overrun with lies.

What are we to do? Admit what we have become, and beg for the mercy of God, that He would not leave us to ourselves for one more minute. Sadly, without repentance from our death-culture, we will reap the whirlwind more and more heavily as the days run by.

Oh Lord and Creator, we have sinned against You grievously, and we are now feasting on the fruits. In Your great pity for humankind, please draw back the wicked in this land, bring revival and repentance to Your people, and cause us to weep for our children. Please, have mercy on this land. Amen.

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The True Meaning of Hanukkah

The Hebrew People: Constant Captivity

Israel had been enslaved and oppressed on and off for over 1,000 years by Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Media-Persia. They were the runts of the ancient near middle east, and rarely ruled their own land without fear. The later books of the Old Testament indicate the constant struggles the Jews faced as they tried to rebuild their homeland.

Soon after the close of the Old Testament canon around 400 B.C., Greek military mastermind Alexander the Great had conquered most of the population of earth. Israel easily knuckled under the powerful presence of the Greek empire. Soon after his greatest achievements, however, Alexander died at the tender age of 33, leaving his kingdom to his lesser military generals.

To make a long, fascinating story short for my A.D.D. culture, the Jews came under the political and cultural oppression of the Greeks. The pressure was on in Jerusalem for the Jews to conform to a more Hellenized, cultured form of religion and national life. Many Jews indeed adopted Greek thinking – yet the holy city of Jerusalem continued to hold out against the contemporary changes sweeping the rest of the known world – after all, Yahweh, God of all the heaven and earth, greater than the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses, had promised to dwell with His people in the temple in Jerusalem.

The Jews had already learned that idolatry brought severe punishment, having been destroyed by Babylon and carried into generations of exile. A small, faithful remnant in Jerusalem was committed to obeying Yahweh God, though the whole nation go Greek.

Into this tinder box came a spark when Greek general Antiochus IV Epiphanes robbed the Jerusalem temple to pay some war debts incurred during a skirmish in Egypt. He probably didn’t think it such a big deal, as Israel was under his domain at the time, so it would have been reasonable in his mind to “borrow” some temple treasure.

You can imagine the reaction of the faithful Jews, seeing a foreign, unclean army going into the holy temple, carrying off the sacred instruments. This would have stirred the old nightmares of Babylon, only a few hundreds years earlier, entering the holy city and burning it to the ground. Seeing their religion and culture were in danger, the Jerusalem Jews began to stand up against Greek culture and rule.

Bad Times for All

Antiochus treated the revolt as an all-out insurrection, and invaded Jerusalem. As the prophet Daniel had foretold, Antiochus entered the holy of holies in the temple, and desecrated the altar of Yahweh by setting up over it an altar to Zeus. Upon this altar he sacrificed a pig, letting the blood run over the Jewish altar.

This was the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel hundreds of years earlier, and it was a declaration of war against the God of Israel. War and violence broke out in the land. While thousands of Jews were slaughtered, a rebel army formed and began to turn back the Greeks. Judas Maccabeus and his family eventually took back Jerusalem and ejected the Greeks from Palestine. Jewish autonomy was to last for around a century until Rome took control… but for the time being, a rare period of Jewish independence had begun.

Hanukkah: the Festival of Lights

Jewish tradition tells us that the temple was cleansed and re-dedicated to the worship of Yahweh on the 25th day of Kislev (correlating to our November-December). When the Jewish army and priests went back into the temple, they found the sacred lampstand only had enough oil for about 1 day of light, but when they lit it, it miraculously stayed lit for the entire 8 day period of purification.

Thus from 165 B.C. onward, the Jews have celebrated the 8 days of Hanukkah to commemorate the re-dedication of the temple, and the miraculous light that came to the temple in purification…

The True Light Shines in the Temple

In John 8:12, Jesus stands in the temple in Jerusalem, less than 200 years after the first Hanukkah, and proclaims “I am the light of the world! Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He was standing in the place of the lampstand; He was the one who had purified the temple in John 2:15-16, and He was there to claim His own place as the true light.

images

Jesus was claiming to be the One who is true light in the temple of God – He was standing there calling out to His people Israel, offering true light, religion, purity, sanctification, and life. He even claimed to be greater than the temple (Matt. 12:5-6).

In His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus shines as the true light of Jerusalem’s purification – He is the Hanukkah lamp of lamps, He is the oil that never runs dry, He is the purpose and reason for every celebration… He is the beautiful, perfect reason for the (Hanukkah) season, and in Him the perfect sacrifice for sins has been accomplished.

Hallelujah!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Jesus the Pinnacle of History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Everything You Have Ever Done Will be Exposed pt. 4/4

I present to you the final part of Ben Askins‘ superb handling of Romans 2:6. If you missed parts 1, 2, and 3, please do go back and read them. This is worth your time – CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and Infowars are not. Tune in to the everlasting Gospel of Peace. I mean to truly entice you to read this entire sermon. Having been there when he preached it, I know the impact cannot be quite the same for you now, but for heaven’s sake, take the time and think through this stuff. Everything for you, forever, is riding on this truth.

Thanks for reading, and remember to stop by Ben’s blog and subscribe.

—–

Indeed, the only thing we provide in our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.

Charles Spurgeon says that we receive this justification with “the empty hand of faith.” It’s true in a sense that the hand of faith is an empty hand, in that it brings nothing of value, but I do not think that is a fully accurate description of the biblical testimony on this matter. It’s not as if we haven’t already received much from the hands of God for which we are already responsible. He has given us life and relationships and opportunities and resources and we have wasted them all. These hands we bring to him are not merely empty. We come to him with the broken hands of faith. We’ve broken them abusing ourselves and others and we’ve wasted them seeking our own glory and we are completely responsible but we run to him as children to a father, helpless, broken. “Daddy, I broke it. Daddy, I wasted it. Will you help me?”

At first we think we turn to run to him, but when we become aware of ourselves, of reality, we realize that that we are too broken to do so and it was He who ran to us first. That he comes to us and justifies us, not because of anything we ever did, but in spite of everything we have ever done.

Now, I don’t want to get too sidetracked, but I do want the glorious immensity of this doctrine of God justifying and sanctifying sinners, of declaring sinners righteous in Christ and making sinners righteous by Christ, to be magnified in your heart and mind before you leave here tonight. So think closely for a moment about the idea of creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. God created the world out of nothing. If this is not the mystery of all mysteries, it is certainly a strong candidate for that position. He doesn’t create the world out of himself and he doesn’t create it out of pre-existing material, it’s not a soup or pottery. He makes everything out of nothing and everything was good.

And yet, in regenerating, justifying and sanctifying rebel sinners God is, in fact, doing a greater work than making the good creation out of nothing, if that can be imagined.

He is creating good out of evil.

We expect good to come from good and evil to come from evil. But where only evil exists, God brings out good. He does not make evil good or confuse good with evil in the process. This is, in fact, the mystery of all mysteries, the paradox at the center of God’s revelation. The creation of Adam was a declaration of God’s almighty power. But the new creation of humanity in the second Adam, Jesus Christ, through election, redemption, regeneration, justification and sanctification unto glorification is a still greater testimony to God’s incomparable perfections.

Worship him! Love him! Be in awe of the God who not only creates all things good, but when we have broken it he makes all things new! He miraculously brings good out of evil, and he so graciously intertwines the good of those who love him with his own glory, such that the one will never be sacrificed at the expense of the other. In Christ we can know that our own good is as sure to come from the depths of our greatest suffering as we can be that God is working out the purpose for everything, his own glorification. We can be assured that our final good on judgment day is as certain as God glorifying himself; and God is in his very nature glorious. In this way we are guaranteed to become the righteousness of God.

But that’s a whole other sermon unto itself.

So, if it is indeed the case that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law, how can we then be judged according to our works as our text so clearly states?

The first key in understanding the role of works in judgment and justification is that Christ’s death in our behalf removes our guilt, but not our responsibility. We remain perpetually responsible for our actions, even though the shame and penalty for those actions have been absorbed by another.

So, will the sins of believers be made public on the last day? There are theologians and commentators who argue that since the sins of Christians are covered by the blood of Christ, they cannot be a subject of discussion at the judgment. Account to ChristAlthough the Bible teaches that believers have the guilt and penalty of their sins removed and are clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness and thus are not in danger of being cast into hell, Scripture does teach very clearly that all Christians will have to give an account on that day. The reasons for this assertion are manifold.

First, one cannot avoid the biblical passages that speak of the judgment as an event that includes both the saved and the unsaved (e.g., Eccl. 12:14; Mt. 13:30, 36-43, 47-50; 25:31-34, 41; Ac. 17:30-31; Rev. 20:12-13).

Second, the evaluation of a believer’s works on the day of judgment is explicitly taught in the epistles and is used by Paul to urge believers to greater diligence in doing good: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil..” (2 Cor. 5:10) “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:4-5). “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God… So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10,12). An account cannot be given, however, except by a careful disclosure of one’s entire conduct, and thus the imperfections and failures of the faithful will of necessity also be made public.

Third, passages which warn believers that “God will judge the secrets of men” (Rom. 2:16); that men will give an account on the day of judgment “for every careless word” they speak (Mt. 12:36) cannot (given the context and audience) be restricted to unsaved sinners. Statements made by Jesus and the apostles, which are intended to spur Christians on to greater obedience, lose all their force if they do not apply to believers!

This view of the judgment raises a number of objections. First, if Jesus paid for all our sins why would He bring them up again on that day? Would this not bring shame upon the saints? Is not such shame incompatible with the joy of that day, when sinning will be no more? One must keep in mind that the sins evaluated are forgiven sins. A passage of Scripture that teaches that genuine believers will not experience shame at Christ’s coming is 1 John 2:28. “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

“Believers do not turn in shame from Christ for they know that their sins have been forgiven. They are free from shame. But those who have pretended to be Christians cannot stand in the revealing light of his coming. They cannot hide their shame.” (Simon J. Kistemaker)

They [the sins of believers] are brought up not to shame the believer but to magnify God’s grace and determine a suitable reward. Further, all saints who appear before the Son of God in their glorified bodies will be happy to confess all their sins to Christ. Being perfected in sanctification, Christians on that day will not feel shame but rather will experience the sweetest type of spiritual joy.

They will evaluate their own works not from a standpoint of selfishness, ego or self-glorification, but from the standpoint of having the mind of Christ. Thus, even the most faithful of saints will throw their crowns at the pierced feet of the Savior (Rev. 4:10).

Second, doesn’t the Bible say that the sins of believers are covered (Ps. 32:1), washed away (Ps. 51:2), cast into the depth of the sea (Mic. 7:19), taken from us as far as east is from west (Ps. 103:12), never to be remembered by God (Isa. 43:25)? Indeed, it does say these things. However, these statements must be understood within the full context of Scripture. A reading of the Bible reveals that not only are the sins of believers such as Moses, Abraham, David and Peter remembered by God, but they are recorded in Scripture and published before all for eternity (Isa. 40:8). When the Bible speaks about God removing and forgetting sin it means that the guilt and penalty of our sins have been removed. God no longer holds the sin against the sinner for Christ has paid the price. The passages regarding God forgetting sin must be applied to guilt and punishment for it is impossible for them to mean that an omniscient being forgets our sins.

So, how do we live in light of the knowledge that we are justified by faith but will be judged according to our works? Scripture abounds with admonitions and examples in this regard, but I will choose one which I think is both easily overlooked and remarkably vivid when correctly understood. Ps. 23:4-5a says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Picture two armies arrayed for battle, facing each other several hundred yards apart. A scene right out of Braveheart or The Patriot or Glory. The captains of the armies traditionally meet on the battlefield to discuss the possibility of a truce, the rules of engagement, the expectations of the battle. When our Lord declares us justified he prepares a victory feast for us in the presence of the world, the flesh and the devil rather than a negotiation table. The enemy arrives to negotiate the terms of battle and finds that we are already celebrating victory! In justification we are declared victorious and begin to enjoy the spoils of victory before the battle has been waged.

It is completely counterintuitive. “You are victorious! Now go fight the battle! Fight like a champion! Be what you are in Christ!” This is one of the keys to understanding gospel-centered Spirit-empowered faith-driven obedience to God: be what you are in Christ. God has declared you righteous, sinner, now live righteously. You need fear no evil, not your own sins, not the sins of others, nothing. Everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do, but everything which Christ has done is just as permanent and has been credited to you and your guilt to Him. We are declared justified, though the final judgment has not yet taken place. Court is not yet in session, but a verdict has been rendered and all of the charges have been “dismissed with prejudice.”

We are declared to be what we will become, what God will make us. He will complete the good work he began in you, working in you to will and to do according to his good pleasure. The law is then no longer a curse to us which we cannot obey, but a promise of all that we are and are becoming and will be in Christ. “You will not kill. You will not steal. You will not lie. You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.” Now go and live in the fearless, risk-taking, self-sacrificing love of your Savior; go live in the freedom of the righteousness of Christ given to you, so that you won’t be ashamed on the day of judgment. Freely you have received, now freely give.

Freely Give

 

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