Resurrection and Judgement

Resurrection and Judgement

In this gospel series, we’ve explored a lot of ideas from scripture that are rather controversial, because they are quite different than what is taught in many churches. Some of these ideas center around the biblical truth that we will be resurrected and our works will be judged. Most people think that they have an idea on what judgement is. In this final post in this gospel series, I’d like to present some ideas about judgment that might change your perspective.

God really wants your heart

There is a common misunderstanding that religion is all about trying to please God by sinning as little as possible out of fear of punishment from God's wrath. That idea is so far from the truth. God has always wanted the same thing from mankind. It’s not meaningless action and heartless deeds out of fear. He wants our hearts. He wants our passions. He wants to be in a relationship of love.
You might think of this loving God as the “New Testament God”. Under the Old Testament law, weren’t things different? No. God never changes. Look at what was written under the law:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Psalm 51:16-19)
You can see that having the right heart comes first. Then the works of the law result. Look at how much God longs for our hearts, even in the Old Testament:
He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. (Psalm 33:15) 
As in water a face reflects the face, So the heart of a person reflects the person. (Proverbs 27:19) 
I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, To give to each person according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10) 
People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
God has always wanted our hearts; that didn’t change. The problem with the law is that it had no power to change people’s hearts. If people’s hearts couldn’t be changed, then they were powerless against their sinful flesh. The law didn’t allow people to follow through on good works.

Our relationship is what is judged

To win our hearts where the law could not, God sent his son to us to build a personal relationship with us. And our relationship with Jesus is what is going to be judged.

If we deny Him, He will also deny us. (1 Timothy 2:12)
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
You can see that our deeds are irrelevant if we’re not in a relationship with Jesus.
It’s ultimately our relationship with him that will be judged. God sent his son to save us from sin and evil. If we accept that salvation, we receive the ultimate reward. In fact, you could make the argument that the relationship with Jesus is the ultimate reward:
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
But here’s the thing. Jesus didn’t just die for those who choose to have a relationship with him. Jesus died for everyone.
He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
So Jesus offering salvation gives the world a choice. Every person either accepts that salvation. Or that person rejects Jesus.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. The one who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But this has happened so that the word that is written in their Law will be fulfilled: ‘They hated Me for no reason.’ (John 15:22-25)
And just like having a relationship with Jesus can be thought of as the reward itself, rejecting Jesus can be thought of as the punishment itself.
The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.” (John 3:18-21)
God's wrath toward those that reject Jesus is not God taking action against that person. God's wrath is not a punishment. It's simply God handing that person over to what they wanted: eternity without Jesus.

How to have relationship with Jesus

When he was with us in the flesh, Jesus often compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast. In Matthew 22, Jesus tells the story of a king who invited to his wedding all the common people who didn’t deserve to be there. I can guarantee they were not invited to the wedding because of the nice clothes that they had! At the time, some of those peasants could probably barely afford the clothes on their backs. But you better believe that if you’re invited to the King’s wedding feast, you’ll find a way to dress nicely! Jesus said the king found one guest who wasn’t dressed nicely and he threw him “into the outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place.” The peasants may not have been invited because of their wealth or status, but once they got the invitation, they were expected to dress appropriately.

Jesus is saying that invitations into the Kingdom aren’t deserved, and they don’t come because you did anything. It’s not cut and dry. It’s based on relationship. Who would you invite to your wedding? Even among your friends and relatives, you’d probably only want to invite those who you have a relationship with. Would that wedding invitation depend upon how many nice things that person has done for you recently? Probably not. But on the other hand, if a friend or relative betrayed you, would you still invite them? Probably not. So you can see that you don’t have a relationship with people because of deeds. But good deeds are part of any good relationship.

Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is not a formula. It is not something that needs assurance, it is not a status that can be given or taken away, it is not cut and dry. It isn’t about saying a prayer, inviting Jesus into your heart, attending church, or performing a ritual. Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is afforded only by your relationship with Jesus. It depends on your heart, and if your heart is right, so too will be your deeds.

I often get asked if I believe that baptism is required for salvation. I believe that question is so misguided that it probably doesn’t have an answer. On one hand, nothing is required for salvation; on the other hand, everything is required for salvation. If someone is asking what is required for salvation, they prove they don’t have the right heart. That person is looking for an invitation to the wedding, not a relationship with the king. The king never gave us a formula. He invites each of us to be his friend.

Deeds reveal heart

So how can our relationship with Jesus be judged? Through our deeds, because our deeds reveal our hearts.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:23)
The tree is known by its fruit. For the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. But I tell you that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:33-34, 36-37)
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, acts of adultery, other immoral sexual acts, thefts, false testimonies, and slanderous statements. (Matthew 15:19)
I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6)
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 John 2:3)

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (1 John 3:6)
Our deeds will be judged because our deeds are the proof of the relationship we have with Jesus.

Relationship enables good deeds

For a long time in Christian history, the church focused only on the coming judgement of our deeds. As we’ve seen, this is true, but it’s not the full picture. It guarantees failure, because even if you want to do good, you never have the ability to do it on your own. There is a problem with this view: because of our sin, we’re destined to fail.
The protestant view is almost the opposite. The reformation reminded the church of the importance of justification through faith. As we’ve seen, this is also true, but also incomplete. This view will always fail because it doesn’t do anything to change you. The problem with this view: justification through faith alone gives license to sin rather than encouraging righteousness.
What I think we often miss is that both views are true. They are unified together through the concept of sanctification. Righteousness doesn’t cause salvation. Rather, salvation causes righteousness. True forgiveness doesn’t give us license to sin, it gives us freedom from it. Sanctification preserves the importance of judgement by providing a way to righteousness through justification.

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

The more we receive God’s grace for our sin, through Jesus, the better our relationship with him is! The better our relationship with Jesus, the more freedom from sin we have! 

Our good works don't invalidate God's grace and mercy. God's grace and mercy is what enables our good works.

What to do if you keep sinning

One of the most popular places in scripture, and possibly the only place in scripture, that talks about Christians struggling with sin is in 1 John:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
But it’s dangerous to ignore the rest of the letter. John goes on to say:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)
His purpose in encouraging Christians to seek God’s forgiveness is to set us free from sin! This is profound. Forgiveness doesn’t allow us to keep on sinning. Rather, forgiveness helps to keep us from sinning in the future. This is the power of the gospel. John goes on to share some very powerful warnings against sin:
The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)

We know that no one who has been born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)
Many people who call themselves Christians don’t believe they have power to overcome sin. After all, they are “just a sinner saved by grace.” But that person isn’t really a believer because he doesn’t have faith that he’s actually been saved from anything. By expecting to continue in sin in the future, he is giving himself license to sin.
There is a difference between that person, and the person who believes that Jesus has saved him from sin and that he’s free to live a new life. Will he sin again? It’s possible. But he’s not expecting to sin again because he believes in Jesus. And if he does sin again, he has the opportunity to receive more of God’s grace so that he can be more free in the future.
So if you have the right heart toward God, you know Jesus, and you believe that Jesus knows you, but you have sinned, what should you do? Don’t blame your sinful imperfections -- your sin died with Jesus! The problem is not in what Jesus accomplished on the cross for you. The problem is in your lack of faith. Do you really believe that Jesus set you free from sin? Do you really believe that you sinful flesh died on the cross with Jesus through your baptism in his name? Then confess your sin and receive God’s grace and forgiveness to grow your faith. God’s grace is always the answer to your sin. Keep on believing. Don’t think that you’re going to keep making mistakes! Believe that you have already been perfected by Jesus.


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