Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on Jesus the Judge – Jesus Snapshots 05; Date: 17 January 2010

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The Judge

 

The church is always preaching Jesus Christ. The very first sermon after Jesus returned back to heaven set the tone. Jesus was the message and for many of us this message has become familiar. I read from the Bible – Acts 2:22-36 – excerpts from the very first sermon – notice the teaching points on Jesus: “ … listen to this: [a] Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know … [b] you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. [c] But God raised him from the dead … it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him … [d] Exalted to the right hand of God [returning in power to heaven], he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear … [e] God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ

This was the truth and the people – who were listening to this very first sermon – recognized that they had been wrong about Jesus. Therefore, they asked the church leaders – Acts 2:37: “ … what shall we doThe answer was – Acts 2:38-39 – notice again the familiar teaching points: “[a] Repent and [b] be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. [c] And you will receive the Holy Spirit … ”

Many of us are familiar with the teaching points about Jesus and we know the steps of coming to Jesus in repentance. However, how familiar are we with the urgency and seriousness behind the preaching message? What do we make of what came next? I read one more verse from the same Bible account – Acts 2:40: “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ … ”

The preacher could not stop speaking. He kept warning the congregation. He kept pleading with them: “Either you accept what I am saying to you about Jesus or you are lost – for ever. Don’t make the wrong choice. Consider the facts. Have a look around. You are heading for eternal damnation. Save yourselves, please. Come to JesusWhen we are telling others about Jesus, how much are we sharing in this kind of desperation? Do we look at our neighbours and friends with a heart breaking for those that are heading for an eternity without God – even worse: an eternity under the wrath of God. In the view of at least one pastor – according to the Bible accounts of Jesus’ own preaching – he spoke more about hell than any other subject.[1]

For instance, he said – Matthew 13:40-42: " … so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth … ” Matthew 25:46: “Then they will go to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life  Luke 12:2-5: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear himEven before Jesus began preaching, the one who prepared the way for him framed his message in the same seriousness – Luke 3:7-8: “John said to the crowds … ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance … ” [Cf. Mark 9:42-49.]

Unless there is submission to Jesus Christ – a holy fear of God – the forgiveness of our sins in his name – a commitment to turn away from sin and do right, there is no escape from the wrath of God. Has anyone ever responded to you as a Roman governor responded to Paul (one of the church leaders). I read from the Bible – Acts 24:25: “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgement to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now … ’” With what kind of seriousness are we preaching the message of Jesus Christ? There is a judgement to come – for everyone – and the basis for judgement is what you do in this life – whether you seek God, righteousness and self-control or not.

Some people struggle with the concept of a judging God. For them it is always “Jesus – sweet Jesus”. Wasn’t he such a lovely baby in the manger and when humans did their worst to him – killing him with cruelty – Jesus (I quote from the Bible): “ … did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats … ” (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus is always so loving. Yes, he is – but there is also another side to Jesus. One day God is done with enduring human unrighteousness and human rebellion. One day God will say: “Stop. Give an account for your life

Jesus will meet us as the judge of the entire world. We may still be alive on earth when he returns from heaven or we may wait for him in the grave. Yet, no one will escape. Everyone will be judged for what they have done – Romans 14:9-12: “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living … we will all stand before Christ’s judgement seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ … each of us will give an account of himself to God.” John 5:22-30: “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father … I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live … Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned … my judgement is just … ” [Mark 13:26-27: “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”]

This is serious. People around us may look so cool or be so talented and rich or they may simply be so full of life but unless they also get right with God, they face eternal condemnation – a fate worse than death. Therefore, why would not all Christians do what happened from the beginning – Acts 2:40: “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ … ”

Now I know that even many Christians (especially) in the Western world go easy on the judgement. They think about the immense goodness of God and finally come to the conclusion that a nice God would not condemn anyone. However, this does not line up with the current facts. If God was so nice that he never judged sin, why then do we live in a world which is beautiful but – for most people on earth – not nice. If God cannot bear to see anyone suffering in judgement, whey then are so many people suffering right now. What’s the story behind that?

The Bible makes far more sense. There is a terrible curse on this earth which is decay and death. You may want to live in denial (our culture does) but the wrinkles, poor health and the affliction of old age will catch up with us all. According to the Bible this is what happened – Romans 5:12: “ … sin entered the world through one man [the first man committing the first act of disobedience against God], and [with that] death [entered the world] through [this man’s] sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned … ” Because of sin – death came to our bodies and also spirit nature – Ephesians 2:1-10 – I read: “ … you were dead in your transgressions and sins … gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature … by [that] nature objects of God’s wrath … ” Therefore, even before Jesus executes the final judgement, we are already living in judgement. There is decay and death and a dead nature toward God which – as a result – leads to enslavement to sin and the oppression of the devil – including possible demonization. Thus, the more complete version of the Bible quote from before reads – Ephesians 2:1-10 – I read: “ … you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient … ”

Judgement is coming and the first disciples knew. They said – Acts 10:42: “Jesus Christ commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the deadIf this was not the case (if there was no judgement), then – not only would the urgency of our preaching be taken away – soon there would be no preaching at all and then no Christians because we would ask ourselves: “Why suffer any inconveniences or even persecution, when none of this matters in eternity? Why tithe, fast food, pray, resist temptation … ? Relax. Enjoy and be comfortable. God will simply save everyone

When some Christians thought that there may not even be a resurrection – no judgement and no eternal life at all – the apostle Paul wrote to them – 1 Corinthians 15:29-32: “ … [Then] why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day – I mean that . – … If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” Consider what this man suffered for preaching Jesus Christ. He would not have done so, if it did not matter in eternity – 2 Corinthians 11:23-29: “ … prison … flogged . severly … exposed to death again and again. Five times I received … the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned … shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea … have often gone without sleep … known hunger and thirst … ” Why pay such a high price for preaching and confessing Jesus Christ, when people are not in danger of eternal death? [Cf. Luke 19:10.]

What would you say to the Christians in Malaysia right now? On the eighth of January eight churches have been hit with Molotov cocktails. The ground floor of the three-storey AOG Metro Tabernacle in Kuala Lumpur was totally gutted and in Egypt – on the sixth of January – six Christians were killed and nine wounded when a drive-by shooter sprayed Christians with machine-gun fire as they were coming out the St John’s Church in Nag Hammadi. How many of us would remain Christians if we began burying martyrs?

There is a judgement coming and you may learn about it even from the cross. Jesus died for us because he loved us but his death was an execution of judgement. Our sin was judged in his body on the cross – 1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body … ” He was punished on our behalf and the punishment was terrible and the same punishment still awaits everyone that does not accept the sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made. If you reject Jesus and his gift of paying the penalty for your sins, then you will have to pay for them yourself – in eternity.

All of this is rather confronting on a warm Sunday morning (during the summer school holidays) and maybe it seems too confronting when God is performing miracles among us. For two Sundays now the glory of God manifested among us with gold glitter on our hands, faces, upper body, arms and legs (on Tuesday we saw gold sparkles on Tatjana’s left leg). [Tell testimonies of Sonya Doecke, Tamara Stiller, three teenagers after the service … ] This is such a season of joy for us. I love watching when we are all checking our hands after the service and then everyone is smiling and getting excited. Therefore, why spoil the atmosphere with any talk on eternal judgement? The intention is not to spoil anything but understand the fullness of God. He makes us rejoice in his glory and he adorns us with his very presence but at the same time he is also calling us into a deeper relationship with him – encouraging us (with so much love) to be more committed (repent of the half-heartedness in our lives). Furthermore, any miracles among us are not there to make us look good (or bad) but serve the purposes of God which include his purposes in mission work.

At one time Jesus himself charged people, saying – Luke 10:13-15: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sack-cloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgement than you … ” From God’s perspective – miracles are to make us repent. God reveals himself to you and then you know that God is real and it is not strange that you are to worship him. Jesus multiplied food, stilled storms, walked on water, healed the sick, drove out demons, raised the dead … which backed up what he said and his own identity. I repeat what was preached in the very first sermon after Jesus had returned to heaven – Acts 2:22-36: “ … listen to this:  Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know … ”

Miracles go beyond the “bla bla bla” of everone knowing something. There is evidence – accreditation (of God’s messengers) – and – therefore – here at Living Grace we have wanted to operate in miracles for so long to save people – the Bible way – Romans 15:17-19: “ … my service to God … leading people [original: the Gentiles] to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit … ”

Another recent sign happened to Lutherans in the USA. [Abbreviate radically and share the content of the following articles in your own words.]

 

Christianity Today Magazine: During last week's biennial Church Wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the church affirmed major policy recommendations to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions (which practice will soon inflate to same-sex marriage) and the rostering of gay and lesbian pastors in partnered relationships. Earlier in the week it also passed by one vote—out of over 1,000 total votes cast—a Social Statement on Sexuality that admitted there was no consensus on the moral evaluation of homosexual conduct, and offered no compelling biblical or theological reasons to support the policies it later in fact adopted. The Statement was firm and bold on issues that everyone agreed upon—the moral condemnation of promiscuity, pornography, sexual exploitation, etc.—but indecisive and vague about contested issues — co-habitation, premarital sex, the importance of the nuclear family, and, of course, homosexual conduct.

Right before the vote on the Social Statement a totally unexpected tornado hit the Minneapolis Conference Center where we were meeting as well as the huge Central Lutheran Church next door, knocking the cross off one of its towers. Orthodox voting members saw the work of God in the tornado's cross-toppling effects and in the vote that passed with a .666 majority. Revisionists noted that the sun came out after the vote. In response the orthodox quipped that the sun comes out almost every day, but rogue tornados are pretty rare! Those in the orthodox camp warned the assembly not to vote on binding church doctrine, especially if it had no convincing biblical or theological arguments to overturn the moral consensus of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church held throughout the ages and by 99 percent of the world's Christians. Such action would identify the ELCA with a rapidly declining liberal Protestantism while departing from orthodox teaching and practice. Strong arguments against the Social Statement and policy recommendations were made by pastors and laypersons—bishops were for the most part silent—to no avail. The church left the Great Tradition of moral teaching to identify with the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church.

How did this come to be? On the one hand, the fact that the largest American Lutheran church body had become the first confessional church to accept homosexual conduct was a traumatic shock to many. There was much anger and anguish. On the other hand, the decision was not at all unexpected by those of us who have fought against the underlying currents operating in the ELCA from its very inception. The fight has been long yet predictable. Liberal Protestantism was the ELCA's destination. Indeed, its presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, is fast becoming the charismatic leader of liberal Protestantism. "There is nothing but the social gospel," shouted a voting member at the assembly. But that is certainly not Lutheran doctrine. The various programs of social change taken to heart by the church are human works in God's left-hand reign, having to do with the Law, not the gospel. Rather, the real gospel is clear: the grace of God in Jesus Christ is offered to repentant sinners condemned by the Law and then called to amendment of life by the Spirit. Liberating efforts in the realm of social and political change are possibly effects of the gospel, but certainly not the gospel itself.

But the ELCA has accepted the social gospel as its working theology, even though its constitution has a marvelous statement of the classic gospel. The liberating movements fueled by militant feminism, multiculturalism, anti-racism, anti-heterosexism, anti-imperialism, and now ecologism have been moved to the center while the classic gospel and its missional imperatives have been pushed to the periphery. The policies issuing from these liberationist themes are non-negotiable in the ELCA, which is compelling evidence that they are at the center. No one can dislodge the ELCA's commitment to purge all masculine language about God from its speech and worship, to demur on the biblically normative status of the nuclear family, to refuse to put limits on abortion in its internal policies or to advocate publicly for pro-life policies, to press for left-wing public domestic and foreign policy, to replace evangelism abroad with dialog, to commit to "full inclusion" of gays and lesbians at the expense of church unity, and to buy in fully to the movement against global warming. Though it is dogmatic on these issues, it is confused about something as important as the assessment of homosexual conduct. Yet, it acts anyway because of the pressure exerted by those who want to liberate church and society from heterosexism. But how did the liberal Protestant agenda replace the Christian core? There are many reasons, a good number that many American evangelicals share with Lutherans: a culture moving quickly toward permissive morality; the self-esteem movement leading to cheap grace; lay individualism combined with apathy toward Christian teaching; an obliviousness to church tradition and to the voice of the world church; and, above all, the loss of an authentic principle of authority in the church. This last item I will address in more detail later.

 

From www.desiringgod.com: I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.” It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote: “On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected...a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis. The tornado happens on a Wednesday...during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose. According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: ‘Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.’ The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.”

The eyewitness of the damage continues: “This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown. The time: 2PM. The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two...and then lifts.”

Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant. 1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith. Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados. Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)

5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment. Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)

6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

 

Christianity Today Magazine: Most reports from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) assembly today attempt to tie together the denomination's vote to adopt a sexuality statement and the tornado strike on the Minneapolis Convention Center where the Lutherans were meeting. (No one was injured.) "We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work," said Steven Loy, chairman of the committee overseeing the statement.

But WordAlone, a renewal group within the ELCA, reported that both sides sought to find commentary in the weather: "A supporter of the social statement typified the storm as a mighty wind of the Holy Spirit and as a positive message. Some WordAlone Network members heard a different message, a warning of God's anger at the ELCA in the wind." John Piper, whose Baptist church is just down the road from the convention center, thought the storm was a message as well. "The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction."

Hours later, delegates voted on the sexuality statement, which needed 2/3 approval. It passed by exactly that margin: 676-338. One or two votes could have changed the outcome. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes that the vote came near dinnertime and some delegates had already started to leave. Twenty-nine of the 1,045 registered voters did not vote on the statement. (Any who opposed the sexuality statement are almost certainly kicking themselves this morning and are probably not telling their friends about it…)

The headlines are both dramatic and careful: "Lutherans move toward more open view on gays" (Associated Press), "ELCA validates 'chaste' same-sex relationships" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune). The heart of the matter is buried in the footnotes. "The difference between interpreters should not be understood as a conflict between those who seek to be 'true to Scripture' and those who seek to 'twist the Bible' to their own liking. The disagreements are genuine," the document says. It continues: When the clear word of God's saving action by grace through faith is at stake, Christian conscience becomes as adamant as Paul, who opposed those who insisted upon circumcision. … However, when the question is about morality or church practice, the Pauline and Lutheran witness is less adamant and believes we may be called to respect the bound conscience of the neighbor. That is, if salvation is not at stake in a particular question, Christians are free to give priority to the neighbor's well-being and will protect the conscience of the neighbor who may well view the same question in such a way as to affect faith itself. For example, Paul was confident that Christian freedom meant the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not at stake in questions of meat sacrificed to idols or the rituals of holy days. Yet he insisted that, if a brother or sister did not understand this freedom and saw eating this meat as idolatry to a pagan god, the Christian was obligated to "walk in love" by eating just vegetables for the neighbor's sake! The problem is that the statement focuses on conscience where it should focus on God's commandments in the moral ordering of the Christian life, three dissenting members of the ELCA task force on sexuality said earlier this year: By focusing on trust, freedom, and love of neighbor, the social statement … strains forward to see what God might be doing anew within the community of faith, particularly in regards to conduct of persons who are homosexual, rather than building on the foundation depicted in the creation accounts of Genesis. The concept of freedom of the Christian, while helpful in our understanding of salvation by faith alone, cannot be the justification for a lifestyle and behavior contrary to the biblical witness and the moral tradition. … By centering on justification by faith, the social statement minimizes the role of the Law in Christian life, contrary to Luther's exposition of the Christian life in the catechisms, and is at odds with the Lutheran Confessions.

Lutherans Concerned, the main LGBT advocacy group within the denomination, hailed the vote as a victory: “There is still much work to do, but the door to full inclusion of LGBT members and their families is now most definitely open." Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) decried the document: "We mourn the decision by the Churchwide Assembly to reject the clear teaching of the Bible that God's intention for marriage is the relationship of one man and one woman. It is tragic that such a large number of ELCA members were willing to overturn the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been believed and confessed by Christians for nearly 2,000 years."

Jaynan Clark, WordAlone's president, was blunt: "It is appropriate that we call this a 'social' statement for we have just swapped society's statements and trends for God's Word and teaching." Still, the bigger battle is probably still to come: On Friday, the gathering will consider a change that would allow churches to call pastors and other church leaders "in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." (Update: On Friday, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to allow "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.")

 

A freak tornado that knocks off the cross from a church tower at a critical juncture – decision-making time – for the Christians of that church could be a miracle sign from God. It is not as unambiguous as gold dust but it is also Biblical – Ezekiel 13:13: “ . this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury.” Cf. Joel 2:11; Isaiah 11:15; 29:6.

There is judgement coming and – therefore – there is an urgency to our message. None of us know when we will die. Are you ready to meet Jesus the Judge? Now – how should we communicate this urgency with people? How are we to warn people with many words? [Abbreviate and retell the following testimony in your own words.]

 

Nicky Cruz: One Holy Fire, Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press 2003: p116-117: “ … I was speaking at one of the largest churches in the Bronx, and the place was completely packed. I had prepared a lesson that was sure to get their attention. I preached against every sin I could think of. I slammed men for having long hair and unkempt beards, and for wearing torn jeans and long beads around their necks. I spoke out against women who wore short skirts and tube tops and heavy makeup and expensive jewelry. I left no stone unturned. By the time my tirade was over, I was sure that I had offended every person in the auditorium.

After thoroughly berating the crowd, I decided to use the last few minutes of my sermon to share my testimony. I found it hard to concentrate, because a lot of people were getting up and walking out, but I continued nonetheless. I was sure God was pleased with my boldness. People need to hear the truth, I thought to myself, even if they don’t like it. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the people who were leaving were the ones who most needed Jesus. They were the sinners Jesus had sent me there to reach.

I had a surprisingly small response to the altar call that day, but I didn’t worry about it too much. I prayed with the people who came forward, then went to my car, pretty proud of myself for the hard-hitting lesson I had delivered.

During the drive home I remember being completely happy and content with my performance. I was singing along with the radio and thanking God for the people who had come forward for prayer. I was looking forward to my next sermon, wondering if there was any sin I had forgotten to expose. Then suddenly, just as I reached the Brooklyn Bridge, the Holy Spirit hit me with a powerful wave of conviction and guilt. It seemed to come out of nowhere. One minute I was blissful and pleased, thrilled with myself, and the next I was in complete horror at what I had done. It hit me like a brick. What was I doing? I thought to myself. How could I have been so cold and callous? That’s not what I was called to do.

In my heart I could hear God saying to me, ‘Shame on you, Nicky. This isn’t what I saved you for. You’ve wounded a lot of people tonight. I didn’t call you to condemn people; I called you to tell them I can save them, like I saved you. You would never have come to me if David Wilkerson had spoken to you the way you spoke to those people tonight. You came because he loved you and because I loved you. From now on I want you to preach me, and me alone. Tell people how much I love them. Tell them about my son, Jesus.’

I was ashamed. I began to pray aloud: ‘Dear Jesus, please forgive me. I will never speak like that again. Never will I condemn people for their sins. From now on I will only talk about you and your love.’ …”

 

One day Jesus will judge the living and the dead – this is a most serious fact (according to the Bible) – but Jesus wants to save people with love – not harsh condemnation before the time has come. Jesus himself said – John 3:17-18: “For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world through him …” For instance, when Jesus made contact with a dishonest man (Zacchaeus), he did not berate him but singled him out with love – stopped at the sycamore-fig tree which he had climbed up to see Jesus passing by. Jesus stopped and called him by name and then honoured him by coming to his house for a meal (others grumbled about this). After so much love Zacchaeus resolved to pay pack his dishonest gain which prompted Jesus to say to him: “Today salvation has come to this house … ” (Luke 19:9) and then Jesus summed up the purpose of his entire work: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Jesus wooed people with love – reaching out to the poor, healing the sick, performing miracles, providing food, preaching the real God and lots more. This was not yet the time to judge anyone. Even when Jesus was dying on a cross – with people mocking him – he did not let his pain fuel any vengeful rage but he prayed – Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing[Judgement belongs to God alone. James 4:12: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbour?” 1 Corinthians 4:5: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes … ”]

It is love that is to save people from judgement – not “fire and brimstone” scare tactics – because God is love. Furthermore, the message of salvation is a message of love because salvation is available as a free gift from God. I continue a previous Bible reading – Ephesians 2:3-10: “ … we were by nature objects of God’s wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved … it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast … ” None of our own works and good behaviour will save us but if we trust in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us on the cross, then we receive forgiveness and a judgement which declares us righteous (on account of Jesus’ holy blood which was spilled for us). Thus, I continue another previous Bible reading – John 3:17-18: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 5:22-30: “ … I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life … ” This is good news from a God that loves us.

What is more, those that believe in Jesus now will not face judgement like unrepentant sinners. A more accurate translation of the previous Bible reading says – John 5:22-30: “ … I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come into judgement; but he has crossed over from death to life … ” The verdict on our life has already happened. We are saved. However, then there is still a judgement which some call “job performance evaluation”. Our submission to Jesus will always result in works of obedience – prompted by the Holy Spirit and done in his power – and these works – all that we have done – will be judged in eternity. I read only one passage from the Bible – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: “ … each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any person builds on this foundation using god, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames

This is a big topic for another message but imagine that everything you do will be carefully scrutinized in eternity and will determine whether you will be rewarded in heaven (we will not all be the same in heaven – some have higher rewards than others) or suffer loss. [Cf. Matthew 6:1: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before people, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”]

In closing, I sum up some of the main points of this message: 1. Unless there is submission to Jesus, there is no escape from the wrath of God. 2. When he returns and this world comes to an end, Jesus will judge all people – the living and the dead. 3. Even before Jesus executes the final judgement, we are already living in judgement. We are cursed with death. 4. The cross is judgement on our sin which Jesus bore in his body. 5. Miracles confirm the preaching and call us to repentance. 6. The warning about judgement day comes with love – not condemnation. 7. Christians face a future judgement where their works determine their rewards in heaven.

All of this is true. Therefore – with what God is doing among us right now – can we tap into the urgency and seriousness of our task? Can we do the same as the first preacher after Jesus had returned to heaven  – Acts 2:40: “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ … ” Judgement is coming and Jesus will be the Judge. Save yourselves and others. Amen.

 



[1] According to Terry Watkins at Dial-the-Truth Ministries: There are over 162 references on the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which warn of Hell. Over 70 of these references are attributed to Jesus. According to the gospels, Jesus spoke more on Hell than any other subject.