Welcome to Episode 01 of Life Beyond Church. Today I talk about The Roots of our Identity In Christ and how understanding Him unlocks our ability to understand ourselves.
Welcome to Episode 01 of Life Beyond Church. Today I talk about The Roots of our Identity In Christ and how understanding Him unlocks our ability to understand ourselves.
Right now you need a revelation that Jesus is just as alive today as He was during His ministry in Judea. Often, we tend to separate the two stages of Jesus’s life (divine and Son of Man), we see them as two different books on our shelves. One speaks of who Jesus was for those three and a half years, and the second one about what Jesus could be like one day.
We look at Jesus as the lamb of sacrifice, or the humble servant during the time of His ministry and assume that nothing has changed. But what does Jesus actually look like now in terms of his nature, power, authority and existence? Then we have the second question of how do we engage and relate to Him today?
First we must go beyond just reading or hearing the words from the Gospels and Paul, because unless these words become a revelation they will pass away from our minds and never reach our heart. Paul says emphatically in Romans 10:9-10 that we are to “believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth” who Jesus is.
We must go beyond simply hearing and understanding and arrive at a place where we become fully aware that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world. We must come to a place where we know and believe, then we find ourselves in a place where Jesus Himself confirms who He is to us in our spirit through the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 1:11-12 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. NKJV
Galatians 1:11-12 11 For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was proclaimed and made known by me is not man’s gospel [a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but [it came to me] through a [direct] revelation [given] by Jesus Christ (the Messiah). AMPC
Not all of us get to have an experience like Paul did on the road to Damascus, but through the indwelling and communion of the Holy Spirit we can become just as aware of His presence, character and identity right now. Even if we did have an experience like that it does not excuse us from holding on in faith to who Jesus is right now despite what may be happening around us. Paul’s experience did not preclude him from persecution but it did give him faith to continue believing and preaching.
Paul’s ministry was birthed out of a revelation that Jesus is alive, right here and right now. Jesus was not just a story some drunk fisherman came up with, but was alive and beyond the confines of death. Paul saw Jesus and that encounter produced an awakening in his heart to follow Him no matter the cost. Many thousands of people saw Jesus during those thirty years He walked around the earth but only a couple of hundred had a revelation of who He was before Pentecost. That is the tipping point in our hearts, it is one thing for me to say that “I acknowledge Jesus existed” and it is an entirely different thing for me to believe that He exists right now!
All of this is based in the victory Jesus reaped from the cross, a victory which defied the wisdom of men and brought about His eternal plan to redeem those created in His image. Jesus through his death and resurrection has become our high priest, our covenant brother and finally our King (more next week). How we view each aspect of Christ will determine not only how we answer the Two Questions I asked last week of “who is Jesus” and “what shall I do with him”.
How we understand Jesus also determines how we will live out our own lives.Our faith and belief shapes our identity and what we worship and follow will decide whether we rely on our own personal strength or on Jesus’s power and wisdom which is rooted in His eternal existence. Whichever power we choose to live by in this world will reflect back to the unsaved world around us. Those outside of the church look to us to see if what we claim to believe is true and they gauge that according to how they see us live, act, believe, speak and focus our time on.
A true witness for Christ does not come from regular church attendance, it comes from a life that reflects the reality of His existence, not just in the past but right now. A true witness for Christ is rooted in demonstrating that Jesus is real, Jesus is alive, and Jesus is King.
The first way we encounter Jesus is through the His duties as our high priest. The high priests of the Old Testament were responsible for taking the offerings and sacrifices of the people and presenting them before God. These gifts were given to honor God and in the hope of continued blessing and a substitution for the penalty of sin on their lives. The highest honor for one of these Levitical high priests before the Babylonian exile was to be able to enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Here on this annual festival the high priesst would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice endued with the nations sins upon the Ark of the Covenant.
Interestingly the top of the ark was referred to as the mercy seat, which represented redemption along with God’s throne. Those priests stood before the LORD to offer sacrifice then immediately left the room, however when Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice in teh Heavenly Holy of Holies He was able to sit down and remain (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus was not just another adherent to the order of Levi/Aaron, His is a more ancient order one that traces back to before the covenant of Moses was ever cut. The writer of Hebrews compares Jesus to Melchezedek (king of righteousness) the King of Salem (king of peace). This is seen as a higher order beyond the capabilities and responsibilities of the priesthood of Aaron. For a more detailed account of Jesus as our high priest we can turn to Hebrews 10:1-18. In this section we see that the sacrifices of old were only temporary, like plastering over holes in drywall but when Jesus came He metaphorically tore down the house and rebuilt it.
The old system under the natural high priests were only a band-aid solution to sin, it provided a stop-gap remedy until the true healing of the heart could come. The Old Testament system would take a person who figuratively lost a limb and stitch up the stump and provide a crutch to continue on, but Jesus came to restore and replace that lost limb. From the beginning God had no desire for a crutch to be the answer for sin, He knew that the day was coming when the great Healer would come.
He would not just come for one generation, one nation, one people, or one city, no Jesus came so all nations and peoples could experience His forgiveness and restoration. A gift which exists not just because Jesus died so many years ago but because He lives right now and continues to be our high priest who restores us and cleanses us from sin and works to make our hearts look like His.
Through Jesus we have forgiveness, remission and annulment of sins. The wall of separation had been torn down, the veil of the temple had split and the Holy of Holies now lives in those who receive and believe in Christ.
Hebrews 9:15 [Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance — since a death has taken place which rescues and delivers and redeems them from the transgressions committed under the [old] first agreement. AMPC
God did not stop with redemption alone, when we accept Christ we go beyond merely just believing in what He did. No, rather we are adopted through Christ into the New Covenant. Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again, not of flesh but of spirit. This is what happens we when we are brought under the new covenant we are re-born spiritual and adopted as a child of God (1 John 3:1, Galatians 3:26-29).
We are born anew to a greater Father, our true father, we as sons/daughters of God become alive and awaken to a more abundant life (this goes beyond just prosperity). Yet at the same time through the cross we die to sin, to the curse and to the power of the enemy. Now being dead to these matters we are free from their judgments (Galatians 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 28:15).
In John 17:2 and Romans 10:10 we are assured that whoever believes and confesses in the name, authority and actions of Jesus will be saved. None of this is by our own works, but by the works already done by Jesus. We have simply been grafted like a vine (John 15:1-5) into His reward, and now we have access to God through Him. You could say that we have been added into Jesus’s rewards plan and have full access to it because of grace and our faith. Not only that but the Holy Spirit has access to come into us to lead us into our lives partnered with Jesus, so we can follow Him and He insures that our lives reflect His heart and nature.
1 John 2:1-2 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. NKJV
Galatians 2:20-21 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. NKJV
Jesus then is not just a far off God hiding in eternity but He is a living part of our lives, He is not just Supreme God but our brother and friend. He bridged the gap between us and the Father so we could have relationship with them. That is a key piece of covenant, to bring two people, families, tribes or nations together in a way which would be impossible otherwise.
We live our lives to try and please not just a divine judge but a loving father and faithful brother that is duty sworn to be there for us in our times of need. In return we turn away from our old sinful ways and demonstrate to others the great things that have happened in our lives since the day God entered it. In covenant what is God’s is now available for us and through grace Jesus takes the brokenness, vanity, and emptiness we bring to the table and exchanges it for healing, purpose and love.
But this is only half of the story next week we will take the next step in this journey of revelation and a look at Jesus as our King!
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 1: Our High Priest and Brother Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Your life is made up of a series of questions which have been answered by yourself and those around you. “Should I turn left or should I turn right?” “Do I work here or there?” “Can I see myself spending the rest of my life with this person?” “What is all of this really about?” Our journey of faith began with two questions, and at some point in our lives each one of us must answer two key and monumental questions.
1) Who is Jesus?
2) What will I do with Him?
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Jesus is some way shape or form. This denomination says one thing, that religion says another, TV and Movie writers have their own thoughts as well. What was Jesus like when He walked the earth and what is He like now? Is He the living Son of God or is He dust in some cave? These are questions we face in our own personal walk, and these are the questions posed by those we speak to about Jesus.
Many different people have tried to interpret Jesus in a way which justifies their own beliefs and actions.
Many different people have tried to interpret Him in a way which justifies their own beliefs and actions. It is like walking through a minefield trying to find the identity and character of Jesus Christ. Step in the wrong place and your faith could be crippled, avoid the traps and you find the truth. Some have painted Jesus as the plaid shirt wearing cool guy that’ll help you with your investments, others have painted Him as the vengeful hammer of God rooting out sin through judgment. We have images of Jesus as the desert hippie talking about “loving everybody man,” or the picture of the rabbi in a four piece suit and shiny shoes.
No matter what we have heard others say about Jesus we as individuals are still faced with these two ultimate questions. First we must as “Who is Jesus” that is to discover what is His character, nature, identity and the accuracy of the gospel account. Then after answering that question we must move on to asking “What will I do with Him” that is to say what is His purpose and destiny and what do I do with that knowledge.
How we answer these two questions will first determine if we even believe in Jesus, and secondly the answers will determine where we go with our faith.
How we answer these two questions will first determine if we even believe in Jesus, and secondly the answers will determine where we go with our faith. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God that died and rose for our sins our lives will reflect that truth. If we believe that Jesus was only a man and there is no God, again our lives will reflect that belief.
The Jesus we see in the gospels was no ordinary man, and I am not even talking about the miracles or claims to divinity yet. Jesus spoke with a power and authority which overwhelmed those who were self professed experts of God. Jesus the unknown carpenter from the backwoods of Israel stood toe to toe with the greatest theologians of His day and made them look like a bunch of house cats trying to figure out a laser pointer.
Jesus spoke words of authority but He also spoke of the scriptures as a living testimony to a living God. A God who was looking to restore that which was broken, the problem was that the people didn’t realize everything was broken. They couldn’t understand that the God they praised and spoke about, the God they praised for the miracles done during the life of Moses had come to them in bodily form and was speaking to them. Rather than recognizing the God they dedicated their lives to they were left bewildered and asked a question that would be repeated untold times throughout time.
John 8:23-30 “23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” 25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world. 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.” (NIV, emphasis added)
You see there are two main sets of “glasses” that people see Jesus through. Either as an unbeliever looking through the lenses of the world, or as a believer looking through the lenses of the Church. The majority of the Pharisees did not recognize Jesus because He did not match their expectations. They assumed that God would appear and move in a certain way and when God didn’t follow their script they were left outside of God’s true plan for the world. But this is only one example of how people outside of the New Covenant see Jesus.
The world in general and most religions see Jesus in really the same way, they recognize Him as an inspired speaker, who taught morality and love to the people. Let’s take a quick look now at how many people answer the first question of Who Is Jesus?
Average westerner – Jesus was a historical person, seen as a wise teacher who taught love and acceptance. Was not divine, was crucified but not resurrected. His followers embellished His life to form a new religion outside of Judaism and crafted stories to deceive people into believing their failed prophet.
Gnosticism – Jesus came to provide the secret knowledge which was necessary for salvation. Jesus was a natural man who became possessed and empowered by God at baptism. Oneness with God may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and diligently searching for wisdom by helping others. (See the Nicolaitans in Revelation 2:6, 15)
Islam– Jesus (Isa) was one of Allah’s greatest prophets. He was born of a virgin birth, but was not divine, not the son of God, and was not crucified. His gospel was an original book written by God and is not the record written by the apostles we have in the New Testament. Jesus will eventually return to rid the world of evil in the last day.
Judaism – Jesus was not the Messiah because He neither fulfilled the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh nor embodied the personal qualifications of the Messiah. Jesus is Believed to be a “stumbling block” who makes “the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the Lord”.
Buddhism – Jesus was “an enlightened man”, and “not far from Buddhahood”. There is no creator God. Atonement and grace are rejected because no deity can interfere with Karma.
Scientology – Jesus is classified as below the level of Operating Thetan, and a “shade above” the condition of “Clear”. Scientology’s upper-level materials tout the concept of “Jesus as God” as being an implant and a fiction that ought to be removed by ‘auditing'”.
Sikhism – Sikhs also believe in one God, like Christians. However there is no heaven/hell in the Sikh religion. Jesus had a natural birth and had physical human form, therefore, Sikhism instructs that Jesus cannot be God since God does not take birth and nor does He die. Sikhs however do not discount that Jesus is a prophet and like Sikh Gurus may be one with God. Jesus wants us to worship God, not himself. Jesus is one of the most respected and valued spiritual beings in the history of mankind. He gave up his life in order to stand up for the truth and remain strong in his belief and teachings of God.
Hinduism – Jesus was one of the incarnations (avatars) of God. Most Hindus believe that God, specifically Vishnu, took on human or animal forms at various times in order to perform certain feats that would preserve true Hindu teaching (the dharma). In this context, then, it has been argued that Jesus, along with Rama, Krishna, and others, was just another one of the divine self-embodiments.
Mormons – Jesus was a man in the flesh along with God (who is technically Adam), both died and ascended. There is no original sin, no Holy Spirit, and Lucifer was Jesus’ brother. Place in heaven is dependent on works and they believe they can be proxy-baptized on behalf of the dead. Then one day at the end of the age Jesus will rule the ten tribes of Israel upon His throne in Missouri.
The answer to the question that most of these beliefs have in common is that Jesus is not God, but a natural man who was either inspired, or was used as and instrument by the true god of that faith (2 Corinthians 4:4). That is what separates Christians from all of these other beliefs, they are the ones who answer the first questions by saying Jesus is the living Son of God.
What also unifies all of these beliefs is that they can exist without their founders being alive. Unlike Christianity because the fact that Jesus is alive is the cornerstone of our faith. If Jesus wasn’t resurrected from the dead then we are wasting our time (1 Corinthians 15:17). But since He was raised up our belief is rooted in that act. Other beliefs rely on what someone said long ago, but our faith relies on who Christ is right now.
When it comes to the second question of What Will We Do With Jesus our inspiration comes from the lives of those who originally followed Him. Nathaniel when he was called declared Jesus to be the Son of God (John 1:46-50), he answered the second question by proclaiming Jesus as the King of Israel. Later Peter in Caesarea Philippi was asked the question by Jesus as to who Peter thought He was. Peter in Matthew 16:13-16 responded by saying Jesus was the “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Even the apostle Paul faced this question headfirst when He was on the road to Damascus, in Acts 22:6-10 Saul/Paul asks who the person before Him was and the answer was “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” From that point on Paul dedicated his life to brining Jews and Gentiles face to face with these two questions just at he had been.
Once we go beyond the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of kings things begin to get a bit contentious among Christians. we all believe in the same Lord but over time different groups have emphasized certain aspects of Christ’s character overothers. Different groups have focused on various parts of Jesus’s life and nature to fit their own doctrines, beliefs and contemporary politics. Some groups have been founded in opposition to other groups, some in acts of rebellion and some in searches for the heart of God. Despite how they formed or how many denominations or affiliations there are, most believers generally place Jesus in one of the following three generalized arch-types.
1) A Stern, cold strict judge
2) A Caring loving emotional rebel
3) A Holy powerful divine example
The irony is that none of these 3 arch-types is correct, Jesus exhibited all three simultaneously. He was Stern to the Pharisees, Cold to the unbelieving, Strict in devotion to God, a Judge of the world and the enemy. Caring to the lost, Loving to the infirm, Emotional to the broken, a Rebel to the religious. Holy before the Father, Powerful against the devil, Divine in His heritage and an Example to all who would follow after Him.
God is big yet close, complex yet simple, holy yet approachable and the same is true of Jesus and the Holy Spirit which lives inside of us. God is bigger and smarter than us, when we stop and realize that is when we can finally humble ourselves and understand who Jesus was, is and forever will be.
Far too often churches or believers relate to only one aspect of Jesus and build their entire belief system and traditions around that one aspect often ignoring or rejecting the others.
Far too often churches or believers relate to only one aspect of Jesus and build their entire belief system and traditions around that one aspect often ignoring or rejecting the others. This is how many denominations and groups of Christians were founded, a person had a great revelation of a single aspect of Jesus and sought to make that one part the cornerstone of every believer. Not that the one revelation such as holiness, prayer, miracles, abundance are bad in themselves. Rather they can be good when taken in with the entire scope of what God is doing on the earth and withe Jesus’s nature..
We do the same thing with Jesus and while that one certain highlighted aspect may be good it can only carry you so far. This is where people and groups run into trouble, they take one aspect of Christ and expect it to answer all their questions. When it doesn’t answer a question, they make up an answer “in the spirit” of their view of Jesus. All the while the answer is still found in Jesus, but in an aspect they have forgotten or ignored. This is how most of the false doctrines in the church has been born, in the rejection of the complete and complex identity of Jesus the ManLionLamb God.
In John 21:12 we often miss out on an important statement recorded by John, after the disciples returned to Galilee they went fishing. One day Jesus came to them on the shore and called out for them to cast their net on the opposite side, the same thing He had told peter three years earlier. Except this time no one asked the mysterious person on the beach “who are you,” they already knew who it was. They answered the two great questions in their heart and they knew it was Jesus, that is why Peter jumped into the water and raced towards the shore.
Now that leaves you with the two great questions which you must answer.
1) Who is Jesus (what is His person and identity)
2) What shall I do with Him (what is His purpose and destiny)
Perhaps it would be easier to answer some smaller questions first
-Is Jesus divine or just a regular guy who died long ago?
-If Jesus was just a guy who died long ago does his teachings have any bearing on your life?
-If Jesus is divine what are you going to do about that, will you continue living your life as you see fit or will you recognize Him as who He is and accept His offering of forgiveness and salvation (Romans 10:9-10)?
Now then “what should we do with Jesus? The answer to that question is really: whatever you want to do. Do you want a relationship with God? Or do want to run your own life? Do you want to reject Christ, or do you want to hide somewhere in the middle?” (taken from Understanding Who You Are, page 49) The way you answer these questions will leave you with a choice which will impact your life for not just your life but all of eternity. Either Jesus was an admired lunatic or He is who He claimed to be, there is no middle ground and now you are faced with these questions.
I encourage you to look deeply and answer these questions for yourself, your life depends on it and your future hangs in the balance.
Revelation 1:5-6 “5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
Two Questions That Determine Your Life Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
I head out to Chilliwack, British Columbia to pick up my new book Understanding Who You Are from the printers, join me and learn more.
At one point or another you’ve probably heard a Christian talk about God’s judgment falling on some person, place, organization, or even on yourself. Biblically it is the great equalizer that reminds us that one day we are all to stand before God for our celestial hearing (Revelation 20:11-15) before we either enter Heaven or eternal punishment. But this idea has been abused and misunderstood to the point that people inside and outside of the church have become numb to the concept of God’s judgment, or they even believe that it vanished after the cross.
What gets lost in our understanding of Scripture is that God is not just storing up all of His judgments for the last day like some vindictive squirrel, but He is watching and judging the world, the church and ourselves constantly. A fact that many people no longer accept thanks to overzealous doom and gloomers. In Micaiah’s encounter in 1 Kings 22 he shows us God’s judgments in action. Here the prophet witnesses God passing judgment on the kings of Israel and Judah by relaying a scene from the heavenly courtroom of the eternal King who made judgment against them, and sent out someone to enact it.
Far too often we become fatalistic with the concept of judgment when it comes to God but at the same time our everyday lives paint a different story. From what I can tell by the primetime TV schedule it seems that a lot of people have a love of reality TV shows featuring performers and Judges. I’m not exempt as even my wife and I watch America’s Got Talent. There the judges are an intricate part of the show as they act as coaches and gatekeepers of the talent.
Without them anyone could make it onto the show and the ones who are actually talented and could win may be blocked out by the sheer number of people. Without these judges it would better resemble the Gong Show than a talent competition. The judges are there in that show to (for the most part) separate those who are talented from those who just think they are. That is the first judgment, the second judgment comes when trying to encourage those who have talent to improve themselves so they can survive in such a competitive arena.
At times in these shows they will mock and ridicule the contestants but in the finale you always see the ones who took their criticisms seriously and consistently bettered themselves and their craft throughout the process. It was less of a process of condemnation and expulsion and more of a refining process which was brought about through the challenges set before them.
Perhaps this is how we should be looking at God’s judgment in our own lives. Going forward I want to you only look at yourself and your own situation. Don’t think about how so and so needs to read this, or I wish _______ would get a hold of this. No, first of all you must apply this to yourself rather than running out as some sort of Divine Justice Warrior imposing your pet peeves upon others and calling it holiness.
Facing judgment while we are part of this world should be seen as process of refinement and not condemnation. How we respond to God’s judgments and critiques of our life today will determine our final judgment. It is like someone staring at their phone while walking, they keep their heads down and keep scrolling but with each step they get closer to the edge of a pier. People may try to yell at the person to “watch where they are going” or God could speak to their heart and say “look up” or even “look up, or else!”
If the person doesn’t look up they’ll eventually fall off of the pier and might even blame God or others for what happened. This is how God’s continual judgments of our lives work, we set upon a course that could lead in destruction, ruin, pain, frustration or vanity and He tries to correct us before we plummet down our own proverbial pier (whether you land on the ground or in the water varies). God has a higher perspective than we do and uses that vantage point to judge, correct, direct and counsel us.
At the same time God is not just looking to provide course corrections but He is looking to correct the issues in our heart as well. The personal excuses we come up with for different behaviors or even the ideas of “that’s good enough” does not equal a job “well done” in the eyes of Jesus. God through Jesus uses His judgment which comes from a place of love and mercy to refine us as individuals into the image and shape of Jesus (working this process through a church is usually done in conjunction with the five-fold ministry).
We see this process of judgment and refinement in action with Jesus’s words to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three. Here Jesus tells these groups of believers the good, the bad and the ugly of how He sees them operate. Jesus was not quick to condemn but spoke out in immediate judgment so that they would be spared future judgment and condemnation. Here Jesus was speaking out of love to preserve these parts of His body, He wasn’t looking for an excuse to amputate them. Jesus was looking to restore them and to purge them of any evil influences and the barnacles of the world and its ways.
When we talk about the Judgment of God it is something so much higher and powerful than anything we could see on a reality TV show. It has to do with our eventual debriefing of our natural life on Earth. I’m not talking here about the judgment which separates those in Covenant with God from those outside of it. I want to talk about the second judgment which falls upon us who have received and follow Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11 “9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.” (NKJV)
John 5:22 and 9:39 paints for us a picture of how Jesus came into this world as not just at simple lamb but also as the eternal King and Judge of the universe. We see that God’s judgments flow through Jesus and that Jesus is testing the hearts of the people to see who will actually recognize and follow Him. From that point on those who do recognize and receive Jesus are not excused from any further judgment but rather begin to live a life filled with the encouragement, judgment and refinement of God to make us into what we were originally created to be.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 shows us how our lives which have been redeemed through Christ are no longer dictated by our own desires, but they are to be directed by Jesus. Given all that Jesus has done for us it is a very reasonable request. It would be no different that if a person was rescued from a nomadic lifestyle where they lived outdoors without shelter and was suddenly transported to the most expensive penthouse in Vancouver. They would have to undergo a process of change and adaptation to match their new living environment. The nomad couldn’t set rabbit traps by the bus stop, go to the bathroom in a hole he dug in the boulevard, have a campfire in the living room and so on. The same picture can be applied to a day care worker, they could not get away with acting like a four-year-old for eight hours a day and keep their job. They are working among the children, but they are not acting like a child while they are working.
We must understand that Heaven is not the absence of consequences, it is the ultimate consequence and what we do here and now lives forever there. This is what is meant by a heavenly debriefing that we are to give account for what we did in this world, and that includes given an account as to why we did not listen to God when He spoke to us about a great many things. It is one thing to say that you made an honest uninformed mistake it is another thing to say you willingly made a mistake even though you were warned that doing it was a mistake. I fear many people will be facing that judgment more than the former.
Eventually God will ask you the question “How did you live your life?” This begs us to ask ourselves right now questions such as: “How have I contributed to the work of the Great Commission?” “Have I been forgiving and loving?” “Am I a living witness of Christ to others?” “What have I done to build and strengthen the kingdom?” “Am I a benefit or a hinderance to the Holy Spirit’s work here on Earth?” “Do I tolerate habitually sin in my life?” “Am I judgmental, prideful or selfish?” “Do I obey God am I too busy to pay attention or follow through on what I heard?
To be able to answer these questions positively we each need to go through the process of sanctification, the process of God reforming us into Jesus’s image. When we become a believer in Jesus the Bible says that we are reborn, we are made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17-19), we have been changed from death to life, and so on. Accepting Jesus as who the Bible says He is comes at a cost, a high cost – it costs you your life.
Much like how a caterpillar goes through the process of transformation from something that crawls around into something that can fly, so to have we been transformed by the cross and the resurrection. The process of sanctification can be seen as our battle to break out of the cocoon of grace God places us in after we receive Christ. It is that struggle to once and for all cast off the way our life used to look because once it has been shaken off you are able to fly.
By accepting God’s various judgments about our life, thoughts, actions and intentions we are being helped in our process of sanctification. In reality, by listening to God we are able to avoid greater judgment through our commitment to sanctification. This is why we have to continually ask God to refine ourselves and to point out what needs to change or improve in lives. The best place to look for advice on how to grow in sanctification and avoid judgment is to look at the life of Jesus. He is our example and the root of our identity, everything God tells us to do and think comes from how Jesus acts and thinks.
In the process of sanctification we need to continually look at the three areas I believe God is most concerned about judging and refining us in the most: our thought life, our interpersonal life, and our Kingdom life.
1) Our thought life has to do with everything that goes on inside of us, what we think, feel, desire, believe and so on. It the part of our lives which is hidden from others but not from God (Hebrews 4:12) and we are promised (Romans 2:16) that God will judge this inner life within us. This is the part of our being which Jesus said is the source of evil thoughts and actions (Matthew 15:19, Acts 8:22), and it is the battlefield of the “War Within Our Heart.”
Just because no one can see or hear our thoughts does not mean that we are not guilty of displeasing God. Jesus said that lust was equal with adultery and that hatred was equal with murder (Matthew 5:22, 28). This internal part of our life is where fear, pride, selfishness and unforgiveness dwell. However, when we allow God to judge us and lead us through the process of sanctification and Christlikeness those wicked traits are replaced by faith, hope, love, forgiveness and the rest of the “fruits of the spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26).
2) Our interpersonal life has to do with how we live and interact with our family, friends, coworkers, church members, strangers and so on. In these cases we are judged in how we treat others, how our thought life becomes a reality, what we value in people and whether or not we walk in love (I don’t mean as a push over but actually caring for people). Matthew 5:22 and James 5:9 speak warnings about how we are to conduct ourselves with others, in that we are to avoid hatred, judgmentalism and baseless complaining (Matthew 12:33-37). God will judge our actions according to our heart’s intentions (Romans 14:12-13). Even if we do a “good deed” for a person it will be disqualified if our intentions were not pure, such as helping someone today to take advantage of them tomorrow.
The lack of sanctification and welcoming of God’s judgment in our lives is what produces most of the strife and interpersonal issues in the church. Why would a person want to go to a church if they just see the people acting as cold, political, argumentative as the secular world? The issue is the many Christians are unwilling to allow the renewing of the Holy Spirit to happen in their hearts because they either believe the they don’t need to, they already know everything, or they use grace as an excuse to act however they please. Grace is not a crutch to excuse our old nature, it is a new leg for us to stand on (Revelation 21:7-8).
3) Our Kingdom life has to do with whether or not we did our part to contribute to the Great Commission. I’m not talking about everyone joining the ministry, but each individual has a responsibility to share the gospel, disciple other believers and to move in the spiritual gifts God has given to them. This is the parables of the Talents and Minas in action whereby God asks us what we have done with the gifts, talents, and opportunities He has given us to proclaim Christ and bring glory to Himself. Paul called us ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) not spectators, we are representatives of the King in a foreign land and it is our duty to share the culture and power of Heaven in this world. Our Kingdom life also must deal with matters such as worship, reading and studying the scriptures, prayer, intercession and other matters. God created us for relationship, and Jesus became a sacrifice to restore that relationship. Our Kingdom life is not just proclaiming the Gospel but it is also our living relationship with God. Everyday God is looking for us to spend time with Him as a loving Father and His judgments are not out of anger or malice but to help us in bringing others into the same relationship that we have.
All of this is a progression from what our heart thinks, to what our body does, then all the way up to how we will use those two facets of our being to proclaim the gospel, so others can be freed from eternal judgment.
What would happen if we took on a worldview that said everything is awesome and perfect all of the time and you never need to improve? What would your life look like? What would the church look like? This is a life without sanctification or the concern of judgment, it is what happens when we erase these parts of God’s nature and expectations of us.
Let me put it this way, this way of life is like a hockey coach who has accepted a philosophy that no one needs to improve because everyone is already the best version of themselves that they can be. As long as they can express themselves and their desire to play that is all that matters. The coach then goes about placing the intentions of the players above their physical performance, it’s the “as long as you tried” approach which allows people to avoid having to work and improve.
Now imagine if there was this mentality where you had a bunch of people who had never played hockey before and were allowed to think that they were the greatest and there was no reason to improve because they expressed the very best they thought they could do. Then somehow you place that team up against one from the NHL. What would happen? They would be crushed and defeated to the point where they would never want to play again.
This is a ridiculous example but it paints a picture of what it is like when we reject sanctification and God’s judgment on our lives. We never progress spiritually, and we end up like the congregation which the book of Hebrews was written to, one that was dependant on milk and unable to eat the spiritual meat of the Bible. We need to seriously take 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 to heart: “31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (NKJV)
For us as believers judgment does not have to be about condemnation or punishment but it can be about refinement and becoming more like Jesus so we can be a better witness in this world. However, when we ignore God there are consequences for rejecting His warnings of judgment and His calls for sanctification. We can see the consequences clearly throughout the New Testament in place such as 1 John 3:36, Acts 5:1-16, Acts 13:8-11, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 1 Timothy 1:20 and so on.
We need to lay hold of what Paul has said:
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 “9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
God does not bring to His children warning, correction or judgment for the sole purpose of hurting or condemning us, He does it so we avoid condemnation, the consequences of sin, the judgment of Himself and others. God does not want to bury us in depression but instead wants to set us free, but this only happens when we are willing to confront the issues God brings into the light. Repentance leads to sanctification and sanctification helps us avoid any negative judgment by God, and it strengthens our witness to this world.
Now what will you do? What has God been speaking to you that needs refinement? What do you need to change or improve? What will you do?
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Living Under Judgment and Loving It. Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.