God is the Judge of all the earth, even in a fallen world. But in a fallen world, until eternity gets on the other side of Revelation 20, I will guarantee the scales will be balanced perfectly and justly for every situation. But in this fallen world, there will be times where someone doing one thing appears to get only twenty dollars for what we can see now, and someone who does exactly the same thing will appear to get only one dollar. But we have an all-wise God who is doing – what? Producing perfect ends by perfect means to do – what? Help the most people for the longest possible time.
And since He is completely in control of all things actual and possible, He is going to sovereignly orchestrate that in His goodness to bless both of these men to accomplish His purposes for the world and individual purposes for their lives.
And He is the Judge and it is unequivocal. Hebrews 12:23 says, “To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God,” and how is God described? “the Judge of all men, to the spirit of righteous men made perfect.” II Timothy 4:8 says, “Now there is in store for me,” the apostle Paul says, “a crown of righteousness, which the Lord,” and who is the Lord described as? “the righteous Judge, will award me on that day – and not only me, but also those who have longed for His appearing.”
And then if you want to know the role of Jesus and judgment, John 5:22 and following says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.”
God reveals His justice in a fallen world through the natural order, the human heart, His role as Judge, and fourth, and profoundly yet again, at the cross. Romans 3:25 to 26, if you’ve got your pen, I want you to circle a few key words. “For God presented Him,” Jesus, “as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice.”
The problem of sin was atoned or covered for and God did that to demonstrate or make a picture or make a point about something. And that something is His justice. “Because in His forbearance, He left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He did it to demonstrate His justice,” circle that, “at the present time, so that He may be just and the One who justifies those who have put their faith in Christ.”
His justice, His justice, that He might be just and also the One who justifies. God is consistent in His character, so consistent in His character that the standard for access to Him, to be fair and to be just, what His holiness demanded, His love provided.
And what you need to understand is what the cross is is God’s justice in action. God did not wink at your sin and my sin and say, “You know what? Sin, there are actual consequences to this kind of behavior and thought that is unrighteous. This is sin – cause, this is effect.”
God didn’t say, “Oh, let’s just quit that rule for a while. Michael, Gabriel, I’m the God of the universe, I can change whatever I want. Let’s just say it’s okay.” No. God’s standard is even placed upon Himself and that is why the only solution for a relationship with a God that is one hundred percent holy is there needed to be a sacrifice that was one hundred percent holy.
And the reason that Jesus was fully God and fully man, it could only be the death of God that could pay the price but only man could die. And so born of a virgin, fully man, fully God, without confusion, the Messiah comes and when He hung upon the cross, He became your payment and my payment for sin, so that as I Peter 3:18 says, “God, once and for all,” – has done what? “He has drawn us to Himself, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”
And what He did is He, Christ, once died for sin. The just Christ for the unjust me and you, that He, Christ, might bring us to the Father. God’s justice is demonstrated at the cross. And that is why it’s about grace. That’s why the Christian life is not about performance. That’s why you cannot earn God’s favor. That’s why the justice of God allows you, when you understand it, to begin to deeply embrace and appreciate the love of God.
And what’s when the cross becomes not just some mental exercise of, Yes, Jesus died for my sins. What Jesus did was He absorbed the just wrath of God. Sin does what? Sin is like cancer. It destroys. It destroys relationships, it separates us from God, it makes people make terrible decisions and kids get abused and suicides happen, people get hooked on drugs. All this chaos in this fallen world, here is a holy, righteous God and He sees it and He knew it was the price tag of freedom but He hates it. He hates it!
And what He does is it makes Him angry. Anger is not a wrong or bad emotion. Wrath is a response to correct something. And so God took His just wrath. Have you ever seen a child abused? I have. I came as close to literally hitting a woman in a laundromat when I saw her pick up an eighteen month old and slam her into a dryer and the stick her up on that. I went over to that lady and I just said, “Ma’am, excuse me, I’m a pastor and this wouldn’t look good in the paper, but you touch that child again, so help me, I will knock your chin off your shoulders.”
It didn’t make a lot of good headlines for the new pastor in town. But you know what? I’ll tell you what, that’s called righteous anger.
If I, as a little tiny human being, can feel that way about one eighteen month old, how do you think God feels about all the sin that has infiltrated this planet and has caused all the heartache and all the suicides and all the broken relationships and all the diseases that have marred and caused this cancer to destroy the world that He made and the world that He loves and the people that He cares about?
The only solution for Him to be both just, to be holy and yet to be loving and good, was to have His Son, the perfect sacrifice, hang on that cross and as He hung on the cross, God the Father turned away and He took His wrath and poured it on Jesus and all the just wrath of God was placed on Him instead of you. The sin got paid for. And the Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. And you were justified.
And the response is, by faith, to receive that gift. But if you don’t get God’s justice, see, what we think is, we think God grades on the curve. We think He is like that teacher that, “Well, you know, no one did very well on this test and the highest grade was and eighty-eight, we’ll make that an A. And those of you that got a fifty-five, you get a C.” Here’s how God grades: If you get a hundred, it’s a pass. Ninety-nine point nine? It’s fail. His character demands it. And that is why I don’t care how many good deeds you do, how religious you are, how kind you are, how moral you are, you fall short of the glory of God.
And so that is why we need a Savior. I think we have a generation of people that don’t understand how lost we are. We think we are basically kind of good people. And we don’t understand the holiness of God, therefore, we don’t grasp the significance of the love of God and we don’t grasp at all that God, being just, had to deal with us in a way that would cost Him the life of His Son.
See, His justice, even in a fallen world, is revealed through the natural order, human hearts, His role as judge, through the cross, and then finally, through the promise of eternal retribution. Please turn in your Bibles to I Corinthians chapter 3. A very important passage. I Corinthians chapter 3.
The apostle Paul is talking to a group of people and there is division in the church and He is explaining to them how spiritual growth occurs. He is explained that his role is to plant, Apollos was one who watered, and he wants them to understand that only God causes the increase but there are genuine, real implications that there is going to be a future judgment for believers. Not a judgment for your sin, not a judgment of whether you will spend eternity with Christ or eternity apart from Christ. It will be a judgment for believers of how they have lived their lives.
And at the end of that judgment, at what is called Bema Seat, or the Judgment Seat of Christ, people will be rewarded for what they do in this life and others will suffer loss for what they did, or doing it for the wrong motives.
So notice, we pick it up in chapter 3, verse 10. “By the grace of God that He has given me, I have laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on the foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is.” Notice it’s his work, it’s not his salvation. It’s your work as a believer.
“Because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he built survives, he will receive a reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss and he himself will be saved but only as one escaping the flames.”
Here’s is all I want you to hear about God’s justice. There is coming a day that you will give an account and I will give an account. And I’m going to die or the Rapture is going to occur and I am going to be ushered into the presence of God. And not because of anything good I have done, I will, because of the substitutionary death and atonement of Jesus, my sins are forgiven, and because when I was eighteen years old in 1972 I, by faith, received that free gift. There is a judgment that occurred and the judgment was my sins would never be held against me, ever.
And I was justified, I was born again, the Spirit was placed in my life, and then from this point, I am living this life as a believer, and then I die, and I meet Christ and when I meet Christ, He is going to say, “Chip, I’ve got a few questions for you. I gave you x amount of time on the earth, I gave you these spiritual gifts, I gave you this ability to make this much money, I gave you these talents, these experiences. Now, I would like to do a little inventory. What did you do with what I gave you?
“And I will hold you accountable. You are My steward. It was not your time, it was My time entrusted to you. You were My steward. It was not your money, it wasn’t your house, it wasn’t your car. Those gifts? They are called gifts. I gave them to you, I entrusted this ministry gift to you. Now, Chip, we are going to have a little evaluation time. And if you used your time, your talent, and your treasure with the right motives, not to impress people, not to gain strokes, not to get people to like you or think better of you while you secretly had different motives, but to the degree you used your time, your talent, your treasure to honor Me during this life, I want you to know that I have some rewards that you will enjoy with Me forever and ever and ever.”
And those things that don’t quite measure up, you will have an experience of loss. And we don’t hear a lot of teaching on spiritual rewards, it’s very clear in Scripture. Remember what God’s justice is? Everyone gets exactly what they deserve. Do you think that people who have lived for Christ, have a passionate love for Him, and been a great steward of their gifts and their time and their talent and their treasure are going to have the same experience in heaven as those who didn’t? Absolutely not.
We think heaven is like a socialistic society. Absolutely not. There will be multiple levels of heaven. Now, we will all have no tears. But what you do with your life, I told you sobriety would be needed. What you do with your money, what you do with your gifts and your time will have an eternal impact on the quality.
Certain people, we’ll have levels of service, heaven is not floating on clouds and sipping iced tea. There is going to be a new heaven and a new earth and there are going to be real people and real life and real work and except what it is going to be is everything about this fallen earth is going to be gone. And we are going to have relationships and work and joy like we have never known.
But what you do and what it looks like will be determined by what you do now. The Bible is very clear on this.
And so we somehow think that we are trying to get this little ticket to get into heaven, I believe in Christ, as though that is the end of the game, instead of it’s the entrance ticket into a life of service and stewardship, and that this whole little thing called “time” is about like this and there is thing called “eternity.” Because Revelation chapter 21 starts here and forever and ever and ever the implications of what I do to steward my life will be played out for all eternity. That is serious stuff. That’s really serious stuff.
That ought to be one of the highest priority jerks, shakers, in your life. You talk about the fear of the Lord.
The second promise of eternal retribution is for unbelievers. Hebrews 9:27, “For it is appointed unto me and once to die, and after this, the judgment.” And it’s so often people are so afraid or, like, hell is a bad topic. Hell is not a bad topic to talk about. God so honors the dignity of people’s choices that He has created a place where those who don’t want to be around Him get the opportunity to not be around Him forever.
What is it in this thinking that thinks that somehow God is going to make everything, and Idi Amin and the Stalins of the world and the people that have murdered and abused and those, that somehow, everything just gets okay. Universalism, the justice in you, you got angry when I gave one guy, a Bible question, twenty bucks and you got upset when I only gave the other guy one. And, yet, people want to play these pseudo-intellectual games like, “Well, everyone somehow is going to be in heaven.” Yeah, you and Hitler just drinking iced tea, you know?
You know what Hitler is going to get? Exactly what he deserves. And you know what you’re going to get? Exactly what you deserve, unless you have a sin-substitute named Jesus who has placed His life as a substitute and received the just wrath of God for you, and by grace, you have been forgiven.
There are only two kind of people. I love C.S. Lewis. Two kind of people in all the world. One group of people say to God, “Thy will be done, I want to be with you forever.” And to another group of people, God says, “Thy will be done. You get your way forever and ever.”
And I don’t know where you’re at, I did not grow up in the Church. But if you have never received Jesus as your Savior, I want you to know that God is just. He is going to be fair. And if you don’t have a way to cover your sin, you will get exactly what you deserve and you will receive the just, full, you want fair, right? You want fair? God will give you fair.
But you don’t want fair when it comes to this. What you want and what you need is grace. And so I would encourage you, if you have never received the forgiveness and the work of Christ on your behalf, I would just turn me off mentally right now and in my mind’s eye say, Lord Jesus, I get it. I’ve never seen it this clearly. Will You forgive me right now? Will You come into my life?
And then I would tell someone, “You know what? I prayed to receive Christ. You know that little quiet time at the end? And I’m not sure what to do.” Let me encourage you to do that.
Let’s look at the application. We have covered it but let me give it to you in a little to-go package. Four specific things we do in light of the justice of God. Number one, choose to embrace Jesus today as your Savior, rather than meet Him as your righteous Judge later. Just choose to meet Him today. He will judge you, He will judge me. So meet Him as your Savior today, instead of your Judge later.
Second, refuse to take revenge when treated unjustly, knowing God and God alone is Judge. Just refuse to take revenge. See, life isn’t fair and you live in a fallen world and what you want to do is you want to be the judge. And my ex did this to me! And they did this at work and they did that at work! And this guy at church, I can’t believe he even calls himself a Christian! He makes me so crazy! So I am going to say really bad things about him over here.
Never pay back evil for evil. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. “Don’t take revenge, My beloved, leave room for the wrath of God. ‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord. ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. In so doing, you heap burning coals upon his head.’” It’s a picture in the Middle Eastern culture of someone who had repented.
And they would go through the village and they would take some rocks out of the coals and they would put it in the pan and put a towel and they would put it on their head and they would walk through the village and say, “How I used to think has been burned out of my mind, that I was wrong in the way I was living, and I want you to know I have changed.” It’s the kindness of God that leads people to repentance.
Well, how does God show kindness today? It’s when His children, His body treat people who are evil the way they don’t deserve. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, leave room for the wrath of God. Do not be overcome with evil, but” – what? “overcome evil with good.” That’s Romans 12:17 to 21. Don’t take your own revenge.
Third, is take comfort when you encounter injustice knowing God will balance the scales either in this life or the next. Psalm 73. For those of you that have had injustice in your life, those of you who are saying, You know, buddy, I have gotten such a raw deal, read Psalm 73. Asaph was just about ready to cash it in. He said, “I’ve been walking with You, I have been trying to be pure, and all I have got is heartache and I look at all these proud, arrogant people and, man, they have just got it made.”
And then he says, “Then I went into the temple of the Lord and God gave me perspective. And I realized that their life looks good now, and then like a rug, it can be pulled out from under them.” And then he would say, “My flesh and my heart may fail,” verse 25, “but You are the strength of my heart and You are my portion forever.”
In a fallen world where there is injustice, and it’s going to happen, you are going to get a bad deal in a fallen world. Run to Jesus. Just come to Him and say, “You know what? I am going to trust – all these anger fantasies, all these desires to pay people back, all this stuff inside my heart that hurts so bad, all these ways that keep me up at night, that cause that acid in my stomach to churn, all these times I find myself rehearsing and telling people on the phone how I have been hurt and what they did – stop it. Forgive them.
The word forgive literally means to loose. Loose them and say, God, I’ll tell You what. I’m a tiny, little judge trying to make this happen because it makes me feel better. But they seem like their life is really going pretty well and I am up in the middle of the night with these stomach cramps and anger fantasies. I am drinking Maalox three or four times a day, I’m taking all those new pills that get the stomach acid down, they’re not even working. I’ll tell you what, God, I’m going to do, I am going to forgive and loose them the same way You forgave me. And then I am going to step out of the way. You are the Judge, You judge them.
And You can do it in this life, or You can do it in the next life. I trust that You are a righteous, just Judge and You will do it. I am letting go of my internal demand that they get back what they deserve.
And you know who will be free? You will. See, that’s how God tells us how to deal with justice in a fallen world.
And finally, this is just a word of encouragement. Meditate deeply on the reality of the Judgment Seat of Christ and the promise of spiritual rewards. Are you ready for this? What would be your spiritual P&L statement? You know? Profits and losses. Just go through and say, My devotion; my heart for God; my money, that’s what it reflects; my time, that’s what it reflects; spiritual gifts in ministry, that’s what it reflects; attitudes.
And just go through and do a little P&L and say, If I was going to get rewarded or suffer loss, today, what would it look like? And then probably get a little journal out or a sheet of paper and say, What midcourse changes to I need to make so that when I meet Jesus at the Judgment Seat, it’ll be a lot happier occasion, right? He is good, He is holy, He is just. Life isn’t fair, but God is.