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About this series
The Real God
How He Longs for You to See Him
There is a deep sense of unease in our rapidly changing world. Popular culture says that love means self-satisfaction and that status and appearance are what count. Social media reinforces that It’s all about me. This ultimately self-destructive perspective has thoroughly infiltrated the Church as confusion replaces conviction. At the root of our problems lies a distorted view of God. We’ve created a god in our minds that comforts our emotions but is powerless to deliver us from evil or transform our lives – because our creation is actually an idol based on who we think God is, not who He says He is. The way back to truth and hope starts with knowing God as He declares Himself to be. The Real God is an in-depth study of seven attributes of God – His goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness. You’ll see and understand Him in a whole new light. It will revolutionize the way you think about God, others, and yourself. Are you ready for a new adventure? Join Chip on this journey to discover the real God.More from this series
If this message were in a little wrapper, and it was the justice of God, there would be a little sticker in the corner and the little sticker would be in that bright yellow and it would say, “Warning! This message may be hazardous to your health.”
We have talked about many of the attributes of God, but the one that we will talk about on this time together requires us to think at a level of clarity that is uncommon for most of us and it requires us to have a sense of sobriety, of seriousness. A sense of what is at stake if we are going to really hear from God.
And so, I would encourage you that even as we get started that you pray and say, Lord, I am a human being, and like all human beings, I have practiced and become very good at denial. I have learned how to fool myself, I have learned how to fool other people, I have learned to play all kinds of games, but I need You to take the spiritual wax out of my ears, to take any callouses that are on my heart, I need You to help me hear, clearly, and to see accurately. Okay?
There are two questions that I find disturb believers and unbelievers alike. I can go to a mall, I can go to a park, I can go to a church, I can talk with Christian leaders, I can talk to absolute pagans and I can tell you there are two questions that they struggle with, we struggle with, and everyone struggles with.
Question number one is: Why do bad things happen to good people? Six days after the tsunami hit, I was at a beach where a hundred and sixty people were out for a daily walk on Sunday morning and they heard an interesting sound, had no idea what it was, and a huge wave comes in, sweeps them off the beach, takes them out, and they are gone.
I walked around the corner and I saw a big shipping area, not like those little fishing boats but big fishing boats that were the livelihood of this village of a few hundred thousand people. And I saw huge ships just tilted like this.
How does a good God let tsunamis hit and kill tens of thousands of people? How does a good God let a 9/11 terrorist attack occur where innocent people, some guy kissed his wife and said, “Honey, I’ll see you later, I’ve got a business trip,” and gets on a plane from Pittsburgh and it ends up decimated in the ground.
Or some gal puts on her makeup and goes up to about the sixty-second floor and she’s just there early doing her work and all of a sudden, she hears all kinds of sirens go off and a plane has hit the building. And she scurries downstairs that are crowded and packed with screaming people and her family really doesn’t know whether she made it out or not. All they know is there are no remains and they ask, “Why?”
A thirty-nine year-old guy, a friend of mine that I know, great health, good shape, took care of himself, three kids, massive heart attack. Why?
One of the hardest things my son faced, he had a young man that grew up in our church who was unbelievably musically talented. Literally, I have never seen anyone where, he just played around and pretty soon he could play the piano. He didn’t take any lessons and he watched someone else and he picked up a mandolin and then he played the guitar and then he saw someone else playing something else and he could just sit down and God gave him these amazing songs.
And he and my son would make this music in my garage and then travel all over the country and do their thing. And John was always skinny and we would really kid him and give him a hard time. He was thin as in all the jokes, “John turned sideways and he disappears.” And he always had a little bit of a stomach problem and no one thought much of it.
But I remember the day I got a call and they finally found out what was wrong and John was twenty-five years old and he had cancer. And nine months later I remember sitting around his bed and one of the worship leaders in our church was with a guitar singing and his mom and his dad and myself and my son.
And we sat around and we prayed as we watched the last parts of life ebb out of John. And I get in the car with my boy and he’s been raised in a Christian home, his dad is a pastor, it’s me.
And my son looks me in the eye and goes, “Dad, Dad, that guy has more musical ability in his little finger than I have in my whole body and he has already written songs that we are singing in our church and his passion was to do this for God. Dad, why?”
And you could tell me stories of the cancer that hit people that you love and the car wreck and the drunk driver. Everyone struggles with this question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
And there is a second question. In fact, I have more problems with this one. I do! My confession is: Why do good things happen to bad people? You look at the corporate excesses and you have people now, after years getting a little slap on the wrist, and executives who defrauded people of hundreds of millions of dollars going home with a little parachute of ten or twelve million dollars as they run out the back door and then they interview grandmothers who had their life savings in the company, who are absolutely broke, seventy-seven years old, have absolutely nothing, and they have zero and this guy that hoodwinked everybody walks out the back door with ten or twelve million dollars.
And I don’t know about you, I not only get angry, I’m thinking, Hey, God! Where is the justice here? All of us have been in a corporation or a job site or even in high school and you found someone that you knew they lied, they cheated on tests, they were anti-God, they were arrogant, they were the kind of the people that the word jerk was made for.
And it just seems like the blessing of God is on their life! It’s like they don’t have any struggles, they don’t have any problems, they get the pretty girlfriend, they get on the fast track, they have the nice home, they’ve got the nice car, and you’re going, Hello!
Why do good things happen to bad people? And these two questions, there is something underneath of them. See, underneath these two questions is a big issue. The real issue is life is not fair. Right? I mean, the problem with the, “Bad things happen to good people,” is that’s not fair! And the problem with, “Good things happen to bad people,” is that’s not fair. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to say, “Okay, life doesn’t seem very fair. Now, who created life?” God. And if God created life, then the real question is, is God fair? Is God just? Does He judge rightly?
People have a very, very, very difficult time – believers and unbelievers – but one of the things you have going for you is you have the best explanation to this problem, because you have what is called a biblical worldview. You don’t have some sort of wacky dualism of there is a good God and a bad God and they are in competition and there is the dark side of the Force and the white side of the Force and all this jazz of trying to figure out who is going to win.
Your biblical worldview definitely helps you understand. Because let me give you your biblical worldview. I want you to imagine, this is a timeline right here. Beginning right here is eternity past and there is an arrow and this arrow goes right to here for eternity future.
And what your worldview and what my worldview tells you is this, is that before time began, we have Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 2. We are right here. And God creates a perfect, fair, just environment where He loves His people that He has created. He gives them all the world, He says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” He has intimate communion with them, and it is a perfect paradise or environment.
And that is the first two chapters of human existence. Then there is a parenthesis. There is a parenthesis that started right here and in Genesis chapter 3 there is a coup, there is a rebellion, there is an entrance of sin into the world and with that comes a judgment. Sin is judged. Mankind is taken out of the garden. The Tree of Life is now guarded by cherubim so that this death or separation will not be permanent.
And what we have in the Bible and what we have in our experience, it’s called, “The fall,” you live in a fallen world. What we know is the world that we live in is not the world God intended. The world that we live in is a fallen world. We live in a world that has cancer. We live in a world that has a disease. We live in a world that does not reflect the goodness and the purity and the holiness of God!
But it was allowed by Him for reasons we talked about earlier. So in this parenthesis, the whole story of mankind’s history is Genesis chapter 3. You’re inside of a parentheses and you have the story of the Old and the New Testament and you get all the way in the entire rest of the Bible, all the way up to Revelation chapter 20, is God working with people in light of a fallen world, and His redemptive plan.
And at chapter 20, you have another judgment. And it’s called The Great White Throne Judgment, were God takes all the injustice and all the pain and all the bad things done to good people and all the good things done to bad people and He takes all the scales and He says a day will come when He will make everything right and He will judge all men of all time, according to their works.
And then the parentheses ends and we are in chapter 21, and there is a new heaven and there is a new earth and it’s a perfect environment and there is no pain and there are no tears and everything will be as it should be again.
But here is what you need to remember is that you live inside the parentheses. See, God is just, God is fair, but you live in a fallen world where His justice is not meted out in space-time history in a way that is corollary to what we think ought to be when it actually happens.
And so there are injustices. Life is not fair. If you haven’t figured that one out, life is not fair in a world where sin dominates. But it raises a very, very important question: How can we trust God in a world that is fallen?
How can you depend on a God where life doesn’t seem fair? How can we learn to think soberly and clearly about what it means inside the parentheses of Genesis 3 to Revelation 20? How do we live this life and worship God who is just in the midst of a fallen world? And that is what I want to talk about today.
Let’s begin by defining the justice of God. What do we mean when we say justice? The first preview I see in the Scriptures is with Abraham in Genesis 18, verse 25. You probably know the story.
Abraham is a man of God, he is called by God, God is going to make a great nation out of him. He and his nephew Lot have both grown in their livestock and so uh, Lot goes this direction and chooses this area because it looks good and Abraham continues where he was and God says, “Here’s all the promises I am going to fulfill,” and Lot ends up in Sodom and Gomorrah, right?
And it’s called Sodom and Gomorrah for a reason. And it is sinful and it is evil. And that iniquity rises up to God and so the Triune God determines that they are going to judge it. And He says, “Can I keep this from My servant, Abraham?” And as you know the story, what you find is that there is this very special meeting where God appears to Abraham and He lets him in on His plan.
And what you have in Genesis 18 verse 25 is He quickly does the math and remember the story? If there were fifty righteous, if there were forty-five righteous, if there were forty. And he literally negotiates with the God of heaven.
And the basis of his negotiation is verse 25. He says, “Far be it from You to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from You! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Now, remember, Abraham does not have the Old Testament written. He certainly doesn’t have the New Testament written. He has no written revelation. He has had experiences with God. God has spoken to him. But here is what he knows intrinsically about the character of God: He is fair! He is just!
And he is saying to Him, “Wait a second! I know You! I know what You are like. Okay, I know there is all this evil in this city but there is this pocket of people that I love. They are righteous! It would be unfair and unjust and wrong for You to kill the wicked with the righteous. And on the basis of Your just character, I am going to appeal to You.”
And then he goes through the negotiation until he gets it down to the number of people of Lot and his family and his life. But what I want you to hear is Abraham, even in a fallen world, appealed to God’s justice as the basis for dealing with the thing that was best on his heart.
Notice what it says in Psalm 97:2, it says, “Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” You could do a little study: Job 8:3, Job 40 verse 6, Psalm 11:7, Psalm 45:6, Isaiah 51:6, Isaiah 30:18, Zephaniah 3:5. I could go on and on and on. Here is what I want you to hear: Old and New Testament proclaim, proclaim, proclaim, proclaim: God is just, God is righteous, God is just, God is righteous, God is fair.
The foundation of His throne, the basis of how God deals with everything, God will never give anyone a raw deal. It’s what His justice is all about. Tozer writes, “Justice embodies the idea of moral equity, and iniquity is the exact opposite; it is the in-equity, the absence of equality from human thoughts and acts. Judgment is the application of equity to moral situations and may be favorable or unfavorable according to whether the one under examination has been equitable or inequitable in heart and conduct.”
Justice is not something God possesses. Justice is not an external standard that says, “This is right, this is wrong, this is fair.” It is in the very essence and the nature of His character. He is justice and all moral law, all commands are merely a reflection of the justice and the character of God.
There is something interesting that you need to know about justice and Packer, I think, describes it well. J.I. Packer in Knowing God writes, “It becomes clear that the Bible’s proclamation of God’s work as Judge is part of His witness to His character…It shows us also that the heart of justice which expresses God’s nature is retribution.” Will you circle that word in your notes?
“The heart of justice which expresses God’s nature is retribution.” You know what retribution is? You do this, therefore, you get this for doing it. Now, he goes on to explain, “The rendering to men what they have deserved; for this is the essence of a judge’s task.
To reward good with good, and evil with evil, is natural to God. So when the New Testament speaks of the final judgment, it always represents it in terms of retribution. God will judge all men, it says, according to their works.”
At the heart of this concept of justice is this: everyone gets what they really deserve. Everyone! Everyone gets what they really deserve. No one will ever get a raw deal. Now, inside this parenthesis, in a fallen world, everyone is not going to get what they really deserve inside the parenthesis at the time, in a one-to-one correlation with how events occur.
But even though we live in a fallen world where sin mars our concept and the timing of justice, God wants you to know that He is just, that He is fair, that as you trust Him, in the big picture of this all-knowing, sovereign, all-wise God, you will never, ever be treated unfairly. And that means that you can trust Him.
Now, how has God revealed His justice to us? In what ways has God revealed it in a fallen world so that we can trust Him? You always have to remember you’re in the parenthesis. You never get one-to-one justice, one hundred percent, unless it’s before the world begins or until there is a new heaven and a new earth. But inside the fallen world there are about three or four different ways that God has revealed to us that He is just so you can trust Him, even when it seems like, in our experience, it is very hard to do.
The first way He reveals His justice is through the natural order. Romans chapter 1 verses 18 to 20. Let me read it. It says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities,” that means His attributes, “His eternal power and His divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
He is saying that the creation and how God has made creation, His invisible attributes, not just His goodness and beauty in creation, not just His otherness and holiness and purity, but God’s justice, as you look at creation, you will see – what? There is some cause and effect relationship.
You will see that God is just, that we have intrinsically, in nature, revealed that people know, This is right, this is wrong. You can study anthropology and look at every tribe, any place in all the world, and they will have a list of rules. It is wrong to kill, it’s wrong to take another man’s wife, the rules will change, but people have this internal sense of ought that they get that, This is right and this is wrong.
The only way you have an internal sense of ought, of what is right and what’s wrong is that the world that you live in is communicating to you that there is a sense of accountability, there is a sense that when you do things wrong, we’re going to see in just a second, there is a conscience.
And even observing the world order, even in pop culture, what is the old saying? When I grew up, when you would diss someone or do something to hurt them, someone would come up and says, “Hey, you know what? Everything that goes around comes around.” What is that? That is justice, isn’t it?
You know what? You do that to him, this is going to happen to you. You do that over here, this is going to happen to you.
Or even multiple Eastern religions who are looking at the world and trying to figure out and they watch the cycles of the earth, the whole concept of karma, is – what? What is behind the sense of karma? Justice!
In other words, if you jack around with people and you hurt people and if you are cruel and you’re this, man, you’re going to come back as a grasshopper! You know? Right? And if you’re a really good person, you’re going to come back as a cow. I’m not sure you gain a whole lot on that thing to tell you the truth.
But you have people living their lives with a mindset that they have seen from the created order, based on – what? There is a sense of justice, there is a sense of, You will pay for what you do. It comes around; it goes around. Cause, cause, effect, effect. God has revealed His justice through the created order.
Second, God has revealed it through the human heart. Romans chapter 2, verses 15 and 16. “Since they show that the requirements of the Law,” this idea of a standard, this sense of ought, the sense that there is a moral right and a moral wrong, “since they showed that the requirements of the Law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as My gospel declares.”
God has put on the human heart, totally apart from Scripture, a sense of ought or should, of right or wrong, of a conscience that bears witness. Long before I became a Christian and long before the Spirit of God was living in my life, I clearly knew certain things were right and certain things were wrong and when I either thought or did the things that were wrong, what happened to my conscience? It condemned me and said, “Chip, that’s bad. That’s wrong.” That’s how it works.
Why? God placed that in me like He placed it in you. Even people without any revelation, people that don’t know about Christ, this is in the human heart. It’s one of the reasons we are without excuse.
Everybody knows, by what they see, that there is a day of judgment. And everyone knows, by what God has placed inside your heart, there is going to be a day of judgment.
The only point I’m trying to make is there is something in our hearts, there is something in our hearts, even apart from revelation that tells us that there is justice and if there is justice, what C.S. Lewis’ point will be in Mere Christianity, is there must be a Judge. You cannot have a sense of justice without a Judge.
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.” 2 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 1 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. And 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 then 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 1 Corinthians chapter 3. A very important passage. 1 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, and 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, yicky 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. “For it is appointed unto me and once to die, and after this, the judgment.” 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, 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, 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. 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.