Facing the Judge.
I want to speak tonight about something that you have more experience of than I do. You know more about it than I do, so you should be preaching. It is something that we all have to face and you have had direct experience of it, you know what it is like. What am I talking about? [Picture 1] JUDGEMENT! Every one of you knows what it is like to face a judge and hear him pronounce the verdict of GUILTY! I guarantee that you can all recall that moment. What was it like? Did your heart sink? Did you feel dread? Or anger? Or injustice? Outrage? Shame? But you have the advantage – you have experienced what we all will one day experience. We all must face the Judge! [Hebrews 9:27 Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God.] The judge you faced was nothing to the one that I must face and we all must face – God Himself! Who is perfectly just, perfectly righteous, who knows all that I have ever done. Not only what I have done but my motive in doing it, my thoughts! There is nothing hidden from Him [Hebrews 4:12-13 The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart. There is nothing that can be hidden from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves.] You know, we often are quick to pass judgement on what others do – but we are overlooking that we will be judged ourselves [Romans 2:3-5 But you, my friend, do those very things for which you pass judgement on others! Do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or perhaps you despise His great kindness, tolerance, and patience. Surely you know that God is kind, because He is trying to lead you to repent. But you have a hard and stubborn heart, and so you are making your own punishment even greater on the Day when God’s anger and righteous judgements will be revealed.] God is going to judge us all – we all have to face the Judge – totally impartial, absolutely just – how will I stand up before Him?! [Romans 2:11-13 For God judges everyone by the same standard. The Gentiles do not have the Law of Moses; they sin and are lost apart from the Law. The Jews have the Law; they sin and are judged by the Law. For it is not by hearing the Law that people are put right with God, but by doing what the Law commands. Romans 2:16 And so, according to the Good News I preach, this is how it will be on that Day when God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all.] The passage I want to look at tonight is from a very well known chapter of the Bible: John chapter 3 (if you have your Bible, turn there), it is often read when people preach about the great love of God – but right there where that most famous verse about God’s love is there is God’s judgement right alongside. The funny thing is that we are very keen to tell about God’s love but we miss out that other bit. Let me tell you: you don’t understand the greatness of that love of God until you realise about the judgement of God that is there right at the same time alongside it. The Bible is full of stories about people, and sometimes there are particular ones that you see a bit of yourself in – and the man in this story I can see a bit of me in. He was rich, important, respected and a leader – I am none of those things. But this man was brought up with a religious background and he was educated, and he was shy, he thought things through – he came to Jesus by night. That’s me – some people are all out there, up the front for the appeal – I’m more the person who would have a quiet chat with the preacher afterwards, not to be seen by others, self-contained. That was Nicodemus [John 3:1-21 There was a Jewish leader named Nicodemus, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees. One night he went to Jesus and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher sent by God. No one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him.” (he doesn’t really get around to saying what concerns him – but Jesus cuts through all that to the real issue that was on his heart. Jesus knows your heart) Jesus answered, “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.” “How can a grown man be born again?” Nicodemus asked. “He certainly cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time!” (there’s the rational logical mind and it cannot understand God – I found that, my brain is too small to understand God – it takes revelation from God by His Spirit) “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus. “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water (natural, physical birth) and the Spirit (born of God, a new creation, a son of God). A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit. Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again. The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” asked Nicodemus (he just couldn’t get it because he was trying to figure it out with his mind). Jesus answered, “You are a great teacher in Israel, and you don’t know this? I am telling you the truth: we speak of what we know and report what we have seen, yet none of you is willing to accept our message. You do not believe me when I tell you about the things of this world; how will you ever believe me, then, when I tell you about the things of heaven? And no one has ever gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from heaven.” (Jesus came from heaven, and came down to earth from there. He has been in heaven so He knows what goes on there. No one else has, He is the only one qualified to speak about heaven. Who are you going to believe about spiritual, eternal, heavenly things? - the speculations of men who have never been there, or the One who has always lived there?) As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life (there was an incident back in history when there was a plague of snakes which came as judgement upon Israel for their sin. The remedy that God provided was a bronze snake put on a pole. Those that put their faith in God’s remedy and looked at the snake; lived [picture 2]. It was a picture of Jesus being lifted up on a cross – those that trusted God’s provision of One being punished in their place; live). For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life (there is that most famous of verses about God’s love. But look what it goes on to say:). For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour. Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God’s only Son. (See what it is saying? Jesus didn’t come into the world to judge it because the world is already judged. Judgement has already been passed and the universal verdict is GUILTY! Everyone is guilty. That is the default state of everyone! From the Queen to the lowliest and poorest, from the Pope right down to the multiple murderer. We are all in the same situation. Until we believe we are all in the state of being condemned!) This is how the judgement works: the light has come into the world, but people love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. All those who do evil things hate the light and will not come to the light, because they do not want their evil deeds to be shown up. But those who do what is true come to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God. (There is the state of us all. It doesn’t matter whether you have been convicted in court and sent to prison or not. The verdict is that the light has come – Jesus – totally pure and righteous – but we prefer our sin, we don’t want it to be exposed so we stay in the dark. See deep down we are ashamed of what we do, that is why we do it in secret – we don’t want to be found out! We want to give the appearance of being OK while all the time doing the sin that we love yet we know to be wrong. There is word for this: HYPOCRISY! And God hates it. He doesn’t want us to cover up our sin and appear righteous – he wants us to say it like it is and confess our sin. Own up to what we are) John 3:31-36 He who comes from above is greater than all. (that is Jesus) He who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly matters, (like Nicodemus who could only see the literal meaning, the surface, not the true spiritual meaning. When Jesus spoke about being born again, he thought about going into his mother’s womb again and being born again. But Jesus was speaking the truth. It wasn’t being symbolic; when you are born of the Spirit of God you literally have new life! The life of Christ – life that never ends: eternal life. But if you see only the material, rule out the supernatural (as many do today) you will never understand because you have left a huge and essential part out of the picture) but He who comes from heaven is above all. He tells what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His message (why? – because they only consider earthly things). But whoever accepts his message confirms by this that God is truthful. The One whom God has sent speaks God’s words, because God gives him the fullness of his Spirit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything in his power. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; (there it is – the way to have eternal life – it is by faith, believing in Jesus, the Son of God. You have to be born again in order to have eternal life because the life you were born with is not eternal – it will end, you will die! In order to have eternal life you have to have a new life – that is be born again), whoever disobeys the Son will not have life, but will remain under God’s punishment.] So there is a choice – two alternatives you either disobey, refuse to believe – the outcome is that you die. Or you believe in Jesus the Son of God and you will not die but have eternal life. Why do we die? – Because death is God’s punishment for sin. You see, we all are judged by the Judge [picture 1]. We are used to our justice system where a man is innocent until proved guilty – before this judge however we all, without exception, stand guilty! That is the default state of us all – we are guilty unless we can prove ourself innocent, which we cannot do. We are guilty, judged, condemned, unless something is done – that is, the required sentence is carried out. The death sentence! Is this unfair, unjust? No, because we all have sinned. Everyone, without exception has failed to keep God’s righteous requirements [Romans 3:9-12 I have already shown that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say: “There is no one who is righteous, no one who is wise or who worships God. All have turned away from God; they have all gone wrong; no one does what is right, not even one.] And the sentence for this crime is the death penalty! [Romans 5:12 Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.] Sin came into the world through Adam, righteousness came through Jesus. You get paid what you deserve for sin: [Romans 6:23 For sin pays its wage—death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.] But God gives what you haven’t earned: [ Romans 5:16 There is a difference between God’s gift and the sin of one man. After the one sin, came the judgement of “Guilty”; but after so many sins, comes the undeserved gift of “Not guilty!”] [ Romans 5:18 So then, as the one sin condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act sets all people free and gives them life.]That death sentence for sin must be carried out! That is the only way out – but it is a kind of final way! Death! But you can either get your wages – what you’ve earned, or you can receive God’s gift, which you haven’t earned – and that gift is life. That is why the only way to life is to trust in Jesus – how does that work? Well the death penalty must be carried out – when Jesus was crucified the death penalty was carried out. Not the penalty He had to pay because He had never sinned – He was carrying out your sentence instead of you [Romans 4:25 Because of our sins He was handed over to die, and He was raised to life in order to put us right with God.] – if you will believe Him, rely on what He has done [picture 2]. The Bible says that: [Isaiah 53:6 the LORD made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved.] [1 Peter 2:24 Christ Himself carried our sins in His body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.] Jesus wasn’t dying for what He had done but for what I have done and what you have done. How do I know He had done nothing wrong? Well, God raised Him from death – He didn’t deserve the death penalty and the Judge gave Him life. Now Jesus lives – and if He died our death; then, now He lives, it is His life we have – yes, eternal life, the life of Jesus! We are born again, if we believe in Jesus. No longer facing death but having eternal life! We are not under condemnation, under judgement [Romans 8:1-5 There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death. What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending His own Son to do away with sin.] [picture 1] [John 3:18 Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God’s only Son.] It all depends whether you believe or not – on what or whom you place your reliance upon – either your own performance/goodness or do you turn your back on that and rely wholly on Jesus’ goodness and what He has done. You know, we all want justice ….. until we are shown to be in the wrong – though we want justice what we really need is mercy. Mercy and justice seem irreconcilable – how can you get your due at the same time as being let off? But mercy and justice have met together in Jesus and the Bible says in [James 2:13 mercy triumphs over judgement.] You know what it is like to be judged guilty – but you don’t have to remain like that! If you believe in Jesus, God’s Son, then you are not judged, not condemned! There is no guilt! The burden is gone! With no judgment or guilt, there is no death sentence – you have eternal life, the life of Christ Himself! The choice is yours! It seems obvious – you can either choose to remain under judgement or not be judged; you can choose death or life. Moses gave this choice over three thousand years ago – his words are just as relevant today: [Deuteronomy 30:19 I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.]