Tag Archives: judgment

Hiding from God

Studies in Genesis 3

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

When Adam and Eve “heard” God walking in the garden they “hid themselves” from Him. What they heard was the “sound” of God walking. Yet, the word for sound can also be translated voice or noise. This means God was not silent as He walked but was either deliberately making noise, something they were used to and knew to be God, or talking and singing to His creation. Perhaps He was humming. Nevertheless, they heard God and knew it was He.

They did not come to greet Him, which is what those with clear and wholesome relationships will do. Instead, they found a place where they thought He would not see them. This is what children do when they know they have done something they should not have done, when they have done something wrong. They will hide themselves from those whom they have wronged in the vain hope their wrongdoing will not be discovered.

Instead of greeting Him face to face they hid their faces from His. They ran away from His presence. Here is the evidence of wrong done and the evidence of a broken relationship. It is not God who runs and hides from them but they from God. It is never God turning His back on those He created for relationship but always those He has created to know Him turning their backs on Him.

Did our first parents not know God even a little to think they could hide from Him? What did they know about God? How intimate were they with Him?

God created them in His image. They could look at themselves and know what God is like. Not their physical likeness but their intellectual, emotional and willful likeness. Yet, they are not God so could not know Him completely. And they were young, still learning about God while maturing in their thinking and feeling. But God had given them enough information, the tools they needed, to know Him both intellectually and intimately.

As the first sound of Him in the garden reached their ears, I imagine they were startled, gripped with fear, immediately hiding because of the danger in which they found themselves because of their act of rebellion. These were new emotions. Before their rebellion, they did not fear death even though God had introduced them to death. Adam, at least, knew the command of God to not eat, and the judgment of eating, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His rebellion was unthinking and unfeeling, a reaction to what Eve had done. Hid from God is also a reaction.

When they hid from God, when anyone tries to hide from God, there is enough of an intimate understanding of God to know they are facing, not a Friend but a Judge.

July 3, 2017

Second Death

Studies in Genesis 3

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV)

If I am correct in my thinking then God wanted Adam and Eve and all of Man to know the difference between good and evil. God, the Creator, knows the time He wills to introduce knowledge which will lead to maturity. This is not the time but is a test which would probably usher in the right time.

That which is inhabiting the serpent, the Deceiver, continues speaking half-truths. A partial truth is still a lie and still designed to deceive. It, the Deceiver, tells Eve that God lied. God said “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (dying you will die)” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). Not only will you die if you disobey and eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but you will die again, a second death. For the Deceiver to state Eve would not die is a contradiction of the stated consequences of rebellion against God’s command.

Here are some educated assumptions. The Deceiver has already rebelled against God. Created by God for service to Him and at His pleasure the Deceiver did not originally have the design to rebel against God. Nothing God creates, and God created everything, was evil or designed for evil. There is, however, the ability to choose evil for those creatures given the capacity to do so. Man was given the image of God in a created body. Part of the image of God is the ability to choose, to decide, to act. Whatever the Deceiver was it had the ability to choose, decide and act and did so through rebellion. This does not mean creatures other than Man may have been given the image of God, for there is more to His image than the ability to choose, decide and act.

When the Deceiver rebelled God did not immediately bring death, but allowed it to continue to live. So to, the Deceiver told Eve she would not die. It knew, at least for a time, she would continue to physically live. God did not say judgment was immediate. He did say judgment was absolute. When Man rebelled death was not immediate but still guaranteed.

Those who are living cannot understand what death is until it is experienced. When the body dies, it does not immediately cease to exist. In fact, the physical properties of the body after death are slowly re-absorbed into the larger creation. God formed the man from existing material.  “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). So, when the physical body of Man dies it does not cease to exist but returns to the material from which it was initially created.

There is a second death. We can only know about this second death through personal experience and by the little God tells us. At this point, we know nothing of the second death other than there is another death that is probably spiritual because it is not physical. Rebelling against God brings God’s judgment which is a second death. The Deceiver knows this, deliberately lying to Eve and in doing so stating God is the liar.

Excellence of Creation

Studies in Genesis 1

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 ESV)

God “saw everything he had made” and rendered judgment. “Saw” means to consider, advise, examine, study, to gaze upon for a time. “Everything” means the totality of all things. “Made” means the act of work to create and accomplish a specific, pre-planned task. From the tiniest atom to the greatest galaxy, from the largest animal to the smallest bacteria, God perceived everything He had made. Everything was first conceived in the mind of God then brought into existence through His creative power. This is His work.

Do not think of the “work” God does as what we are used to doing. God’s work is not something He does out of obligation or to fulfill a duty. His work is essential to His eternal character and being. It is what He does because it is who He is. When He created the physical universe, something out of nothing, it was according to an eternal plan which fit His eternal character.

After He examines and knows all He has done God renders judgment. “Behold, it was very good.”  “Behold” means to see but with the express intent of holding up for judgment and consideration. “Very” means vehemently, with the greatest stress and force. It is a mighty work, incomparable to anything else done by any other, lesser being. “Good” means pleasant and agreeable, excellent according to the highest measure and standard, rich and valuable. According to God’s judgment creation, all creation, meets God’s standard of excellence. There is no standard higher. Creation is perfect.

Perfect does not mean complete. Nor does God’s immutable character, that He is unchangeable, mean He does not act. God is complete and perfect, yet acts.

We must take care in the words used to not leave a wrong impression or lead in a wrong direction. We do not understand “perfect,” lowering to our own standards that which God has done. Even the most intelligent and creative, the cleverest and most passionate person, fails to measure up to God’s eternal standard. We will not know perfection or completion until we are in His presence. Until then we can only examine, study and maybe speculate about the beginnings of creation revealed in general revelation and accept His special revelation about His work and Himself.

Just and Unjust Judges

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matthew 5:25-26 ESV]

Do we have to stand before a Judge before admitting when we have done something wrong? Are Judges known for being compassionate? Do they forgive offenses, willful acts, crimes against men and the state? Is it not their responsibility to look at the evidence and determine culpability? Are they not charged with upholding the law which constrains them? What Judge is going to set aside law for personal preference? If they do then they are not a Judge but as much a criminal as those standing before them. Those Judges who are just will agonize over their decisions because they want truth and compassion, justice and righteousness.

Christians are faced with unjust judges daily. All those around us will judge our actions and words against their arbitrary standard or a predetermined measure. They will assess not only what is right and good but every wrong. For the unjust Judge will build a case regardless of the facts, no matter the evidence. Those being accused of doing something wrong may not have done anything wrong. Christians who suffer for righteousness’ sake face accusers who are judging them because of their relationship with Christ. In fact, they have probably done everything right.

However, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking about in these verses.

I think he is telling us to judge ourselves against God’s standards so that those who do accuse us have no evidence to substantiate their claims. If they do have evidence because we have done something wrong then we are responsible for righting the wrong. Jesus is using the world’s unjust system as an illustration for God’s justice. We cannot expect non-Christians to act like Christians.

We can expect Christians, or those who say they are Christians, to act according to God’s known will. We must say sin is sin. Jesus is direct in His statements about a brother confronting a brother about sin.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [Matthew 1815-17 ESV]

Again, I do not think this is what Jesus is speaking to in these verses (Matthew 5:25-26), though they are related. I think He is telling us to admit when we are wrong, confess sin, repent and turn away from sin, before being hauled in front of a Judge. We should not have to be told when we are wrong. A Judge will not be nice. God is loving and compassionate but not nice.

One of the underlying principles of the Sermon on the Mount is the desire of God to make those who are His whole. For the individual, wholeness means being remade, recreated by God into the likeness of His Son. We are created in His image, bent and corrupted by sin, then recreated by His Spirit and fit for here as witnesses and for eternity as citizens. God changes the person immediately but takes His time disciplining and developing the person for eternity. He makes the person whole intellectually, morally and emotionally and willfully. He molds those who are His into people who act obediently as His servants.

I hate the process for it demands I see myself as God sees me, as Christ sees me and as the Holy Spirit sees me. God sees me covered with the blood of Christ. Jesus sees me as one He is willing to die for and did. He who lives in the Christian, the Holy Spirit, sees me as a citizen-student being fit by Him for eternity.

This is important. Christians must not view themselves as they see themselves in the world. God trains us, when we are obedient, to see ourselves as He sees us, covered with the blood of Christ. We stand before Him, and before the world, in His grace.

Have you ever tried to defend, rationalize or excuse your wrong actions and attitudes before an impartial Judge? He will not let you. Either we judge our sin or God does and He may use a human judge which will carry much pain. There is an eternal difference between remorse and repentance.

Judgment

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother (some manuscripts insert “without cause”) will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:22 ESV]

I know no one who is not quick to judge. Even the quiet non-judgmental types make spur of the moment judgments. All judge the actions of others assuming they understand their intent and motives. Often we judge another’s intellectual ability based upon our judgment of the motives behind their actions. All of these judgments are measured against our personal standards and expectations.

That’s a judgmental statement.

We learned the standards we use from those who raised us and who influenced our thinking. They are still our own standards. Because of the absolute corruption of sin our judgments are bent toward evil though we say they are good. No one judges according to God’s eternal standard without His direct intervention. We cannot. Our quickness to judge will itself be judged by the Judge. Our actions and intents, our motivations and judgments will be exposed by Him.

Read Paul’s assessment of both those declared righteous by God and those who are self-righteous.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. [Romans 2:1-11 ESV]

Jesus has told us unrighteous anger brings judgment equating it to murder. Unjustly taking another’s life is an offense against God who created that person in His image. He created both the murdered and the murderer in His image and as Creator has the eternal right to judge according to the standards found within Himself. We usurp His authority when we judge another using our own standards and not His. Jesus condemns denigrating comments and thoughts which are not true that we hold against another, which place us over them and which make us the ultimate judge and not God.

We do not have the right to insult anyone. An insult is defined as “the act of leaping upon” in order to abuse, to treat another with contempt in order to triumph over them. It connotes raising oneself up, over or above, by lower another. Jesus uses the word raca, which means “empty one” and “worthless.” It is a word borrowed from the Chaldean, maybe left over from the exile and may have been considered a curse. Raca carries the idea the person has no value intellectually and thus no ability to add to society. In fact, the person insulted is considered a drain, taking away from society as a whole.

Jesus’ remarks not only encompass unjustified judgment of a person’s intellectual abilities and value to society but their moral character. When anyone judges the moral character of a person based upon sinful, arbitrary standards, they are pronouncing sentence without having the authority to execute sentence. They have tried to wrench away from God something which is only His prerogative. Declaring someone a “fool” is a moral judgment based upon the evidence of their lives as measured by the arbitrary standards of the individual. Worse is listening and believing the judgments pronounced by another without having actually witnessed the evidence of the life judged. Such a far reaching pronouncement of a sentence endangers the eternal place of the person judging before the God, the Judge. “Whoever says, ‘You fool’’ will be liable to the hell of fire” [Matthew 5:22 ESV].

Does any of this mean we are to not judge? We are given the Holy Spirit who “will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” [John 16:13 ESV]. We are commanded to focus our attention on Christ and the promptings of the Holy Spirit every moment of our lives. We need constant awareness of what we are thinking, how we are feeling, the words we speak and our actions, allowing God to continue to change us into the likeness of His Son, as He prepares us for eternity. We are still His witnesses before this world.

Motivation and Intent

Our thoughts, words and actions germinate and grow in the soil of our motivations watered and fed by intent. By intent I mean that which drives a person toward an object of desire or perceived need. Intent is the active agent between our motivations and what actually happens, what we actually do. Intent and motivation are so closely related one may easily be lost in the other. Motive is deeper, abiding, while intent can change direction dependent upon circumstances, maybe the appearance of something more desirable. Intent is fickle. Motive is revealing.

Discover that which motivates you and you will discover identity. Focus upon intent, the evidence of what you do, and you will show others who you are. Jesus hits hard the intent of the thinking of the heart. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” [Matthew 5:22 ESV]. Here, anger means to provoke to rage or to become exasperated with the object of your wrath. It is unjustified anger toward someone who is not meeting your personal expectations in a timely manner. Your expectations are your standards arbitrarily placed upon another. No one will ever completely meet your expectations no matter how long or short a time you give them.

Jesus does not exclude all anger. God gave us the emotion of anger as part of His image. He knows anger. His anger is justifiable. Unless we conform to the likeness of His Son our anger is unreasonable, an excuse to gain control over what He has created and owns.

We do not determine our own motivation. We discover the motivations God has given to each unique person. He created us individually to serve him. His image in us powers our motivation to love and serve Him by loving and serving those around us, with whom we come in contact. Sin did not destroy the image of God in us but corrupted it, bending us and our motivations away from God. As we honestly see ourselves before Him and discover the corruption of our deepest self we come to recognize our motivations are opposite His, bent away from Him. That which motivates us is rebellion against Him.

We cannot determine our innate motivation. We can and do determine the intent of the thinking of our hearts.  How we put action to our motivations, what we focus on and strive for, is something we do control. Our words and actions reveal the intent of the thinking of our hearts to God and others.

But God changes those who belong to Him, recreates them and gives them a new heart with new motivations. Anything we focus upon, which does not come from our new, recreated, eternal relationship with Him springs from, not God, but the sin which still seeks to own us. Relinquishing control of our self to the sinless God changes everything. Theoretically, we cease to foist our expectations upon others because we no longer have personal expectations. We have only God’s eternal standards against which we measure ourselves and others. When our anger arises it is because God’s standard and law has been violated not because our expectations have not been met. Our anger is a flag which tells us either we are doing something wrong, rebelling against Him, or someone around us is rebelling against Him. Those who are His are motivated to by truth, justice and righteousness, goodness and holiness, the intent of their hearts striving to know God both intellectually and intimately.

What self-righteous audacity we have when we are angry with others and with God based upon our own unrighteous and therefore unreasonable expectations. His statement in Matthew 5:22 is not hyperbole. Our unjustified anger brings His judgment. No one has the right to judge any action or word against any other standard than God’s. Such an action wrestles control away from Him. How can anyone who says they belong to Him then turn and impose their personal standard upon Him and those He has created.

Those who are His do have the responsibility, even the deep motivation, to expose sin. Our place in this world, why God has left us here, is  a witness for Him and against the world. Our presence exposes sin and shines truth, justice and righteousness, goodness and holiness, the character of God to a godless world.

But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. [Ephesians 4:20-27 ESV]

Judgment and Discernment

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:22 ESV]

We are responsible for judging the intent of the thinking of our hearts. Outside of us only God can know what is in a person’s heart. He knows better than the person. Few are honest enough with themselves to know when their thinking and their hearts are bent toward evil or wickedness. Fewer allow guilt to drive them toward God. Without the forgiveness which comes through grace none could survive the conviction of sin. We must admit we sin before we will admit what our sins are. Those who refuse to admit what their sins are face God’s wrath.

Francis Schaeffer has suggested when someone is confronted with their sin and the enormous consequences of their sin they must do one of two things. Either they will go insane in trying to absolve themselves of the consequence through ignoring sin or they will commit suicide. We cannot live with guilt. Either we declare ourselves not guilty or we sentence ourselves to death.  Schaeffer knows the third option is to acknowledge God and His ultimate authority and compassion for us through the sacrifice of His Son.

We are responsible for accepting or rejecting the grace offered by God. He commands all to receive His grace, to accept their guilt and admit the truth their death sentence has been fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ.

From the beginning of man’s history, from Adam in the garden created in the image of God and given a realm in which to serve God, all are commanded to follow and obey Him. It does not matter that sin entered the world when it comes to obeying the commands of God. Sin is not an excuse for disobedience. Adam was commanded to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was also given permission to eat from any other tree in the garden including the tree of life. Only after he willfully disobeyed God was he driven from the garden so he could not eat from the tree of life. Now all are commanded to eat from the tree of life, which is Christ, and live, but do not. Again, most in the world are in willful rebellion against God refusing to obey His explicit command.

Jeremiah, prophesying against the nation of Judah, compares those who are under God’s grace and know it and those who only think they are God’s yet rebel against Him.

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds. [Jeremiah 17:5-10 ESV]

God sees the evidence of the thinking of the heart in each person because He intimately knows each person. At the same time it is the responsibility of the individual to recognize the thinking of their own heart and accept responsibility for their thinking and actions. While the thinking of their hearts may be hidden from others their actions and the body language which accompanies their actions are never hidden. Others will see and form judgments based upon what they see. It is easy to judge others. Are we honest and discerning with ourselves concerning our own sin and guilt?

Obedience to God and right relationship with Him brings clarity. All judgment, in order for the judgment to be righteous, must be viewed through a Godly filter which recognizes sin and realizes the consequences of sin and followed by relinquishing control to God. Without doing these three steps, judgment, whether of self or of others, is arbitrary and sinful.

We are responsible for the intent of the thinking of our hearts. It is not our responsibility to judge the intent of the thinking of the hearts of others. It is our responsibility to be discerning, open to the counsel and instruction of the Spirit and confront sin where ever we find sin, whether in ourselves or in others. God commands we love Him and live according to truth. There are no other options.