Will God Judge Christians for Their Sins?

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ImageThis question came up in a recent Pastor Q & A session at Reed Springs, “Why will believers be judged if Jesus paid for our sins and God has forgotten them?” This is a very good question. The fact is, believers will NOT be judged by God for their sins. If we were judged for just one of our sins, we could not go to heaven. We are justified in Christ. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection of all who repent and believe in Christ (Romans 3:28). Through justification we receive a new standing for God has declared us to be righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of justification, the penalty for sin is done away with for the believer (Romans 6:23).

Believers WILL, however, be judged for our stewardship. There are two different judgments for the believer and the unbeliever. These are separate events that take place at separate times. The unbelievers are judged by their sinful works (Rev. 20:11-15) and punished. Believers are judged by our spiritual productivity and rewarded (1 Cor. 3:10-15). The Bible actually says that we will be involved in judging the world and the fallen angels (1 Cor. 2-3). Our sins will not exist. The judgment of believers will be concerned with the spiritual fruit our life produced and how we handled the gospel on earth. It’s like if you were unemployed (unsaved) and someone hired you (saved) and gave you an evaluation after 90 days (judgment) to determine what kind of raise you deserved (rewards).

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

This distinction is very important. Many Christians have a very negative view about the Christian life, as if we are only called to meticulously avoid sin so that we won’t have too many strikes against us when we stand before God. This is absolutely backwards. I fear that many Christians are so afraid of doing something wrong, they never do anything at all! Remember, the disobedient servant was scared of doing something wrong, so he didn’t do anything with what his master had given him (Matthew 25:24-27). Rather than focusing on the “thou shalt nots” the Christian is called to focus on the “thou shalts.” When we become concerned about what God has called us to do, then the other things sort of fall in place. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he didn’t give a “thou shalt not” answer. Instead he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…” (Matthew 22:37-40). If I am focused on worshiping God, growing in Christ, helping others, and sharing Christ with them; then I won’t have to continually worry about the things I’m not supposed to do. Remember, believers will be judged. We will be judged by our productivity and effectiveness as Christians. When we properly understand this and truly believe it, it will greatly affect how we live our lives. 

 

Nahum: A Message of God’s Judgment

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            It seems that everyone knows the story of Jonah. He disobeyed God’s call, was swallowed by a whale, and then preached to Nineveh and they repented. The story of Nineveh doesn’t end with Jonah, though. Nahum gives us the rest of the story about Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. Nahum prophesied approximately 150 years after Jonah preached to Nineveh. Although Nineveh had repented under Jonah’s preaching, they had become very powerful and very wicked by the time of Nahum. The Assyrians had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and had been oppressing the southern kingdom of Judah. God graciously gave them the opportunity to repent through the preaching of Jonah, but their repentance was short-lived and it is now time for judgment.
           
         In chapter one, God declares His judgment on Assyria. It is important to understand that the term “Nineveh” is used to refer to the entire Assyrian nation since Nineveh is the capital city. Why must God judge Assyria? The same reason He judges any nation or people; God is righteous. We know that God is willing to judge the Assyrians because of His jealous and avenging nature (vs. 2). Verse 3-5 illustrate God’s awesome power and tell us that He is capable of judging the Assyrians. Not only is God willing and able, but God is also ready to judge the Assyrians because Nahum states that His wrath is about to be poured out (vs. 6). In all this, however, God gives Judah reason to rejoice because He is about to punish one of her greatest enemies (vs. 15).
           
       In chapter two, God describes His coming judgment on Assyria. The nation would fall in 612 B.C. under the army of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, but Nahum foretells the event in vivid detail (vs. 1-7). Nineveh was situated near the Tigris River and two other smaller rivers and there were dams built to minimize seasonal flooding. Verse 6 suggests that the Babylonians opened these dams to flood the city and destroy the walls. Verses 8-10 foretell the plundering of Nineveh. Assyria had plundered many other nations, but now the Babylonians would loot the city of Nineveh. Verses 11-13 predict the total desolation of Nineveh. Assyria is about to receive the same destruction they have caused to others; an example of the principle Jesus would teach centuries later, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:2).
           
          Chapter three shows us why Assyria deserved judgment from God. Assyria was a cruel nation that profited from the massacre of other nations (vs. 1-3) and was characterized by moral and spiritual depravity (vs. 4-7). Pagan idolatry and immorality were rampant in Assyria. God then declares that Nineveh will be like Thebes (or No-Amon), a fortified Egyptian city that Assyria had captured (vs. 8-10). If God could allow the Assyrians to capture Thebes, He can cause the Babylonians to destroy Nineveh. Verse 19 states that all that hear of Assyria’s destruction shall “clap their hands” for joy when they hear of the righteous judgment of God.

The book of Nahum bears a message of condemnation for those who disobey God and a message of consolation for those who obey Him. God must judge the wicked because of His righteousness, because of human wickedness, and for the relief of the afflicted. It was in this type of situation that Abraham rhetorically asked, “Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). We can be comforted knowing that the righteousness of God will not permit tyranny and oppression forever. Assyria is just one historical example of God’s judgment on a wicked nation. Eventually, God will bring true justice to every wicked empire, nation, city, and individual. 

This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, January 2, 2013.