Thursday, June 4, 2015

what we need.

Over time, the phrase "Only God can judge me/you/us" has become increasingly popular to use in the face of adversity. Rarely are there two people who agree completely on everything, even those who are in the same circles, and touchy subjects that people feel strongly about are usually what cause the most uproar. Often times, people limit their reference to God as Judge when hot topics are present and when points want to be proved, making it more of a jab to the gut of all those who disagree with our viewpoints rather than an exclamation of reverent belief. God is certainly our judge, as evidenced by Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments (Psalm 82:8, James 4:12, etc.), but He holds a lot of other titles, too.

God is God (Elohim, Genesis 1:1). God is the Almighty God (El-Shaddai, Genesis 17:1). God is the Everlasting God (El-Olam, Genesis 21:33). God is our Father (Isaiah 64:8). God is the Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22). God is our Deliverer (Psalm 144:2). God is our Maker (Psalm 49:2). God is our Savior (Isaiah 45:15). God is our Redeemer (Psalm 19:14). God is a Consuming Fire (Hebrew 12:29). God is King of the nations (Revelation 15:3). God is the Creator (Romans 1:25). God is the Rock whose works are perfect, whose ways are just, and is faithful and without sin (Deuteronomy 32:4).

There are many descriptions of God (many more than just listed), but the one that our culture tries to limit Him to is that of Judge. Not only that, but we use it as a means to defend our own agendas instead of a means to glorify Him. We scream at the top of our lungs that no one has the right to judge us, but we continue about our merry way paying no attention to the very words that the Judge, Himself, has spoken. The Word of God tells us that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:12), but our culture skips that part. The idea of judgment is helpful in silencing those who share different opinions than we do, but the reality of an actual judgment isn't something we give much thought to. Shouldn't we, though?

We spend countless amounts of time gossiping about those who are different from us, being deceived into thinking that our empty words will somehow change the outcome of the situation. Christians, what would it look like if we offered up prayers on behalf of those who don't know Jesus rather than talking about them? What if we spent more time kneeling at the feet of the One who set us free from condemnation instead of trying to convince the world that its wrong? What if we asked for wisdom on how to best respond to situations and headlines before blasting our opinions all over the place? I don't believe there will be any "I told you so"s exchanged in heaven, but I do believe that there will be a lot more people turned away from heaven than permitted to enter (Matthew 7:13-14). Is God my Judge? Yes. Is He my Savior? Yes. Do I believe that everyone will answer those two questions the same way? No. Does that make me better than them? No. My only hope for righteousness is that which Jesus Christ has lavished upon me by way of His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, because I could never be good enough on my own (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Charles Spurgeon fervently believed in praying for unbelievers, and he made this charge in a sermon concerning this topic: "Until the gate of hell is shut up upon a man, we must not cease to pray for him. And if we see him hugging the very doorposts of damnation, we must go to the mercy seat and beseech the arm of grace to pluck him from his dangerous position. While there is life there is hope, and although the soul is almost smothered with despair, we must not despair for it, but rather arouse ourselves to awaken the Almighty arm." Brothers and sisters, are we that passionate about praying for lives to be won to Christ? If we believe that we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5), then why do we waste so much time trying to save the world on our own? John MacArthur writes, "It is one thing to pray for family and friends, those for whom you have natural affections. But God wants you to pray for all people. Paul writes, 'First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority' (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Kings and people in authority in Paul's day weren't bound by civil rights and were often unjust, self-serving, and cruel. Do you pray for the salvation of people like that - those who disagree with you politically, those who advocate ungodly agendas, those who openly embrace sin and reject the Scripture?" (emphasis mine).

I believe that everyone will be judged by God, that the gavel belongs to Him alone, but I also believe that He's more than that. He's not a mean old man who sits on His lofty throne and waits for us to mess up so that He can punish us for our wrongdoings, but He's also not one to be mocked (Galatians 6:7). Sowing to the flesh leads to death, sowing to the Spirit leads to life, and Scripture is clear about that (Galatians 6:8). Those who repent  of their sinfulness in response to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven (Mark 1:15), but those who don't will be cast into an eternal state of despair (Matthew 25:41). He is Judge, as evidenced through Scripture, but He is also the Fountain of life, our very present Help in time of need (Psalm 36:9, Psalm 46:1). He is the God who asks us to die to ourselves (our desires, our longings) in order that we may live for Him and His glory (Matthew 13:44, Luke 9:23).

So, what are we waiting for? The longer we wait to ask God to break our hearts for the lost, the more people there will be spending an eternity apart from Him. The longer we wait to lift up prayers for those who do not have not tasted and seen the goodness of God, the less people there will be to experience His abundant life. How awesome would it be for all those throughout the world who just view God as a Judge to come to know Him as Lord as a result of our humble submission and intentional obedience to praying that they would?

May our prayers be constant, persistent, specific, and aligned with His perfect, prevailing will, and may we begin making those humble-yet-bold requests today. We need an army of believers who will fight on their knees, it's as simple and as difficult as that.

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
Colossians 4:2

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