35. God Revealed

Meditations in Romans : 35:  God Revealed

Rom 3:5-8 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say–as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say–“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

The difficulty of meditating on a few verses is that it is so easy to forget the context, and especially what has just gone before. Paul has just said, What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” He is, of course, referring to the Jews, and then added, “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” i.e. God is revealed as righteous when He judges the unrighteous Jews. So now Paul envisages his Jewish readers in Rome answering, “Hold on, if our wrong doing only shows God’s righteousness more clearly, isn’t it unfair that He then judges us? If our actions make Him look better, isn’t it unfair that He then punishes us?” I know I’m arguing as a foolish human being, but that’s what you are and that’s what that sort of arguing is, Paul implies in a quick aside.

Of course He’s not being unfair. God is Judge and it is right that He judges all wrongdoing. Then he does a double take, as if hearing them continuing to think down that wrong path, Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” i.e. OK, I admit I might not be always a truth-teller but if that only goes to contrast God’s utter truthfulness and show how wonderful He is, why should I get smacked for being less than perfect? (That’s how we might say it!)

Look, Paul continues, you might as well say – as some people wrongly say we do say – that we should do wrong so that God’s grace is seen more clearly. That is probably what is behind verse 8, because when we properly preach grace, it can almost be mistaken for this wrong thinking. The worse the sinner is, when they come to Christ and are forgiven and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, the greater the grace that is seen to operate. But that is not an argument to sin more. It simply says that God’s grace is big enough for whoever the repenting sinner is and for whatever they have done in the past. There is only one thing that proves a stumbling block to salvation: “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Mt 12:31,32). The word blasphemy used here refers to “speaking against.” Look, said Jesus, you can speak against me and that can be forgiven but if you speak against the moving of the Spirit as He seeks to move in you and bring conviction, it is obvious that you are rejecting Him and while you do that you can never come to repentance and receive forgiveness.

So the truth to be held on to is that God’s grace is sufficiently big to forgive whatever sin you have committed when you come to God in repentance. God’s ‘good intent’ towards you will never vary. It doesn’t matter how big or serious you consider your failure; if you come to Him in repentance then His forgiveness IS there for you. It’s not a question of what you feel, but of God’s declared truth: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and WILL forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9). However behind all this there is a fundamental truth we need to hold on to: the other side of this coin is if you sin and don’t repent you will still be answerable to God and God does judge and discipline. It is right that God judges sin – all sin, yours and mine. Jesus has died on the Cross to bring us forgiveness but if we do not repent we cannot be forgiven. The Cross is only operative when we confess and repent. Remember that!

34. God be True

Meditations in Romans : 34 :  Let God be True

Rom 3:1-4 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

Paul has just been saying things that almost appear to undermine being Jewish but he has done it as a means of undermining self-confidence to show them their need of salvation is just the same as anyone else’s. But he doesn’t want them to be driven away. He doesn’t want them totally discouraged; he still wants them to listen to what he writes and so he temporarily steps back as he foresees them asking so what advantage then, is there from being a Jew? Indeed one might go on, what value is there in circumcision? Oh, it’s not pointless he tries to say – Much in every way. First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God – that is important! Oh yes, let’s not completely demolish being a Jew. They need salvation as much as anyone else but let’s recognise that they are in a privileged position having had all those years of relationship with the Lord! He doesn’t expand on it here for that is not his goal, but later on in the letter he does: Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ” (Rom 9:4,5) Oh yes, they have much to be thankful for, but that doesn’t make them any the less sinners who need to be saved by the blood of Christ.

But the moment we start thinking about their history it raises a problem for it is clear that at a number of times in their history many of them did not have faith and that creates a problem. God had promised to bless them and make them a special nation so that He could bless the rest of the world through them. Does the fact that they had been unfaithful now mean that God will be unfaithful to His original intention to bless the world?  No, certainly not!

Here it comes – even if everyone else lies, God won’t, He will always remain true and so (implied) if He has said He will bless the world, He will!  The lack of faithfulness of the Jews will not detract from that. The fact is that He still brought His Son, Jesus, into this world through that nation and brought the means of salvation about through this nation, through their sinfulness in fact. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, speaking about Jesus to the Jews said, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) and preaching a few days later, again to Jews, “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life.” (Acts 3:13-15) Yes, they had the dubious privilege of being used by God to bring about His purposes of redemption.

To drive home this point about God never lying but being revealed at truthful, even through our sin, Paul adds a quotation from the Old Testament which in its fuller version reads, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psa 51:4) That had been David in confession mode, saying that even though he did wrong, God would be seen to be right. That would have happened when God held him accountable for his sin and stood as Judge, speaking against David’s sin and bringing corrective action against it. Yes, God’s righteousness is revealed whenever He has to confront our sinful behaviour. His words of judgment and His corrective action reveals that He is true to His nature and to His word and so He always remains righteous and always remains faithful to His declared will.

There is a danger, when either we do wrong or others around us do wrong, and everything feels bad, to think and feel that God will not remain true to the loving, forgiving character that He reveals to us, but the truth is that His character does not change one bit when we sin, however bad it is. Yes, He will hold us accountable, but He still remains a loving, caring God who wants the best for us and wants us to come to repentance and back into a relationship with Him. Some of us really need to hear this: He does NOT change when we blow it. He remains faithful and still works to draw us back to Himself. That IS His objective, and He will always remain true to it; that is why He sent Jesus. He wants you back!

33. A Real Jew?

Meditations in Romans : 33 :  A Real Jew?

Rom 2:28,29 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God

People sometimes say, “It’s what goes on inside you that matters,” and in this they are right – partly! It is as important as what goes on outwardly, both are important. Our behaviour is important but what drives our behaviour is equally important. Another thing you hear people say is, “Clothes maketh a man.” This is a bit different, but not much. This is suggesting that what you look like is all important. If you dress up and look good, you’ll feel good and be good. A small element of truth there but it can be deceptive. I believe there is no more deception than in public life. Here are great leaders applauded by the media, apparently achieving great things, but then you hear they are on their third marriage and you wonder. What is it about this person that they are unable to hold together a relationship? Or they do great things but you then hear that they children are all over the place because they feel unloved and ignored. No, you can be good on the outside but inside there is much missing!

We saw in the previous meditation Paul comparing Jew and Gentile, pointing out that the Jew may have the Law and circumcision but the Gentile may show they have more of a relationship with God by the way they live, than the Jew does. Paul draws this bit of the argument to a close by questioning what a real Jew is. Is it someone who belongs to the Jewish race, whose origins are in Israel?  Is this person a Jew?  Most people would say yes, but not Paul. You’re not a Jew because you have the outward marks of circumcision, he says, because that is merely something that has been done to you when you were very young. No, he continues, real circumcision, that marks out a man as a real Jew is that of the heart. When you heart has been cut and given to God that is real circumcision! Anything else is simply an external ritual which can be meaningless.

Moreover, says Paul, it is to be a heart circumcision that is brought about by the Holy Spirit, not something to do with the Law. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and converts. A real relationship with the Lord comes about by a work of the Holy Spirit, not by a work of man. It is not by human endeavour (trying to keep the Law), but by the Holy Spirit drawing a person, convicting them and then coming in to them. It is all a Spirit thing, not a Law thing. Whereas the Jew so often looked to others for affirmation that he was a Jew, a real Jew, one whose heart has been worked upon by the Holy Spirit, gets his affirmation from God Himself. It is God affirming we are His children, by the work of His Holy Spirit, is all the praise we want, and brings all the confidence we need. We need nothing beyond that.

When we do something outwardly then, yes, people can praise us for our achievement, but when God has done an inner work in us, then we have nothing worthy of praise in us. We simply surrendered to Him and He did the rest.  As Paul said to the church at Corinth, God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor 1:27-30). Similarly to the church in Ephesus he wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8,9)

That in Romans was Paul to the Jews, but what about us who are Christians? The immediate parallel to the act of circumcision in a baby is probably the unscriptural act of ‘baptizing’ or ‘christening’ babies. If you were christened as a baby that doesn’t make you a Christian today!  The two sets of verses we’ve just looked at say it all. We have no room to boast because when we came to Him we were weak. It was only Him putting His Holy Spirit in us that made us what we are today. It wasn’t anything to do with our works or our achievements (or what was done to us when we were a baby), it is all to do with His grace which we simply receive by faith. It’s not what we do on the outside that is the all important thing – though it is important – it is the work that He has brought about in us that is the crucial thing, the thing that makes Christians.

Thus we come to the end of the chapter and it is worth just reminding ourselves where Paul has been going with this. He has been undermining any pride or arrogance or sense of self-ability that the Jews in Rome might have, as he prepares to tell them all about what God has done through Jesus. But he hasn’t finished yet, so we must continue on into the next chapter in our next mediation to see where he next takes this.

32. Circumcision?

Meditations in Romans : 32 :  Circumcision?

Rom 2:25-27 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

Circumcision was a very Jewish thing. Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.” (Gen 17:9,10) This had been God’s command to Abraham. It was a rite through which every Jewish male went through a week after they had been born. It was a tangible reminder, if you like, of their relationship with the Lord. Thus in Paul’s day Jewish males could say, “We have the Law from God and we have been circumcised as a sign of our relationship with God.” These were things that made them special, different from the ungodly Gentiles – or so they thought.

And then along come Paul who pours cold water on their pride. Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.” What! Yes, if you keep the Law and show your relationship is real with the Lord, then the marks of circumcision are genuine and meaningful, but of you don’t keep the Law, what is the point of the circumcision, because it is clear you don’t actually have a real relationship with God!

He presses home to point: If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?” Circumcision and keeping the Law are both signs of a relationship with God, and so if we find a Gentile who is keeping the things that the Law requires, then they are clearly someone with some ort of relationship with God and so, surely, that is as good as circumcision for them.

Then he smacks home the next point: The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.” i.e. the Gentile obeying God’s Law, even if he doesn’t have the outward signs in his body, will show you up, you who don’t keep the Law, despite the fact that you have the outward sign in your body. Your lawbreaking annuls the mark of circumcision.

Now if you are a Christian you may be wondering what this has to do with you. Christians do not have to be circumcised so what is the point of thinking about this? Put in its simplest of terms the subject above shows people who say they are one thing and have outward signs to prove it, but in reality it means little. The same can be true of Christians. I know we have been over similar ground before in these meditations but it is a vitally important issue. We can go to church on a Sunday – that is the outward sign – but in many other ways we show we do not have the spirit of Christ. If we judge others, look down on them, have pride, think badly of others, hold them at a distance and speak ill of them, we find ourselves in the same position as these Jews that Paul was addressing. We claim to be one thing and give some small religious sign of it, but in our lives generally the fruit is missing that would tell us we had a genuine relationship with the Lord.

The sad thing is that there are many good unbelievers in the world. Only yesterday I was told by one such man that he kept the Ten Commandments and that was his rule of life. He doesn’t realise that the first ones are about loving God. But there are many such people who are good but godless – and some of them are in churches on a Sunday morning! Being good, or being nice isn’t the criteria that God cares about; it is how we respond to His Son, Jesus. He doesn’t want us to just be nice; He wants us to be nice, good and godly, having a living relationship with Him whereby He is able to lead us, guide us, teach us and show us the way on a daily basis, as we allow Him to lead us by His Spirit. For us, “keeping the Law” has become “following the Spirit,” and that of course includes allowing Him to teach us through His word. Oh yes, these words of Paul in this part are very relevant!

31. Reputation

Meditations in Romans : 31 :  A Question of Reputation

Rom 2:22-24 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

One of the tragic things about the tidal wave of attacks from crusading atheists in the latter part of the first decade of the twenty-first century in the West, is that although they purport to attack the existence of God, their ability to attack Him on the basis of Biblical doctrine is virtually non-existence. Instead their attacks are based on the behaviour and activities of those who purport to be the Christian Church, past and present. We give them a great deal of ammunition! It should not be! It seems that the history of Judaism and of Christianity both simply go to confirm the Bible’s teaching that man is sinful and gets it wrong – even when they are supposed to have a relationship with God!

Paul is challenging the Jews of Rome who rely upon their knowing the Law and apparently having some sort of relationship with the Lord.  He has been saying that it is not sufficient to know the Law in your head; you need to be obeying it, living it out.  Here he now gives two examples: You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” It’s all very well to proclaim the Ten Commandments (e.g. “You shall not commit adultery – Ex 20:14) but actually if you commit adultery you are dishonouring God and are breaking the commandment. Simply knowing about the command is not enough! Stealing from Pagan temples was obviously a common occurrence. Believers might have justified such behaviour that it was only pagan temples they were taking from. Certainly later in history that happened and one assumes from Paul’s comment that it had probably already happened.

In these two things we see Paul’s charges against these almost-believing Jews to be summarised as  a) you fail to keep the commandments of the Law, and  b) your general behaviour in the world is questionable!  i.e. it’s not only your failure to keep the Law, it’s also your failure to live decently anyway.  As he goes on to say, the result of this is that they dishonour God.  They purport to be followers of God but their behaviour is just as bad as anyone else and so this demeans God in the eyes of the world.

In fact he then goes on to quote the Septuagint version of Isaiah: As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Our version of Isaiah 52:5 reads, “And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” A similar accusation was found in Ezekiel: “Therefore say to the house of Israel, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.” (Ezek 36:22)

In both cases, Israel’s behaviour was less that would be expected from those who claimed to follow a holy God. In both cases the world was mocking the Jews and deriding the name of the Lord because of the behaviour of the Jews. Such a thing should not have happened but it did.

Thus we say again, today the Christian community worldwide should not be providing fuel for the world to mock.  We more than any others should be living ethically correct lives; we should be showing an example of goodness, kindness, gentleness and love to all around us. We more than others should be peacemakers: those who bring reconciliation, who speak only truth, who refrain from gossip, slander and speaking badly about others. We, surely, should be those who shy away from dubious business practices, away from greed and covetousness and taking advantage of others. We in our churches should, surely, seek to be simple in our worship and adoration of our Lord and avoid charges of excesses.

We, surely, should be bringers of the love of God with respect and gentleness and with honesty and integrity. We, surely, should be lights to the world, doing good things that bring glory to our Father in heaven (Mt 5:14-16). We, surely, should not be argumentative but gently persuasive. In us, surely, should be seen patience and perseverance. But how often do we fail!  How often does the name of the church or the image of the church be derided on TV?

How often is the image of men of the church portrayed in weakness and silliness? How often are people of the church portrayed as weird? We are different but that shouldn’t mean weird! We, more than any others, should be seen as ordinarily good, not freaky but good to be around!  Aren’t we called to be salt and doesn’t salt bring out flavour? Aren’t we those who should enhance the quality of the lives of our communities?  Or do we hide away in religious ghettos? These are questions that leaders of the Church, and we who form the Church, need to face and be honest about otherwise, like the Jews Paul was speaking about, we will continue to let the name of the Lord down! May it not be!

30. To the Jews

Meditations in Romans : 30 :  To the Jews

Rom 2:17-21 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?

Paul’s letter to Rome is intriguing in that it is not clear about the state of the church there. When he wrote to the Corinthians he wrote, To the church of God in Corinth.” (1 Cor 1:2). Similarly when he wrote to the Galatians he wrote, “To the churches in Galatia.” (Gal 1:2). However, when he wrote to the Ephesians he wrote more generally, “To the saints in Ephesus.” (Eph 1:1) One wonders if the different designations indicate the level of maturity or state of being established in each case. Clearly in Corinth and in Galatia the churches were clearly established but perhaps when he wrote to Rome or Ephesus he was writing to a less definite body of Christians. Remember, when he wrote to Rome he simply addressed them as, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” (1:7). It would appear to be a young group of believers, possibly with not very clear beliefs yet, because of the way he is able to address them in this chapter. These first two chapters are really more about the bad news than the ‘Good News’, which is always a precursor to the Gospel.

It would appear that there are both Jew and Gentile ‘believers’ in Rome and here Paul addresses the religious Jews. He is aware that there is a Jewish cultural tendency to be superior about who they are, after all he is one himself. “If you call yourself a Jew”. They may be Christian believers (of a sort) but they still saw themselves as Jews, these first early converts. As such they still had all the trappings of Judaism and Paul is about to show them that this is of little help. “If you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God.”

Those, surely were the two things that marked them out from the rest of the world. They had the Law of Moses as their foundational guide and they had, they thought, a relationship with God. Note so far two ‘if’s. i.e. if you put yourself in this position or if you rely upon this thing, then realise that there are consequences. But there are two more things yet: if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth.” The first ‘if’ here is about of their claim to know God’s will because it has been revealed through the Law of Moses. The second is their belief that as receivers of God’s Law, they are also those who are able to instruct the rest of the world in it. This was the crux of their beliefs, that they were the special, unique receivers of God’s Law and as such were superior to everyone else in the world,  but Paul is about to show how that is an erroneous belief.

Their reliance was in ‘knowing’. They knew what the Law was because it had been given to them through Moses and passed on down through the generations. They knew what God’s will for the world was because they had received it in the Law. Surely that made them superior. This is rather like someone who leaves university with, say, an engineering degree and feels superior because of their knowledge which is greater than others who don’t have it.  Well they might be if they used it and put it into practice, but until they do so they are merely recipients of a lot of information. Information is not for keeping in your head; it is for using in life. For these Jews, Paul is about to suggest that having the Law is meaningless unless they keep it!

However, that is not yet here in these verses. At the end of these verses he asks them something slightly different: you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” It is moving in that other direction for the implication is, if you are teaching others to keep the Law are you teaching yourselves likewise?  But that is only an implication. As it stands it is actually a challenge as to whether these teachers of the rest of the world are willing to be taught themselves, for Paul is about to do that. This is quite important. When we think we have ‘arrived’ it is so easy to get into a place where we are no longer open to be taught – and none of us can say we don’t have more to learn.

One very deceived man actually said to me once, “There’s nothing more you can teach me. I know it all.” I think that was the greatest example of deception that I’ve almost ever come across! As disciples of Jesus we are always to be learners, we are always to have an open heart to him to receive from him what more he wants to teach us. We can never stop learning this side of heaven.  But here in these verses is the thing that might stop us, this belief that we’ve arrived, we’ve got it all – certainly in comparison to the rest of the world who haven’t received the Gospel or had the teaching we’ve had.  Humility is an essential requirement at this point! May we have it!

29. The Day

Meditations in Romans : 29 :  The Day of the Lord

Rom 2:16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

“It will never happen!”  I think that is a response of many people to warnings that are given in life. The smoker is warned that smoking brings cancer and the individual thinks, “It might in others but it won’t in me.” The young person is told that sexual promiscuity brings a high risk of STD’s but thinks, “But not for me!”   And so it is in so many ways in life, our self-centred and protective inner systems deny risk. “It will be all right!” It is just the same as when Satan whispered to Eve, You will not surely die.” (Gen 3:4). When it comes to sin we may warn people that God will hold them accountable and they say “Yes” but think “No, not me.”  We may actually quote Paul saying, “A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal 6:7) and the blindness of sin thinks, “Others, but not me. I’ll be all right.”  Well, no, you won’t!

There are two particular outworkings of this that involve us in long-term thinking. We warn, “You’re not going to live for ever, you never know when you might die and then you’ll face God,” and the person thinks, “Yes, but that won’t be for many years,” and yet a lot of people don’t reach old age, but we all think we will.  Or the preacher speaks about the day when the Lord will wind up all things and there will be a universal accounting, and the person thinks, “Yes, well that won’t be for hundreds of years yet.” We don’t know!

There is yet another ‘escape route’ that people use when we say these things: “It’ll be all right, no one knows about my sin,” as if their sin being hidden from human eyes means they will not be accountable to God. Nevertheless the belief that what we have been doing has been in secret leads many people to foolishly think they are safe. No you are not because God sees everything!

We say all this because of where Paul has got to now. “This will take place…” What will take place?  Well if you look at the verses in the paragraph from which the above verse comes, you will see that verses 14 and 15 are an aside in brackets. So the ‘this’ refers back to what was said in verses 12 and 13: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” i.e. there is coming a time of judgment when we have to account for what we have done or not done. That is the starting place.

Now something else is then made clear: “on the day when….” This isn’t something general, which could happen any time. There is coming a day, a specific time and day, when God has decided that this will happen. It won’t be an accident and it won’t be forced by circumstances but it is a day that God has decided upon before anything else happened. It is part of His sovereign plan, so it WILL happen.

So what will happen? “God will judge men’s secrets.” This is going to be a sovereign act of God. It won’t be that circumstances will pile up against us, but that on this appointed day, God Himself will step forward and He will hold a court case against us and the evidence will be put forward and our lives displayed – everything about us, even the things we thought were secret that no one else knew about – and God will pronounce judgment on these lives of ours. Already we are starting to feel uncomfortable. How can we possibly hope for a good outcome? Perhaps we can make excuses? I didn’t know. Yes, you did; your conscience told you. Or maybe, well I’m no worse than anyone else. So what? You’re still talking about your sin. Or perhaps, it wasn’t my fault? You mean you are unable to make your own choices in life? You didn’t choose to do those things? No, the outlook is not good!

But on what measure or standard will God judge us? “Through Jesus Christ.” What does that mean? I suggest there are two applications. First, He will measure us against the standard of the life that Christ lived. How do we stand up to that test? That’s unfair, we cry, he was the Son of God. Yes, but he was still living in a human body with human feelings and human free will. Oh dear, we’re going to fail that one!

But there is yet, fortunately, a further possibility. I say fortunately because I hope the answer to what is coming is positive. The other way that God will assess us, is how we have responded to Jesus. That is what the gospel is all about that Paul then refers to.  Jesus came and lived on the earth and we saw all of his goodness and the love of God displayed through him. How do our hearts respond to that?  If it leaves us cold we condemn ourselves. But then he died on the Cross to take the punishment for our sins. How do we respond to that?

If it is with indifference we condemn ourselves. If we receive his salvation gladly we are not only saved today, but we will be saved on that day when we have to stand before God and account for our lives.  We will surely fail when we are measured on the basis of our personal goodness, but when it comes to how we responded to Jesus, that is much easier if we can say, I heard, I responded and I took him as my personal saviour and was born again.  THAT and that only is the only way we will be able to stand with any confidence before God on that last day.