Judgement and Joy
I had a page of notes on this passage that as I was thinking about you guys and preparing this message, I realized wouldn’t help you. I was going to talk about the intricacies of this passage and how there are multiple layers of recapitulation, but as God worked on my heart through this passage, I deleted all my notes. Because, sure, we need to love God with all of our mind, but what’s equally as important, and has been something that I’ve neglected at times in my preaching is the heart. So today, I want to focus on some issues of the heart that come from this passage.
Hear now the Living Word of God:
11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
We’re seeing the all-powerful creator of the universe entering into his creation to bring final justice. And as he sits on his throne, even the earth and the sky recognize their unworthiness in his presence, and they flee, but there’s nowhere to go from Him.
Yes, we are talking about judgment. The whole point of this passage is that we have two options. We can stand in judgement based on what is written in books, or based upon what is written in the book. Here’s how it’s going to go:
Stack of books vs. one book. Books vs. book of life. Our deeds vs. Jesus’ deeds.
Explain judgement from books of our deeds because of God’s perfect memory. And our sins will be read out.
All my pride. Every evil thought. Every minute wasted. All of it will be on full display for everyone to see. And for every accusation brought against me, Jesus will stand before the judge and say, "paid in full."
And whatever you wrestle with, your anger, your lust, your unforgiveness, it will all be read out for everyone to hear. Followed by Jesus standing before the judge to declare: “Paid in full.”
Paul talks about life in view of this impending judgment in 1 Cor. 3. He says:
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. 12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
For those who are in Christ , those who will be judged by the book of life, your foundation is Jesus. If you’re not in Jesus, you’ve not repented of your sins, been baptized, and placed your trust in Jesus, your foundation is not in Christ. You have no foundation.
Someone that I really enjoy watching right now is a pastor by the name of Jeff Durbin. He has a lot videos on Youtube where he goes and he debates people on the street, and he’s so gentle and patient with people (I want to be like him when I grow up), but he doesn’t compromise on truth. He tells people that outside of a foundation of revelation from God, there is no reliable foundation. That without God, from an atheistic worldview, there is no foundation for morals, logic, or science.
If that’s you today, let me tell you in the gentlest and most loving way that I can- you have no foundation for life. You are responsible for building from scratch your own worldview and for making for yourself meaning for your life, and I don’t think you can do that without God. If you are a highly evolved bag of stardust that is the result of millions of years of accidents in an unguided unpurposed universe, your life has no meaning, value, or purpose, and there’s no right or wrong:
Richard Dawkins the most famous atheist admits this:
“There is no good. There is no evil. There is only blind and pitiless indifference. The universe does not care.”
If you share his worldview, you must admit the same. There is no foundation for you to stand on. And you must admit that your life is meaningless and that you have no worth, meaning, or value. I refuse to believe that about you.
We can stand in judgement based on what is written in books, or based upon what is written in the book.
For the rest of you, your foundation is Jesus, and your life is the building you build upon that foundation. It’s a foundation of grace, and as a result of this grace, what kind of lives should we live? Lives of godliness and grace.
What kind of building are you building? Will you be ashamed as your deeds, good and bad are read out? Or will you have built a building of faithfulness upon the foundation of Christ? Is your faith genuine?
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
Do you freely confess your sins, or do you cover them up and pretend that everything is going okay in your life. We are not okay. It’s okay to admit that we are not okay.
John says later in his 1st letter:
6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.
This does not mean that you won’t sin. I know that’s how it’s been translated. But clearly John didn’t intend that, or he wouldn’t have said earlier that if we claim not to sin, we don’t know Jesus. What John is saying is that those who choose to live a lifestyle of sin in view of God’s grace, does not know him. Paul put it another way:
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
Let me encourage you with this: the apostle Paul, the man who wrote 20% of the books in the Bible, the man who was personally trained by Jesus for three years one on one in the desert, the man who gave up everything to follow where Jesus told him to go- that man did not conquer his sin until the Roman officials made him kneel down as they took a sword and removed his head from his body and Jesus raised him to life to reign with him. Even Paul dealt with sin.
“For I do not understand the things I do. For the things I want to do, I don’t do, and the things I don’t want to do, I do. I don’t understand myself for I do the very thing that I hate. Oh wretched man that I am! Who can save me from this body of death!?! ......Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!”
We will never conquer our sin until we die. But we can, by God’s grace, do a little better today than we did yesterday. And we can view our sin like Paul did- as worse each passing year.
1 Cor. 15:8-9 (55 AD) “least of all the apostles”, 1 Tim. 1:15, “worst of all sinners” (62-66 AD)
Paul was distraught over his own sinfulness. Because he was concerned with the building he built upon the foundation that Christ laid. Paul was a man who wept over his sin. And as he is judged, Jesus will stand and say “paid in full” for every charge leveled against him. Let me ask you this:
When’s the last time you wept over your own sin?
The word of God comes with huge consequences and huge responsibilities. Is your life one lived with the realization that you have sinned and you are no better than anyone else?
How do you react to verses like 1 Peter 1:17?
17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”
There are basically two ways to read that passage. You can basically, say “God has no favorites? Well, shoot.” Because if God had favorites, you know you’d be one. The other way to react to this passage is to say, “God has no favorite? Thank God!” Because you realize the depth and the ugliness of your own sin.
Or put another way:
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Do you understand the depth to which you’ve been forgiven, even if you’ve been in Church your whole life? Even if we’ve broken the command of God once, we deserve Hell.
Because we have been given grace, we need to build a house of grace. We can stand in judgement based on what is written in books, or based upon what is written in the book. Let’s talk about what this looks like, functionally. I just want to take a look at a couple of the hardest passages of Scripture for many, and maybe they might be hard for you as well:
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
Ouch. I know I’m not the only one who has trouble sometimes controlling my tongue- sometimes speaking when you shouldn’t but ALSO not speaking when you should.
How about this one as we’re taught how to pray:
12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Forgiven people forgive people. If you don’t forgive, if you don’t give grace, if you hold on to grudges of the stupid or evil things that people have done against you, God says, “you don’t know grace.” You don’t give grace, because you don’t know grace. And I want you to know the grace of Jesus. And I want you to know that it’s not your burden to bear.
Forgive or get bitter. Bitterness is a burden. “Bitterness is the poison we drink to hurt someone else.”
You have to keep score. Put it down, it’s not yours to bear.
David knew it when he wrote Psalm 51 after being caught in his adultery, murder, and deception.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
Did he sin only against the Lord? It’s in Scripture, is it true? Yes.
You might say he sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, Nathan, his wives, his kids, and his nation in addition to his God, but David understood that all of those belong to God.
How about this one:
7 “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
You might say “I don’t think most people struggle with this one. We’re not out smacking our fingers with hammers and using the name of Jesus. We definitely don’t do that. And we don’t say, ‘oh, my God.’”
His name is not “god.” His name is Yahweh, or Jesus. But those aren’t the only way to misuse his name or take his name in vain as most of you probably have it memorized. Have you ever said, “I feel like God is telling me...” and you weren’t 100% sure and you couldn’t back it with Scripture? That’s misusing the name of God. Many a high school breakup is centered around breaking one of the big ten, right?
Guy: “I’m sorry Sabrina, God told me I shouldn’t be dating you.”
Sabrina: “Are you sure this has nothing to do with the fact that Brian and Sophie just broke up and now she’s available?”
That’s taking the name of God in vain- saying he said something he didn’t say. If you can’t back up what you’re saying with Scripture, and you are the least bit unsure about what he’s said, then don’t invoke his name.
We can stand in judgement based on what is written in books, or based upon what is written in the book. We have two options. And it all depends on whether you love God. And how do we know if we love God? We obey his commandments, right?
15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
So what about you today? Do you love him? Is Jesus your Lord? Have you repented of your sins? Have you been baptized- being buried with him in his death, and raised to life in his life? Do you submit your life to him in everything?
If you haven’t done one or more of those I want to talk to you, especially baptism. You might say, “I prayed a prayer. God has forgiven me. I don’t need to be baptized.” And it’s certainly true that God can work that way, there’s no verse in the New Testament that says, “pray a prayer, and you will be saved.” When people are saved in the New Testament, their saving faith looks like repentance and baptism:
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Do you obey the command of the living Word of God today?
Have you repented of your sins? Have you been baptized? Do you forgive? Do you control your tongue? Do you honor the name of Jesus? And when you fail to do these, do you repent?
I want you to be judged by what is written in the book, not by the books of your deeds. And if you’re not sure by which you will be judged, I want to talk to you as we sing.