Two Sides of Judgment

“Judge not!” says the spirit of the age. In contrast, the Lord essentially tells us in His Word to “judge wisely” [i.e. Leviticus 19:15Proverbs 31:9John 7:24].

The qualifier from the Lord is that we don’t judge selfishly, foolishly, hypocritically, or unfairly. In short, don’t judge wrongly, and we as His people get that! Unfortunately, a growing chorus of people are stating “Don’t judge, period.”

Matthew 7:1-5 is a classic example of the Lord contrasting hypocritical and righteous judgment:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We live in a country based upon the rule of law. As human beings we actually make judgements all the time – when to get up, what to wear, eat, what to do, who are friends will be, who we’ll marry, what we’ll do for a living, and the list goes on and on. You might say making judgments in no small measure defines our lives. In fact, we judge people in part based upon the judgments we see them make.

Yet, a tension arises when people pull out the “Don’t Judge” card. For those who raise this banner are themselves making a judgment. But pointing that out would be inconvenient and perhaps, to some people, judgmental!

Yet, the gospel of Jesus at its very core is all about judgment – Jesus died of our sins! 

As we witness for Jesus, may we tremble before Him and testify with humility and winsomeness, that others would know we as human beings are all together in the same boat – a sinking one – without Jesus!

You see, God, as the Judge, judges sin. In fact, He is crystal clear when it comes to judging sin:

“The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Perhaps some will say, “I don’t believe in judgment.” A simple response may be to ask them why people die. No worldview so lucidly addresses the question as does our Christian faith – “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23).

Human beings are sinners, and as such, that sin-debt will be paid.

In light of that truth, there are only two options of having that sin debt paid – the two sides of judgment. We will either pay for our own sins or we will trust in Jesus’ payment for our sins.

Years ago I was in Brooklyn, NY witnessing to an orthodox Jewish man named Leon. I asked Leon how he was having his sins forgiven. He stated, as Orthodox Judaism teaches, that through prayer, repentance and good works, his sins are forgiven.

I then shared this hypothetical story with Leon: “Suppose I show up on the day of my arraignment for a crime I committed and walked up to the judge and said, “Judge, I’m guilty. But I’ve repented of that behavior, I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’m giving alms to the poor and I’m really, really, really sorry. Can I go home now?”

I added, “What would the Judge say to me then, Leon? Well, in so many words, he would incredulously tell me to get a grip on reality and understand one thing: the debt must be paid!”

“Leon, Jesus paid my sin debt on the cross. How then are you having your sin debt paid for?”

The response – deafening silence!

Yes, our sin debt will be paid one way or another, yet God, in His grace and mercy, “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

As we ponder the concept of judgment in light of our witness, the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice is predicated upon our acknowledging the why of His sacrifice – namely that He took upon Himself the wrath of God upon sin that we all so deserve [Isaiah 53:4-6]! Oh, the wonder of God’s grace found in Messiah Jesus!

To avoid the concept of judgment in our gospel explanations is to present an incomplete gospel, for the good news about Jesus is predicated upon bad news about man’s sin.

Therefore, we don’t sugar coat the gospel as it pertains to judgment and our communication of this essential reality. The gospel is, in one sense, about the two sides of judgment – the judgment ending in life and the judgment ending in death; the judgment that sends the sinner to hell or ushers the sinner into heaven; the judgement that ends in alienation from God and the judgement that ends in reconciliation with God. Those two ultimate realities are  predicated upon whether an individual rejects or accepts Jesus’ saving work on their behalf. But make no mistake – our sin debt must be paid, because God is a just God.

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

May we as His witnesses, in love share the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding judgment. And may those we share the gospel with understand and accept the truth concerning judgment upon sin, and receive Jesus – our sin bearer – who paid our sin-debt in full upon the cross! Amen.

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