Saturday, November 27, 2010

A, Advent 1 - Romans 13:11-14 "The Armour of Light"

Light and darkness, there is arguably no greater extreme. When one speaks of these opposites, one might be speaking of the realms of good and evil, spiritual differences. Or practically speaking, one might consider physical light and darkness too. Either way, there’s nothing darker than darkness, or brighter than light.

One thing for sure, our eyes can’t deal with a sudden change between these extremes. Picture miners coming out of the mine after a period of time being trapped in darkness! Their eyes are covered, because they’ve become intolerant to the light.

Or perhaps you’ve had a light shone in your face, a torch, or the oncoming high beam of a car or truck blinds you, making it difficult to see the source of the light or where you’re going.

Although, when the light is gone it’s still hard to see. The intensity of the beam’s element for only a moment has burnt itself into your retinas. So all you see is hazy glow where the light’s element once hit your eye. But in your eye’s confusion from the sudden flash of light, now what was hard to see in the dark is completely hidden from your eye seeing it. The light has left you blinded in the night.

Without light there is darkness, when light appears darkness disappears. When we’re in our home or familiar surroundings we might be able to walk in the dark. Why? Because despite the darkness, our mind and senses see for us, and enable us to move around what we know!

But we all know what it’s like moving around in the dark in an unfamiliar place. Like when you’re on holidays or staying with someone and nature calls in the middle of the night. You grope around the place in the dark; arms outstretch, feeling for obstacles, hoping you don’t knock something over or break it or one of your toes on the furniture!

Light and darkness are extremes we humans don’t handle well. Turning on the light and opening the blinds makes one retreat into the darkness under the doona like a worm exposed in the earth. Alternatively, the sudden loss of light exposes us to danger and causes us to seek a light source so we can see again, like a moth flying towards the light.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear …you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11–14 ESV)

Here Paul calls the hearer to “walk properly as in the daytime”. For the Romans and for us there’s no difference; we all walk in darkness, we’re all walking through the valley of the shadow of death. But as we walk in this darkness, we’re called to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light!

Now it might be easy to walk when it’s light, but to walk in the darkness as if it were light calls for confidence. But confidence in what?

The darkness in which we walk today is one that hides the truth. This truth is good and bad, the truth of good and evil. Knowing this truth is one which impacts us eternally. And so when Paul calls us to put on the armour of light, it not just armour to stop our toes being stubbed and it’s not just a torch to show us the way to the toilet in the wee early hours of the morning.

So how do we have confidence in this age where truth seems to be whatever one wants to believe? Well we’re called to pull back the doonas of doubt and see that the darkness is passing and the rays of righteousness are just over the horizon. Our confidence is not a confidence in ourselves but rather we’re called to see with the eyes of faith, with the armour of light.

But being so use to the darkness we don’t want to see or be seen in the reveal all light of righteousness.

Rather, some of us would rather it remain dark so we might illuminate our own torches of righteousness. We seek to stand out from those in the darkness with our own illuminating works, clarifying our own understanding of truth and salvation, and enlightening ourselves with euphoric emotional events.

Or if we’re not illuminating our own way, the other human reaction is to try and withdraw into the darkness so the light can’t shine on us. When one is overcome with the reality of their own darkness within, the thought of light on the subject seems to drive the person further away from the light of reality.

But the reality is, when the person who is hiding in the darkness has the light of Christ, the armour of light put on, the darkness that debilitates and deceives is dispelled by light.

When we bump around in the dark knowing we are hurting ourselves and making a mess, a light being switched on in the darkness of our lives shows us the way removing the fear of the future.

The deception of darkness is that the revelation of light, especially the light of the Gospel, will only create more darkness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth!

When we come out of the darkness into the light, it reveals what needs to be cleaned up. The very thing the darkness hides. Therefore, being led further and further into the light of Christ, calls for the daily drowning of sin; washing in repentance and forgiveness of sin.

As God leads us further in to the light of his presence, sure we see clearer and clearer the dirtiness of who we are, but the light of forgiveness continues to shine brighter and brighter too. And furthermore, we’re led to know and trust the armour of light more and more, in which God is continually clothing us. So even though we are still standing in the dark we can walk properly as if it were day.

On the other hand, those who have sought their own righteousness through creating and being their own light, are called to see their own light as nothing; perhaps even a deception of darkness away from the only true source of eternal light.

English theologian Charles Spurgeon in his writings Lectures to my Students makes this powerful observation regarding the light of faith…

Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. … Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. (Spurgeon, “Lectures to my Students” p.265ff)

This Advent the Lord encourages you to see not only the arrival of a new day, week, Christmas, and the New Year. But to see with the eyes of faith, in these days of darkness! Where many are choosing to turn back to the deeds of death, God calls you to put on the Armour of Light, to put on Christ Jesus.

In these days when there seems to be no foreseeable happenings in your lives do not cast away your confidence, your Armour of Light! The rewards are hidden but they are promised by God himself for those who trust him.

Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who does not forsake his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. (ibid. p. 265ff)

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, your flesh, to gratify its desires. Put on the Armour of Light. Amen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

C, Last Sunday of the Church Year Proper 29 - Colossians 1:11-20, Psalm 46 "Stop in the Name of Love"

There’s no doubt we live in busy times. Many of us have our days filled even before they begin. Some are so busy that on going to bed they can’t sleep from thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow. Does tomorrow ever come?

At the beginning of the day some of us rise early to meet the storms which await us. These are people who busy themselves with the attitude when the going gets tough the tough get going. And they definitely get going without a moment’s delay! They grab the bull by the horns busily brawling with their beast.

If you’re a person like this every minute of your day is filled. “Where does the time go?” So focused on the tasks at hand there never seems to be a time to relax, sit down, and take the load off the feet.

Or alternatively, one might busy themselves in the tasks of relaxation. To an outsider watching this person’s tiring efforts relaxing might raise thought, “if this is how they relax I’d hate to see them work!” These people often seem superior or second to none in their work ethic. So dedicated, so focused, it might seem these people are supreme super humans!

Busy as a bee, people like this seem to get busy living, or are they in fact busy dying? Like a busy bee, life flies past in a flash, regardless their life’s length; toilsome duty seems to rush them through life to death. However, on their death beds, do they lament over not having busied themselves more? Did they ever stop to smell the roses?

Another type of person who always busies themselves is not as obvious as the person who can’t sit still. Rather this person seems to be relaxed; maybe just a little too relaxed at first sight. But on the inside boils a nervousness which makes the person so insecure they end up doing nothing. Well so it seems, to those around them! However, these people too are very busy; the storm clouds aren’t out there. No! They’re in here, in the heart.

Imminent and eminent, or looming and well-known, are these storms to those who see them towering on the horizon of their hearts. To those who observe this type of person they might think they’re not up to much. But really they are frozen with fear! They’re so consumed by worry and doubt their lives appear inactive yet they are anything but inactive on the inside as their troubles tower overhead.

And so we have two types of people. Those who can’t sit still because they are so busy, and then there are those who do sit still but are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them because their hearts are busy buried in worry and doubt.

In Psalm 46 God calls you to… “Be still and know that I am Lord”. It’s such a simple sentence, so why does it sentence us to so much strife? Is there any of us that can truly “stop” and let the Lord be the Lord?

Those who have hectic lives struggle to stop moving because they believe if they do, they might miss out, they might look slack, they might not be doing the right thing, or they might begin to see their need to be busy is actually their weakness. And in being still and seeing their limitations they might begin to know they need a Saviour.

On the other hand, those who seem still but are shaking with constant doubt and worry within — here the call to stop, to be still and know God — are forced into deeper and deeper worry and doubt. If they stop and rest from their worry and doubt, they might notice this Lord they are meant to be still before, and he will see their hearts and be the storm of all storms raging over their lives of fear and confusion.

So both the movers and the shakers of this world have great trouble in being truly still and knowing that God is Lord. Which are you? A mover or a shaker? Or perhaps a bit of both?

Whoever you are your Heavenly Father seeks peace for you; he wants to provide and sustain you. Jesus Christ, God the Son, has a gracious desire to rescue you and carry you home. And God the Holy Spirit want to be your mover and the shaker willing you to Christ and in him find rest.

And so God calls you to stop and be still in Jesus Christ. He sends the Holy Spirit to move those shaking in fear and to shake those moving towards death. God calls you to be still in he who is above all things and through all things. Hear about Jesus in whom you’re called to be still…

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:15–18 ESV)

To be preeminent means Jesus is supreme, the highest of the high, and second to none. Yet we might ask how is Jesus supreme, and we find his supremacy in his stillness on the cross, where he bowed his head, gave up his spirit, and where all was finished and stopped for us whose spirits busy themselves in the storms of life which come and go.

In Psalm 46 we hear… the nations rage, the kingdoms totter, and God can utter his voice and the earth melts (v. 6). But even so with the Lord, the God of Jacob with us, he is our strength and refuge; he is our help in trouble. With God we have nothing to fear. He has the power to stops all conflicts in us, upon us, and surrounding us.

Together the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit — our Triune God — is the mover and shaker of everything. In the Father we find refuge, Jesus is our only true strength, and our helper is the Holy Spirit. He teaches us to give up our spirit, letting Christ begin it and finish it for us at the cross. Then in Christ the Holy Spirit can begin to move us and conform us in accordance with the Spirit of God.

But what is the power of this Spirit? It is the power of love in whom God has his being. Jesus bore this Spirit and therefore the power of love, because he is God… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19–20 ESV)

Years ago there was a song sung by a group of three, who ironically have the name, The Supremes. They sang a song called, Stop in the name of Love. But we have a Supreme Three-in-One, Triune God who also calls you and me to “Stop in the name of Love”, or to be still and know that I am God. Through Jesus’ blood spilt on the cross you know that God is love, and his love is transferred to those who stop and allow that love to be powerfully transmitted into us and through us by the Holy Spirit.

The fact of the matter is God knows you and he knows best. He knows his children need him to take us into his rest, into Christ’s rest on our cross and in the tomb. Why? Because left to ourselves and our own righteousness we are busily, blindly, toughing it out towards eternal turmoil. Those who rely on self motivation and continue refusing God are toiling toward eternal separation from God; drowning in worry and doubt not knowing true love.

If you’re one who is bound by busyness, running here and there never getting done what you believe needs to be done. If you’re one whose mind is busy with worry and doubt; or if you’re somewhere in between — God calls you to stop and be still, in the name of Love. Stop and know God; stop and know his love. Be still and know that the Lord is your Righteousness; he has finished ALL righteousness out of love for you.

Let he who is Preeminent, he who is Supreme, execute justice and righteousness for you, in you, at your cross — in your baptism. Pray for the Holy Spirit to remain in you and continue to give you faith as you hear his Word. Amen.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Amen. (Colossians 1:11–14 ESV)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

C, Pentecost 25 Proper 28 - Luke 21:5-19 "Eternal Endurance"

In the gospel reading before us today, Jesus speaks of the temple in Jerusalem and its desolation. But not only its demise through destruction but also the collapse of creation in future events of chaos!

When what we know and have depended upon for everyday life disintegrates, the restless hearts of humanity will boil over with fear and horrors that history hasn’t even experienced. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple—a place where heaven met earth and God dwelt with man—all those years ago in 70 AD, stands as a reminder and warning to us that the collapse of creation is coming.

And rightly so, the hearts of those who have elevated their created surroundings into their hope will be overcome with unquenchable anguish. Those who have lifted up this life as their heavenly paradise are heading for devastation just like the temple.

In stark contrast to these terminal times is the enduring name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the new temple. Through him, heaven meets earth. He is created like you and me, but he is also eternally begotten. Not only did he have a human beginning, conceived in the womb of a woman, God the Son has always been there eternally enduring with our Heavenly Father, even when the world was created and before.

Like the temple in Jerusalem, we find a place with God in Jesus’ person. No longer do we need to have our sin atoned for in the sacrifice at the temple with the spilling of animal’s blood, but we’ve had his blood spilt for us. The temple of his body was bludgeoned, beaten, and bled; left like temple rubble was Jesus dead on the cross.

We know the temple in Jerusalem has never been rebuilt, and will never be re-erected. Nevertheless, Jesus has been resurrected and lives and rules eternally at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Yet, we also know now that Jesus lives and rules eternally in the hearts of those who allow the Holy Spirit to create life-giving faith.

As the walls of Jerusalem’s temple crumbled and Jesus’ days on earth were chaotically brought to an end, we can expect the same thing to happen to us. As creation shows its signs of coming down, those living in Christ will increasingly be handed over to torturous times. Humanity’s darkness and chaos within will begin spilling out in spasms of spiritual and physical acts of hostility.

But this hostility will be a cover for the fear humanity has when it sees the things it adorns as beautiful, and the things to which humanity makes sacrificial offerings, beginning to perish.

In fact, in these times people will be looking more and more for answers, they will be more and more spiritual, and they will seek these things more and more in all the wrong places. The temples we have come to love and trust will come tumbling down.

This includes Christian people too. Many calling themselves Christian, who in fact have Christ temple-ing inside them, will rather trust the frame of his temple, their human frame, and be deceived; caught up chasing myths due to the spiritual and physical hostilities taking place in and around them. Some of the greatest attacks against the one true Christian church gathered around Jesus Christ, and individuals within it, will come from within the ranks of the church.

There will be those who will act towards faithful Christians as did Judas Iscariot towards Jesus Christ; seemingly with Christ one minute and against him and believers the next. There will be those who worship Jesus with us one day and then the next turn on us and hand us over to all types of torture, just as Jesus was worshiped on Palm Sunday and then handed over to death on Good Friday. Some will also be martyred for standing firm in Christ, just as has happened in the past, and is even happening in parts of the world today.

As the true church allows itself to be God’s mouthpiece, calling people out of darkness, being God’s agents of light in the world, the church is not going to win any favours from the those whose eyes have been blinded by darkness, and who refuse to have their darkness removed. Therefore, when the world is shaken, and you begin to witness horrors happening around you, know the end of suffering, or the realisation and revelation of eternal joy, is drawing near.

Jesus tells us not to be afraid, not to go after those who come seeking to stand in Christ’s place, or who seek to lead you by placing dread and fear on you that the end is coming. Jesus calls you and all who believe to stand firm in what our help really is. And our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Confess your sins and call on the name of the Lord, and he will forgive the guilt of your sin. In fact, you will only endure in him, his Word, his flesh, enabled by the Holy Spirit, who will fire faith within. He will enable you to endure whatever is shaken around you and within you.

One might wonder how we might survive these horrific days, if they are to come in our time! But in reality these times have been coming ever since Christ was raised into heaven, ever since the Holy Spirit was sent ten days later at Pentecost, and ever since the temple was sacked in Jerusalem forty odd years later in 70 AD.

However, these times of chaos and destruction come to all of us individually in our death. One day they will come as a wholesale event on earth but all of us are faced with the destruction of our mortal frame, just as the temple was destroyed and so too was Christ, momentarily on the cross.

Those who live in the one true church adorn Jesus Christ with their faith, showing and reflecting him in all his nobility and beauty. Just like one who loves living in the light continues in the upkeep of the candle or the wick, those who decorate Jesus Christ as their Saviour, will endure in faith, hope, and love towards him.

True believers will want to be in Jesus’ presence face to face in the warmth of his love, so they allow the enduring fuel of faith to burn within. For them it’s no longer the temple of the human frame that’s most important, but he who lives within making it a holy temple of the Lord.

So it won’t be a surprise when others hate us for not upholding the righteousness they believe to be beneficial in this world. They won’t like hearing about the truth of our darkness as we confess it to the Lord, because in our confession and subsequently being found blameless in God’s presence, others will know they too are judged guilty but will churn because they won’t want to rid themselves of their righteousness and therefore be at blame before God.

Then in their blame they will turn on you. Those dwelling in Christ, and he in them, will be persecuted. In refusing to align with humanity’s righteousness won’t win true Christians any honour in this wretched life.

If you’re wondering if you’re one within the ranks of Christ, know you are when you allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to repentance, returning you to Jesus’ righteousness, being in the peaceful presence of the Father; not to escape death out of fearful expectation of the worst, but because in you are love and joy just being with him.

Despite the threat against us, in spite of our reputation as “good people” amongst the world’s righteous being lost, and notwithstanding the trouble we will face this side of death because of our politically incorrect trust that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, Jesus calls us to not only trust him but to stand in him and boldly speak his name.

He promises, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:13–19 ESV)

Do you see what’s happening here? Some may be put to death, but not a hair of the head will perish! Our endurance will gain life. In our faithfulness to death we will gain life! Just as Jesus endured in his Father, enduring and knowing full well he would die, we too can endure in the Father, knowing full well we too will die. But death will have no hold over us, our death rather will be a restoration to whom we were always meant to be, not one hair of the head will perish.

In fact, even today as God allows the idols and temples of your heart to be destroyed he is calling you to endure in the joy and love of having your sinful self daily drowned in repentance, having all your righteousness die, so Christ might fulfil all righteousness within you.

As you notice the kingdoms and nations raging, the earth shaking, and the hatred of those against Christ in you, know that death has already been dealt its death in you, because having been buried with him in baptism …you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12 ESV)

In other words, what can truly now harm you? Nothing, when you allow him to daily raise you through repentance in faith! And in this faith which God gives, he will faithfully fill you with peace, joy, and love. By allowing Jesus Christ to endure in you as your Saviour, you will endure in him and be his light of love in a world of darkness and sin.

But those who reject his Word, who refuse his gift of grace, who stop God from being God within by blocking the Holy Spirit and the faith he seeks to give, (which is the new enduring eternal nature he want humanity to have in Christ), they sin against him and will be doomed.

But when all these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28 ESV) God is work in you enduring in you in order that you gain your eternal life in him. Amen.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

C, Pentecost 24 Proper 27 - 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 13b-17 "Standing Firm In Christ"

Over the next three weeks we will hear much about “end times” when Christ will return and the things hidden at the moment will be revealed for what they are – both things holy and evil! And in this context we hear much about “making judgments” and “judgment day”. Then as we move into Advent and Christmas our focus moves from the second coming and judgment day to Christ’s first coming in the wake of humanity’s habitual sin since Adam and Eve, and God’s subsequent judgement that we need a Saviour.

We humans feel very uncomfortable when speaking and dwelling on the subject of judgment, especially in this age of so-called “equality” or “political correctness”. Putting judgment on the table is countercultural, because it deals with absolutes in reality and truth, in a time where it’s proclaimed that there are no such absolutes. But judgment ultimately deals with death and its cause, and it’s this uncontrollable reality and finality that makes us very uneasy.

So therefore, a modern mantra is this: “We must not judge! Do not judge!” But in fact these very words are a judgment in themselves by individuals, who, in reality, live in fear of judgment – the reality of judgment and death, judgment day, condemnation over our righteous acts as justification, and ultimately the unmovable holiness of God the Father Almighty, our eternal judge. “Do not judge!” is not just a modern mantra; it’s a modern-day deception, misinterpretation, and mistaken belief!

Rightly or wrongly the reality is: judgment is here with us to stay. Although some might argue that the bible says, “Do not judge”. In fact, Jesus says these very words in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. However, if we isolate these three words from their proper context in Scripture, we end up condemning God’s word and placing him under judgment.

In Luke the complete text says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)

And in parallel, Matthew’s Gospel reads, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

But Jesus also says, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:59) Then in John 7:24 he says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” And again in John 8: 15-16 he says, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.

Paul seems just as contradictory when he speaks on judgment. In Romans he says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.”(Rom 12:3) And then, “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (Rom 14:13)

And in his letters to the Corinthians he says, “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment” (1 Cor 2:15) “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” (1 Cor 6:2) “I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Cor 10:15) “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to them, and they cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14) And to the Thessalonians he says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thes 5:21)

John calls us to test or judge things too, saying in 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” In fact the Scriptures connect making judgments and discernments with wisdom and purity. The teacher in Proverbs says, “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight.” (Prov 3:21) And again, “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment.” (Prov 10:13)

And Paul says to the Philippians, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

So should we judge or shouldn’t we judge? Well it all depends on our motives and the means we use as the motives of our judgments and discernments! As Jesus himself said, Judge and you will be judged, the measure used will be used against you too! And in Romans Paul says, “When you …pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:3) So when we judge we must ultimately stand under the same judgment before God too!

This is no surprise; in fact, Jesus leads the way as our example, although the only reason he does is so he might pour out mercy upon us! He made judgments over us sinners, and as a result he mercifully stood condemned under the very same judgments. As Almighty God the Son, he could have lorded eternal judgment and condemnation over us, but instead he received our full measure of wrath on himself, and we are receiving the Son of God’s full measure of mercy unto eternity.

We receive this mercy only when we allow the Holy Spirit to give us faith, so we believe Christ and receive him in the way he prescribes in his word. And that is to hear his word of the Gospel, to repent, to hear and receive the forgiveness of sins for life and salvation. And in these things we continue to receive the Holy Spirit, and therefore faith, so we might go on enduring in Christ, despite the three things that are always ready to deceive us. The first and main one being: our own deceptively sinful nature; the second: the many deceptions out there in the world; and finally: the focused attacks of the evil one, the devil!

So when judgment is motivated by these things we end up enforcing and exalting our own authority, self-justification, and self-glorification, we lord judgment over others, and do the opposite of Christ. When judgement is made with these sinister motives we seek God-status suppressing others and proclaiming ourselves. When we are deceived into doing this we move against God, and become anti, or against Christ!

Perhaps this is why Jesus says, “Do not judge!” But then in the next breath he also says, “Forgive”, which in contradiction needs mercy centred judgment to see the sin, which requires repentance and forgiveness in the first place!

We hear in James 2:13, “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” So our motive for judgment must always be grounded in mercy, for ourselves and others. We judge others as we too are judged by God so that together we might live as equals, judged as sinners, but mercifully sentenced to eternal life because of Christ’s death on the cross.

And further to this, a discerning and wise person will always test everything with the measure and means of Scripture. This goes without saying for spiritual people who place themselves under the judgment of God in the face of their mortality, and are enduring and living in the comforting arms of Christ without hindering the Holy Spirit who always guides us to Christ through his word. For the word of God is the only source of truth over-against the questionable motives of humanity’s standards, which are governed by the sinful nature played out in our confused thoughts, fickle feelings, and deceptive deeds!

After all Hebrews 4:12 tells it how it is, “…the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

So in these days of uncertainty God calls us to stand firm. We are neither to sit on our laurels thinking “she’ll be right”. Nor are we to move from where we’re called to take our stand! If we do we will surly move away from the means of merciful judgment and make judgment with human standards, compromised by our sinful nature, the world and men of lawlessness, or Satan himself. When we don’t stand firm in Christ and his word, we oppose God the Father, we become anti towards Christ, and participate in the lawlessness against his Spirit of holiness. Yes! All of us have the ability to be antichrists - men and women of lawlessness!

Therefore Paul’s message to the Thessalonians is also God’s message to us…

3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day (the day of Christ’s return) will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

13b But …from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.


16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 13b-17)