He Has Come to Judge (Love) the World

COVID Pic“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” -Exodus 12:12-13

While God was judging Egypt, He was revealing His love to His people. For some it was a time of wailing and mourning, for others it was a time of redemption and revelation. For those with the blood of the Lamb on their doorposts, it was a time of safety and protection. The fact is, apart from Christ, we would all crumble under the mighty hand of God’s justice. God is a God of truth and justice, but also a God of mercy and love and grace. It is God’s desire that none perish, but that all people turn to Him. His mercy triumphs over judgment!

I’ve realized in my life that during difficult seasons my concept of God has sometimes been wrong. Testing reveals our concept of God. If I see God as a loving Father who cares for me and loves me unconditionally, I can rest in intimate trust of my loving Heavenly Father. I feel secure. I am not afraid. But if I see Him as an angry judge waiting to find a reason to pour out wrath upon me, I fear.

The truth is, there is an element of truth in each concept of God. God is love, but He is also judge. Jesus came “full of grace and truth” and He also came to reveal the Father. At times, Jesus was stern and demanding. At times He was intensely narrow as He called His disciples to walk a narrow road, to forsake all to follow Him. He sternly rebuked the religious leaders and rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith. Truth.

On the other hand, He was moved with great compassion for people, He healed the sick and cast out demons, and He was willing to quickly forgive and welcome repentant sinners into His kingdom. Grace.

God’s qualities are not opposing forces but demonstrations of the fullness of His character.

With my son, Joseph, sometimes I have to be stern and sometimes I have to correct him. He’s still working on the obedience part! My motive is always love. My motive is to protect Him because I want what is best for him. Sometimes my motive is to protect what is precious to me. For example, Joseph likes my journals, but these journals are important to me. I know if he gets his hands on them he might tear them. He doesn’t yet know how to handle these kind of things. More importantly, I would never allow him to mistreat Leslie because she is precious to me. It’s important to me that he treats her with respect. At Joseph’s age, he doesn’t completely understand why I don’t permit him to do certain things or to have certain things, but my motive is always what is best for Him.

At other times (most of the time I hope), I show Joseph my love. I hold him, hug him, kiss him, play with him, and take care of him. He’s my beloved son and I am very proud of him. More than anything else, I want him to know how much I love him. I want him to feel safe. I want to enjoy him. But I cannot tolerate disobedience; I am bound to discipline him for his own good. I prefer not to discipline him, in fact, I often hesitate to discipline him because I don’t want to be too harsh and I don’t want to wound his emotions. I would rather enjoy him, but sometimes discipline is necessary. My discipline of him is not in opposition to my love for him.

Likewise, God, whose motives are always pure, sometimes acts with zeal, even anger, to protect His children. Sometimes He acts to punish wrongdoing, as any good judge should. Sometimes He disciplines us to draw us back to Himself, but He always does so in love. As I may act to protect my journal or to require that Joseph honor Leslie, sometimes God acts to protect His own glory. All that He does, He does in love. His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime. He is slow to anger and long-suffering, but abounding in love and faithfulness. God is love. God is holy. He is holy love. He is never one without the other.

Right now the world is being shaken to its core by COVID-19. For all of this, on some level, we feel the weight of testing. But for those who are in Christ this can be a time of drawing nearer to the love of the Father, a time of knowing Him deeper and experiencing His arms of protection. God is a judge and I believe He is judging the world right now. His judgment is not for the purpose of inflicting pain or punishment, but for the purpose of drawing people to Himself. God’s judgment always is motivated to redeem. God wants to heal, but we must turn to Him for healing. We must turn towards His love.

How to Grow as a Christian – Part I

IMG_2119Have you ever felt frustrated, feeling like you are not growing spiritually? At times in my life, I have felt like I am either not growing at all or I’m actually getting worse. The reality is this: there is a way to grow in the Lord every day without feeling frustrated, condemned or constantly discouraged.

First of all, growth rarely happens quickly. It is usually a slow and steady process. It’s easy to get discouraged when we look at ourselves and lament what appears to be a lack of growth. The first thing we need to do is be patient with ourselves and with God. We grow in grace, not by placing upon ourselves unreasonable demands and expectations that only lead to frustration and condemnation.

II Peter 3:18 (NIV) says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

If you are prone to introspection, like me, you may tend to spend a lot of time gazing internally and finding things wrong with yourself. Then, you become frantic, trying to put out numerous fires at one time – I need to change this, that, and this, and that, and this, and that. This leads to feeling overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed like this, I get discouraged and want to give up.

A better plan of action is to implement disciplines in your life that will facilitate daily growth while, at the same time, understanding that you live under the covering of God’s love and grace. This covering gives us the freedom to be honest with ourselves about our sins and flaws and also the freedom to fail. God’s grace permits us to enjoy our lives while we are growing, even though we are not perfect. Discipline keeps us from using our freedom in Christ as an excuse for sin or unrighteous living.

Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…”

Grace is not the enemy of discipline. Discipline is not the enemy of grace. The two are not opposites. Grace is not only God’s kindness to sinners, it is God’s empowerment to live righteously and victoriously. When we discipline ourselves, humbly depending on God every day, we position ourselves under His grace and His grace empowers us to live holy.

James 4:6 (NKJV) says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'”

The narrow road with Christ is both a road of discipline and a road of grace, which leads to abundant life. Perfectionism is an enemy of discipline. Condemnation and accusation are enemies of grace. The narrow road is not a road without stumbling, setbacks or mistakes. The narrow road is walked by imperfect people who enter through the gate of Christ and press on with Him in their earnest quest to be like Him.

Abraham provides an excellent example to illustrate my point. Through faith, Abraham received God’s grace. God’s grace to Abraham came through a promise, a promise that he would have a son and be the father of many nations through which all people would be blessed. But Abraham made some real mistakes. He messed up, but none of his sins cancelled out the grace of God.

God said of Abraham that he “obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions” (Genesis 26:5, NIV).

Despite Abraham’s mistakes, he obeyed the Lord. Abraham lived a life of both grace and discipline. The result was that he walked in the blessing of God while he stretched out in faith to inherit the promise of God. Likewise, by God’s grace, when commit ourselves to a life of discipline in the Lord, we will continue to grow in His grace.

Stay tuned for Part 2. In my next article, we’ll get more practical about how we can grow every day in Christ, by His grace! Blessings!