It seems to me that most sermons begin with the (valid) premise that God is love. This is certainly how the gospel comes to us: we are loved and valued by our Creator. We were made in His image. He thinks enough of us to have sent His own Son Jesus to die for our sins. The message from God presented to the world is wonderfully positive
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
But God is not only loving and compassionate. He is also holy and just. Teaching the Epistle to the Romans this fall has reminded me again of the holiness of God and His just character. Even if he wanted to, God could not act contrary to His very nature as a Holy Being. God is the absolute moral governor of the universe--the God who will bring about ultimate justice for all. Years ago when listening to R.C. Sproul's classic messages on the holiness of God I remember vividly being impressed by R.C.'s comment that it is not a good idea to pray for God's justice--because we might get what we asked for! We each need God's grace (unmerited), and his mercy (undeserved) every single day of our lives, whether we know it or not. That God is long suffering--the fact that His justice is long-delayed--gives us time to mend our ways and to come into line with who He is. We don't make the rules. He does. He created everyone and everything--and Jesus is the appointed heir of all things.
But because God does not immediately execute justice in the world, most people think He will never act justly. People who believe this are in big trouble and in for a terrible surprise. When God gets around to executing justice He is relentlessly thorough and (from our point of view) even ruthless. This just aspect of God's Person is very evident in the Bible--from Genesis through the Book of Revelation.
Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, Every man's heart will melt, And they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; They will be amazed at one another; Their faces will be like flames. Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine. "I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the LORD of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:6-13)
John Chapter Five is a pivotal chapter in regard to God's judgment of men, angels, the world, the living and the dead--everyone. Judgment has been placed in the hands of humanity's one righteous man, Jesus Christ. We can be sure Jesus will be utterly fair. He understands completely what it means to be human. He has been where we are. By overcoming evil, He destroyed death that we might find it possible to follow Him into eternal life. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
I started writing an article on this topic of God's judgments and Jesus as our Judge way last summer. It remains unfinished. Feel free to look over the draft. (http://ldolphin.org/judgment.html). I think you'll agree with me that the topic of God's judgments and His justice is vast and deserving of a lot of our diligent study time.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is not merely one coming "last judgment' in which God reviews everyone all at once (on some sort of easy-going, pass-fail basis). The Bible speaks of eight or more judgments which involve mankind. In each of these events the criteria are different. Romans 2 assures that God always judges us based on what we know about Him, and He judges us by our deeds (this includes our motives of course).
God has recording angels who keep perfect books. He knows everything about us and He overlooks nothing. "He judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus," (Romans 2:16)
What especially intrigues me as we move rapidly to the end of the age, is that the nation of Israel is soon to be judged by this living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (The God of Israel is also the God of all of mankind). In light of all the turmoil in the middle east today, considering what God has already said that He will do there makes for many hours of exciting Bible study. Chuck Missler has often noted that "the world is now entering into a climactic time of history about which the Bible has more to say than any other period of history, including the time of the first advent of Jesus." I agree.
After the coming judgment of the nation Israel down through her entire history, all the gentiles nations are to be judged based on how they have treated the Jews! This means terrible trouble for a lot of people living today who hate the Jews so vehemently.
All the unbelievers who have ever lived are to be raised from the dead (this is many billions of people of course). Each will be judged by the accurate books the Lord keeps on everyone. By the way, it seems likely that Christians will participate along with Jesus in this "Judgment of the Great White Throne." Another reason to be well versed in the Bible and to walk closely with our Lord.
Fortunately for those of us who know Jesus as Lord, Jesus Himself has been punished for all our sins. Sin can never again be "charged" to our accounts. But every Christian does face a thorough performance evaluation at the end of his or life. (This is usually called the "Judgment Seat of Christ").
Periodically God judges kings and nations down through history. Many Bible scholars feel that the judgment of our once-great nation is now overdue and could come at any time. These temporal judgments by God in history do of course affect Christians living in those lands which have come into judgment by God. In fact, the Apostle Peter says that judgment in any nation always starts with God's own people. He says,
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now 'If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear'? Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:12-19)
The best news about judgment has to do with God's reluctance to judge. He much prefers to be merciful. Our refuge as Christians in this regard is to "judge ourselves so that we should not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:31) We need to stay close to our Lord even if others around us don't. God notices and He is keeping track of us. We are dealing not with an accommodating God of relativistic values and standards but One whose standards are infinitely high and perfect.
"Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD! But let those who love Him be like the sun When it comes out in full strength." (Judges 5:31)
Other news: Over the holidays the Wednesday Brothers
of Thunder did not meet for a couple of weeks. So when we
resumed this past week with a dozen men in attendance I felt immediately
refreshed. Mike McKenna reminded me he had been in the group for
at least eleven years! Naturally many brothers have moved away
and new folks have appeared so we have a great extended family
now. The WBoT is a "leaderless group" which means we
simply invite Jesus to show up and take charge. (He always does).
This approach keeps us all on level ground as brothers, since
no one is "over" anyone else. We finished a rich study
of King David by year's end and are now moving into Kings and
Chronicles. I believe every Christian should be associated in
some way with a local church, but I also believe we all need the
close fellowship that only a small group provides. I have several
articles on my small group experiences, near the top of the list
in my web site library, http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml.
At my church, Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, we are now wrapping up 17 weeks in Romans, http://ldolphin.org/romans/. I had no idea that these studies (in a book I already thought I knew well) would so powerful in refreshing my own relationship with Jesus Christ. We'll now launch directly into Ezekiel. I'll post notes and audio on my web site on a weekly basis (http://ldolphin.org/ezekiel/). The Forum class (all ages) is noted for lively discussions and for fidelity to the New Covenant and "body life" calling of PBC. It is a great honor to be part of this class.
Early in the morning every day of the week I start on email and often work on it many hours per day. In 1995 when I started my own web site I had no idea the Internet would be a place for viable Christian ministry--but it is. Many people actually come to know Jesus Christ via the web. Many others find help on the web as they move through life's rough places, or help in sorting out doctrinal issues by corresponding with grounded Christians. I do not like many of the hurchy web sites with their store-front appearance--as if their sole calling in life was to sell irrelevant sermons for a big profit. Every religious nut has his or her own web site these days, some attractive and appealing at first read. This means that the role of legitimate Christian web sites is all the more important. The world we live in is very dark and full of deception and cyberspace is no bed of roses. I am privileged to help out my dear friends at BlueLetter Bible, a SowingCircle ministry that is top notch. Do make use of their vast resources for your Bible study and research, http://blueletterbible.org/.
I do my best to answer each and every email personally. I do not think very highly of some "men of God" who are inaccessibly hidden by layers of administrators and secretaries so that (apparently) they never interact with real people. The crackpots and nuts out there in Cyberspace are usually hard to get to know personally as well. This makes me wonder if they are credible? However, I do respect the fact that most pastors and Christian leaders are already fully occupied with their non-cyberspace (real world?) ministries. The Internet does work well when interchanges are friendly and personal. I also work closely with 14 special men and women in the Paraclete Forum, http://paracleteforum.org. Long ago I learned that Christian work is best done by small teams rather than by a motley assortment of Lone Rangers who don't like each very much. (An article on our early experiences in Cyberspace is here: http://ldolphin.org/cspace.html.)
All this rambling about how busy I think I am, is my apology for not writing news letters as often as I'd like to. I am very pleased when someone writes to tell me something I have written has somehow been used by the Lord to encourage or to challenge them.
Contributions: I am very grateful for the financial help of friends who help me stay actively available to the Lord Jesus Christ. The last time I worked for a living was some fifteen years ago. I do not have a secretary or a rented office. My typing is still two-fingered. My income is limited to Social Security, a modest retirement check, and, most essential of all, the contributions of wonderful friends. Your contributions can be addressed to Peninsula Bible Church (include a note that it is for my ministry support); 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. I do not receive a list of contributors from the church, so I am not able to write individual thank you notes.
Sincerely, Lambert Dolphin.
Web Archive for these newsletters: http://ldolphin.org/news/