Allen Jackson - Preparing For Eternal Judgment
I think we should start by the acknowledgement that the Bible tells us that God is the Judge of all. Not a popular statement these days in contemporary culture. Look in Genesis 18. I've told you on many occasions that in the early chapters of the book of Genesis, the big rock ideas are presented to us that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, that God created us male and female. Those big rock ideas are introduced to us, and one of those ideas that is presented is this: God is Judge of all the earth. At Genesis 18, this is Abraham. He's negotiating with God. He says, "Far be it for you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right"?
You see, there is truth, there is objective truth, and it can be known, and ultimately you and I will be evaluated against God's truth. I know that's not popular. I know there's people with tremendous education and lots of power and great influence that stand in opposition to it, but I can tell you from a biblical perspective that is a fundamental principle that Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, will evaluate your journey through time.
Now, that's not a threat. Judgment doesn't have to be against you. I learned this on the People's Court. Does anybody remember Judge Wapner? I mean, you've gotta have a few birthdays to know Judge Wapner. Now we've got Judge Judy and, I don't know who all we've got. But at the end of every program, Judge Wapner would pronounce judgment, but it was always judgment for somebody. He was in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant. He was never mad, he was just in favor of somebody. Here's the big picture. If you don't take anything else away, live your life in such a way that when you stand before the Creator of heaven and earth, his opinion is for you. Tell me how to get in that line. That's where I wanna live. That's where I wanna invest. It's what I think about. It's where I want all of my credits pushed.
I want Almighty to go, "I'm for that kid". And so do you. So, don't be frightened of this idea of judgment. Understand it so that you benefit from it. Now, let's add to that one more idea. In John chapter 5 and verse 22, it says "The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. And he who doesn't honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him". Judgment, God has entrusted judgment of this earth to his Son.
I believe it's a completion of the idea that's introduced to us in Philippians 2. It's not in your notes, and I'm not gonna take the time to read it all to you, but it says because of the choices that Jesus made, God's given him a name that's above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and earth and under the earth, that God has yielded that position as the ultimate Judge to his Son Jesus, because of what he has done in regard to humanity. He identified as one of us, the incarnation. God's Son became one of us. He came on a search and rescue mission to redeem us from a place from which we could not rescue ourselves. He understands completely what it means to be human. He's qualified to be the Judge. It speaks to the uniqueness of Jesus, why all paths don't lead to the same destination, why all faiths are not the same.
Again, those are all places that the contemporary American church is surrendering at a rapid pace. We would rather be embraced. We would rather be celebrated than be advocates for the uniqueness of Jesus. It's apostasy. We don't have to be angry. We don't have to be belligerent, but we certainly have to be focused and intentional. And there's two main ways in which God's judgment is made visible. One is in history. We'll talk about that in just a moment. And the other is in eternity, eternal judgment. When we step out of time into eternity, one of the first things we will encounter is God's evaluation, God's judgment. Again, the theme of this is you want to know how to be prepared for that. In history, let's start with that. God brings blessings or judgments against succeeding generations, depending upon which the previous, depending on the way in the previous generation responded to God.
Now, you may withdraw from that for a moment, say, "Well, I don't like that". But if you'll think about the Scripture, what you know of the unfolding story of history, you've accepted this principle already. And it's worth thinking, but the reason we don't like it is it has implications for us. It has implications both for our choices and for the choices of those who preceded us. Now, you know that inherently. You know you're a product of the family system from which you've come, and it's a little uncomfortable and awkward to think about it, but you're also having a tremendous influence on the generations who follow. And the biblical pictures to see that, I think, most simply would be in the history of the Israelites, God's covenant people.
When we meet the Exodus generation, that group of people who for hundreds of years have been slaves. And God recruits a failed adopted child of Pharaoh to be their leader. The encounter takes place in a burning bush, and God said, it's Exodus 3, he said, "I've heard the cries of my people, and I've come down to deliver them". Well, generation upon generation upon generation are going to receive blessings because of what that particular Exodus generation walked out, agreed? Their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren did not grow up in the brick pits of Egypt as slaves. They grew up in the Promised Land of God, so that the choices of one generation could bring blessings for many generations, agreed?
Now, we see the opposite of that truth in the exile when God judged the Jewish people some hundreds of years later, depending on which one you want, the Assyrian exile in 721 or the Babylonian in 587. But God said, "You cannot live in the land I promised you. You cannot receive the benefits of the covenant and ignore the covenant. So, I'm going to put you out of the land. I'm going to give your enemies authority over you". And there are generations of Israelites that lived in Babylon because of the choices of the generations who preceded them, amen. So, God's judgments in history, in time. So, one of the questions that we have been asking frequently here for months and months now is about the choices we're making. And what are those going to bring to the generations who follow us?
If we are self-absorbed, and filled with selfish ambition, and our life goal is to have every experience that we can have, and we don't focus on godliness and holiness and righteousness and purity, what exactly is the heritage that we're leaving to the generations who follow us? If we live with the spirit of entitlement, what exactly is it we're saying to the generations who follow us? Again, I'm not gonna take the time today to fulfill that completely, but know this, that God's judgments intervene in human history. He hasn't stepped away from us. There's many Scriptures I could give you. I put one in your notes, Exodus 20. This is actually part of the Ten Commandments:
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or the waters below. You shall not bow down to them to worship them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments". I know it's easy to be offended by the words, but if you'll just reflect on what you know of the story, you'll also know it's true. It also applies to God's blessings on the righteous. You need to know the other part that's, again, don't focus on the negative. Look at Psalm 103, I believe it's in your notes, verse 17: "From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with your children's children, and with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts".
You see, we've had such a shallow faith, a faith so focused on a personal salvation. I believe in that, I believe in conversion, salvation, the new birth; I'm not trying to diminish that. If you haven't experienced it, today would be the day. But we haven't talked much beyond that. We haven't talked about growing up in our faith, investing in our children, the essentials of the kingdom of God and what it means to honor him and to be pure with him, to live uprightly and righteously in his sight. It hasn't been at the forefront of our thoughts. We've been far more concerned and focused with experiences and opportunities and the reality is that we don't love our children. The reality is that our hearts have been so far from God, and there have been so little messaging calling us back. We're just caught in the drift.
And then God began to shake. And we see the systems around us quaking. We don't trust the information that comes to us. We see the economic instability threatening our ability to anticipate a future. We hear propaganda and we see censorship, and things that we thought were sacred, not in a religious sense but in that they were unassailable, and we see them being very fragile, and we see it being multiplied across the earth. And we think, what's happening? I tell you, from my vantage point, what I think is happening is God is saying to his people, "Look this way. Look towards the unshakeable. You've been too invested. You've been too enmeshed. You've been too engaged with the temporary". The problem isn't hearts of the ungodly. We have to change. If we will change, we'll see God change the direction and the course of nations. I believe that.
The judgment seat of Christ. Look in 2 Corinthians 5. "We must all appear". The Greek literally means to be made manifest. I like that. It's a little fuller. It's not that you appear. Everything about your person, your life, your thoughts, your intent will be made evident. I didn't exactly, you know, come clean with that trooper. Yeah, I was driving a little fast. But when you stand before the Lord, everything will be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. And we're back into this plane between time and eternity.
Folks, you've got a really short season in this particular earth suit point one. You're an eternal being. God's Spirit is within you. But you're going to be evaluated for what you've chosen to do with your life under the sun. We're all going to stand before the Lord. Look at 1 Peter 1: "Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear". We're strangers. The Bible says we're aliens. We're transient figures. I have traveled a good bit. I've lived in many nations or visited many nations. I've never been tempted to change my citizenship. I'm always intrigued by street food. It's much different than ours. We're temporary residents here.
Some of us are living way too far into the world. If the people who know you, if the people who do business with you, if the people that you spend your discretionary time with, if the people who sit with you on the bleachers at the ball fields or stand on the sidelines while you're waiting on your children, if the people that you interact with in your life, if they don't understand you to be an ambassador for Jesus of Nazareth, in your life under the sun, exactly what is it you think is your credential? The place where you sit on Sunday, I go to the gym. That does not make me an Olympic athlete. I walk through the produce section at the grocery store. That does not mean I eat clean. 'Cause I also walk down the cookie aisle. Do you understand?
We've got to reconcile the entirety of our life. And we really haven't, we just haven't talked about it much. It hasn't been that relevant, because we imagine that we can kind of, sort of, say a little prayer and everything would be okay. And we didn't have to have any intent. I'm sorry, I don't want you to live under that imagination. We're all imperfect. We struggle. We're very much a work in progress. I don't want to add to your guilt and shame, but I don't want you to continue any longer in that haze of confusion. Jesus is Lord. Give him permission. Say to the Lord, "If there is anything in me that is diminishing what you created, if there's anything that's separating me from your best, help me to see that. I'd like to honor you. If there's any part of my life that's dishonoring to you, help me to see that".
Begin to pray those prayers, why? Because it's gonna matter. Say, "I've got all my God business locked up". That's a pretty awkward statement. "Well, nobody's perfect". Understood. Understood, but if you heard the previous session on repentance, there's no room for sloppiness either. We've gotta push on. 1 Peter chapter 4, same book, "It's time for judgment to begin with the family of God". That's what I'm telling you about our nation. Our problem isn't who's been elected, or who hasn't been elected, or who's serving. That's not our problem. It's God's people. "It's time for judgment to begin with the family of God. And if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who don't obey the gospel of God? And if it's hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner"?
If I had to bundle it together, and I do for the sake of time, the main features of this point of judgment is that each one of us will answer for ourselves. Each one of us will answer for ourselves. You are going to give an account. I'm going to give an account before the Lord of all for the choices we have made while in the body. Secondly, there's really only two categories that are introduced: good and bad. Now, that's very interesting, because in the world we're living in today, there is an enormous effort being made to multiply categories in almost everything you pick up, redefining language, redefining words, redefining things that can't be redefined. Nobody wants to be constrained. Do you know what it's an expression of? Rebellion. We do not intend to be told there's a right and wrong. We just will not accept that. "Who says there's a right and wrong"? The Creator does.
Now, you don't have to believe that. It's not about Pastor's opinion. I'm not the judge. I'm not the one you'll give an account to. But you will stand before the Creator of all things, and our lives and our actions and our thoughts and our behaviors will be evaluated in terms of good and bad. You see, Jesus has excluded neutrality. The reason we have a passion and a desire to share the love of God with other people is because Jesus will welcome anybody from any nation, race, language, or tribe. But he's the dividing line of human history. And the third thing I would tell you is that this is not a judgment of condemnation, but it's the test of service of how you've lived your life. So, it's not a judgment of heaven or hell, at which point everybody goes, "Oh, in that case, party on"!
Do you understand that the majority of your existence is going to be spent in eternity? And your opportunities in eternity are linked to what you've chosen to do in time. And we have this mistaken notion that serving God is loathsome, burdensome, intrusive, limiting. Folks, that's wrong. It's a lie from the pit. You see, what we have, the Bible says that we just have a deposit, a portion of the investment, of what it will be like to serve the Lord for all eternity in his power, and his glory, and his majesty, with a new body that doesn't know the limits that this one knows, with new opportunities and new expressions of authority. Yes, I want to be a part of that. But your opportunities there are going to be determined by your choices now. Why would we purify ourselves now? Why would we say no to ungodliness now? Because we want greater opportunities then. Why would we resist temptation? Because there's a better outcome for us if we do.
You see, we've thought of our faith as a burden, as a limit, as a shackle. It's kind of like zip ties on a good time. You don't want any of those. But that's the wrong... again, it's a deceptive message. Godliness and holiness and purity and righteousness will unleash something in you that will bear fruit for all eternity. We want to coach our kids towards that. "I don't wanna go to church". They didn't want to brush their teeth either. They didn't want to take a bath. They didn't want to put on new clothes. They didn't want to say thank you. And you have trained them in those things, because we live in the South. I'm not implying that the people in the North don't brush their teeth. We're getting ready for something, folks. And in the meantime, we're on assignment. We have been deployed.
The Bible says that soldiers don't get involved in civilian affairs and that all the runners run to win the prize. And it seems like to me we haven't really been running to win the prize. When I was in high school, I liked to play basketball. I was on the team at school, and the coach came to me in the summer and he said, "Are you gonna play this fall"? I said, "Yes, sir". And he said, "Well, then you're running cross country". I said, "No, sir, I'm really not interested in track". He said, "No, Allen, you're running cross country". And I wasn't very clever. I said, "No, sir, I'm playing basketball". And he said, "Not if you don't run cross country". So, I showed up the first day, and we had to go run miles along the highway, and he followed us in his car. I thought, "What a slug. What a slug".
Then I figured something out pretty quick. When we got to race day, he couldn't drive his car around the course. So, I'd run till I got out of sight. Then I'd walk. He had a clock. He didn't tell me how fast I had to run. Rebellion is the word you're searching for. Wasn't a great training protocol, but I think a lot of us have had that imagination about the Lord. We can just be godly in one place 'cause he's not really paying any attention any place else. Coach had a clock. He could've used the calendar with me. And the biblical counsel to you and me is running such a way as to get the prize. Stop showing me your picture at the starting line. You look great. You're cute. You've got a new workout suit, fresh shoes. Your hair's in place. I can tell you in this race, by the time you cross the finish line, you'll be bloody and bruised. Life is more difficult than I would like. Maintaining my faith is not easy. The benefits are worth it. The benefits are worth it.
I don't want any Christ follower to fear judgment. One day, we will stand before the King and give an account for our lives, but I don't think that should be frightening. I think it should be something we plan for, we prepare for, we spend our lives getting ready for, so we anticipate judgment in our favor. It can be a time of reward and celebration and tremendous triumph. Don't be afraid of it. Get ready. I want to pray with you before we go:
Father, I think you for your Word, for the truth that it brings to us, Lord, that you have given us a clear view of what is before us, that we might be well prepared. I pray for each person listening today. We might conduct ourselves in such a way that when our strength is gone, and our days on earth come to a conclusion, that you might greet each one of us with, "Well done". I thank you for that, in Jesus's name. Amen.