JUDGING OURSELVES BEFORE WE ARE JUDGE
By Dan Luehrs
We have been given a great promise in 1 Corinthians 11:31 that few Christians have taken advantage of, "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged." The word "judgment" has negative connotations, such as having our rights taken away; experiencing pain; or enduring prison. But God's judgments are always for our good! Never will He judge us to bring harm, but rather correction and redemption so that we might understand where we are missing Him in our lives. It is normal for us to want to run from judgment than to face it. But if we will judge the sin now in our lives, we will not have to face the judgment seat of Christ later for sin. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NAS). I would rather stand before the judgment seat of Christ for the good I have done, rather than the evil, and hear Him say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant," and not, "Depart from Me!"
"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27 NAS). We have interpreted this verse to say, "First physical death comes and after that judgment." But for us to be totally biblical about this, as believers we now are already dead! "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Romans 6:8 NAS). Once you die, you are dead; then judgment begins, according to God. When we receive Jesus into our lives we are dead. Our judgment begins in this life while we are alive and walking upon the earth, for this is the mercy of God upon us. "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…" (1 Peter 4:17 NAS). Have you ever wondered why your life as a Christian is so difficult? At times you look back before you were saved and it seemed easier to live as a non-Christian. But now when you get through one fiery trial, another seems to follow right behind. These are the judgments of God in our life! "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12 NAS). These fires in our lives are God's judgments that Peter was writing about only a few verses later in 1 Peter 4:17, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…"
We must understand that while our sins have been already forgiven and our spirit man made alive in Christ, our mind still needs to be renewed in spiritual truth. This is where all the pain comes from in our lives. As our minds are being renewed in the ways of God our carnal nature doesn't like it. It doesn't want die to the carnal way and wants to be in control! The devil is not our main problem, but our carnal mind is (the man of sin)! The only way for us to be renewed in our mind is for us to go through the fiery trials the Lord sets up in our lives, causing us to become spiritually minded rather than carnal minded. God wants us to trust Him through everything that we go through, "Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (1 Peter 4:19 NAS). This is what our trials are all about, getting us to trust God through anything. Are you learning to trust God through all your fiery trials?
GOD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE
"… THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" -- "For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 10:30-31, 12:29 NAS).
According to the writer of Hebrews, not one Christian will by-pass the judgment of God. If we die with unrepented sin in our life His judgment of fire will be more severe on us because He is a consuming fire. The fire that He is will burn up everything in us that is not like Him. This fire will be unrelenting until we are cleansed and like Him. "If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15 NAS). We must all pass through these cleansing fires so that we are purged from the man of sin in us. Either we go through the fire of God in this lifetime by dying to the self-life through our trials, or we will stand before Him with His fire cleansing us. This will be much worse for us than what we are going through now in this lifetime. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" When Israel saw the fire of God and heard His voice, they cried unto Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die." And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin" (Exodus 20:20 NAS).
Jesus told us in Luke 12:45-48 what happens to a sin-practicing Christian. "But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers (hell). "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes (in hell), but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few…" Each person's judgment will be different on the basis of their works and the amount of understanding they had of God's word.
As we suffer the judgments of God in our life we will come to know that Jesus is Lord of every situation. We will know that nothing can touch us outside of God's will, good or bad. We must have spiritual understanding about our suffering because our suffering is making us worthy to partake of the kingdom of God. "All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering" (2 Thessalonians 1:5 NIV). Paul is saying that our present suffering is necessary, for it is God's decision in doing what is right so that we might be truly a tested people worthy to receive the kingdom of God. God is testing us, just as Israel was tested in the wilderness, to see whether we will follow Him through our trials or backslide into our old ways of life. God will walk with us through all our testings and trials. He will deliver us, for He is faithful!
The problem with most Christians is that they are like Israel and do not understand the judgments of God in their lives. "Therefore I said, surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God" (Jeremiah 5:4 KJV). God tried to get their attention over and over by His corrective judgments, but just like people today they would not listen. God considers someone foolish that does not know His way of judgment in their life. The first time I began to understand the judgments of the Lord in my life was when I was about fourteen years old. A friend of mine stole his dad's pickup truck and we went for a joy ride. We were drinking and doing other things that we should not have been doing, when suddenly we crossed the train tracks in town, A train flew across the tracks right behind us the very second we crossed over the track. I sobered up instantly and began to shake. I knew inside of me that God was trying to warn me that the way I was living did not please Him. A year later it happened again, but this time it was only worse. I was in a head-on car collision and I flew into the front windshield like I was in slow motion, yet I walked away from it. I knew that God was trying to get my attention, wanting me to obey Him. If I did not repent it would have only gotten worse and I might have soon died if I did not change my ways. I had at least fifteen friends of mine, about my age, that died in a ten to fifteen year period. Did God try to reach them before they died? Yes, I believe that God had reached out to them, but they would not take heed to His warning shots being fired over their heads. By God's grace I did take heed. Maybe it was because I had gone to a Christian school and had a softer heart toward God, I don't know. I guess I will not know until the Lord gives me all the answers some day.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 that we as Christians can bring the judgment of God on ourselves if we do not judge ourselves rightly. "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body (our own body) rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world." Hear what the word of the Lord is saying to us. If we are partaking of God's spiritual food (the word) and are drinking of His Spirit yet continue to practice a sinful lifestyle without judging ourselves and repenting, we will bring God's judgment upon ourselves!
Again, this judgment is not because God is mad at us, but because He loves us as a Father and wants to deliver us from the spirit of this age. He disciplines us through our trials and tribulations so that we might share His holiness/nature for all eternity. "For they (our earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He (God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10 NAS). When I was a child I was in trouble a lot and my dad would severely punish me. Even though I did not feel it was out of love, I got the message loud and clear: if I misbehaved, he would give me pain! By the time I was seventeen I had matured greatly and sat at the table with my parents and thanked them for their strong discipline in my life. Now I have come to the point in my spiritual life where I have thanked my heavenly Father for His strong hand of discipline in my life. I continue to invite Him to discipline me severely so that I might share in His holiness.
THE DAY AND HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT
"And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters" (Revelation 14:7 NAS).
The time of His judgment has come in our life and we are told to do one thing, worship Him through it! We worship God in our daily lives by serving Him in the fear of God and turning from evil. Because He is the faithful Creator of the universe, He makes no mistakes in His judgments. "Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right" (1 Peter 4:19 NAS).
I have clearly proven from scripture that we are now in the day of His judgment because we have died with Christ and are now being judged in this life. John the Apostle addressed this in 1 John 4:17-18, "By this, love is perfected (matured) with us, that we may have confidence in the (this) day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect (matured) love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected (matured) in love." Either we judge ourselves (in this day of judgment) or because of God's love for us as His sons, He will be compelled to divinely discipline us. When we receive His judgment in our lives we can be assured that God loves us. We can trust His love. When we have matured and learned to trust His love, it will cast all fear out of us. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28 NAS). It takes time for His love to mature in us. In fact, it will take many trials and tribulations to learn to trust in His love. But once we see that He is faithful through it all, we will lean more heavily on His love through every trial and this will give us peace. Paul said in Acts 14:22, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." I believe I can clearly interpret this verse to say, "Through many judgments of the Lord we must enter the kingdom of God." This life as a Christian is very difficult to say the least, but it will be worth it in the end when we do not have to be judged with the rest of mankind in the lake of fire judgment! "And shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (judgment in the Greek means "crisis")" (John 5:29 NASB).
The night before our family moved from South Dakota to Florida, fear was greatly gripping me because I did not have a job lined up or even a house to live in for sure. I really didn't know why we were to move, just that the Lord said to do so. I went into the bedroom worried and anxious to pray about our future. As I was worrying, my twenty-month-old daughter was in the next bedroom jumping and singing, making her voice echo in the empty room, just having a good time! The Lord said to me, "Why is your daughter having such a good time?" I said, "She doesn't have to worry about anything. She knows I will take good care of her." He said, "Will I not take good care of you? Go jump around in the room with her." As I did it liberated me; I was maturing in His love! I could tell many more stories about my battles with fear and how the Lord has delivered me time and time again through His unwavering love. I have not reached full maturity in His love yet, but I press forward!
Now the question is, "How do we judge ourselves rightly?" By righteous judgment, by the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, this can only come about as we truly abide in the Lord and the Spirit of truth reveals our hidden sins to us. As we are shown the sin in us, we must repent and be restored fully back to the Lord and His ways. We must be careful not to judge ourselves unwisely and condemn ourselves with unneeded guilt from the accuser. We have been forgiven and we must forgive ourselves! "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1 NASB). We are promised in John 15 that the Father will prune us as we abide in Him so that we might produce more fruit in His likeness and character. If we are to ascend unto the throne of God we must not only trust His love, but also trust His judgments or crisis' in our lives. The word "judgment" in the Greek is "krisis." This is where we get our English word "crisis." These are the times of great trials and distresses in our lives that cause us to change the way we are doing things and make wise decisions to follow the Lord's way. God sets up our circumstances in our lives so that we can die to our self-will, and in return He can live His life more fully through us. To the point that we are emptied of self, He can fill us with His love and likeness. But this will only come about through His judgments in our lives; we must desire them to be set free from self!
Ray Prinzing wrote regarding this: "Now we must examine this word 'judgment,' the Greek word, as used in the New Testament, is KRISIS, and with the letter 'K' changed to the letter 'C' it is brought directly over into our English language as CRISIS. All of the pressures and trials which produce these times of 'crisis' in our life are simply a working out of God's corrective measures, His judgments. The root from which KRISIS comes is KRINEIN meaning, 'to separate.' And so it is, a crisis is a critical period of time, a decisive moment, a turning point; hence, a separating, choosing, deciding, judging. The very purpose of judgment is to separate you from the old that you might come into the new. To separate you from selfhood's rebellion, giving you a TURNING POINT, and heading you in the right direction, in the will of God.
"The man is very sick, he is growing steadily worse, and finally there comes a Crisis, either he begins to mend, or else death comes. It is a TURNING POINT! And when God orders the Crisis, it is to turn us towards righteousness, and bring us into HIS NEW LIFE. Ah, if we tell you that there is a turning point, things will be corrected and brought into righteousness, then you will rejoice. But if we say it is a time of judgment, you say, Woe is me! But it is all the same thing, that's what God's corrective judgments are all about" - (End of quote).
Another man wrote, "Judgment, not in the sense of vengeful retribution, but of that involved when a craftsman working on a mass of clay, or an ingot of metal, continually examines the results of the various processes to which he subjects it, with a view to assessing whether or not his skill and artistry are producing the desired results.
Through the cunning of the adversary, both the world and the popular church have been robbed of the blessed assurances of the time when God's RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS break forth in the earth. Most people know that the Bible tells of a "judgment day," but the average person, believer or unbeliever, regards it only with a certain sense of fear and dread. Because of this fear there is, to them, no more unwelcome tidings than that the Lord is coming to JUDGE THE EARTH. Many tremble inwardly at the thought of God's judgments, and in this mind put them far from them, preferring not to even hear the subject mentioned. They have absolutely no idea of the wonderful blessings in store for a sin-weary world under the glorious reign of the sons of God filled with all the nature, wisdom, glory and power of God!
How differently did the holy prophets and apostles regard that promised DAY OF JUDGMENT! Note the expectation in Isaiah's spirit as he announces: "Yea, in the way of THY JUDGMENTS, O Lord, have we waited for thee ... with my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early: for when THY JUDGMENTS are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Isa. 26:8-9). Here Isaiah assures us that the day when God's judgments are in the earth will be a most glorious and desirable day, a day in which the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness! If the desire of your heart is anything like the desire of my heart, this is a blessed thought and a wonderful assurance: the inhabitants of the world WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS! How my ransomed soul longs to behold such a thing! Every time I scan the headlines of the morning paper I am seized with an intense yearning that the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Oft times as I watch the evening newscast my spirit is mightily moved within to intercede earnestly that the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. As I drive across our great land; as I walk the streets of our cities and towns, beholding the condition of those about, neighbors, friends, relatives, strangers, my spirit groans with unutterable supplication that the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness! What a marvelous provision of our wise and loving Father that, to this very end, He has ORDAINED JUDGMENT to come forth in the earth. Bless His name!" (End of quote).