We Will Be Judged

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year, a day we celebrate the coming reign of Jesus Christ and the completion of creation.

To this end as Christians look to the reign of Christ they have always recognized the terrible contrast between heaven and hell, as we look to the future with glorious anticipation, life eternal with Christ.

But still, even in the midst of this great jubilee we realize we will also be judged. It's not a question of "if we will be judged," it's a question of when. We will be judged based on all we have done in this life, and all we haven't done.

This can kind of numb the celebration can't it? The fact Jesus himself will judge us is a sobering and perhaps fearful thought. Yet at the same time judgment is connected to the ultimate hope, eternal life. A hope that in all of his glory God will be both just and merciful as he vindicates righteousness.

Our Gospel reading this morning is an explanation of the parables, which come earlier in the chapter. It's also a strong statement of truth that judgment will come, and every person shall be sentenced to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery. Christ will come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory as Mediator.

The wicked and godly dwell here on this earth together in our communities, our churches, and our families, and are not always known one from the other. But on the day when the great Shepherd Jesus comes to judge, the wicked will be separated from the godly like the goats are separated from the sheep.

All other distinctions will be done away with; but the great distinction between saints and sinners, holy and unholy, will remain forever.

The happiness the saints will possess is very great. The kingdom is prepared. In the greatness of his wisdom and power God has provided his kingdom for the holy; Jesus has purchased it for us with his blood; and the Holy Spirit now prepares us for the kingdom through God's sanctifying grace.

As Christians it's our belief that we can't express ourselves more clearly about our duties before God than by saying: "How we live in this world makes all the difference between heaven and hell in the world to come."

However, we must remember we are not redeemed by our good works, but rather by faith alone. Yet at the same time we will never be redeemed without good works.

Saved souls must do their duty before God and others. James says, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead."

True faith always results in good deeds. We can't simply say we believe and then just sit and do nothing. Yes, faith brings us salvation, but active obedience to our faith demonstrates that our faith is genuine. We must hold fast to the belief that we are saved by faith alone, however we must also affirm that no one can continue to be saved without doing God's will on earth.

As Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

We all have our God given responsibilities in this world. We are called to carry forward God's work, reach out beyond the pews in everything we do, as long as we live here.

Then, and only then, can we hope to hear those words that are perhaps the most pleasing words anyone can hear, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25: 34)

When we are looking for a job we spend a great deal of time putting together a compelling resume listing all of our accomplishments, all of our education credentials and performance successes. We also provide names and phone numbers of folks who will provide wonderful references for us if called by a potential employer.

But when we face God's judgment it's not about our human-made resume that matters, it's about our God-given life. Jesus will be concerned about our motivation. What is the intention of our heart?

Many people do good things to help people, but why? What is there motivation? If their motivation is a tax break, personal glory, or wanting to receive something in return, then their good deed is flawed, and will be judged by Jesus as such.

Jesus cares about the intention of our hearts. Do we act and give unconditionally out of love alone, or do we have some other motive? This is what Jesus is concerned about.

When we stand before the throne of God he won't ask what kind of car we drive, but he'll ask how many people we drove who didn't have transportation.

God won't ask the square footage of our house, but he'll ask how many people we welcomed into our house.

God won't ask about the clothes we have in our closet, but how many we helped to clothe.

God won't ask us our social status; he'll ask what kind of class we displayed.

God won't ask how many material possessions we had, but he'll ask if they dictated our lives.

God won't ask what our highest salary was, but he'll ask if we compromised our character to get it. God won't ask how much overtime we worked, but he'll ask if our overtime was for our family or for ourselves.

God won't ask how many friends we had, but he'll ask how many people to whom we were a friend.

God won't ask what neighborhood we lived in, but he'll ask how we treated our neighbors.

God won't ask what we did to protect our rights, but he'll ask what we did to protect the rights of others.

God won't ask about the color of our skin, but he'll ask about the content of our character.

God won't ask how many times our deeds matched our words, but he'll ask how many times they didn't.

God won't ask why it took us so long to seek salvation, but he'll lovingly take us to our mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of hell. When Donald and Simmie Godwin took their four-year-old grandson camping at Lake Superior, they received a basic lesson in theology.

When a bad thunderstorm came up, the flashes of white light fascinated the little boy. He watched the sky light up for several minutes then gave his commentary: "Look! Jesus is taking my picture."

The truth is our activities and attitudes never escape the attention of God. It's as if God were constantly taking our picture. We may hide our motivation or intent from others, but God knows.

May lightening, every time we see it, remind us of this truth.

One day we will stand before the throne of God, we will hold our lives in our hands, and we will render account. In judging us God will surely consider all that we have been given, all of our opportunities and advantages, and we will be judged. Jesus died for our sins. He took all sins of humankind upon himself and was crucified. When Jesus reappeared with his resurrected body, he was unrecognizable by even his closest followers.

His only recognizable feature were the scars from the nails which had pierced his flesh, these are the scars of sin, your sins and my sins.

We too have scars from the sins we have committed. Yes, God has forgiven us, if we have truly repented, but the scars still remain.

I have a former neighbor who was very active in his local church, well mannered and well liked, as was his wife and family. Well one day several years ago he snapped and killed his wife. He has sought forgiveness and I am convinced God has forgiven him, but he will bear the scars of his sin the rest of his life. And he will continue to suffer the consequences of his sin as he sits in jail for the rest of his life.

But as bad as sinning is, especially killing someone, I can't help but wonder how through our sins we change the course of life and creation. After all God has a purpose for every one of us, as well as, for his creation. What impact have our sins had on the created order?

When we throw trash on the roads, dump anti-freeze down the sewer, abuse our neighbors, ignore those in need, how have we changed God's purpose for creation and for humankind.

This is heavy stuff isn't it? But it's important, because we too often dismiss sinning as something that will be forgiven for so we need not worry. But our sins do matter and they do effect eternity.

Sometimes judgment comes, not directly from God, but through life, when we are made to stare in the mirror of honesty, and made to see ourselves as we really are.

This can be a scary moment, but this can also be a redemptive moment. Can we stand in front of a mirror today, look at ourselves, and honestly say "well done?"

I believe we all can, sometimes. We have all had moments when we have demonstrated mercy and kindness out of love.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we also have to admit we've had moments of greed and self-centeredness as well, and we carry the scars of our sins related to such acts.

Perhaps it's God's judgment that we carry the scars of our sins. The scars may be in our memories, perhaps they're physical or mental. But scars do remind us of what we have done so that in the future we will make better choices.

Jesus scars remind us of all that he has done for us, and they remind us of his love, and the hope that comes through the cross.

Yes there is hope. Our hope comes from knowing that God forgives us if we truly repent, we have hope knowing that God can change us, and that God never gives up on us, even when we give up on ourselves. Our judge is Jesus the Christ, the one who loved us, even enough to die for us, who returned to us even after we had betrayed him, and he forgave us.

The one who has never given up on us will judge, and what will his judgment be?

Someone once said, "A time is coming for all people when they will either be born again, or wish they had never been born at all."

Well my prayer is that we all will experience the new birth in Christ, and that we will be faithful to our call, so when we stand before Jesus his first response is "welcome home my brothers and sisters, welcome home."