Judge! (Apostles’ Creed #8)
2 Timothy 4:1-8
As we’ve talked about for several weeks now, the Apostles’ Creed helps us to both proclaim and confess the Gospel of Christ. Most of us have committed it to memory, and it’s a major part of our worship each week... as it helps to set the bounds concerning what we actually believe.
Of course, it’s not just a reaffirmation of our faith... but it’s a reminder... of the power of the Gospel, the power of Christ to save us...
Have you ever noticed how much of the Creed is about Jesus? It centers on Christ!
We believe in God the Father Almighty... the Creator of all things in the heavens and earth. AND in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit (fully God) and born of the Virgin Mary (fully human). He suffered for us... was crucified, dead and buried... he descended into the realm of the dead... but he didn’t stay there! He arose! And ascended to the right hand of God the Father... from whence (or from where) he’s coming, to judge... as in He is coming again.
We Presbyterians (like other orthodox, mainline Christians) certainly believe Jesus is coming again. We believe in the Second Coming. We believe in that actual, literal moment in time - God’s time - when Christ will come in final victory (that moment we attest to, even in our communion liturgy, when all followers of Christ will be gathered around God’s heavenly banquet) and Christ will make all things new, and right. That day when “all flesh will see, together” - according to the prophet Isaiah (40:5) - the glory of God will be revealed to all... and the whole of creation will be restored to perfect communion with it’s Creator - to once again walk in the “cool of the day” with our God (Genesis 3:8). When the curse of sin is broken forever.
Of course, the fact is... Christ not only breaks the curse of sin - or saves us - personally, individually... but that Christ will ultimately restore and deliver the whole of creation itself. We currently live in the “now and the not yet” (so-to-speak)... or the “time between” the fall of man and the FULL restoration of the Kingdom. It’s a time of preparation... as God is preparing us, as His children, to live in the full and coming Kingdom of God.
Romans 8:19-21, “... the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
God’s ultimate plan’s not just to save us from our sin, but to literally renew and restore all of creation! Establishing a New Heaven and a New Earth! And when that renewal happens... when Christ returns... the new Creation will be inhabited by members of the Kingdom of God... people who’ve been redeemed and resurrected... and the redeemed will live and rule and reign... in the perfect Kingdom, the perfect presence of God... just as God had originally intended way back at the dawn of creation.
Revelation 22:3 tells us, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
So when you and I profess that “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; and that He shall come (in other words, he’s coming again) to judge the living and the dead - that’s what we’re talking about! Restoration. Christ is coming to restore and renew his fallen creation.
Christ is our Redeemer... and part of Christ’s role as Redeemer, is also Judge.
We sure don’t like talking about judgement, do we? It makes we Presbyterian types nervous! And I think that discomfort is because we sometimes have difficulty understanding, or appreciating, how a God of unconditional love is also a God of judgment. That thought tends to give us heartburn.
But only because we don’t fully appreciate judgment from God’s perspective.
I mean: think about it... we’re very wishy-washy when it comes to judgement. We have no problem judging others (we all do it... we judge others by their looks... the way they dress... the way they talk). We make a hundred different judgments every day! So we have no problem judging... we just don’t want to be judged.
If someone draws attention to our misdeeds or shortcomings we’re quick to say, “don’t judge me... you have no right to judge me! Stop being judgmental... and bigoted... and hardhearted!” And, just like that... we’ve proven our propensity to judge.
And so, we’re conflicted and confused about judging... and we’re uneasy with the idea that God will ultimately judge us. Because we tend to think God must judge like us.
But we should celebrate the fact that Christ is our judge! Knowing - trusting - believing... that God will set right everything that’s misplaced and disordered. Every wrong will be corrected. Every burden lifted. Every grief relieved.
The injustices of this life... the inequities... the hatred... the despair... and turmoil... and frustration... will all be gone! Replaced by the light of God’s eternal presence, and peace... and love.
That’s because Christ judges in righteousness. And as you and I are covered in a righteousness that’s not our own... it’s not our own doing... a righteousness not earned, or merited. We can’t do enough good... we could never be good enough... to ever deserve the pure mercy and grace afforded us in the righteousness of Christ.
Not long ago I had a conversation with a young man who told me, “I just don’t think I’ve done enough... I’m not good enough... I’m not living a good enough life to be welcomed into heaven.” I tried to assure him that’s not how it works. We too often live by the notion that we can, or must, work our way into heaven...
I see it on full display in my 2-year old granddaughter and my almost 4-year old grandson. You offer to help them open a container of apple-sauce, or put a toy together - and the self-willed determination comes out: “no... I can do it! I want to do it myself.” And, of course, sometimes that’s a good thing... you only learn by doing. But not always.
We only gain salvation by letting go of self-will... we only gain salvation by surrendering our ego, our pride, and our insistence on earning our own way...
The fact is: the only thing you and I can ever possibly do... is accept the grace... step-into the mercy... to receive the forgiveness and salvation offered in Christ, and in Christ alone.
For when we do that... Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness. And the only judgement upon us... is answered and relieved... by our faith in the One who loved us first, and loves us most.
There’s no need to fear such judgment. Not for the child of God. And that’s what makes the Gospel, incredibly Good News!
“No guilt in life, no fear in death, for this is the power of Christ in me!”
We have this hope-filled assurance that all the things of this life that threaten us, will cease... allowing us to rest in the blessing of Christ’s righteousness.
And as Christians... as followers of Christ... as those who hear and believe... we have eternal life... and will not be judged... but have already crossed over, from death to life. (John 5:24).
For this is the word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.