By Ernest O'Neill


By Ernest O'Neill

Romans 9:27, "And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: 'Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea', [Or though the number of churchgoers in America be as the sand of the sea], 'Only a remnant of them will be saved.'" We hate that idea, we do -- we just hate it. We think it's un-American, really, or undemocratic or something, but we hate that idea.

We just rebel against the idea that God will discriminate between those who believe and say the right things about Jesus dying for Him and those who are really willing to die with Jesus to their own wishes and their own rights and to become like Him in their lives. We rebel against that idea. We rebel against the idea that God will judge between those of us who use Jesus' death as an excuse for the fact that we're not like God and those of us who use Jesus' death to become like God in our own lives.

We hate that idea. We hate the idea of God discriminating. In fact, many of us feel, really, let's face it, God is getting pretty old probably by now and He is probably a bit half-blind anyway and can't see all that's going on. Anyway, He should be pretty grateful that we're moving more or less towards Him without judging us on whether the move is sincere or not.

I think many of us live in that kind of fool's paradise. We hear this kind of verse and we say, "Well, yeah, I see what you're saying that God is selecting out from all of us who say we believe in Him, those who really believe in Him. I see what you're saying that He's trying to select out from all of us who believe in Jesus' death for us as an excuse for sinning in our minds, from those of us who really are willing to die with Jesus to ourselves and our rights and to change and become like God. I see what you're saying but I don't think that it's true. I don't think God is judging our response to Jesus' death. I think He is just happy if He gets any kind of response from us whether it's mental, intellectual, emotional, or volitional or whatever. As long as we more or less believe in Jesus' death, I think that's what counts." Really there is not a need for God to select or discriminate and, you know, we human beings don't change.

We were just the same in the first century, we were, and Paul knew that and so in this next verse that we're dealing with today, he hits it squarely on the head, this old nail. Romans 9:28: "For the Lord will execute his sentence upon the earth with rigor and dispatch." We are an inclusive society and we hate any kind of discrimination and therefore, we carry that over to God and we hear that verse and we say, "Oh that's the old hell fury stuff that they used to preach in the old days," but let's face it, we all know that that wasn't original Christianity.

The early Christian preachers were intent on getting people to believe that God would receive them and accept them whatever their lives were like. The early Christian preachers did not preach that there would be judgment. They preached that we should come to God whatever we were like and He would receive us whatever our response was. Well, loved ones, it's just not true, you know, it isn't.

In 40 A.D., Peter, who was really the early Christian preacher, came to Caesarea and he baptized Cornelius and then he said this, "And Jesus commanded us to preach to the people and to proclaim that He Himself would be the judge of the living and the dead." Peter said that Jesus has commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead -- that's 40 A.D. Now Jesus died about 29 A.D. so it's only 10 or 11 years after His death. That's the earliest, most primitive Christianity you can get and Peter is saying, "Jesus told us that He Himself was ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead and to judge what our response to Him was."

About 11 years later, in Athens, a city of learning and culture where if anybody was going to water down and dilute the more primitive, crude facts of the gospel, then that was the place to do it -- here Paul said, "He has fixed the day on which He will judge the world by a man whom He has appointed and of this, He has given assurance to all men by raising Him from the dead."

So you know, he was tackling the old philosophers who would say in the Greek background there, "Now listen, who said this? Who is saying that there'll be a judgment?" Of course, Paul is saying, "Listen, there's only one man who has ever been raised from the dead. There's only one man who has ever left this world and come back again and that's the man who has told us that He will be the one who will judge all of us and our response to Him."

That's important you know when you sit there or I stand here and think, "Oh does it matter how I respond to Jesus' death? Does it matter whether I regard Him as an excuse from my sins or as a way to be delivered from my sins? Does it matter whether I regard Him as payment for my sins so that I can go on sinning or as a remedy for what causes me to sin? Does it matter?"

Loved ones, Jesus Himself will be the one that judges us as to what our response has been. It matters. It will be the basis of the judgment of the Last Day. Of course, we all love to be literary critics and we love to say, "Well, that was Peter and Paul, but you know we human beings are very fallible, and really, that was their story but you must admit Jesus always Himself said, 'Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' You must admit that Jesus Himself was always positive. He was never trying to pick at us or find out what we were doing right or what we were doing wrong."

Of course, you remember what we read in the New Testament lesson. Jesus said, "Listen when the son of man comes in His glory and all His angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne and before him will be gathered all the nations and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats and He will say to those at His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," and then He will say to those at His left, 'Depart from Me you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"

Loved ones, it's just a fact that if you really do listen to Jesus' words, you'll find that He proclaimed very clearly that His Father was not some kind of half-blind old guy that would just be so grateful if we made any move towards him--that He'd accept us whatever our response was.

Jesus implied that there would be a very clear distinction between those of us who took His death, really, in the light of John's song this morning. Who took His death in the light of what the sacrifice meant to Jesus and regarded it as the kingpin of our whole lives -- and those of us who treated it as a free admission ticket into heaven whatever our lives are like. Jesus implied there would be a clear distinction.

Some of us are prone to say, "Oh well, now listen, Jesus was accommodating His words to the Jewish language of the time and the thought patterns so He didn't really believe in judgment. He just used that thought pattern because that was popular in those days." Do you see what a danger we're in when we say that? Do you see that we're dealing with the man who was as like God as any man could be like an infinite being in a finite world? That's what we're dealing with when we're dealing with Jesus and really what we're doing is, we're saying that He so accommodated Himself to the times that He told us lies about what would happen after this life is over.

Now brothers and sisters, when you begin to re-interpret history in that way, you begin to make foolishness of history. Jesus spoke often of the judgment in terms that were not metaphorical, in terms that were not symbolic. He often implied, Listen, "I'll say to those at my right hand, 'Come blessed of my Father', I'll say to those at my left, 'Depart from me you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." That's pretty plain, straight-talking. If we do really listen to Jesus, we'll see that yes, there will be a dividing, there will be a discriminating that will take place.

I think there's a little bit of the lawyer, (if the lawyers will forgive me), in every one of us. We like to think -- at least, I did when I was 18 or 19 but -- we always like to find out if there's some kind of way I can get around this thing. Now if this is going to take place,  (I know you lawyers don't do that), if this is going to take place at the end of this life, well, okay, maybe 50 years of real happiness and one year of real misery and repentance might do the job.  We kind of are interested in this whole business, "Well, all right -- when is this judgment going to take place and then I'll get ready for it", and of course it's really a shock when we hear what the answer is.

Here's what Jesus says, "He who believes in me is not condemned at this moment. He who does not believe is condemned already because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God", and I suppose I have a particular interest having taught English in the tenses but anyone can see that the verb tenses are all present tenses and then past tenses.  But it's, "He who believes in me is not condemned at this moment," Judging is taking place now this morning.

In two ways, the consequences of your sins, consequences of my sins, they judge us this moment. Take a simple little one that we'd hardly regard as a sin. You don't get enough sleep, a little angel throws sand in your eyes in the morning, but you carried it on further to promiscuity and it is followed up by venereal disease. And you go right through all the other things: a temper and a headache. So the judging is taking place now at this very moment, through the consequences of our sins. But in another way, the judging is taking place because guilt is the human registration of God's condemning us, really.

Loved ones, I think we have to start getting back to that and stop this business of saying, "Oh, it's false guilt, it's false guilt. My mom, you know, taught me it was always wrong to step on the cracks in the roadway and I am stepping on the cracks and I am getting false guilt."

It's time we stop playing around with every kind of guilt and calling it false guilt. Should we not rather say, "Look, I am feeling a bit uneasy about the wrong impression I gave to that person at work, I am feeling a bit uneasy. There's something inside me that doesn't feel quite right. Boy, it might be false guilt, it might be old Victorian inhibitions or prejudices but, listen, I'll be on the safe side, I'll stop doing it from now on."

Judging is taking place now. You and I are all getting little signals from the way God has made us through our guilt that there's something in us that God is not happy with and loved ones, I would say to you if you're really serious about responding rightly to Jesus' death, would it not be better to stop doing a thousand things, whether they were wrong or not, rather than continue with a thousand things because you're not sure whether they're wrong or not? What do you lose if you really do mean that you'll do anything that God wants you to do? And so the judging is taking place now day-by-day.

Complete Talk: Judgment