Devotion for November 28-30, 2017

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31-32.

The final judgment before Jesus, it’s something that when we really think about it really strikes fear into our hearts. Jesus will come from heaven, robed in the fullness of His Glory. He will descend and will gather every person ever and separate them between those who will be saved and those who will be condemned. Of course, that condemnation is what makes it so scary, isn’t it? The thought that this Perfect Man, God in the flesh will stand over us, He will look at our every deed, our every indiscretion, our every sinful thought, and He will make a judgment about our final fate. When we think about all of those things, it’s concerning, because when we are honest we know that we have sinned against God. We have not lived perfectly as we ought, and we know that this is not good.

In fact, we as people know this isn’t good to the point that we very often assume that it must not be true. Or, we assume that God will take a look at all of the good stuff we’ve done and balance the scale out with that, so that we’ll be OK. In our day, we often say this by saying that God knows our hearts, implying that He knows how sincere we have been in our goodness. That would be encouraging if Jesus didn’t tell us that our hearts aren’t sincere in faith. They are sincere in sinfulness. He says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” Or Isaiah, the prophet, says it another way: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”

That doesn’t sound good for us does it? So what should we do? What hope do we have? We have the hope that this Jesus who will come to judge us is the Jesus who came to die for our sins. This means that we see in Him the One who paid the debt for our sin, the One whose deeds aren’t polluted by sin, but are perfect in love. We see in His resurrection then the promise of new life free from sin in Him.

So, does that mean He will not actually condemn anyone? No. What it does mean, though, is that in Him we have the promise of forgiveness for our sin. We have the promise that “God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” That is our hope. And in that hope, when it comes to judgment, we see in Jesus’ examination of our deeds that the sheep don’t see any goodness of themselves, and they’re right. But Jesus sees the deeds that have been washed of their sin, cleansed by His blood, by His death. And that death brings life to death through His rising on that first Easter Sunday. It brings forgiveness and purification to works such that Jesus Himself even gives us His own works. Those works, then, are always good enough.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, You promise to come again to judge the living and the dead. Grant to us to trust always in You and in Your mercy, so that in faith, You would cleanse our deeds from that which would condemn us. Amen.