Why Trials?

Introduction

I recently read a book written by Thomas Boston titled The Crook in the Lot. The term “lot” refers to the whole of one’s life. The term “crook” refers to a trial that one faces in life. Boston’s purpose in writing the book was to give a theology of trials. From reading Boston’s book, I think it would be beneficial for us to think through the purpose of trials as well.

A trial is a problem, hardship, affliction, or difficulty given to us by God. And below, I just want to walk through some (not all) of the reasons God providentially gives us trials in this life. I mean, if God is sovereign and infinitely wise, then the trials He gives are purposeful. Therefore, we need to know some of these purposes so that we can count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Let’s begin.

The Trial of One’s State

God will providentially send a trial our way to test whether we are genuine Christians or religious hypocrites. Just think back to Job’s trial. When the Lord mentioned Job’s name to Satan, Satan responded saying, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (Job. 1:9-10). Satan was arguing that the only reason Job’s faith in God was seemingly strong was because God had generously blessed him with a multiplicity of good gifts. Satan is going to go on to argue that, if the Lord were to take away all of these good gifts, Job would evidence that he did not have a genuine faith. So, if all these blessings were taken away then Job would show that he did not fear God simply because God was God but only because God had blessed him. With that in mind, Satan said, “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). And, as you are well aware, the Lord did stretch out his hand against Job and Job evidenced the genuineness of his faith by fearing God for no reason.

However, not everybody is like Job. Not everybody has a genuine faith. Some people, in the midst of a trial, evidence their religious hypocrisy. This is seen in the parable of the sower. People that originally received the word of Christ with joy eventually went through trials that led them to fall away from the faith (Mt. 13:21). So, it is evident that trials test one’s spiritual state. They evidence sincerity of faith or religious hypocricy.

Weans Us from the World

This wicked world system is under the rule of the Prince of the power of the air. Satan, that evil ancient serpent is the god of this world. And the consistent teaching of the Scriptures is that Christians are pilgrims, sojourners, strangers, and aliens in this world. Thus, our citizenship is not in this world. Rather, we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we are to journey through this dark world seeking to let the light of the gospel shine through us so that God might be glorified.

However, as we look at our own lives, it is apparent that we do not always do this. Often times we, as strangers of this world, seek to take up residency here. We become all too at home in this world that is at enmity with God and under the power of the evil one. We begin to over indulge in leisure, entertainment, comfort, prosperity, etc. We quit living with gospel urgency and begin to walk in complacency, indifference, and apathy. The thought of the New Jerusalem begins to leave our minds and we begin to live for the kingdom of this world.

It is at this moment that the Lord will providentially give us a trial to wean us from this world. He will gently remind us that this is not our home and that we are to be looking forward to, “The city that has solid foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Simply put, trials wean us from this world and place our minds on eternal things.

Conviction of Sin

Trials will often serve as a memorial in remembering former sins. They are like the ex-high school football player that continues to have knee problems into his fifties and sixties. Every time he feels an ache in his knee, he is reminded of his high school football days. In a similar vein, the Lord will providentially give us trials to serve as reminders of previous sins that we have committed so that we will not fall into these same sins again.

For example, Joseph’s brothers probably would not have thought much about selling their brother into slavery had it not been for the famine in the land that forced them to go to Egypt in order to get food. However, upon enduring famine, going to Egypt, and enduring other hardships, they were forced to say, “We are guilty concerning our brother,” as well as “God has found out the iniquity of your servants” (Gen. 42:21; 44:16).

Also, Job would not have thought much about the sins of his youth had the Lord not stretched out his hand against him. But since the Lord stretched out his hand, Job said, “For you write down bitter things against me and make me reap the sins of my youth (Job 13:26). Thus, trials sometimes serve as a memorial. They make us recall certain sins that we formerly committed so that we might remember them afresh and make efforts not to commit them again.

Correction, or Consequences of Sin

Every good father disciplines their children for wrongdoing. Each father does this for their children’s good. They want their children to learn that wrongdoing is unhealthy, and that doing right is healthy. So, if this is the case with a good father then how much more will our heavenly Father discipline the children whom he has adopted. When we sin, God will most assuredly discipline us so that we may share in his holiness and righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11).

Also, and this is incredibly important to understand, though our sin has been forgiven and we have been credited with the righteousness of Christ, God will still give us trials and hardships as consequences for sins that we have committed. One of the most beautiful verses in Scripture is found directly after David committed some of the most heinous sins that one can commit (adultery and murder). In 2 Samuel 12:13, David says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan responds to David saying, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” The Lord graciously put away David’s sin. That is simply remarkable. However, we must not miss what else the Lord said. The Lord also said to David, “The child who is born to you shall die,” and “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from you house.” Those are two major consequences for David’s sins. Thus, David’s sins were covered, yet he was going to endure consequences for the sins that he had committed.

So, you can repent of sin, be forgiven of sin, and not have to worry about eternal wrath, yet still face certain earthly consequences for sin. This is just of God. Consequences for sin is way different than condemnation for sin.

Reveals Dormant Corruption

All of us have certain corruptions that are not lying dormant within us. And by that, I mean sins that we, as well as others around us, are very much aware that we are committing because it is outwardly apparent. We see them. Others see them. Everybody sees them. Therefore, we are able to acknowledge it, repent of it, and then seek to put it to death.

There are other corruptions that lie dormant within us. And by that, I mean certain areas of sinfulness that we are not committing at the time, but are most certainly capable of committing when the right buttons are pushed! So, we are sinful in these areas, but certain things have not happened in our lives that bring out our sinfulness. And, as you can tell, this is not a good place to be. It is not good to have dormant corruption within us that we are unaware of. If we are unaware of this corruption then we are unable to acknowledge it, repent of it, and then seek to put it to death.

With that in mind, sometimes our Heavenly Father will give us a trial to bring this dormant corruption to light. For example, think about the meek and humble Moses. Who would have thought he would have been capable of becoming so angry and bitter? Who would have thought that he would be able to speak so rashly? Yet, that was dormant corruption within him, and, because of the stubborn Israelites, it rose to the top and became apparent (Ps. 106-32-33; Num. 20:13).

The Exercise of Grace

There are certain graces that cannot be exercised apart from some trial. Two of these graces would be patience and steadfastness. These graces are only manifested in the midst of a trial. Therefore, the Lord will providentially give us a trial so that we can exercise these graces. He will give us a co-worker that is not that delightful to be around so that we can exercise our patience in order to demonstrate to the world around us that we are a different. Or, if you are a pastor, he may give you an unruly church member so that you can exercise patience in order to demonstrate to the church what it looks like to be long-suffering.

With that said, there is a reason we look at the humility and meekness of Moses and regard it as something to imitate. I mean, he was with an irritable and quarrelsome people that would have drove us crazy! Praise God Moses was able to show humility and meekness (most of the time) in the midst of that trial. Also, there is a reason we look at the patience of Job every time we are enduring a hardship in this life. The guy was patient and steadfast through some of the most horrific trials that one could ever endure. Praise God that Job was plunged into those trials and was able to exercise patience and steadfastness in a way that has benefitted the church for thousands of years! Thus, trials show certain graces that bring remarkable glory to God.

Conclusion

As Christians, we ought to take comfort in these truths. A season of barrenness is not purposeless. A nagging co-worker is not meaningless. A rebellious child is not fruitless. Cancer is not valueless. They all serve a purpose. As a refiner places his silver into the fire to achieve the good purpose he has, so the Sovereign God of creation places his children through trials to achieve the good purpose he has. This is a truth we are to take comfort in. This is why we can count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.

 

 

Unreasonable Ambition

Wisdom from Spurgeon

The other day, I was reading through some notes that I had taken before I taught a biographical teaching on Charles Spurgeon to the college ministry. As I was reading, I ran across a quote that I believe is particularly helpful for Christians in every age group. Spurgeon said, “Many of our young folks want to commence their service for Christ by doing great things, and therefore do nothing at all; let none of my readers become the victims of such an unreasonable ambition.”

Why This is True

The reason I think this is a helpful quote is because it really presents a timeless truth. Far too many Christians, especially within the younger generation, really do want to begin their service for Christ by doing something great. They are always talking about possibly going to seminary to learn more theology so that they can train up pastors overseas, pastor a church, plant a church, become a missionary, open up an orphanage, end sex trafficking, etc.

I have personally heard this kind of thinking often as I have interned in a student ministry, attended seminary, and served in college ministry throughout my 20s. I have heard numerous youth tell me that they were going to be missionaries or pastors. I have talked to numerous college students that talk about how, after they graduate, they are going to go overseas to an unreached people group and risk imprisonment and death in order to share the gospel with people who have never heard about Jesus. I have had numerous people tell me that they were going to finish up seminary and then go do missions in the Middle East, China, or South America. Some seminarians talk zealously about how they are going to plant churches in major cities for the sake of Christ. There just seems to be a thought process within the younger generation related to doing great and magnificent things for Christ.

And, do not get me wrong, some of this thinking is fine. It is admirable to want to do great and magnificent things for Christ! However, as Spurgeon said, it is an “unreasonable ambition” if this is how you think that you are going to begin your service to Christ.

People do not begin their service to Christ by doing these great and magnificent things. That is not how this whole Christian walk thing works. It would be like a person wanting to commence their discipline of running by running a marathon, or somebody wanting to commence their work career as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. This type of thinking lacks wisdom. We know that you cannot commence the discipline of running by starting out with a marathon, and that you cannot commence your work career by starting out as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. This is the same with serving Christ. It is not as though we can go throughout high school, college, or seminary doing nothing (or very little) for Christ and then, upon graduation, go do something great and magnificent for Christ.

And the practical evidence that this is an unreasonable ambition is because many of the individuals that I have heard make these types of comments have went on to do other things than the great and magnificent things that they were intending on doing. I have seen some of them quit attending church. I have seen some go on to a fine career where they make a lot of money. I have seen some settle into an average career. And the reason for this is because, though they had an ambition to do something great and magnificent for Christ, they never understood the importance of doing everything for Christ.

Sure, they had a hopeful ambition to go evangelize the lost in another country, but they were not consistently seeking to evangelize their neighbor. They were desirous to preach the word, but they would not consistently read the word. They were zealous to plant a church, but they were not willing to serve in children’s ministry. They wanted to pastor a mega church, but they didn’t want to teach the gospel to children. They wanted to engage an unreached people group risking imprisonment and death, but they wouldn’t pick up loose paper lying around in the sanctuary after a Sunday morning service. They hoped to one day do great and magnificent things, but they never started being faithful in small, mundane things. And since this is the case, they will ultimately end up doing nothing. They will do nothing for Christ now, and they will do nothing for Christ in the years to come. This is sad!

Application

We must not fall for this unreasonable ambition. Rather, let us aspire to do great and magnificent things for Christ, but let us aspire to do those great and magnificent things for Christ as we faithfully yield the whole of our lives (even in the small and mundane things) in faithful obedience to Jesus now. And, as we do this, the Lord will be preparing more and more service opportunities for us to steward for his glory! This is how the Christian life works. The reward for faithfulness in ministry is greater opportunities for faithfulness in ministry (Luke 19:15-27). May we seek to commence our service to Christ with this in mind.

The Destructive Power of Sinful Anger

Our hearts are deceitful, sin is deceptive, and the ancient serpent that wages war against our souls is crafty. This is a recipe for disaster. That is why it is so helpful to look after one another, study sin, and be aware of the ways of the evil one.

With that said, the specific sin that I want to look at today is anger. I just want us to briefly think through the destructive power of sinful anger. My hope is that this will help us to, by the power of the Spirit, put this sin to death.

Why Sinful Anger is so Destructive

First, the sin of anger is so destructive because it tends to quickly manifest itself outwardly for all to see.

Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

I like how the NIV interprets “exalts” here as “displays.” I think this is exactly what is being revealed here. Somebody with a hasty temper displays to the public that they are foolish (lacking wisdom). With that in mind, Proverb 14:17 says, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).

So, Proverbs is revealing that sinful anger tends to manifest itself outwardly rather quickly. Now, all sin is like this to an extent. All sin, the longer is partaken in, usually becomes more and more manifest to the public’s eye. For example, lust usually begins with the mind. An individual begins to think inappropriately. Before long it begins to be a sin committed with the eyes. So, a person begins to have eyes full of lust and is looking inappropriately at women or men. Then, after a while, lust begins to manifest itself physically. The individual has less and less sexual restraint. Lastly, the sin of lust begins to manifests itself in ways that you never would have imagined. . . . sexual immorality, enslavement to pornography, an affair on your spouse, etc.

This is simply how sin is. And though this is generally true of all sin, it really does seem like sinful anger is a sin that is prone to manifest itself to the public a bit quicker than other sins. There is something about the intense emotions that come with anger that leads it to quickly escalate.

And, even as I say that, you know exactly what I am talking about. Think about the times that you have been angry and then said or did something that you immediately regretted. For example, when I played baseball, I would literally see guys goofing off before an at bat. Then, during the at bat, they would strike out. They would get angry because their pride was shot. They would then come into the dugout, throw their helmet down, throw their bat down, and punch the bench. They would literally break their hand punching the bench (I am not kidding)! And, just remember, they were goofing off three minutes prior to breaking their hand.

Or just think about how quickly people get upset at another driver on the road and then say something verbally or do something physically that is completely out of character for them.

These are just examples from everyday life. The Bible gives us numerous evidences of this truth as well. Cain was filled with anger and killed his brother. Haman was filled with anger and sought to kill Mordecai. King Saul was filled with anger and sought to kill David. The meek and gentle Moses was filled with bitterness and anger at Israel’s complaining and then struck the rock twice when God had only commanded him to speak to it. Jonah was filled with anger and said that it would be better for him to die.

It is just apparent that anger tends to manifest itself in outward ways rather quickly. This, in turn, brings reproach to Christ and misrepresents the God whom we serve. For the God whom we serve is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!

Secondly, since the sin of anger tends to manifest itself publicly rather quickly, it always brings about harm to our neighbor.

Now, it is important to note that this is generally true of all sin as well. The more public a sin is, the more it harms your neighbor. For example, if I covet, or earnestly desire my neighbor’s things, then I have sinned. However, since I coveted them, but did not steal them, my neighbor is not necessarily affected by my sin. Now, if I were to covet my neighbor’s possessions and then begin to steal them, then my neighbor would be directly affected by my sin.

For another example, just think about King David. When he should have been off at war, he was roaming around on the roof of his palace. Upon roaming around, he noticed Bathsheba bathing. If he would have noticed her and then lusted after her in his heart, he would have most certainly been in sin, but she, nor her husband, would have been impacted by his sin.

However, we see that David did not just see and lust after Bathsheba. Rather, he lusted and then sent his servant to bring Bathsheba to him. In doing this, David’s sin caused greater and greater damage to his neighbors. It hurt David himself, Bathsheba, Uriah (her husband), and honestly the entire kingdom of Israel. So, the more public a sin is, the more harm it usually does to our neighbors.

And I think that anger, since it quickly manifests itself to the public, tends to harm our neighbors a great deal. And practically, we know that this is true. You get angry at your parents, so you say something to them that is hateful causing them much anguish. You get upset with your boyfriend or girlfriend and say something to them that you would not have said in a thousand years had you been in your right mind. You are driving down the road and a car cuts you off making you fume with anger. As you fume with anger, you make a hand gesture that you haven’t made in three years. The list can go on and on. Sinful anger simply destroys our neighbors.

This is why you have Proverbs that say things like:

Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Proverbs 29:22 “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”

So, this is the second reason sinful anger is so destructive. It always brings about harm to your neighbor!

Thirdly, the sin of anger has a tendency to rub off on the people closest to you. So, if you are an angry person then you’ll usually begin seeing the people around you be angry people.

Listen to what this Proverb says:

Proverbs 22:24-25 “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Anger is repulsive. It is a heinous sin. It is absolutely dreadful to be caught in the thicket of, and to see it from afar shows the sheer ugliness of it. Yet, somehow, if we are around it enough, we grow a bit angrier as well. It is as though the sin of anger is a contagion and if we are around it long enough, we too will get it. Listen to what Charles Bridges says about all this:

Common intercourse with a furious man is like living in a house that is on fire. His unreasonable conduct stirs our own tempers. One fire kindles another. Occasional bursts of passion soon form the habit. The habit becomes the nature. Thus we learn his ways, and get a snare to our soul.

So, he is saying, to befriend a person that is given to anger will lead us to have our anger stirred up as well. Then, if this happens frequently, we will make anger a habit. That’s a dreadful thought.

With this in mind, Bridges ends saying, “We learn anger easier than meekness. We convey disease, not health. Hence it is the rule of self-preservation, no less than the rule of God—Make no friendship with an angry man.”

Bridges is saying, for the sake of preserving your own soul, do not befriend somebody that is constantly given to anger. So, this is the third reason the sin of anger is so destructive. It tends to lead those around you to be angry as well.

Lastly, sinful anger tends to stay with us for a long time.

You see, there is something about the sin of anger that tends to stick with us for a while. I mean, let’s be honest, we rarely ever get angry and then quickly get over it. Rather, anger  stays with us a while, increases in its severity, and causes us to do or say things that we should not do or say.

With that in mind, think about this instruction from Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

So, a wise person may get angry, but they do not let anger reside within them letting it build up. They do not allow it to consistently grow and fester within them. The fool, however, does! He allows anger to lodge in his heart letting it impact all that he does and says. This is one of the reasons that the Apostle Paul commands the church in Ephesus saying, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

So, that is the fourth and last reason the sin of anger is so destructive. Sinful anger tends to stay with us for a while.

Conclusion

So, may we, as Christians, be slow to anger (James 1:19). May we realize that one of the very reasons we are saved is because we serve a gracious God who was and is incredibly patient and slow to anger with us. Seriously, many of us rebelled against God for decades. Let that sink in. We opposed Him for years. We affronted His glory time after time. However, He was slow to anger with us. He was patiently enduring our hard heartedness until we came to repentance and faith in Christ. That is remarkable.

And, as Christians, we ought to imitate that. We ought to be slow to anger as well. For, as is evident from the points mentioned above, sinful anger is destructive. It does not represent the God whom we serve, it does not do any good to our neighbors, nor does it do any spiritual good to us personally. So, by the power of the Spirit, let’s put sinful anger to death to the glory of God.

 

College Students – Read These 7 Books in 2019

Over the past two and a half years, I have spent and still spend a lot of time with Christian college students. So, from my own personal walk with Christ (throughout college and into my mid 20s) and from seeing many college students following Christ, I would recommend these 7 books for Christian college students to read throughout 2019.

The Seven

  1. The Bible (Lots of Pages)
    1. Most Christian college students have never read through the entire Bible. Now, I say that knowing that most professed Christians in general have probably never read through the Bible. . . . so do not frown on college students for this! With that said, Christians students should seek to read through the Bible this year. You can try a reading plan. You can try to read through it at your own pace. Just try to make your way through the Bible. You will be challenged, stretched, encouraged, and built up in the faith as you seek to do this. My first time doing this was when I was a senior in college. Convicted by the fact that I had never read through the entire Bible, I read it in three months (yes, to my shame, I skipped the genealogies)! Since then, I have consistently read the Bible every year. I am currently on my sixth time through the Bible and I am enjoying it more than I previously did the first five times because I am understanding it so much better. So, take up the Bible and read. Seek to be as acquainted with the Bible as you possibly can be!
  2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer (288 pages)
    1. Every college student is a theologian. Each college student has a particular belief about who God is. And, in all honesty, each student believes dogmatically about what he or she believes. Once you say something contrary to what they believe about Jesus, salvation, the Spirit, spiritual gifts, etc., then they will argue with you. So, each student is a passionate theologian. However, that does not mean that each person is a good theologian. Just because we have a belief about God that we are passionate about does not mean that it is right. Therefore, we need to seek to be good theologians. Knowing God will help you with this. J.I. Packer will teach you what it is like to think carefully about who God is and how He has revealed himself in the Bible.
  3. The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul (224 pages)
    1. Most students that I have talked to focus primarily on the death and resurrection of Christ. They focus on the cross, the blood, the death, and the resurrection. The problem with this is that it is not the whole story. The work of Christ in his life is just as important as the work of Christ in his death. Jesus being born in Bethlehem, being a descendent of David, being circumcised on the eight day, being baptized to fulfill all righteousness, etc., are all important to our salvation. Had Jesus not been blameless, he would have not been a sufficient sacrifice. Had he not been righteous, there would be no righteousness for us to be gifted with through faith in Jesus. Thus, the work of Christ in his life is of immense important. R.C. Sproul will show you this.
  4. The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (167 pages)
    1. So, whereas The Work of Christ will show you the importance of Christ’s earthly ministry, The Truth of the Cross will keen in on the significance of Christ’s work on the cross. And, let’s be honest, it would be of great value to become experts in all that happened on the cross. I mean what does it mean that the wrath of our just God was satisfied in the death of Christ? What does it mean that Christ made atonement for us? What does it mean that He was our substitute? What does it mean that he bore our sin in his body on the cross? What does it mean that he was made a curse for us? Sproul will show you the answers to these questions.
  5. Tactics by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. Evangelism is hard. It is hard to navigate conversations to specific points where we can proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. This is most certainly hard in a day where there is increasing hostility to a Christian worldview. . . .especially on college campuses. It is not abnormal for somebody to bombard you with things that they have heard from others (their highly educated liberal professors) once they hear you say that you are a Christian. How can the Bible be true if it is written by men? How can you believe abortion is wrong? How come you don’t think a woman has the right to choose how she uses her own body? Doesn’t it say that homosexuals ought to be stoned in the Bible? The Jesus of history is different from the Jesus of faith. The historical Jesus was just some Jew. The Jesus of faith is some mythological deity that early Christians made up. How can you fall for believing in this mythological deity? The questions abound! Gregory Koukl will give you a neat way to navigate these questions in a gentle way. He will help you turn these types of conversations into something that is very beneficial. Ultimately, he will help you to expose unbeliever’s faulty thinking, and to navigate these types of conversations to Jesus Christ and him crucified.
  6. The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. We, as Christians, do not believe in a myth. When we speak about the creation of the heavens and the earth, the depravity of man, the person of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, etc., we are talking about reality. This is what has really happened. Therefore, everything else that is contrary to the Christian faith is false. It simply isn’t reality. Gregory Koukl, throughout The Story of Reality, articulates how the Christian worldview makes the most sense. This will be of great help to a Christian college student.
  7. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (352 Pages)
    1. Most college students do not know what it looks like to progressively grow in holiness. They have an understanding of believing in Christ and being saved, but they do not have an understanding of what it looks like to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Therefore, they don’t. This isn’t good. If we remain ignorant of this facet of the Christian life we will remain spiritual babes. This is why this book is so important. Donald Whitney will show us how God uses these ordinary disciplines (Bible reading, meditation, prayer, evangelism, etc.) to help Christians grow and conform into the image of Jesus.

I am sure that others would recommend a different seven books, but from what I have seen throughout my years in college and in college ministry, these seven books will be beneficial for college students. They are easy to read, pretty short, and address particular areas of thought that are largely neglected.

The Implications of a Judgment According to Works for the Christian

Getting Justification Right 

A sinner is saved by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. There will not be one individual that will be declared righteous through his obedience. Rather, individuals will only be declared righteous through faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. So, those who are in Christ through faith are justified, and those who are apart from Christ are condemned.

That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are a Christian, you will never hear the just judge of all the earth declare you to be guilty of sin and deserving of eternal punishment. That will not happen. Rather, you hear a silent declaration of “Justified!” from the judge of the earth now, and you will one day hear a public declaration of “Justified!” on judgment day. This is our hope and it is incredibly comforting! We are righteous in Christ Jesus. Praise God for this! We are rescued from the wrath of God in Christ Jesus. Glory be to God alone! We are adopted into the family of God in Christ Jesus. Honor be to the name of Jesus!

Justification Does Not Eradicate Evaluation

With that said, there also must be an understanding that those who have been justified (judicially declared righteous) through faith in Christ will be judged according to their works. This is thoroughly biblical. Just because we will not face condemnation on judgment day does not mean that we will escape evaluation. We will most certainly be evaluated. All of our actions, motives, thoughts, and words will be evaluated on judgment day. So, our works will be judged. And, according to Scripture, this doctrine is incredibly important for how we live life now. So, let’s look at some applications that arise from a judgment according to works.

Application of This Doctrine

A judgment according to works can be applied in many ways. Therefore, it will be helpful to see how this understanding of the role of works in the judgment of the righteous can be applied personally and within Christian ministry.

Personal Holiness

The first application that arises from a knowledge of a judgment according to works is personal holiness. All throughout the New Testament, the biblical writers refer to the day of judgment and then issue appeals for lives of holiness. For example, Peter, in speaking about the importance of being holy because God the Father is holy, says, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Pet. 1:17). Paul, in a similar line of thought, said that all Christians will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is for this reason that Paul says that Christians are to make it their aim to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9).

So, one day, we as individuals, will stand before Christ’s great tribunal and receive what is our due for both the good and the evil that we have done in our earthly bodies. There will be no partiality in Christ’s judgment. Christ will look into the inner recesses of our hearts and expose every motive, secret, intention, careless word, and action in accordance with his infinite wisdom. For the evil that we have done, Christ will withhold his commendation. For the good that we have done, Christ will give his commendation (1 Cor. 4:5). For the evil that we have done, we will not receive a reward. For the good that we have done, we will receive rewards.

This is, without a doubt, a major incentive to live a life of holiness for the Lord. Regarding this Phanton says, “No wise disciple can afford to neglect so great a mass of Scripture, or throw away so mighty an incentive to holiness. Our discovery of this truth at the Judgment Seat will be too late.” Phanton is right in his assertion. We, if we want to live lives of holiness for the Lord, will find all the incentive we need in a thorough contemplation of standing before the judgment seat of Christ on that Great Day.

This also must be applied in the ministry context that God has entrusted with us. Right now I do college ministry on college campuses throughout the triangle area. I am able to interact with numerous students throughout the week. Each of them will have to stand before Christ’s tribunal to give an account of their lives. I ought to labor with relentless zeal in order to do everything that I can so that they will stand holy and blameless before the Lord on that Great Day. It should be my aim to prepare them for judgment day. Thus, I should do everything I can to help them pursue personal holiness.

Labor For The Lord

Secondly, a judgment according to works should lead us to increasingly labor for the Lord. When we do something in faith, to the glory of God, and out of love for neighbor, it is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Rather than being in vain, it will lead to commendation and reward from my blessed Savior. This is a major incentive to gospel labor. It most certainly was for Paul, this truth led him to tell Christians in Corinth, “to be abounding in the works of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

And this idea of rewards should not make us feel uneasy. The Scriptures clearly use this truth to compel Christians to labor. Jesus, in Matthew 6, uses both rewards and loss of rewards, to compel his disciples to give to the needy, pray, and fast in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Mt. 6:1-18). He then goes on to tell his disciples to intentionally lay-up treasure in heaven with how they use their money (Mt. 6:19-24). Also, the parable of the talents teaches that those who are faithful in how they steward their God given gifts will receive rewards when Christ Jesus returns (Mt. 24:14-30).

So, the idea of heavenly rewards compelling us to holy zeal and fervor in going about the work of the Lord is seen in the Scripture. This leads Wayne Grudem to say, “It would be morally and spiritually beneficial for us to have a greater consciousness of this clear New Testament teaching on degrees of heavenly reward.” Grudem is right. We would do well to contemplate eternal rewards often. This will lead us to zealously labor for Christ’s sake. We should be willing to spend and be spent for Christ’s kingdom knowing that nothing we do is in vain.

Also, this idea of rewards should impact the ministry we have been given. It should impact me personally as I labor on college campuses. Each of these students that I am shepherding has the opportunity to labor for the Lord, thus, storing up treasures in heaven. I ought to do everything in my power to keep them from wasting their lives by compelling them to lay up treasures in heaven by doing bold acts of service for Christ’s sake. So, I should be helping them and encouraging them to store up heavenly rewards from a most benevolent God who is eager to bestow them.

Increasing Humility

Thirdly, a judgment according to works should also lead us to have ever increasing humility. Often times, we have haughty views of ourselves. We simply seem to regard ourselves, as well as our ministry, with greater significance than we ought to. The reality of judgment day should keep us from this.

I say this because this was Paul’s mentality. Paul knew that he was gifted by God to be a steward of the mysteries of the gospel for the sake of the church. However, when it came to examining his faithfulness as a steward, he was not concerned with the judgment of men. He says, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by any human court” (1 Cor. 4:3). Paul then goes even further saying that he does not even trust his own judgment of his ministry, even though, as far as he could tell, he had not been unfaithful (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

The reason for this is because he knew judgment day was coming. Therefore, rather than leaning on his own judgment or the judgment of men, he says, “Therefore, I do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5).

Thus, judgment day led Paul to refrain from judging his own faithfulness. Rather, he humbly labored for the Lord waiting for judgment day to shed light on his ministry. The same truth mentioned above also led George Whitefield, after laboring for the Lord in an incomprehensibly glorious way, to leave his tomb stone with the words, “Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.” So, the understanding of judgment day should keep us personally humble in our gospel labor as we patiently wait for that great day to reveal the genuineness of our work.

No Sinful Judging

Fourthly, a judgment according to works should keep us from sinfully casting judgment on weaker Christians. It should also keep us from causing a weaker brother in Christ to sin in how we use our Christian freedom (Rom. 14:5-23). Each Christian is going to have to give an account of their lives to Christ. Therefore, the last thing we should want is to have to give an account to Christ for how we caused a weaker Christian, for whom He died, to sin against him by how we used our Christian freedom (Rom. 14:15).

This Should Permeate Our Teachings

Lastly, a judgment according to work should be within our teachings, our discipleship relationships, and in how we raise our kids. We should not just teach justification, and we should not just teach a judgment according to works. Rather, they should both be taught. Justification by faith alone in Christ alone and a judgment according to works are both clearly in the Bible. Therefore, both of them ought to be taught. To emphasize justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the detriment of judgment according to works produces lawlessness. People will simply live however they want to live all the while claiming Christ as Savior. We see this all throughout the Bible Belt! Also, to emphasize judgment according to works to the detriment of justification by faith alone in Christ alone produces legalism. This also is seen all throughout the Bible Belt! So, we must emphasize both. To emphasize both will produce an affectionate reverence to Christ whereby we yield ourselves in obedience to the will of God. Therefore, this teaching ought to permeate our thoughts, teachings, sermons, discipleship relationships, child rearing, etc.