The prayer was birthed out of a realization that I desired to avoid judgment at all costs. Like many in my generation, there is a part of me that is continuously proclaiming, “you can’t judge me, you don’t know me, you’re no better than me, etc.” All of these statements are based in my own insecurity.
As I read the Bible, and as I observe culture, I notice two major postures by people towards judgment. The first is similar to the one I mentioned above, the “please don’t judge me, don’t judge me, don’t judge me” posture. The second, and one I have also lived under, is the “judge yourself lest you be judged” posture.
The first posture towards judgment forces a person to live in fear, crippling them from receiving criticism and discipline. The second posture so often results in self-righteousness, because who can honestly judge anyone, especially oneself? Anyone who thinks they can honestly judge in their own strength is deceived. It’s one of those many statements by Jesus that, at surface level, seems to put us in an impossible place.
A big problem we have is a misunderstanding or misdefinition of judgment. We tend to equate judgment with condemnation. Condemnation is a negative result of judgment, but condemnation does not equal judgment.
Every person will ultimately face the full and complete judgment of Christ. From Hitler to Billy Graham, each of us will stand before the judgment seat of God. This isn’t a crazy fundamentalist teaching. This is fact. Jesus is the Great Judge and must judge and will judge. And Christian hope rests in His judgment.
Christians and nonbelievers alike are destined to the judgment of God. Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done…If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:13,15
The salvation and blood of Christ eliminates personal condemnation from the life of the believer. The famous verse rings out with hope, declaring “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
But there is absolutely judgment for the believer and thank God that He judges us in Christ! This statement of thankfulness has a double meaning. Thank God that judgment for the believer, washed in the blood of Christ, does not include condemnation. But, beyond that, thank God that HE DOES judge us! What could be a deeper blessing than to receive the judgment of God while we are still alive!
Judgment, at its core, simply means, “to separate.” Christ, the Great Judge, separates light from darkness, sin from righteousness, deceit from truth, despair from hope. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him…and this is the judgment: the light has come into the world” (John 3:17, 19).
For the believer, Christ separates light from darkness, condemning the darkness and disciplining the light.
For some time I began to grasp that judgment does not equal condemnation, understanding that condemnation is a result of judgment that has no place in my life. But I couldn’t quite grasp the word that best encapsulates the positive end of judgment. As light is separated from darkness, darkness is condemned, but what happens to the light?
The word I was looking for is a fairly obvious one and is another word that required redefinition: discipline. Hebrews 12 clarifies this point perfectly. Though there is absolutely no condemnation for those who belong to Christ, there is absolutely discipline for those whom God loves. The word discipline etymologically comes from the word student and has to do with the spurring on of growth.
As God judges me, my sin is separated and condemned having no part in my life and no claim over me. Through the judgment of Christ, the light of Christ within me is disciplined; spurred on towards maturity and growth. And, so, contained within the judgment of God is both cleansing and growth; salvation and flourishing.
Possibly the greatest mystery of God’s judgment is the role that the Holy Spirit plays. This is where the rubber meets the road in a crazy way. Those who belong to Christ have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in Ephesians 1 that the seal of the Holy Spirit is the assurance of our inheritance in Christ. Our inheritance in Christ surely includes His complete presence and our full and complete maturity in and through Him.
The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ within us, is actively offering the complete and full judgment of Jesus to the believer at all times. This means that we have unhindered access to God’s judgment of us even before we physically die. David cries out in my favorite psalm, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Yes! Praise God! Through the love of God, the blood of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am actively living under the judgment of Jesus Christ, the authoritative and perfect ruler of all!
My role then, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, as a son of God, and brother of Christ simply becomes one of agreement with the Holy Spirit’s active ministry in me. The Holy Spirit convicts, enlightens, speaks, groans with intercession, empowers, and all that I must do is say, “Yes! You are God, I agree with Your perfect judgment!”
Water and fire have a double purpose in all of scripture. They represent the fullness of judgment. They reveal condemnation and discipline. The world was condemned to death by the flood, but was also cleansed and ultimately saved from complete destruction through the waters. Separation from God is represented by fire, but his cleansing, refining work is also shown through fire.
For those who believe and confess the name of Christ the Holy Spirit baptizes and refines, flooding and burning, saving and growing. Our position is simply to say, “yes.”
Yes God. Judge me even in the land of the living. In your judgment is life and life abundant!