Today I was preparing for my meeting with my associate Chuck. We have been reading The Gospel for Real Life by the recently deceased author Jerry Bridges. In chapter 4, entitled “Justice Satisfied,” I came across this statement: Most people “ …think that God will somehow relax His inflexible justice and pardon all of us by mere sovereign prerogative.” (p. 43)
I had to agree with that statement – I do think most people genuinely think God is going to sovereignly give them a pass. Perhaps it is because they are convinced that their sin is not as bad as someone else’s sin. Perhaps it is because their good deeds clearly outweigh their bad deeds. Or perhaps they just think God, being a good God and a loving God, could clearly not judge someone like them who has tried so hard.
Regardless of the reason, many people are convinced that God will somehow, in some way, put aside his holiness and his justice, leaving them unsatisfied, and offer pardon to the vast majority of human beings. They are convinced that God is able and willing to go against his character and offer forgiveness and heaven to those who are guilty.
So, I got to thinking – why do people think that way? Well, some do not understand that God’s justice is inflexible – everyone will get exactly what they deserve. Others do not understand the dichotomy between holiness and sin – our sin is a serious offense to God’s holy character. And some believe that because of the examples we see in our society.
You see, government has often taken the role of god in our lives. But God is not like the government. What do I mean? Think back a few years. In 2008, after years of risky investments and phony dealings, the bottom fell out of the mortgage market and the economy as a whole. Banks and other large corporations, threatened to go under. And convinced that it was for the ultimate good of the economy, the government bailed out investment firms and insurance companies and auto makers. They government did not allow them to pay for their years of bad, irresponsible choices. They offered them forgiveness of a sort despite their deeds.
The same kind of thing could be said of homeowners that bought what they could not afford. Suddenly upside down in the payments, owing more than their house is worth, some of them were also bailed out by a government that did not allow them to face the just consequences of their own behavior. I believe the same thing will happen in a few years to the whole student loan industry. The cries are already beginning to be heard for loan forgiveness on behalf of students. The day will come, in the midst of a crisis, when the government will somehow, in some way, erase the debts these students have accrued.
Now some of you may be reading this and thinking – wow, Jeff is sure a grouch today. That is not what I want to communicate. Rather, I want us to recognize that the government’s actions – necessary or not, whether you agree or not – are not parallel to God’s actions with regard to justice. God does not and will not forgive sins without justice being satisfied. He will not “bail out” anyone. His mercy toward a sinner cannot somehow “trump” his justice. (No Trump pun intended…) Rather his justice must be satisfied. God will not act like the government acts on the last day.
Thankfully, this is where Jesus comes in. As our representative, Jesus died on the cross, bearing the full brunt of God’s justice. We do not have to pay the price for our sin – Jesus already paid it in full. Jesus assumed our liability for not perfectly obeying God’s law and he paid that liability to the utmost. In Jesus, God cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14) When we accept and trust Jesus’ provision for our sins, God’s justice toward us is satisfied and his mercy is enabled.
And so, the Christian does not fear judgment day. Our lack of fear is not because of some phony, false belief that God is just going willy-nilly to offer grace to everyone. Rather, our lack of fear comes from the fact that we are assured that the price for our sin is paid, justice has been satisfied and what we will receive at Christ’s judgment seat is the abundant mercy of God. Praise the Lord – God is not like the government!