before i got tattoos, there was one particular tattoo that i judged hard (however ironically.) i always thought a little less of people who had “only God can judge me” on their arms, because it made me assume that they live a questionable life and that nobody but God was allowed to judge them. i mean, true enough…
it’s a good phrase, though. it’s a good phrase if we know how to use it. it’s a phrase the verity of which can secure us in the comfort and love of the Father if we let it, and i think we’d do well to let it. follow my brain, here…
in John 5, Jesus says a few quick words that, when you use logic to elaborate on them, sets up a really quick picture of what the Christian’s ambitions and expectations should be. He is talking to some Pharisees about who bears witness about Him, and how, if they’d read the scripture, they’d see that He was coming all along, but they look for hope in the scripture, instead of in Jesus. then He says, “So not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” (John 5:45.)
if your mind isn’t blown yet…well…stick with it, because i think Jesus wants to make that happen. Basically, Jesus is saying, “you know, if you’d read the scriptures correctly, you’d see that they were telling you about Me this whole time, but you’re focusing on all the wrong stuff. you’re putting your hope in the stuff you’ve learned, in the laws you keep, in the traditions you hold (i’m suggesting that when Jesus says “Moses,” He’s referring to the law of Moses.) but that’s okay, i’m not going to accuse you to the Father for that…i’ll let Moses accuse you.”
the initial, immediate takeaway is what we read later on in Romans – that the Law is a teacher, and it exists to show us of our need for Christ. So, we’re condemned by the Law, by our inability to keep it.
but there’s something else here that i think we simply cannot afford to miss. Jesus says, “there’s one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have placed your hope.”
Here’s the Kingdom paradigm: what you expect to save you is what you can expect to condemn you.
i can only begin to cover the vast array of things that we, as people, expect to save us. i know that i expect time to save me, money to save me, success to save me, creativity to save me, and achievements to save me. but the second that we give it power to save, we give it power to accuse, to damn, to condemn. in past posts, i’ve written about what i call the “paycheck squirm,” wherein i do mental gymnastics all week to feel good about myself until i get paid, and can feel comforted by money being in the bank. but you know what happens? i get that money, i feel good for two seconds, and then i pay my bills and then i feel like crap again.
that’s how i see this pattern played out in my life. i expect money to save me, then it comes and i have to use it (which, its job is to be used, not to save anyway) and suddenly, i’m condemned by the number in my bank account.
this is how it works. if you give something power to save you, you give it power to condemn you. we can’t afford to give conditions to God on our joy – that’s not the kind of God He is. we can’t say, “God, i will delight in You as long as i am in good health. i will delight in You so long as i have money. God, i will delight in You when You help me meet my future spouse. God, i will delight in You as long as i get to live in this place or travel to these places.”
i think God wants our no-matter-what. God wants our nevertheless. but i don’t think it’s because He’s egomaniacal, i think it’s because He knows that He is the only one who can provide steadfastness – in a volatile world in which everything changes, He’s pretty constant. He’s made Himself known through a Word (the Bible) that hasn’t changed. He’s made His intentions clear through Jesus, who came, did His thing, died in our place and for our sin, and is only coming back to establish His Kingdom. Have you noticed that God hasn’t had to do any maintenance on what He did on earth? Jesus was once-for-all. God didn’t change His mind about what He did. He’s not asking for us to do anything more than believe.
there’s joy in that. there’s life in that. there’s salvation in that.
i think Paul might have had these words of Jesus in mind when he wrote stuff like this: “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.) “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (8:34.) in other words, if we put our hope in Jesus, like the Pharisees did with Moses, then we cannot possibly be let down, because the One we’re giving power to save and condemn us is interceding for us daily at the right hand of the Father.
hope is only found in Christ. and what a steady, sure hope that is.