Here's the study we went through last night - we actually got through the entire thing!!
Much of the discussion was about what the works of a Christian looks like versus what a "pretend" Christian looks like.
We discussed hypocrisy vs. genuine faith; pride vs. humility, works righteousness vs. the works of a servant of God
Righteous people do righteousness things, unrighteous people do unrighteous things; we know them by what they do, we know them “by their fruit”; just as we know that a particular tree is an apple tree because it produces apples. Even if you are not familiar with trees, in season, you can easily see that it is an apple tree. On the other hand, if it is winter, most of us cannot see that it is an apple tree. There is no fruit, there is no evidence (unless, of course, you know trees). Everyone will be Judged by their fruit, they will be judged based on the evidence that they truly have faith in Jesus?
Therefore, we will be judged by the things, the deeds, the works we do....not as a means to be saved, but as evidence of salvation.
Scripture is clear, there will be a Judgment Day, and all of us will be there, Judgment Day is NOT only for the non-believers. It is absolutely true, we are saved by grace, through faith; but we must understand by what means the evidence will be gathered against, or for us – evidence of the genuineness of our faith.
To help us understand the word “faith” better we could substitute the word “trust”, or even the word “believe”. Do you trust in Jesus alone to save you? Do you believe God when He says you must change your mind in regard to the severity of your sin, its consequence; and have you changed your mind to rightly understand that God can, and will, justly punish all sinners under His Wrath for eternity?
The problem with most of the world is, we trust in their own understanding. There is a saying, “By the time a man realizes that maybe his dad was right, he has a son that thinks he’s wrongs.” That is how we are as fallen men, we think we know more than we do, we are our own source of truth. Because, ultimately, that is what matters most – what is our source of absolute truth? Our society has grown so far away from logic that we even have people that will say, “there is no absolute truth.” In the most basic of logic they will argue against absolute truth, for example, if you ask, “what is 2 + 2” in an attempt to point out that there is absolute truth. They are so adamant in their position of “no absolute truth” that you cannot get them to say 2 + 2 is 4.
Think for a moment. Has there ever been anything in your life that you were fully convinced was one way, only to find out years later that you were way off? Our own understanding fails us, that is why we must not trust our own understanding, but instead, entrust ourselves to the only source of God’s Truth, God Himself. God has protected His Word, and He has revealed His character and will in His Word.
What does it mean to trust someone?
· To have no doubt they will do something expected
What does it mean to have a “half-heart trust” in someone?
· There is no real trust, you think they might do something, but you’re not sure
What does it mean to have “unfounded trust”?
· To trust someone, but their character and actions give no evidence that you should trust them
Has God ever said He might do things to “test” our faith? In other words, to test whether our faith is half-hearted or whole hearted – real or genuine?
· Yes, 1Peter 1:6-7 and James 1:2-4 are two examples
1Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
What is “the heart”?
· Our innermost thoughts, desires, affections, and emotions
What does it mean to “lean” on something?
· To rest against something; that “something” is holding you up, you trust in that ”something” to support you
There is something we are warned NOT to trust in, to lean on, to expect support from – what is it?
· Our own understanding
· Our pride has us thinking we are wiser than we really are. Our pride has us leaning on our own understanding
Proverb 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In other words:
Trust in, have complete faith in – not half-hearted trust (because His trust is not unfounded, He has always done exactly as He promised) – trust in the Lord with all your thoughts, desires, affections, and emotions. Do not trust in your own understanding, our own understanding does not know the entire picture.
Most of us want to have understanding, we want to be wise. So, wouldn’t it be logical for us to start at the beginning? What does God say is the beginning of wisdom?
Why do people want to see the Grand Canyon, or Niagara Falls, or stand on the banks of a raging river, or walk out on a pier when the tides are rolling in and crashing on the beach?
Because of the beauty, the power…there is something totally majestic about these things!
Another common denominator about these things is fear. If you do not fear them, you are in danger. If you carelessly, and fearlessly walk the edge of either of these it would be very foolish. To fall into the midst of either of these would, most likely, cost you your life and there isn’t anything you could do about it.
The reverence and fear of these things keeps you safe while you enjoy them. The fear doesn’t keep you from being blessed by them, but it does keep you from the danger associated with them.
Although this doesn’t capture the complete meaning of the “fear of the Lord”, it does help. The parallels are similar; there is a danger in not fearing God that surpasses any other fearlessness we could have; and there are blessings beyond anything we could ask or imagine when we do “walk in the fear of the Lord”.
This term has led many people down a wrong path. Many well up with pride and say, “why should I fear God!?”
In a nut shell, God created all things, including you. He spoke the world into existence. He placed the stars where they are, and He knows them by name. He told the seas to go “this far” and go no further. He speaks it, and it is done. He is all powerful, all knowing. Wouldn’t it be logical to have reverence and fear of a God like this; after all, we fear walking on the edge of things He created?
John 1:9 And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
Jeremiah 5:24 They do not say in their hearts, 'Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.'
Shouldn’t we stand in awe of a God like that?
Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
Joshua 4:24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever."
To know the power of God should be fearful and awe inspiring. Many people get “awe struck” when they are in the presence of celebrities, sports stars, or the powerful men and women of this world – how much more should we be awe struck by the Creator of the entire universe. As the Word says, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”, as it should be; it should strike fear in us to receive even a glimpse of His nature.
If that is not enough reason, consider that God, the Creator of all things, has said, “
Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
At this point we can pridefully, and foolishly say, “I don’t believe that” OR “who is He to Judge me”? Or we can be wise, and ask, “on what basis will I be Judged by God?”
When we come to understand the power of God, we can’t help but have a fear of God. The reality is, and His Word is clear, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If you have had your eyes opened to the reality that hell would be right for you, and you understand that God has the power to send you there forever, and that strikes fear in you, that’s good – that is the beginning of wisdom.
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
Although lacking reverence and fear of God results in the most devastating thing imaginable, it is not like the fear of one who is imprisoned in the most brutal place in the world. A prisoner in Bang Kwang Prison, Bangkok, Thailand is fearful of the one in authority because of the potential for brutal treatment. There is no blessing for the obedient in that place, only punishment for the disobedient. God does not unjustly punish those who do not fear Him, they are getting just as they have earned, “the wages of sin is death”. The fear of the Lord results in a person seeking salvation. It is a complete paradigm shift in thinking, the fear of the Lord is the means by which we obtain God’s blessing. If we do not fear the Lord, we will continue on in our sin; essentially, we are carelessly, and fearlessly walking on the edge of God’s Wrath until one day we fall into an eternity of God’s Wrath.
To a great degree, just as suffering under the Wrath of God forever, although justified, is severe, even more so, the blessings of those who fear the Lord are innumerable; take a look:
The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.
The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
- Proverbs 14:27
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
God’s Word speaks of the fear of the Lord as something “taught”, something “chosen”, “continued in”, “walking in”, something to be “practiced”:
Psalm 34:11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Proverbs 1:29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
Proverbs 23:17 Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.
Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
We can see in Scripture that there is a comfort and peace that comes to a person who fears the Lord. What else, what does the fear of the Lord produce? What does the life of one who truly fears the Lord look like?
Proverbs 3:7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
· One who fears the Lord is humble and turns away from evil
2Kings 17:36 but you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice.
Psalm 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
Psalm 118:4 Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
· Being brought out of Egypt was a literal event, but it is also symbolic of the believer being brought out of the bondage of sin. For one that the Lord has done this for, the fear of the Lord continues, and they will bow before Him as King, they will present their bodies as a living sacrifice to Him, seeking to serve Him, glorify Him, and exalt His Name
1Samuel 12:14 If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well.
· One that has the fear of the Lord will be obedient to His voice and not rebel against His commands
Joshua 24:14 "Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
· One who walks in the fear of the Lord will serve Him sincerely, they will serve Him faithfully, and they will not put anything or anyone before service to their King
Walking in the fear of the Lord is not just “a good idea” – God expects it, in fact, God requires this of His children:
Deuteronomy 10:12 "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
If you have been blessed with the fear of the Lord, and you consider the great things He has done for you, you must use it as fuel to persuade others. We would warn a blind man approaching the edge of the Grand Canyon, how much more should we warn the spiritually blind to fear the Lord. Jesus is Lord, He is the One, the only One that can save us from the Wrath to come. The Wrath to come should be feared, it is certain, it is severe, and it is final.
1Samuel 12:24 Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
2Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The term “fear of the Lord” appears 27 times in Scripture, the term “fear the Lord” appears 32 times. Do not shy away from using this term – it is the beginning of Wisdom.
If you can honestly say, “Yes, I see God as He is, the Creator of all things, sovereign over everything, I have a fear of God, I believe God. I believe hell is right for me. I am trusting in the atoning, reconciling, redeeming work of Jesus to save me from the Wrath I deserve. Jesus is Lord of my life and my faith is in Him alone to save me from the consequences of sin, and grant me eternal life”, that is certainly some clear evidence of your faith.
When we are “of the faith”, and we contend “for the faith”, we are contending that Jesus, God incarnate, came to this world, lived a perfect, sinless life, was brutally killed….but the next thing is what we must really understand….Jesus rose again on the third day defeating sin and death, destroying the works of the devil. If you confess this Truth, that is additional evidence that you are a Christian.
However, the real evidence needed on Judgment Day lies in the things we have done, and the things we have NOT done. (see Jesus Words below):
Matthew 25:31-46 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 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.33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' 45 Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
In addition, the evidence lies in the things we have said:
Matthew 12:33-37 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
We must not say, “I have no concern of Judgment Day because I am under grace, I have the imputed righteousness of Christ.” What we must say is, “I recognize, according to Scripture, that what I say and do, what I don’t say, and don’t do, have direct evidence as to whether my faith is genuine or not. I will be judged according to this evidence – not to save me, but as evidence of my faith, which saves me.”
We would be wise to study Romans 2 through the reality of what Scripture says about Judgment Day.
In Romans chapter 2, Paul seems to transition from those that run headlong into sin, even though they know God’s decree; to the self-righteous, the religious hypocrite. The one who knows God’s decree, judges’ others according to God’s decree, yet practices the very sin they judge others for practicing.
I remember a time being pulled over by the police. When the officer approached my window, he asked if I knew why I was being stopped. With a confused look I said, “no”. When he told me, it was because I passed the car that was turning left on the shoulder, I am disappointed to say, I didn’t handle it well (I was young and stupid). I said, “Are you for real, that’s a law!? EVERYONE DOES THAT!” My attitude, coupled with the fact that it’s the law, earned me a ticket.
If I had handled the situation with humility, my ignorance of the law, along with humility, might have encouraged the officer to extend me some grace. Let’s say, hypothetically, that he did let me off with a warning because of my ignorance of the law; but then, the following week the same officer stopped me for the same offense – how likely is he to extend me grace again, after all, not only do I have knowledge of the law, I was just given a gracious warning a week ago. (As a side note, we would be wise to retain that “judgment” and “warning” are two different things – warning others of God’s decree is not the same as hypocritically judging them)
Knowledge of the law does not excuse us from breaking the law, in fact, it is the opposite; those with knowledge are held to a higher standard. This is who Paul is addressing in the beginning of Romans 2, those who know God’s Law, judge others according to God’s Law, yet practice sin.
Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
When we rightly filter verse 4 through the proper lens, you can see how this is one of the heaviest realities of God’s Word:
It only by God’s kindness that we are not immediately struck down the moment we sin. Recognizing this kindness, coming to the knowledge of God’s Grace and Mercy, is intended to do one thing; God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.
Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
As we see in verse 5, there are those that do “presume” on God’s kindness, they assume that God will ignore their continuance in sin, they wrongly suppose that they can practice sin without consequence, the ultimate example of wrongly leaning on your own understanding.
Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
As we see, this understanding, this logic, this presumption is unbiblical – there is no Biblical grounds to assume that those who practicing sin will be saved from God’s Wrath. An active participant in a crime is not victimized when he is arrested, he is receiving justice as demanded by the law and society. In the same way, sinners are not victims when God’s Wrath is poured out upon them, Divine Judgment demands justice.
There are two primary errors in self-righteousness; 1) underestimating the severity in which God will deal with sinners and 2) minimizing how offensive your sin is to God.
The fact God doesn’t destroy us the moment we sin demonstrates His common Grace – we have all received His common Grace. Those who repent and believe the Gospel will be recipients of His Grace for eternity – those who do not will remain under His Wrath for eternity. We all face either Eternal Life or eternal death.
Romans 2:6-11 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
The works referred to here, are the works people do as a result of having been born again, born of the Spirit. As discussed earlier, these works are not a means to be saved, but instead, are evidence that one has been saved. These works should not be confused with the religious works and rituals referred to in Romans 3 when Paul says, “by the works of the law no one can be justified”. The works of Romans 2 are the works that show as evidence that a person to be obedient to the Truth or show them to obey unrighteousness.