August 2, 2010

The Man in the Mirror

So then each one of us will give an account of himself before God. Romans 14.12

What a full verse! Short, yes. But there is a great deal that could be said from Romans 14.12 …

We could emphasize the words give an account … reminding ourselves that we are, indeed, going to have to open our lips someday and explain why we did the things we did. I’ll bet there will be a lot of stammering and stuttering on that day!

Or we could emphasize the words before God, adding even more drama to the aforementioned courtroom scene. We will stand before a judge who has no biases and no blind spots ... and who knows our record better than we do. O, how important to have an Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2.1)!

Indeed, we might also emphasize the words each one of us, at the beginning of the verse. There is no one who will escape God’s courtroom. No one who will somehow slip through the cracks of the system. No. “Each one of us” will die once, and after this comes judgment.

I say, there are a number of phrases and words we could light upon … creating a several point sermon on a verse like Romans 14.12. But I think the word that Paul intends us to emphasize, when we read that verse, is the word himself. “So then each one of us will give an account of himself before God.” And why do I think that is the word that Paul would emphasize? Because this verse falls into the middle of a passage (the whole of Romans 14) in which Paul is reminding believers not to judge one another over secondary issues, but rather, to worry about her or himself!

“Each person must be fully convinced” he says about secondary issues like food, and drink, and church holidays, “in his own mind” (v.5). In other words, there are some areas in which God has left matters somewhat open to the studied wisdom of the individual conscience. Not all matters are matters of conscience, mind you! There are tons of black and white commands all throughout Scripture! But there are some things where God has intentionally painted His truth in the color gray.

For instance, some people can celebrate Christmas and Easter to the glory of God. Others, for various (and sometimes, good) reasons, find those things a stumbling block – and choose not to celebrate them … also for the glory of God! Again, some people think it is best to refrain from the use of all alcoholic beverages, to the glory of God. And other people, realizing that the Bible does not issue a blanket requirement of tee-totaling, are able to enjoy a glass of wine with thanksgiving to their heavenly Father. But let each person be convinced in his own mind, Paul says in verse 5! Let each one do what, according to his own conscience, is glorifying to God. And “let us not judge one another anymore” (v.13) over things for which not even God Himself intends to judge us!

That is the background of verse 12. And so, I think, what Paul has in mind when he reminds us that “each one of us will give an account of himself before God” is to teach us that, when we stand to give an account before God … it will not be to tell Him what we thought about how so-and-so drank wine at her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary; or how such and such a family was too legalistic (or too loosey-goosey) about Christmas. No! Each one of us will stand before God to give an account for our own obedience to scripture; and for our own obedience to the wisdom and conscience God gave to us on issues where Scripture draws no definitive lines in the sand. “Each one of us will give an account of himself before God.” And when I think of it like that, I realize I’ll have plenty of ‘splaining to do at the judgment seat … without ever having to point my fingers toward anyone but myself! And so will you!

And so once again I say, ‘thank God for our Advocate’! Yes, we will have to give an account, in some form or fashion. And it won’t be pretty. But our Advocate will be able to give an even better account – of His sinless perfection, and atonement for transgressions, and resurrection from the dead … all accomplished on behalf of those who believe! And if God looks at me through those cross-shaped lenses, shouldn’t I look at my brother through them as well?

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