Saturday, January 12, 2013

Justice and Juries

This past week I had the privilege and civic duty of serving on a 12-person jury.  Although I had covered a number of criminal trials in southeast Idaho when I worked as journalist in the 1970s and 80s, (murder, embezzlement, arson, manslaughter and assault to name a few categories) I had never been on a jury panel. It was a most interesting process.

We listened to testimony of witnesses, looked at photographs of evidence and then listened to a judge's instructions before we headed off to decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant.  Sometimes there are no clear-cut answers on a given charge. There were differences of opinions on what we believed and didn't believe. Each person had his own standard by which he/she filtered the information.

 We eventually found the defendant guilty of two of the three counts and were hung 6-6 on the third count. Sometimes the legal definitions are not clear and sometimes the facts in the case are a bit murky making it difficult to arrive at a decision.

The process gave me a different insight and really drove home  what God does with us and for us. The apostle Paul explains that we are all guilty of what God calls "sin"-- essentially missing the mark of God's perfection and righteousness. In Romans 3:23 Paul writes that all have sinned and fall short of God's glory and that the wages or punishment for all who have sinned is death (Romans 6:23). In God's eyes it is a slam dunk. There is no ambiguity. We are guilty. Eternal damnation is the result.

However, we also learn that Jesus Christ took all our sins- past, present and future-- and nailed them to the cross at Calvary. He was God's perfect sacrifice. He alone was sinless (sorry Roman Catholics, Mary wasn't sinless despite what the Catholic church teaches) and paid the penalty we all deserved to pay.

The English Standard Version of the Bible puts this verse of Paul's letter to the Colossians  this way:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13-14 ESV)

What that means is that  Jesus took all the crimes we have been, are and will be guilty of and paid the complete debt owed. Not only that, there isn't even a record of the debt because the debt no longer exists.

How does that happen for you and me? The Bible is clear. A person must recognize that he/she is a sinner and can't pay the penalty for the sin. Only a sinless person can make the payment and Jesus is the only one who fulfilled that condition set by God the Father. We then place our faith in Jesus and ask Him to come into our lives and live in what the Bible calls our heart. At that moment we become born again. In John 3:16 Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born of the water and the Spirit.

That means a physical birth where the body and soul are alive but the spirit is dead and then a spiritual birth where the spirit is made alive. Jesus makes our spirit alive in Him. A person is not born again by a baptismal ceremony. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward conversion. Infants can't do that and going through a ceremony without repentance and inviting Jesus into one's life doesn't constitute being born again. The ceremony just validates in inward change.

When that happens we are righteous. holy and complete in the sight of God the Father. The Bible says the following:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV)

This is called the Great Exchange. Jesus took all our garbage and crap and gave us righteousness peace and sanctification. When God the Father now sees a born-again believer, He sees nothing but holiness. This also assumes that the believer is actively walking with God even though the persons sins daily. God's righteousness is appropriated through faith and faith alone. We can't do or add anything to it because the Bible also says our own righteousness is considered filthy rags. Only the righteousness of Jesus is perfect and counts in God's sight.

Therefore as we stand before the judge, Jesus as our advocate and defense attorney tells the Father as presiding judge that yes, we are no longer guilty of the charges the prosecuting attorney (Satan) makes because  Jesus, has already paid the complete debt and its penalties. There is now nothing to charge us with. God then dismisses the charges and the case is dismissed.

 There is no need for jury deliberations because God as the eternal judge set the definitions for sin and our conditions for release from the debt we owed. That  condition for release is placing personal faith in Jesus and walking with Him.

You can take your chances and do things your way. Every person who has ever lived will be judged. Believers want to be judged by Jesus-- innocent and righteous. Others will stand before the Great White Throne of God and be judged by their deeds. That is the judgment you don't want to be part of.

The written word of God says this in the Book of Revelation:

 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV)

Only believers in Jesus will be judged out of the Book of Life. Those judged out of the "books" according to their own works will be eternally damned.

This isn't taught much anymore in the churches. It is uncomfortable and not seeker friendly, yet it the unadulterated truth of God's word. There is a heaven and there is a hell. There is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. It's not Allah, doing good deeds, being religious and being a good person. It is based on God's standard and God's justice system.

Stand with the righteousness, redeemed and innocent by placing you faith in Jesus.

God bless.