Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 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.
Romans 8:33-34 ESV
Raise your hand if you’re perfect.
Did you raise it? Probably not. After all, if we are honest with ourselves, we all know none of us is perfect.
Nevertheless, even though we may know deep down we’re not perfect, if we’re not vigilant, we can fall into the trap of trying to be perfect, trying to present perfect, or inwardly expecting perfect. When we try to be perfect, we praise or condemn ourselves based on whether we fail or succeed at meeting our expectations. When we present perfect, we judge ourselves based on how we feel others perceive us. When we expect perfect, we judge others based on how they measure up to our often unrealistic and unfair expectations.
Yet we read in the above verse and throughout the Bible there is only one who has the right to judge; there is only one who can justify. And that’s God. God alone. No one on earth can declare us righteous, no one on earth can declare us unrighteous, and no one on earth has the power to alter our eternal destiny. No one. Not our friends. Not our enemies. Not even ourselves. That’s right, none of our personal opinions and judgments determine whether a person goes to heaven or hell. Our greatest enemy on earth does not have the power to condemn us, and our greatest ally cannot declare us free.
It’s what we do with Jesus that determines our eternal destiny.
Nevertheless, day after day we tend to go through life judging or being judged. We condemn or affirm others and ourselves based on things said, things done, and even things not said or done. How could that person say that? How could that person do that? How could that person let that happen? A Christian certainly wouldn’t behave that way.
Through our limited perspective, we associate people’s choices with their eternal destiny. We look at what they do and say and assume we know where they will go because of what we see. And although the Bible gives clear guidelines on how we should live our lives and reminds us Christians will be known by their fruit, the Bible also reminds us our sight is limited and we have no right nor power to judge. In fact, God’s Word continually commands us to not judge.
The only One with the right to judge us righteous or unrighteous is God. This means that even if we feel judged by the world, the judgment of man means nothing compared with what God says. Or even if we are enjoying the accolades of man, the praises of man mean nothing in eternity. Man’s judgment–good or bad–is faulty and temporal; God’s judgment is just and for eternity.
As we read above, the only One with the right to judge us–the only One with the right to condemn us for our unholy ways–chose to justify us instead. Wow. Think about that for a moment. The only One who had every right to condemn us, chose not to. Instead, He sent His own Son Jesus–the One who knew no sin–to take on sin for us. He loved us so much He sent Jesus to pay a debt we could never pay ourselves. And by doing so, He set us free.
God set us free. God. Not us. Not anyone else. Our good works didn’t set us free. Our good thoughts didn’t set us free. Our popularity, our possessions, or our place in society didn’t set us free. Jesus did. Jesus set us free. The reason we can’t judge or be judged by man is because our freedom from the penalty of sin isn’t dependent on man. Nothing we nor anyone else could say or do could ever satisfy the standard of holiness necessary to fellowship with a holy God. Even the greatest lawyer on earth could never present a case good enough to set us free from or condemn us for the penalty for our sins. No mere mortal is powerful enough to do or to undo what God has done or will do.
None. No one. Not a single one.
None of us could ever earn salvation. No matter how hard we try. It cannot be earned in our own strength because it cannot be achieved in our own strength. Salvation isn’t like earning good grades, trying out for a team, or working our way up the business ladder. It’s nothing like anything we may strive to attain during our lifetime. Because salvation is a gift—a gift bought for us by God, paid for by God, and only given by God. Yet it is given to whoever asks. And once received, it cannot be taken away.
Therefore, let me encourage you in a couple of ways today. First, if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, then you are free. You are free from the law of sin and death. You are free from condemnation. You are free from the eternal penalty for your sins. He has taken you by the hand as he did the woman caught in adultery and said, “I forgive you; now go, and sin no more. Walk out the freedom I purchased for you.”
No, accepting the gift of salvation doesn’t make you perfect. You and those around you will mess up—and you’ll probably mess up quite a bit. Yet you are free from condemnation, for you have been justified. Not because you deserved or earned it. You are justified and free because the only One with the right to judge you chose to justify you. Even more, as a follower of Christ, the freedom you possess is a freedom no one can take away from you. So if others (including you) are judging your life, fear not. None of their judgments affect your freedom. No one can take away what God has already bought for you.
Second, treat others with the same grace you’ve been given. Though your eyes and ears may see and hear things contrary to what you deem righteous, remember that there is none righteous; we have all sinned. We have all gone astray. None of us is without sin. So instead of throwing stones and condemning those around you as though your approval or disapproval determines their destiny, drop the stones and choose life. Encourage them. Pray for them. Pray with them. Show them the truth in love. Yes, you read that correctly. You can point out sin without being judgmental, for I am in no way implying you should keep silent when sin is prevalent. It is Biblical to point out error when it’s contrary to God’s Word. Paul reminds us in Romans we are not to use our freedom as an excuse for doing evil. But the key to showing truth in love is the motivation behind it. Judgment points out sin as a means to destroy; love points out sin as a means to restore. Judgment says, “I can’t believe you did that”; love says, “Let me help you get back up.”
Remember this: only God knows the heart of man, so only God can judge it. Your job today isn’t to justify or to condemn; your job is to walk out your own salvation as you encourage others to walk out theirs. So walk in freedom. Encourage freedom. And celebrate freedom. For he whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 ESV