Christians Exempt from Judgment?|
Q. I do believe that God is judging America. But, are Christians exempt from judgment? Will God keep us safe from harm including terrorist attacks and financial ruin?
Don't Suffer for Gossiping, murdering or Thievery
The apostle Peter has some interesting things to say in this regard. First, he says, "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler - but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name" (1 Peter 4:15-16, NASB).
Judgment Begins with the Church
Peter is telling us that if we suffer it should be because of our stand for our faith. It should not be because we are gossips, murderers, or thieves. Then Peter goes on to say, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…" (v. 17). In other words, God may send judgment to the church first before he judges anyone else.
Outsiders Suffer More
Peter continues, "and if it begins with us (the church) first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (v. 17b). This means that if we (the church) find judgment difficult, what will it be to those who are pagans? At least we, the church, are God's children and we know that those whom He disciplines He loves. Those who are not God's children suffer at the hands of terrifying evil forces and violent earth changes without any hope God offers. Not fun…
Hebrews 12:7 explains, "It is for discipline that you endure - God deals with you as with sons - for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons."
Those of us who truly love our children discipline them when they do wrong because we hope to turn them into decent human beings. God is conforming us into decent people - Christ like beings, too (Romans 8:29).
Paul continues, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11).
Final Judgment reserved for Unbelievers
Those of us who belong to God will not enter into God's final judgment because Jesus promised His followers that those who believe on Him "shall not come into judgment, but have passed from death into life" (John 5:24).
Stinging Rebukes to 7 Churches
However, this same Jesus gave stinging rebukes to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation. These churches are thought to represent the history and character of churches throughout the ages.
To the first Ephesus church He warned, "you have left your first love" and "I am coming to you and will remove your 'lampstand out of its place - unless you repent." (Revelation 2:4-5). In history we see that the Ephesus church died out and no longer had any influence in the world.
To the church at Pergamum Jesus warned against holding "the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel…" (Rev. 2:14). Do some of our own churches excuse and encourage immorality and cause Christians to sin as Balak did?
We see similar sins within the other churches, too. Most notable and relevant to us may be the church at Laodicea who thought she was wealthy and needed nothing. Her deeds were lukewarm and God "vomited" her out of His mouth. Here again the Lord says, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline" (Rev. 3:19).
Clearly, God disciplines His church believers. None of us are exempt. We can even have a valid suspicion that if a church or its leader isn't disciplined but has extravagant wealth, prosperity and blessings, is he or she really a child of God?
To American Churches?
Consider that like the church at Ephesus the American churches are losing their powerful influence, too. We once believed that our Religious Right could "take back America" and bring further prosperity and success to the land of the free.
Theocracy Ruled by Republicans?
Sadly, millions of Americans now equate our Christian faith with the dominant right-wing party in the U.S.A. This is blasphemy! Democrats and Republicans are man-made constructs that have little to do with God. When the Lord returns He will set up a theocracy ruled by the Lord alone. We can assure you that this worldwide theocracy will not consist of the Republicans in America!
"To put it clearly: For some Christians, lower taxes, a strong national defense, and lobbying to 'keep Christ in Christmas' are more pressing issues than whether their neighbors and friends will spend eternity with God or be lost forever. Our defense of civil religion and our partisan politics are in the news, but our good deeds and the Gospel we represent are not," notes Dr. Lutzer (2008, 55).
Even Dr. James Dobson changed his mind about Christians using politics to change the hearts and souls of Americans. "Politics cannot offer permanent solutions because it is based on a flawed view of sin and society. One of its premises is that if you elect the 'right' representatives who will pass the right legislation you will have the 'right' society. But we know this is not true" (Lutzer 2008, 58).
Judgment at Home
American churches have lost their witness and testimony. So, yes, Christians are under judgment, too, and will not be exempt from God's judgment upon America.
In fact, we can assume that judgment has begun - with American churches at the focal point of God's discipline. Always remember that God loves those whom He disciplines. Like Daniel in the heart of Babylonian culture, we must now learn to stand up for our faith in the midst of hardship and possibly persecution. We may even have to enter the lion's den!
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners - and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep - let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (James 4:8-10, NASB).
Is your church ready to believe James scathing message? Are we ready to do that? Are you?
Lutzer, Erwin W. 2008. Is God on America's side? Chicago: Moody.
MacArthur, John. 2002. Can God bless America? Nashville, TN: W Publishing.
Author Valorie Mays Emilio received her MA in History from UCLA specializing in Christian origins.