“Judge me, O Lord.” (Psalm 7:8)
Making God More Palatable
In twenty-first century America, we despise the notion of judgment. For us, being judged by anyone for any reason is absolutely insufferable. The defectors—those judgmental types—are viewed as unsightly pimples upon the chin of an otherwise decent society. And this reality, built into the very fabric of our culture, shapes our daily lives more than we realize.
Take interpersonal relationships, for instance. We tend to surround ourselves with people who won’t scrutinize our decisions or critique our lifestyle. We’re naturally drawn to those individuals who, we feel, affirm all we do and “love us no matter what.” On the other hand, people who bark at us from atop their soapboxes typically don’t get invited over for dinner. When we see them coming, our first recourse is to dive head-first into a janitor’s closet so as to avoid them.
I could give more examples, but you get the idea. Culturally speaking, our view of judgment as a concept is overwhelmingly negative. We’re pre-conditioned to avoid it at all costs.
And nowhere is this reality more obvious than in our religion—particularly when it comes to our understanding of God.
Author Greg Gilbert satirically illustrates how our aversion to the idea of judgment has led us to re-invent God to be more palatable to our cultural sensibilities:
Let me introduce you to god. (Note the lowercase g.) He’s old, you know, and doesn’t much understand or like this “newfangled” modern world. His golden days— the ones he talks about when you really get him going— were a long time ago, before most of us were even born. That was back when people cared what he thought about things, and considered him pretty important to their lives.
Anyway, a lot of people still like him, it seems— or at least he manages to keep his poll numbers pretty high. And you’d be surprised how many people even drop by to visit and ask for things every once in a while. But of course that’s alright with him. He’s here to help. Thank goodness, all the crankiness you read about sometimes in his old books— you know, having the earth swallow people up, raining fire down on cities, that sort of thing— all that seems to have faded in his old age.
Now he’s just a good-natured, low-maintenance friend who’s really easy to talk to— especially since he almost never talks back, and when he does, it’s usually to tell me through some slightly weird “sign” that what I want to do regardless is alright by him. That really is the best kind of friend, isn’t it?
You know the best thing about him, though? He doesn’t judge me. Ever, for anything. Oh sure, I know that deep down he wishes I’d be better— more loving, less selfish, and all that— but he’s realistic. He knows I’m human and nobody’s perfect. And I’m totally sure he’s fine with that. Besides, forgiving people is his job. It’s what he does. After all, he’s love, right? And I like to think of love as “never judging, only forgiving.” That’s the god I know. And I wouldn’t have him any other way.
Come to Church. Be Judged.
But what if we’re looking at this all wrong? What if being judged is actually a good thing? In fact, what if it’s something we need—something essential to the Christian life?
As we consider these questions and how they apply to the upcoming Lord’s Day, let’s look at a simple prayer written by David. In Psalm 7:8 (quote above), we see a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14) who isn’t avoiding the Lord’s righteous judgment. But instead is wholeheartedly welcoming it. David trusts in God enough to actually pray for God to judge him. And that’s a detail to which we should pay strict attention—especially since we’re prone to view the concept of judgment so negatively.
You see, one result of our aversion to judgment is that we’re highly uncritical of ourselves, which means that we’re unlikely to question ourselves about the things that matter most. Left to our own devices, we’ll assume that we don’t need to change anything about our lives—the entertainment we consume, the way we treat others, how we spend our money, how we raise our kids, etc. Really, God is A-okay with us just as we are so long as we’re coming to church most Sundays and avoiding the “really bad sins” like adultery and Nazism, right?
Actually, no. God is never A-okay with that kind of complacency. He knows better than anyone that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). Therefore, we are admonished in no uncertain terms to develop a sober estimation of ourselves (Rom. 12:3). But the problem for us is that this doesn’t come naturally. No, it requires us to fight against every impulse of our sin-sick hearts.
Therefore each time we gather to worship together it’s absolutely crucial that we labor to exercise some good, wholesome self-suspicion. For when we see ourselves for who we actually are, we become much more desperate for Jesus—desperate enough to pray another one of David’s prayers, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Test me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me” (Ps. 139:23-24).
At that point, we actually want Him to judge us according to His righteousness because we’re no longer content to misjudge ourselves according to our own. Like David, we’ll realize that being judged by a loving God is the only way we’ll ever advance in godliness. Without it, we’ll remain in our comatose state of smug complacency.
So LifePoint, as we gather this week to listen to God’s Word, let us be bold enough to ask that He would judge us according to His righteousness. After all, the aim of the Christian life is to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). That’s why so much is at stake on the Lord’s Day. For if we leave church without having been judged by God and searched by His Word, what it good has it really done?
Songs for Sunday, October 23, 2016:
All Glory Be to Christ
And Can It Be (Amazing Love)
(Tyler Greene, Chad Watson, Charles Wesley)
Speak O Lord
(Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)
The Solid Rock
(Jeff Johnson, Edward Mote)
Jesus Firm Foundation
(Bryan Brown, Tony Wood, Jason Ingram)