Sunday Summary for September 10 – Faith vs. the Fear of Judgment
The fear of being judged makes you a slave to others, and a judge of others. Oddly enough, it is faith in the judgment of God that can set you free.
Out of the people you know and interact with, whose judgment do you fear? By what standard do these people judge you?
Children fear the judgment of their parents, which is often based on good behavior. Students fear the judgment of their teachers, who value intelligence, and their peers, who rate appearance, success, and personality. Employees fear the judgment of employers who evaluate their performance, while employers fear the judgment of customers for the same reason. People who are married or involved in a romantic relationship may fear their partner’s judgment most of all. In fact, the more we desire somebody’s approval, the more we are likely to fear their judgment – and the more likely we are to judge others by the very standards that we fear.
Paul sought God’s approval most of all (Galatians 1:10) and commanded others to do the same (2 Timothy 2:15). However, he was not motivated by fear of God’s judgment. Paul was confident that God had judged him on the basis of his faith alone – his faith that Jesus loved him and had died and risen for his sins.
Why does God grant his approval to people on what looks like such a weak basis? It’s because faith in Jesus demonstrates union with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Nobody can submit to the gospel – nobody can sincerely say “Jesus is Lord” – without being born again through the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:3). Being born again does not mean that the Spirit merely persuades us to believe the truth about Jesus. Instead, the Spirit unites us to the very person of Jesus. Paul sums it up this way in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Since the Spirit, through faith, unites us to Jesus, God judges us on the basis of Jesus’ works and not ours. Jesus was judged for us on the cross, dying the death that we deserved. Jesus was also raised from the dead for us, receiving the approval and glory that he will share with us. The gift of the Spirit is God’s assurance, in the midst of a world where people judge one another left and right, that because of Jesus we have already been approved by the only judge who truly matters.
True confidence in God’s judgment can eliminate our fear of judgment from others, but it will not produce contempt for them. We’ve all heard the phrase “Only God can judge me!” spoken with an air of arrogance, condescension, and – well – judgment. This is not faith. Faith responds to the judgment of others with humility and mercy – humility because some of what we hear may be true, and mercy because we have all judged people wrongly, and are only set free from this compulsion by being joined to Jesus.
If you would be free from the fear of others, then put your faith in Jesus today and every day. Trust him when he says that he lives within you, and that when he returns, he will shower you with his approval.