God's Writ against the World
There is one major controversy between God and mankind. This is just one supreme issue which confronts every one of us. It is brought out into sharp focus in John 3:19: “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” The issue for which God holds every man and woman responsible is that the One Who came into the world, claiming to be, and proving, indeed, that He was the light of the world, has been rejected.
The Revised Version translates the first phrase of the verse, “This is the judgment”—not the condemnation, but the judgment—and that, in fact, is a better translation of the word that is used in the Greek New Testament. The word here means, literally, “the process by which the verdict is made known.” In other words, God never passes the verdict upon human experience: you pass it upon yourself day by day in the choices that you make.
What, then, is this process by which the verdict is being made known in your life? “That men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” And by the deliberate choice of darkness in place of light, sin in place of purity, men are passing the verdict upon their own personal life—“this is the judgment.”
There is, of course, a great difference between the judgment of a human court and the judgment of heaven. When a man gets into trouble and is brought before a court, evidence is heard in his defense and in accusation against him. Having listened to the evidence, the jury then passes a verdict, and the judge sentences the criminal accordingly.
Now no human being can pass true judgment upon any action of another, for there is always at least one circumstance in the case of every man about which nobody else knows anything. If we remember that, we will be a great deal more lenient in our judgment of other people. But of course the tragic thing is that the world passes a complete judgment upon other people so quickly. It claims to have proved a certain person guilty, although it knows nothing of the motives. It makes no allowance for the battle that went on in a man’s life before he failed, overwhelmed by odds that were too heavy for him.
Heaven’s judgment is very different from that. There is no place where kindlier judgment is given than in heaven; there is no place where more cruel judgment is given than on Earth. How many times you and I, in our relationships with other people, have found somebody guilty of some wrong action, and have dismissed them altogether from our friendship, have decided them guilty and have never sought to investigate the struggles, the battles, the conflict that went on in a man’s life before he gave in.
I want to speak to you concerning the basis of God’s judgment in human life: this issue, “That light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” Upon what foundation, upon what premise does God work? How does He decide the eternal destiny of a human soul? “This is the judgment”—this is the process by which the verdict is made known, that light is come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, and that light does two things.
First, it guides, it directs, it seeks to take into its possession every human life and lead that life from Earth to heaven. It seeks to direct a man upon the path that leads to blessing, to victory, to power, and ultimately to glory. It seeks to take every individual character through all the experiences, the problems and trials, and ultimately into the very presence of God. Light acts as a signpost. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
But before light guides any of us, it does something else, it reveals. And before you and I can know anything of the guidance of God, anything of Jesus Christ as the director of our lives, first of all there has to come a moment in human experience which, I must acknowledge, is a very painful one, a humbling one, one which in the flesh every one of us would seek to escape, but one which none of us can escape if ultimately we would know His guiding hand.
There must come a moment in life when I stand before my God, and allow the gaze of a Holy God to look me right through the heart, and lay bare everything that is underneath the circumference of my life. Light reveals, and before Jesus Christ will take the hand of someone and guide them into heaven, first of all that man has to stand, I say, stripped bare of all his hypocrisy, of all of his personal self-importance, and he has to see himself revealed in the light of the Word of God.
The Lord Jesus said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” and our Master came into the world in order that He might reveal three things. First, that He might reveal God; then, second, that He might reveal you; and, third, that He might bring the two together.
It takes only a casual glance at the New Testament to discover what Jesus Christ reveals concerning God. No man can know God except he come to know Him in Jesus Christ. All we know of God is what we have come to know of Him in the person of His Son. He has come to reveal God. And, if I would come to know what God is like, I will not find it hard to discover Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I think of God as He is revealed in Christ, there are two things that are indelibly impressed upon my mind and conscience. One, that the God of the Bible is a God Who is infinitely holy. To support that statement, I need go no further than to direct your thoughts to a cross outside Jerusalem. There is one thing that seems to me inescapable, that behind the cross, and as the greatest reason for the cross, is the demand of a holy God. The reason for Calvary, the reason for the blood that was shed, the perfect life that was offered, the reason for the murder of Jesus Christ, that God allowed it to happen without intervening, can only lie in the fact that you and I worship a God who is utterly, absolutely holy.
If I see that, and, I suppose it is true to say that only the Spirit of God can write the truth of God upon your heart and life, I will never argue again about what sin really is. I will never seek to excuse myself for it. I will call it by its name, and I will recognize the reality of sin in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ. First and foremost, the Lord Jesus has shown most indisputably that God is holy, and the person who says he can sin and disregard God, and can live his own life, is utterly, completely deluded. The fact of the matter is that no man can sow without reaping, and the cross demonstrated beyond all possible doubt and argument that sin must be punished. Yes, Jesus came to reveal God, and He has revealed God’s holiness.
But He has done something more, He has revealed God’s love. God is, if I may say it reverently, an equally balanced character. The Lord Jesus Christ expresses in action at Calvary both the holiness of God and the love of God. He proves that God must punish sin, but He also demonstrates that God desires, to the expense of the death of His Son, to save the sinner. He came to reveal what God is like: a God Who is so holy that He must deal with your sin and mine, but Who loves us so much that He longs to save us from our sin.
Jesus came as the light of the world, not only to reveal God, but to reveal you and me as we really are. Each of us is really three different people. You are what other people think you are, and you are what you think you are, and you are what God knows you to be. Which of these three things do you think is the most important?
Judging by the way many people live, I think the first of them seems to matter a lot—what other people think about us. You stop and ask yourself how much of your life is controlled by your desire to create an impression upon others, to make people think that you are something that you really are not.
And then you are what you think yourself to be, and, judged by that standard sometimes you can live on quite an exalted plane. You are tempted very often to compare your life with other people, and judged by other people’s standards, you are really making quite a good show of it. But wait a minute, that is not heaven’s standard. Put your life for a moment alongside God’s pattern, Jesus Christ. That is the comparison that matters. What matters to God is not what other people think about you, nor what you think about yourself, but what God knows you to be.
I believe that one of the greatest needs of our time in Christian circles as well as in unconverted circles is that we should recognize that God has presented to the world Jesus Christ as His standard for your life, not merely as a kind of insurance policy against sin, but someone whose life is to be your example. Many people don’t seem ever to think about that. We can pray as if we were angels and in five minutes behave like devils.
Religion, of course, is not an attempt to copy His example, it is the recognition that God has revealed Himself in Christ as our pattern, and in the indwelling Holy Spirit as the power to achieve the standard. Far too many of us think that all we have to do is to believe something, to accept a shibboleth, to understand the language, to be able to use evangelical phraseology, and then just live as we like. I want to say to you that Christ stands before you as the standard which He expects you, by His indwelling power received by faith, to achieve every day, so that in your home there may be graciousness, and among your friends there may be gentleness and purity and goodness, and in every part of your life there may be a reflection of the beauty of the Lord Jesus. The world is sick to death of much that we call Christianity. It isn’t sick of Jesus, the trouble is it doesn’t see enough of Him. It needs to see Him revealed in the lives of those who claim to follow Him.
The Lord Jesus, therefore, has come to reveal God, His holiness, His love, and to reveal you as you really are. As I think of that, I think of His purity. How does my thought life stand up to that? As I think of His integrity, graciousness, kindness, how does my speech and behavior level up with that? How does the way I speak to my family please Him? And as I think of His meekness and gentleness, how are these things seen in you and in me?
Oh, that the Spirit of God might just come upon you and show you in the light what you really are. Sometimes you can put on your clothes in your home in the morning, and everything will seem to be neat and tidy, but you go out into the brilliant light of the sun and you will find upon your clothes dust and spots, things you never saw in the dimmer light of your own house. I want you to get out of the darkness and to stand in the light and to see yourself as God sees you. Then you will understand what sin is. God in Christ has come to show what He is like, and He has come to show us what we are like.
But I want to say something else just here. It is this—that the Lord Jesus Christ has come in order that He might make God and you meet each other. Now that is a very wonderful thing, when I think of God’s holiness and I think of my own impurity. When I think of the difference between God and me I somehow feel that gulf can never be bridged. But it can. If I may say it reverently, I see at Calvary a nail-pierced hand that touches the throne of God and another nail-pierced hand that reaches right down into my life. And those two hands bring God and me together. Wonderful grace of Jesus, that because of Calvary, His hand can touch the Throne—it paid the price of human guilt, the blood has been shed—and another hand can touch me in my sin, and remove the distance between a holy God and a sinful life. Yes, Jesus has come to show me that though my relationship with God may be wrong, and that though the sin of my life revealed as I stand in the light of His Word is very dreadful, yet if I commit my life into His hands, those hands that were pierced for me, I will find myself so near to God in Jesus.
He has come to show us what God is, He has come to show you what you are. He has come to show you that you can be different, that your life can be transformed. He has come to show you that if you commit your life into the hands of that blessed Saviour, He can then begin to direct and to shape your life according to His will. He can take the clay and mold it and make it worthy to bear His name.
“This is the judgment”—this is the process by which the verdict is made known—“That the light has come, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” That is very searching. Let me put it to you very simply and very plainly. In the light of what God is, in the light of what you are, in the light of what the grace of God can do in bringing you to God, can you imagine anybody turning away from the light?
I can, because I know that time and time again in my own life I have been guilty of it. I look back upon years when I didn’t pray and I didn’t read my Bible. Was it because I found it tedious, was it because I found it boring? Oh, no. It was simply because I loved darkness rather than light. You see, no man can love sin and read his Bible. No man can prefer the thing that is rotten to the thing that is good, and pray.
Most of the cases of those who have gone right away from God, have left God out of their lives, can be traced to the fact that they have left their Bible and prayer. Why? Not because they didn’t like reading it, but because every time they opened the book the Word of God searched their hearts and they knew they would either have to get right with God or shut the Book, so they decided to shut the Book. Have you had a quiet time lately? Read your Bible lately? Then what is there in your life that you love sin rather than His way of salvation? It is just nonsense to say you haven’t time to pray. It is absurd to say you haven’t time to read your Bible. The fact of the matter is you are afraid of the Book, you are frightened of its standard. You choose a path that is lower and easier, and you think you can get away with it.
This is the process by which the verdict is made known, you see. And every day of your life you are passing the verdict upon the light of the world. God won’t have to pass the verdict. You have done that; He simply passes sentence. You have rejected the light. You have loved darkness. You have preferred sin.
I never can make it easy to be a Christian, because I want you to know that God will not lead you in His way, and He will not be your Comforter and your Saviour, until you have come stripped bare in your soul to the light, and you have allowed His holy gaze to penetrate to the depths of what you really are. Has the Lord ever looked on you like that? If you spent ten minutes tomorrow morning in prayer He would, wouldn’t He? You turn away from your prayer time, you turn away from your Bible, because you are afraid, and you know that if you did go the way of the Book there are things of darkness in your mind and in your conduct and in your character which would have to be cut out.
Do you have to give up anything to be a Christian? Yes, you do, my friend, you have to give up your sin, every bit of it. I know you can’t do that, but I want to say to you that if you will bow in repentance before the cross, one day you will stand unashamed before the throne of God. If you are not prepared to get low at the feet of Jesus, if you deliberately turn from all that the light has revealed of a sinful heart and sinful character and sinful way, you have passed a verdict upon the light, and one day you will hear the judge passing the sentence.
Have I hit the nail in your life right on the head? Your problems concerning the Gospel are not intellectual, they are not doubts and unbelief, they are simply the moral, clear-cut issue that you love darkness rather than light. If that be true, what can you do about it? Listen, the Lord Jesus Christ takes away the love of sin and imparts to you and to me a great love for holiness and purity. Do you really think that could happen? I am sure it could. I am sure it can happen now if you tell Him that above everything else you want to get into the light. So remember that if you “walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.”