“in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (verse 16).
Brhrhrhrhrh! That’s the sound a massive shiver going up and down my spine and resounding throughout me from the micro to the macrocosm. God will judge my secrets – and yours! That could cause paralysis to set it, knowing full well, when we’re forced to such inner honesty, that we all have a lot of ‘splaining to do.
But once again, I want to reverse our natural way of reading this passage. What is the natural way of reading it? To hear the full force of statements such as, “You are inexcusable, O man” (verse 1) or “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’” (verses 5-6). Having been traumatized by the end of Romans 1 (unless you read it in a contrary and blessed way such as I chose to read it yesterday), then we enter into Romans 2 with the worst in mind.
Thank God He has the best in mind when it comes to those who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s look, not at God’s wrath and judgment reserved for those who do not love and obey Him, but what He has in store for those having been justified by faith in Christ and His righteousness. There in verse 7, immediately after verses 5 and 6 quoted above, we find: “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality.”
Now there’s an interesting concept: to seek glory, honor, and immortality. That’s what many people, Christians or not, are seeking. Yes, many wish for nothing more than to have pleasure in the moment or to get through the day with a minimum of pain. But many people seek glory, honor, and immortality: it’s just that those who seek such things without Christ are doomed to have these things for only a brief moment of time before the eternal suffering, dishonor, and living death set in.
The difference for the Christian is that he seeks a glory, honor, and immortality that he may not even see until after he’s dead. It’s true that some artists may seek immortality after they’re dead, but little do they realize that they won’t be around to enjoy it! We seek a glory, honor, and immortality that is not ours originally but Christ’s, and the only way to get it is through getting Christ.
This is where the justification by faith comes in: only through faith in Christ can we have Christ, and only by having Christ can we have his glory, honor, and immortality. This Christ is not a mere fiction, as if we can say with our lips that He is Lord, call that faith, and then inherit all the goodies. No, if we truly have faith and have Christ, then we will desire to seek the things of Christ, the things He sought, which is the will of the Father. For this reason, Paul says that God will render to each one according to his deeds: “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality.”
There it is: faith is not faith if it is not also a patient continuance in doing good. There is no faith without true faithfulness.
And here’s where the terror of verse 16 may yield a hidden blessing. We humans work in secret much of the time. Many of our actions are done when no one else is around, at least no one who is there to hold us accountable. Almost all of our thoughts and motivations are done in secret with no human but ourselves to evaluate what we’re thinking. It’s been said that, “Character is what you do when no one else is looking.”
What do you do when no one else is there telling you what to do or about to tell you what to do or at some point potentially coming to you and telling you that what you’re doing is wrong? Someone may say he believes in Jesus Christ when other Christians are around, but when they are not he may act like the pagan he truly is in his heart. What is our truest, deepest heart when not distracted by the world or others? How much light is in them when we are by ourselves and the reflected light of other Christians doesn’t shine on us?
Think of your heart, feel your heart, with honesty, knowing that there is one from whom no secrets are hid. What is in it?
If you have been justified by a living faith that is receiving eternal life because by patient continuance in doing good it has sought the glory, honor, and immortality of God, then your heart should be alive to God. The public heart that obeys out of compulsion or from fear or from peer pressure is still a stony heart that sees God’s laws still written on tablets of stone.
But the heart that beats to God’s voice as it sings to it is a living, fleshy heart that has the Law written on it, and not stone. It is a heart that obeys God because it wants to, because it’s deepest desire is to love God and please Him. Obedience and love are the language of the heart, for God desires men and women who are people after His own heart. A true and faithful heart is one that obeys the royal law of love out of no force or compulsion except the force and compulsion of love itself.
Such a heart will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, because in secret it loves God and seeks Him, though all the world abandon Him. It is a heart that need not fear the terrors of Romans 1 or 2 because it has already suffered them, united as it is with Jesus Christ. It is a heart that is filled with the blood of Jesus Christ and becomes His Body and therefore will live forevermore in patient continuance in doing good and seeking the glory, the honor, and the immortality that is Jesus Christ, its home.
Prayer: Lord, Teach me to seek you,
and as I seek you, show yourself to me,
for I cannot seek you unless you show me how,
and I will never find you
unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you by desiring you,
and desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.
I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.
But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
so darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.
Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.
I do not seek to understand so that I may believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe I shall not understand. (St. Anselm)
Point for Meditation:
- What is your heart like in secret? What are its truest and most passionate desires?
- Examine your heart in terms of sin. (A detailed examination of one’s soul is found at http://www.cin.org/avatar/examcon.html )
Resolution: I resolve to examine my heart before the Lord today.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day