Sunday, September 2, 2012

Before We Point Another Finger...

The government, the Democrats, the Republicans, Wall Street, Roe vs. Wade, our public school system, Feminism, divorce, materialism--

If I were to ask you what's wrong with our planet, would it be hard to point your finger at one or more of these as the root of all moral decline?

Or maybe it's something else you see when you turn on the 10:00 news, read a newspaper, or better yet, just take a walk through your neighborhood.

Most of us need not even open our eyes to find something, someone who would meet the qualifications of an abomination in Scripture. We Christians?  We're really good at finger pointing.

Still, you and I might shamefully yank our hands back to our sides if we truly understand how God's judgment works.

God's condemnation of sin?  His judgment?

It starts with His own people.

Scripture records the prophet Ezekiel's vision of God's coming destruction of evil.  Since Ezekiel and thousands of Israelites were living in exile in pagan Babylon at the time, one might expect God to be pointing His finger at King Nebuchadnezzar and that whole bunch of murderous idol worshipers who were mistreating God's chosen people, defiling His holy temple, and mocking His holy name.

Yet, that's not what happens.

Instead, after having a "man clothed in linen" "put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in [Jerusalem's] midst," He tells His executioners, "Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.' So they started with the elders who were before the temple" (Ez. 9:4, 6).

Here, God's judgment starts in His holy city of Jerusalem. At His temple. With His chosen people.

God restates this concept in the New Testament when the apostle Peter says, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God" (1 Pet. 4:17).

Judgment of sin starts at the house of God.

Judgment of sin starts with the people of God.

What's even more condemning of a Christians's finger-pointing attitude is John's inaugural vision in the book of Revelation, a book that is often used on street corners to tout God's coming judgment of this whole sinful world. 

But before God describes all the woes coming upon the earth? Before He gives us a vision of the the final judgment and of unsaved being dragged down into an eternal pit of fire?

Like Ezekiel, he starts with God's people, the temple of God represented by the church: "I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man" (Rev. 1:12-13).  Just so we don't miss the lampstand reference, John clearly states the "the seven lampstands are the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20).

What follows is two chapters chock full of both praise and condemnation of God's church for not being the pure, holy, passionate light to the world that God has called it to be.

Do you see the pattern?

All these passages show that God doesn't first point His holy finger at your unsaved neighbor, at the masses living a flagrantly sinful life.  Instead, He is pointing His finger at Christians like you and me in an attempt to purify us of all sin so that we can glorify Him as a light in the surrounding darkness.
Judgment begins at the house of the Lord, with the people of God.

So, before we wave that index finger too boldly, we must first look to God's word to see what finger He may be pointing at each of us. 

Image: Sculpture in Brisbane, Australia

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