One of the most troubling issues when the Judgment Seat is brought up is the matter of my personal sin. As believers, all of us sin and our imperfections haunt us. So how will these failures affect our rewarding? Will sin remove any hope of reward? This article wrestles with this important, personal issue.
The most common concern of believers when it comes to the Judgment Seat is: “will my sins be brought up there?” All of us are all too aware of those times when we failed badly; when our attitudes, actions or words were really quite sinful. So we worry that these matters will be focused on by Judge Jesus. There are six basic truths that we need to consider as we try to understand the place of “my sin at Christ’s Judgment Seat”.
#1 – All sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross.
The absolutely completeness of Christ’s work on the cross is a significant and wonderful truth. How clear is the book of Hebrews on this matter!
“…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. …but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14).
Since all sin for all time has been paid for, we will not be “paying” for our various sins at the Judgment Seat.
#2 – Believers still sin and that does impact life today.
Most every believer knows that he or she still commits sin. While it does not impact our status as a child of God, it does impact our fellowship with God. And it does impact the quality of our lives simply because sin brings with it pain, trouble and alienation. So we must confess that sin in order to maintain our fellowship with the Lord. If we don’t, then our lives will experience a variety of possible negatives. This is true even though those sins were paid for at the cross. The cross insured that our status as God’s children remained secure but we still must deal with our sinning.
#3 – Believers’ sinning will impact the Judgment Seat.
In a similar way, the scriptures are clear that there can and will be the loss of reward for the believer who does not live according to the standard of the Scriptures; does not remain faithful to Christ; and whose motives are not proper. The loss of reward comes about because these criteria are not met (which would mean that we were not living righteously, but righteously). A person remains God’s child but will experience loss because of sin. (Recall these passages: 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Luke 19:22-26; Colossians 3:24-25; Hebrews 3:12-4:11; 10:26-36; 2 Corinthians 5:10). So the truth is that forgiven sin can still negatively impact events and situations in our lives. Christ’s work of the cross does not keep a believer from experiencing negative disciples from God in this life (1 Cor. 11:31-32; Heb. 12:3-11). So we ought not think that there will not be negative disciplines from Christ at His Judgment Seat?
#4 – Confessed sin lessens negative consequences.
Christ’s finished work on the cross does not eliminate the need for believers to confess their sins (1 John 1:9). Not only does confession of sin restore us to fellowship with the Savior, but it also retards the negative consequences of our sin and brings God’s mercy and grace to bear on our lives in fresh ways. Paul is so clear when he proclaims that God is ‘rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Mercy is by definition “the withholding of deserved punishment”. When we deal with our sin now the consequences will be lessened at the Judgment Seat because God is rich in both mercy and grace.
#5 – The sins of a believer do not mean that no rewards are possible.
Even if we know that there has been too much disobedience in our lives, there is good news. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “a promise remains of entering His rest (reward)” (Heb. 4:1. We can leave failure and disobedience behind us and live fully and completely for Christ. Past sins need not remove us from future rewards.
#6 – God’s mercy and grace are factors at the Judgment Seat.
Even though each person receives “his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8), rewards are still a part of God’s grace. God is not obligated to hand out rewards. We can never do enough to put Him under obligation to us (Luke 17:7-10). The reason why we receive rewards for faithful service is because we serve a generous and gracious Lord.
For us to figure out how sin, God’s rewarding criteria, grace and mercy all work out is clearly beyond our pay grade. There is so much that we do not know or even remember. But the Judge of the earth will do what is right.
Sin will have some sort of impact at the Judgment Seat. Confessed sin always lessens that impact. Our loving Lord who delights to give good gifts to His children will fairly and mercifully deal with us.
A Closing Story
A teenage girl, with a new driver’s license, took her father’s sports car without asking. This was, of course, strictly forbidden. But she wanted to impress her friends with her status as a new license holder. As she rounded a bend in the road, she lost control of the car and slammed into a fence, pulverizing it, and her skid was stopped when she rammed into a large oak tree. The car sustained thousands of dollars in damage and she severely hurt her knee when it smashed into the dashboard. As she sat in the midst of the ruins and the emergency vehicles which had arrived on the scene, she felt just awful. She didn’t just feel terrible about the mayhem around her, but that she had disobeyed and disappointed her dad whom she loved.
When dad arrived at the accident scene, a genuinely sorrowful daughter apologized to him. Dad, who knew his little girl well, accepted her heartfelt apology and forgave her for her willful act.
In spite of her genuine apology, certain realities remained. The car remained damaged, her knee was killing her and the fence was still in shambles. On the basis of her repentance, dad chose not to ground her or punish her in any way (that is mercy—the withholding of deserved punishment). Out of his own pocket, he paid the $500 deductible on his insurance and took care of having the fence replaced (that is grace—the giving of unmerited favor). Her knee, however, remained badly injured and, therefore, hospital and doctor visits would become part of life. Her date for that evening with Jason was cancelled and during the next few weeks she would not be driving and others would have to transport her here and there. There were other unintended consequences to be sure. But this incident made her wiser and caused her to think more carefully and maturely about choices and actions in the future. In one sense, failure had brought about a quality of living not before seen.
In dealing with his daughter, the various factors of mercy, grace and consequences were all mixed together. While the father in the story may not have been totally correct in the way he handled the matter, we can be sure that there will be no imbalance or deficiency in the Lord’s decisions and actions on that future payday for believers. The Judge of the earth will do right. He will, in every case, righteously deal in grace, mercy and justice. What a Judge—what a Savior!