My friend Tim recently posted on Facebook and concluded with this: “The final chapter of your life has not yet been written.” I like this very much and believe it is a good thing to live by. It helps me to understand that the race is not finished and there is much more to be done in us and by us.
It is easy to lose sight of the bias we have for positive change. Many of us know the verse that says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). But it is directly connected to the following verse:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
I think we can agree that we each have a ways to go before we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. But that is exactly what God has in mind for us that are His children. These two verses together remind us that regardless of what happens to us, we can be drawn in a positive direction of growth and change.
In Romans 7, Paul laments his lust and the law of sin in his members, but in Romans 8:2 he reveals a higher law: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” This is the law that makes positive change possible. This is the law that says that if we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. This reminds me that God is on the side of positive change—indeed, it is very purpose and plan for us. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24).
“The final chapter of your life has not yet been written.” I want to make a connection between this statement and something that Paul said:
“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:3–5, emphasis added).
It is interesting that Paul said that he didn’t judge himself. Of course, in the matter of sin we are to judge ourselves, but the context here is stewardship or service. As we grow and serve God, we don’t know how each chapter is going to be written, including the last, so it is best not to judge “before the time” when the Lord comes.
Others are going to judge us no matter what. It is painful when our motives are judged, but Paul gave it very little thought. God gives us diverse gifts and provides various means for us to grow, change, and serve; what matters is how we receive them and what we do with them. While we want to be kind and civil to others, it really doesn’t matter what they think. The Lord Jesus Christ will judge at His judgment seat—but not until the final chapter is written.
Be careful of self-judgment. Paul did not judge himself. Why? Because self-judgment is usually based on comparing ourselves with others. This is addressed in the direct context of the previous passage in 1 Corinthians 4:
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6, 7, emphasis added).
Self-judgment also comes from an unwise focus on “results.” My focus is to be a faithful steward, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). The results are God’s doing so there is no sense for me to judge myself based on that. My part is to sow and water and let God give the increase. My job is to sow to the Spirit and not to my flesh and that will determine kind of fruit that I will reap.
There is another reason to withhold judgment: the motives of my own heart are not always consistent from moment-to-moment. In God’s eyes, there may be a fine line between what I do in the flesh and in the Spirit, but that may not be clear to me. I may obey the Spirit’s leading to witness to someone, but strife could rise in my heart as the conversation progresses. Or I may give to someone in need and then feel a sense of pride or superiority. As I pray for God’s power and holiness, my mind may wander to evil things.
Or the opposite: I may resent the Lord’s direction in an area, and yet after obeying out of obligation, repent and find peace and joy in it. The work was done, but with a mixture of motives and desires.
The ideal thing is to always be walking in the Spirit, but that is not always the case for me. There is often a mixture of motives and desires that is difficult for me to discern. That may be why the judgment seat of Christ is a place of fire:
“Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15, emphasis added).
The Refiner—the Lord Jesus Christ—will separate the mixture by fire at His judgment seat. What was done in the flesh will be burned and what was done in the Spirit will remain. The bad will be consumed and the good will abide the fire. It is not my job to sort all of that out right now, so I judge nothing before the time. The last chapter has not been written.
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