“Guilty!” the judge announces with confidence. Evidence was presented. Arguments were made. Witnesses were called. A conclusion was reached. And the trial is over.
We are all familiar with the courtroom scene. It is played out over and over in TV dramas and countless times in real life. In all these cases the verdict, either guilty or innocent, is the result of someone’s actions.
Performance ➜ Verdict
The courtroom isn’t the only place where judgments are made and verdicts are reached. The world lives in the courtroom. But instead of judging felonies and misdemeanors, the world judges performance. This is evident everywhere we look – sports players, movie stars, CEOs, super models, entertainers, even the common worker. All are paid based on how well they perform. Generally, the better the performance, the better the pay. This is most often how raises are determined, contracts are written, and bonus are issued.
And because this is the standard under which we operate, we think it is the standard God uses as well. But we cannot look at the world, cloaked in sin and the influence of Satan, and even begin to deduce how God operates.
But God …
God operates from a different standard. At the beginning of creation, God warned the first humans not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they failed to heed the warning, the consequences would be dire: death and eternal separation from God.
We know the story. The warning went unheeded. The forbidden fruit was tasted. The consequences came to pass. And today we live with the repercussions. If God’s standards were the same as the worlds, it would mean we have no hope. Our future would be a dire eternal existence without God.
But God … perhaps some of the best words in scripture and in our understanding of God … does not operate by the world’s standards. In fact, most often God operates in exactly the opposite way.
God knows that no one can ever reach a level of performance that would allow for reconciliation with Him. As a result, He does not judge us on our performance. Instead of leaving us hopeless, God sent His Son to offer us hope.
Imagine the courtroom setting. After hearing the evidence, the judge announces the guilty verdict and states the sentence: death. But instead of demanding we pay the penalty, the judge turns to his son and asks him to pay it on our behalf. And amazingly, the son agrees.
Jesus, the Son, did what no one else could. He paid the penalty with His own life. He experienced an excruciating death that satisfied the judgment. And then, in the fullest mercy and grace of the Judge, Jesus is raised from the dead, thereby overcoming death altogether. Whoever places their faith in Jesus experiences a new judgment: life and eternity with God.
Verdict ➜ Performance
God has set the standard and He has ensured it is within reach by sending Jesus to pay our penalty. Now we owe nothing, our penalty has been paid. We need only receive what is freely given. And what is given is the verdict whose penalty has already been paid.
We are free in Jesus. We are free of the judgment of others and ourselves. The only judgment that matters is God’s. And He says He loves us. His Son died to pay the penalty for us. We owe nothing. As a result, we don’t have to perform. We don’t have to hope we can somehow meet some standard to receive some measure of reward. We have the best reward of all.
That means that we are free from the world’s performance standard. We can instead live in the freedom of God’s love, grace and mercy.
This freedom does not mean we are free to do whatever we choose. God is clear about doing what is right and honoring to Him. This freedom is about not having to earn our salvation.
That is what Easter is all about. On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. On Easter we celebrate our freedom that comes as a result of Jesus’ victory.
May you live fully into the freedom of Jesus’ victory and God’s grace and mercy this Easter and for the rest of your life.