The way we live is to prove what we believe. We have to let go of this idea that we know it’s there, but we’re not going to live it. There’s no power in that life. There’s no anointing in that life. There’s no supernatural in that life.
March 30, 2023
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: Romans 14:10-11
Hey, good morning. If you have your Bibles, would you grab them? We’re going to be in Romans 14 for a couple of minutes, and then we’ll be in 2 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18.
There’s been a very gently woven theme just in this gathering about an exchange. And in Romans 14, where we left off in our study last week, in verse 10, Paul says, “So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow to me. And every tongue will confess allegiance to God.'”
And in this short verse and a half, what Paul reveals is an idea that I think gets glassed over, and maybe we just haven’t considered, he drops this idea of the judgment seat of Christ. How many are familiar with that phrase, “the judgment seat of Christ?”
I want to take a couple of weeks and just try to expand our understanding of that because I think it’s critical for who we are as people. Because what Paul is challenging here is for you and me to live our lives in the Kingdom correctly, we have to have an eye on eternity.
In other words, how we handle our callings, our daily lives, and ultimately how we handle other people is going to be revealed and judged by Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Paul says, “So our aim is to please Him always. Whether we are here in this body or away from this body, we must all stand before Christ to be judged. And we will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.”
In case that wasn’t toothy enough, let me read it again.
“So our aim is to please him always. Whether we are here in this body or away from this body, we must all stand before Christ to be judged. And we will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.”
My hope in this is to lead us to an understanding of how to not get caught up in just the temporal. How to not get stuck in just today. How to not get stuck in the relational dynamics that we’re in. How to learn to live as people with our eyes on the moment we’re going to stand before the King.
I don’t know about you, but just that phrase, the judgment seat of Christ, does it cause anybody besides me just a tiny bit of agita? Where instantly you’re like, huh, maybe I’ve lost sight of that reality.
Pastor Dustin said a couple of weeks ago that the standard of judgment is the nature of Jesus Christ. Paul will say it this way in 13, to put on Jesus Christ. The idea is very similar to putting on a jacket. It’s not the idea that I’m taking off my old nature. Actually, his phrase there is to put it away. It is to rule over. It is to exercise control.
It’s literally to say to your old nature, “You are not allowed to surface. Instead, I’m putting on His nature, and I’m going to be an imitator of Christ.”
I remember asking a friend — I was wrestling with this and asked, “How do you do this?”
He’s like, “You just act like Jesus. Do not let yourself behave or act in a manner that is inconsistent with Him.”
Now that sounds awesome to say. It’s a fully different idea to try to live out.
How many have at least noticed a couple of times this last week that you didn’t carry the nature of Jesus? You’re like, “Well, I do it. I’m clothed in His righteousness.”
Yes, but carrying His nature is a personal choice. That’s why Paul will teach it this way. You and I will give Him an account of how we reveal His nature in our daily lives.
So I’ve been stuck in 13. Pastor Dustin taught it a couple of weeks ago, and David Mitchell taught it last week into 14. I just keep getting hung up because I’ve realized something. To understand the judgment seat of Christ, some things have to happen ahead of time.
Romans 13 talks about how we begin to live and handle each other. Think about the language in Romans 13. There are all these fiscal finance-type terms:
It seems like Paul is creating this case that our entire life is to be lived outwardly focused. We are to be conduits to others. And then he drops verse eight in here, and I have been personally really stuck on it. “Pay all your debts except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of the law.”
Pay all your debts except your debt of love for others. Now, how many have been in church enough to know what the word love means there? What word is it? Agape. It’s a very difficult word.
In its simplest understanding, it means being a benefactor of love. Love that lives for the benefit of others. It’s an entirely external idea. There is nothing selfish about agape. The word is to live outward and love outward for the purpose and benefit of others.
So Paul says to pay all your debts except the debt of love for others because you can never finish paying that. So I’m going to work through this verse, verse eight, just phrase by phrase for a second.
The obvious one, “pay all your debts.” I’d love to offer a really obvious idea. You and I are to be good with our debt. Paul’s not just waxing eloquently going, oh, this would be a cool way to start this phrase. Pay your debts. He means it. As the people of God, we are to pay our debts. We are to honor our word. We are to be people known for our integrity and finance. Church, we have to learn how to take our financial words seriously. Our yes is yes. Our no is no.
I think it matters to Jesus how we handle finance. He says to accept the debt of love for others. We look at this phrase, there are a couple of things that jump out. Apparently, you and I are in debt. It would appear that we came into debt to others somewhere in our journey.
Paul seems to say in this verse that we’re in debt to everyone around us. So the first question that comes to mind is, where do we come into debt?
He says you can never finish paying that. So, not only are we in debt to others, this debt is to be something we need to start working on now because we can’t hope to pay it off. Why is that important? Because there’s the modern landscape that would say, “Well if you can never pay it off, why does it matter? Just file for bankruptcy and move on.”
But I have an idea to submit to us, something I want us to consider. Jesus alone actually knows the measurement of the debt that we came into. And there will be a moment when that measurement is revealed. In other words, there’s a moment coming in front of all of us when we find out what the debt was. Just think through the language. Think through how the scriptures present this. Could we consider the possibility that part of our judgment before Him at that moment at the judgment seat will be connected to how much of that debt we’ve worked off, through carrying His nature and His image? That’s a big idea.
We sang a worship song this morning and I really like the vast majority of the song. There’s one phrase I don’t. The phrase says you ask nothing of me. That’s a lie. We have to understand coming into the Kingdom, He asks for all of us. He actually expects that we carry His nature to carry His image.
Now I get what the song’s going for. I love that part. But I just want to clarify. I think we live in an age where there’s a softness in Christianity that says, “Oh, He just loves me.” Yes, He does. But that doesn’t mean He hasn’t asked us to carry His image.
That doesn’t mean He doesn’t expect that we model Jesus. We reveal Jesus as we live. So what happens if, at this judgment seat, we find the revealing of how much we’ve worked off of that debt?
It concerns me. I don’t know about you. I get this lump in my throat. He says if you love your neighbor, the word “if” is part of the lump. Because the word “if” means it’s a choice, it doesn’t mean that you and I are going to love our neighbors. It means we have to choose to love our neighbor.
And now some of us are like, “Okay, cool, well my neighbors are those people that are around me, it’s my family.” It’s actually not. The word here in Greek means “the world around you.” It’s who you come in contact with.
What Paul is doing here is building a case for the daunting level of debt that we owe. He says, “If you do this, you will fulfill the requirement of God’s law.” Okay, we love that. Awesome. I just want to highlight something. There are requirements from our King on our lives.
It might be worth our consideration that He has a way and a system of living that He expects and wants us to step into. It’s not a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Some of you don’t even know what that is because you’re way too young.
They were really cool books. When I was in fifth grade, you could read them and you could navigate where you wanted to go. And if you didn’t like where you ended up, you could go back and read it differently and change the story. If only life was that way.
But what He teaches here is that there’s an expectation of how we live from our King. And the way Paul presents this in 13:8 seems to lean into the idea that you and I owe God something. Now, for a lot of us, that just instantly violates our sense of grace. Hang with me for a second. The first question in Scripture when we come across something like this is “What does the rest of Scripture say? Is there a place in scripture where we come across the reality that we owe something?”
Go with me to Matthew 18. Because for the last three or four weeks, this is where the Lord has taken Greg Sanders. Out of this verse, 13:8, He took me to Matthew 18. Starting in verse 21. “Peter came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? 70 times?’ ‘No,’ Jesus replied, ’70 times seven.'”
Okay, so to understand that in Hebrew, he’s using a euphemism. It’s a compound idea that means to stop counting. This is the way He responds to him. Whenever Jesus says “the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared…” or “the Kingdom of Heaven is like…” what it means is that He’s going to paint a picture of how Heaven is to be lived on earth and the way we are to understand it.
“For this reason, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who borrowed money from him. And in the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay. So the king ordered that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. But the man fell down before the king and begged him, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.’ And then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant, who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me and I will pay it,’ he pleaded, but his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until he could pay the debt in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him what had happened. And then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant. I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny. That is what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.”
Yikes. So let’s talk about this for a second. Because apparently, we came into debt at the cross. I know we always talk about how much debt we were emancipated from. But the exchange that we came into at the cross was this: I’m going to redeem your life. But you’re going to exchange your life and embrace mine. And you are now in debt to carry my image.
Let’s talk about the math here for a second. I like business, it’s fun, and I like numbers. A lot of our Bibles do a really poor job of translating this. So the original debtor comes in and he owes millions of dollars. What it says in the New Living and in Greek, is it’s 10,000 talents, and to understand the magnitude of 10,000 talents, we have to understand how much a talent was worth. A Greek talent was worth 6000 denari. Denari was like the common dollar bill for the day. So what an average person would earn, an average worker would earn somewhere between about 0.75 denari a day, upward of maybe two dinero a day. Like the Praetorian Guard, like the Romans, like the really high-level legal guards, they would earn two denari a day.
But a base-level, normal, common worker would earn about 0.82 denari a day. Why are we in math? Just stick with me for a second. If you take 10,000 talents and ask the question, how long does it take to work to make one talent?
If I saved everything I made, an average person in this day and age would work for 20 years for one talent. That would be 6000 denari. If you take 10,000 talents and you multiply that out by 6000, the number is 60 million. So if you subdivide going, okay, here’s what they made average, you come up the total that for an average person, this was 200,000 lifetimes of debt. Payable, just give me time. 200,000 lifetimes, I got this. I’ll do an extra job.
Jesus is painting a picture of an insurmountable debt. Let me give you some fun averages. If you take modern inflation at its most conservative level, 2%. How many wish inflation was at 2% right now? You take modern inflation at 2%. And you come up with a number that is well over $30 million in interest per year. The idea is you can’t pay it back.
The math doesn’t really matter. My wife’s like, “I got so confused during the math part.” And I was like, “It’s because you don’t do numbers.” That’s my life. The point was, you’re never able to pay that back. They didn’t have a lotto back then. There was no Powerball that was going to get you out of that.
The debt was forgiven. Okay, so here’s the other problem, let’s go back to the math. The man leaves the king, goes out to another servant, finds a servant, and says that the man owed him a few thousand dollars. Actually what that man owed him in modern equivalent was $121. Equal to about a third of the year’s wage. So when he said please be patient with me and I’ll pay you what I owe you. It was actually doable. It was a reasonable request.
I think the king forgave it because the answer of, “Be patient with me, I’ll pay you,” was laughable. He’s like, “Seriously? You’re going to pay me back? The only answer is to forgive you.” But the man grabs the other guy by the throat and says “No.”
The legal right in that day and time was if someone owed you a debt, you could call your debt to account, and you chose when that happened, not them. You could call your debt to account and if they could not pay, you had the right to forcibly seize their assets and them as workers to get your debt back. So he executed his right. He didn’t do anything wrong. Catch this. What he did was fully within the legal code.
But I see a couple of things in here that are really scary. The first thing I see that scares me, this will ruffle some feathers but good luck. The king said he’d already forgiven the servant’s debt. But upon inspection of the servant’s willingness to adopt the king’s character — catch this — he did not follow suit. How many have ever played cards? How many know the term “follow suit?” It means “to act in kind.” If somebody lays down a club and you’re going to follow suit, you lay down a club. The king laid out forgiveness. For the guy to follow the king’s model, he needed to do what? Forgive.
Okay, so notice this. Because of the servant’s unwillingness to adopt the king’s character, the king re-impugned the debt upon him. All of a sudden he was guilty again. What’s scary is it’s not Greg Sanders’ understanding of theology. Jesus states that His Father’s Kingdom is like this.
Verse 35, is terrifying. “This is what my heavenly Father will do to you if you are unwilling to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart.” Oh, wow, that “in your heart” phrase is awful.
The Greek word for heart is cardia. It means “the seed of emotions.” It means the place we feel from. It means we can’t just offer passable like, “It’s cool, I forgive you, whatever.” You know that kind of forgiveness when somebody upsets you and you don’t want to forgive them. But you know you’re supposed to say “I forgive you?” It’s like when your mom and dad said, “Tell your brother you’re sorry.” “Sorry.” That’s not what this is.
What this is, is a totally different thing. It means “to find the seed of our emotions.” That means to do the process and do the work until we can come to grips with our anger and our frustration and lay it down and say, “I no longer hold you guilty of this.” That’s a whole different idea. Again, not my interpretation. That’s Jesus’s word. Those are in red.
Let’s go back to Romans for a second. In 13:8, we are to owe no person anything except the debt of love.
The Scripture seems to teach love going in two directions. It teaches that love is lived towards others presently and future forward. We are to act in love toward others. But it also teaches that we’re to live in love towards others for past wounds and offense. And that is the narrative of what Jesus is talking about here.
And this is the moment in Scripture that teaches us about the debt we came into. Can you understand and agree with me that this says we came into a love debt to a king to carry his image and act like him? How many would agree with me that you see that? How many are like, “I agree, but I’m not raising my hand because I don’t want to say yes to this?”
Paul says we’re in debt to love others. I’m just wondering if that possibly means we’re working off a debt from the forgiveness we received. And I know we don’t like these terms. Like, it’s all free. No, no, no, just a second, it is. But it’s an exchange. You are to now take my image and live like me.
I think the way we love others, both in our active future-forward love and in our forgiving of past wrongs is part of that debt. And it seems like Jesus has a full intention of the weight of what He says when He makes a statement, “If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven.” That is a very hard saying. That is one of those lines in the sand that my guess is a bunch of people went, “Peace I’m out. Why? Why would I leave? Because what they did to me hurts too much. The way they hurt me, I can’t get past.”
I believe it was a warning to His followers that our King expects love from us. He expects a forgiving love. He expects active love. And we owe Him that in exchange for our sins and our wrongdoings being expunged from the record of eternity.
That someday we stand before Him at the judgment seat and He says, “I forgave you the $35 billion debt,” which is, if you do the math in modern days, that’s what it is. Like how’d you get there? For the math people in the room, you take the median income of 2021. It was $70,000 for a household. You take that and you multiply it by 200,000 and it gives you your number. You get $14 billion there. If you’re a Roman centurion and you made the bigger number, then it’s like $35 billion. Either way, more than I have. More than most — does anybody in here have $35 billion sitting around? I’d love to know. We’re coming to your house for dinner because you can afford it.
The point Jesus made was that number is unreachable. And that’s the amount you were forgiven. Because your sin and my sin put Him on the cross. Your sin and my sin cost the King of Glory His life. His point wasn’t to tell us we’re in debt. His point was to call us to accept His nature and live like Him. But His point was to help us understand it’s not just an invitation, it’s an expectation. And you and I make a grave mistake if we live offendable and unforgiving. You see, we are to be the unoffendable, the unoffended, and the forgiving.
It’s supposed to be impossible for us to get offended, to become hurtful, and to hold grudges. Please let that sink in. Biblically, it is supposed to be impossible for us to be offended, to be hurtful, to be unforgiving. And we can’t live out this calling to owe no man except the debt of love, without being willing to release people from the depths of wrong if done towards us. That is the first step in this decision to live with our eyes on the judgment seat of Christ. Because I embraced Your nature and accepted Your forgiveness, I now must give it.
The second step is what we’re going to work on next week where Paul talks about what it looks like to really carry the nature, to put on love. I think we have to ask ourselves at this moment if we have made room in our hearts for unforgiveness or offense towards anyone.
You’re like, I don’t want to ask that question. I know the answer. This isn’t a game. This is the exchange of life. John Wimber used to say it this way and I loved it. “The last time I checked, I get all of him, but he gets all of me. And there is no middle ground.”
And perhaps we’re holding forgiveness away from somebody because they hurt us. Choosing to forgive them doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt you. It means what you’re declaring is because He forgave me of a debt I could not pay, I’m going to forgive you something you can’t pay back. I’m letting it go. I’m literally lifting the debt off of you.
Perhaps you’ve gone a step further and you’ve written people off as unworthy of your time and attention because of their wounds. You severed the relationship. And the truth is most of us don’t feel that bad about it. We just feel like, “Yep, they screwed up.”
Church, I hate it but it’s sin. There’s no place in the Kingdom where we’re allowed to walk that way. The only way we walk that way is if we step into the Kingdom of darkness again and say, “I’m going to ignore what the King says, I’m going to live my way.” Because what the King says is you can’t live that way. You have to put on love.
Perhaps you’ve gone to that further step where you’ve become offensive and ugly and purposely hurtful to people because they hurt you. And it feels like a good defense mechanism that feels right and you feel honestly justified. The only way you’re justified is if you’re failing to look at what the King did for you. Because the moment you look at what the King did for you, the only logical answer is, “I was forgiven. I have to forgive. I am not willing to put my forgiveness at risk by holding you in contempt.”
You see, in this way we forgive people and we live this out not because we think they’re awesome. Sometimes they’re not. We do this because He told us for you to receive this I want you to live this. So we’re under marching orders. That it should be said of us, we are unwilling to get offended. We are unwilling to be unforgiving because our King forgave us. It’s that simple. Like, we should just wear t-shirts that say, “I am unoffendable. Try me.”
Can you imagine what church would be like if we actually lived that? It is impossible for you to hurt me and offend me because He forgave me and I’m here on earth to reveal His love to you. That’s my only job. So no matter what you put at me, what’s coming back at you is His love. His kindness. His mercy. His grace.
I’m not stupid. I know how hard that is. I’m not saying this is how I think you should live. I’m saying this is what the Bible says. And we err if we try to weaken this strip away from it its teeth because we’re scared of it. The right answer is to repent. Go, “Man, Lord, I have not put you on. I have been guilty of holding grudges. I’ve been offendable. I have been offensive. All these things. You’ve got to deal with me because I’m screwing up in this area of living like You.”
It should look like us going home and having a hard sit down in our household going, look, we’ve not lived this thing. And this is what, as believers, we’re called to live. It should look like it’s talking to our friends going, “Hey, I need to ask your forgiveness. I have not been Christ-like towards you. And there’s no excuse for it. Nothing you did deserves my response. Because He told me I can’t respond that way.”
If you’re like, “I don’t want to let him out of prison,” I know. Neither did the other guy. Why would we sacrifice His nature for some stupid injury? Why would we give people that much power? You hurt me so much I’m going to sacrifice carrying the nature of my King. No, that should not be said of us. That’s Jesus’s point.
Based on Paul’s teaching and Jesus’s parable, Paul’s teaching is that we’re going to stand and give an account. Jesus’s parable is that my Father expects this. I cannot get past the fact that the king threw him in jail until he paid every last cent. How many lifetimes do you think the guy lived?
Maybe the title of this is “Stay out of Jail.”
Do not let unforgiveness settle in your heart in any way, shape, or form. And if you’ve partnered with it, you’ve made it an idol — unforgiveness is akin to idolatry because it renders your and my life dependent on the actions of another person.
How many have ever been stuck in the trap where you’re waiting for them to go first? How many marriages have ever done that to each other? If you decide to apologize, I’ll forgive you. I get it. It’s human nature, but it’s not divine nature.
And see, you and I were given divine nature. And then we were asked to rule over our sin nature with that divine nature. We were asked to put our arrogance underfoot by choosing the way of Jesus.
Has anybody watched the Mandalorian ever? What’s the phrase in the Mandalorian? “This is the way.” You know what, maybe you should just go to the mirror once in a while and go, “I have to forgive, this is the way.” And learn to remind yourself, “I am choosing His way, not my own. I was invited into a path by my King. It’s His way. It’s not mine. I am crucified with Christ, yet I live. This life I live, I don’t live according to the flesh. I live according to every word that comes out of His mouth.”
Jesus’s statement says what the king did is what my Father will do if you do what that man did. That should haunt us. Helpfully. If you’re like, “Well, this isn’t a very gracious message,” I would argue that Paul says in Galatians, “Am I your enemy because I told you the truth? Am I not fighting for your benefit by telling you this is what the Scriptures teach?” And if we fail to walk this line, we’re in error and what’s at risk is huge.
Let’s stand. I want to invite the prayer teams up. I didn’t do this last gathering and I should have. If you’re here and you’re like, “I cannot leave this building without confessing to somebody, I’ve been walking in unforgiveness. I need somebody to pray with me,” Corinthians says that if we confess our faults to one another, we’re healed of them. That there’s a supernatural authority on the body of Christ to heal each other. If you’re a married couple, and you’re like, “We have just been bad,” then humble yourselves and figure it out. Get honest. Make this the moment where the grace of God can rest on your home.
If you’re like, “That’s not us. We just need to go sit in our car and apologize,” I love that. Great. But please do not walk away from this text and not inspect your own life and call yourself a believer. That’s a dangerous move. The scriptures are given to us to teach us how to live.
In Titus, it says to promote the kind of living that reveals right teaching. In other words, the way we live is to prove what we believe. We have to let go of this idea that we know it’s there, but we’re not going to live it. There’s no power in that life. There’s no anointing in that life. There’s no supernatural in that life.
Would you pray with me?
Jesus, we stand before you as a family. I can’t speak for everybody else, but I’m gripped by this. I’m challenged by this. Lord, immediately there are places where I’m ashamed of not living that out. There are places where I’m like, I gotta go fix that. Holy Spirit, would you walk with us on this journey? Would you not let us off the hook, please? Lord, we invite your conviction to not just rest at this moment but to rest upon us as we learn how to be people that walk in the way of Jesus, in the pattern of Jesus, in the nature of Jesus. We love you, we honor you. Amen. Amen.
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