Alfred Place Baptist Church

6:9 Masters had better treat their servants well

Ephesians 6:9 “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.”

Paul is dealing with the difference that being a follower of Jesus Christ brings to human relationships, to wives, husbands, parents, children and slaves, and finally he turns to slave-owners, to those in a management and supervisory role, to those with authority and in leadership, and the apostle brings three exhortations to them.

1. MASTERS, RESPECT AND SERVE YOUR SLAVES AS IF YOU WERE SERVING THE LORD.

“And masters, treat your slaves in the same way” (v.9). You see the context? Paul is exhorting slaves to do the will of God from the heart, and serve wholeheartedly – as if they were serving the Lord. Masters are under the very same obligation. You are to be lords over your slaves as Christ is over his people. He is the good shepherd; he lays down his life for his sheep. He leads them beside still waters. He restores their souls. These are the words of King David in Psalm 23 and while he reigned there was some consultation and conferring with the whole assembly in Israel . Should he bring the ark back to Jerusalem ? It wasn’t a unilateral decision. David would do so, he said to them, only “if it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God.” So they discussed it together and we are told, “The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people” (I Chron. 13:1-4). David was a good shepherd. He wasn’t an absolute monarch pleading the divine right of kings, insisting on having his own way.

Then things went wrong under Solomon his son; Solomon became a despot. He introduced what all despots introduce, a vast building programme paid for by heavy taxation and built by forced labour. There was a lot of unhappiness in the country at the end of Solomon’s reign and the people appealed to Solomon’s son, a man called Rehoboam, to lighten their load. King Rehoboam asks the elder statesmen in the land for their advice. They plead with him, “If . . . you will be a servant to these people and serve them . . . they will always be your people” (I Kings 12:7). Serve the people King Rehoboam! That was the wisest advice the young king ever heard, but these counsels he rejected; in fact he tightened the iron grip of his late father and as a result soon the kingdom split into two never to be reunited. It was an absolute tragedy because it could have been avoided. There was good example in the man’s grandfather, and wise counsels from the leaders in the nation, but all were rejected.

Kings, serve your servants! What we have is a principle of mutual service; “if you will serve them, they will serve you.” The Lord Jesus said that that was where greatness was to be found. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant. As Paul said later on, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That is what the great Servant Christ did. So there is mutual service, and this develops into mutual respect. The master looks at his slaves and what he sees is a group of human beings, each one of whom is made in the image of God, each one worthy of love. A Christian slave owner says, “I love my slave as I love myself”. To oppress your slaves is to insult the Lord. To serve them is to honour the Lord. Now that principle of service and respect is the background to the whole Old Testament; it lies behind all its legislation about requiring masters to pay wages to their workmen on the same day, to care for the deaf man and blind children, having compassion on the widow and the orphan. When a land-owner harvested a field he was to leave gleanings in the corners for the poor to gather grain for themselves. In courts of law those judging were to be absolutely impartial whether the man in the dock was a pauper or the richest man in town. Mutual service and mutual respect is found throughout the Bible.

Do you see how practical this counsel is for us all, for me in leadership in the church, for the elders, and for you who have any kind of authority in business and management today, or one day will have? One of my heroes in industrial relations was the American industrialist Wayne Alderson. He came from a family of coal miners, going back four generations. He would hear his father coming back from the pit and sighing, “If only they’d value me as much as they value a mule” – it was easier to replace a miner than replace a well-trained mule. Wayne ’s three brothers had jobs in the local steel works and they’d say, ‘If only they would value us as much as they value the machines.’ So the importance of the value of a man was sown into Wayne ’s mind as a boy and as a teenager. He took a job in industry and did well so that in the early nineteen-seventies Wayne Alderson became Vice-President of Operations in the Pittron Corporation, which had a steel foundry in Glassport , Pennsylvania , near Pittsburgh .

The firm was struggling to survive after a disastrous eighty-four day strike. It had left an aftermath of implacable bitterness and recrimination between management and men. Wayne conceived a plan for better production, quality, relationships and morale which he called ‘Operation Turnaround’. He was determined to end the old management style of confrontation; he called for cooperation instead; he walked daily through the foundry, greeted the men by name, asked them about their work and homes, visited them when they were sick, in fact treated them like human beings. At the request of a few of them he then started a small Bible study, which grew into a brief ‘chapel’ service in a storage room underneath a furnace. As a result of the mutual confidence which he developed with the men, absenteeism and labour grievances virtually disappeared; productivity and profits rose substantially. The old sterile days of confrontation were over. People called it ‘the Miracle of Pittron’. After nearly two years Pittron was sold and Wayne Alderson lost his job. He started an itinerant ministry as speaker, consultant and peacemaker, to spread his ‘Value of the Person’ vision. Its three key ingredients, he says, are love (a positive ‘I’m for you’ attitude), dignity (people count) and respect (appreciation instead of criticism). Wayne says, ‘Christ is at the centre of the Value of the Person approach. But even an atheist can accept the worth of the person.’ So here was the practical application of these biblical attitudes to one Christian to use the work-place and working practices to help people develop, rather than to using people to accomplish the work as the end.

2. MASTERS, DO NOT THREATEN YOUR SLAVES.

Parents do not provoke your children; masters do not threaten your slaves. Don’t abuse your position of authority by issuing threats of punishment. When you meet together in the Quarterly Association of Slave Owners and hear the other men grumbling together about their slaves running away and boasting how tough they are with them, whipping them until the blood runs, branding them for any defiance, and selling their wives and children separately as punishment, then you speak up and you tell them quietly, “I never even threaten my slaves.” “You never threaten them?” “Never.” We live in an increasingly threatening age; the powers that be threaten parents with having their children removed from them if they smack them; the police threaten to endorse our driving licences if they catch us eating a sandwich as we drive; preachers are threatened with stirring up religious hatred if we say that Islam is a false religion; children in a school in Staffordshire this month have been told they must write these words in full whenever referring to Mohammed, “The Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him)”. A parent from Burton-upon-Trent who objected to the headmaster about this was called a racist and told to attend a course of re-education. These are threatening days, and we have to avoid being contaminated by the mores of our society. In our personal relationships we must be so careful about making threats, especially if we have any authority.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones has an interesting point to make about this, “Here again we see the profound psychological insight of Christian teaching. There are many dangers confronting a man who is in the position of master, but his greatest danger is to become guilty of threatening. That the Christian master is not to deal with his servant unkindly, not to treat him cruelly, not to whip him or strike him or trample upon him, goes without saying. Even ordinary common human decency would dictate as much. But Christianity goes well beyond those limits. Not only are you not to do such things to them, says Paul, you are never even to threaten them; you are never to display a wrong spirit towards them, you are never deliberately to keep them down, never to keep on reminding them that they are slaves and you are master, because that is a form of threatening. It is possible to threaten people without saying a word, without doing anything at all to them. A harsh way of looking at them, or general brusque behaviour can amount to threatening. To keep them rigorously in their position of subordination, to let them know that that is where they belong, and that they are going to be kept there; to hint to them that they had better be careful — all this can be done though you may not raise a hand, or swear or curse or shout; you can do it by your spirit, by your whole demeanour. The Christian master, says the Apostle, must never behave in that way, he must never be unfair in spirit, leave alone in practice and in action” (D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit, Banner of Truth, 1974, p.361).

R.C. Sproul wrote the biography of Wayne Alderson called The Search for Dignity. That’s where I read about him and found Alderson’s life as a Christian in management and industry fascinating. At one place there is discussion of a phrase that R.C. came across more than once when researching Alderson’s life. The term was “dropping his head.” It occurred in a sentence like: “The supervisor comes in and drops his head.” At first R.C. didn’t know what this meant. But one day he was in a hospital observing non-verbal communication between doctors, nurses, and other members of the staff that in a subtle way indicated the individual’s status. He noticed, for example, how the nurses perked up when a doctor entered. Obviously the doctors were high in the pecking order.

While R.C. was watching this and thinking about it he saw a man coming up the corridor pushing a cart of soiled laundry. He was an orderly, a member of the lower castes of the hospital, yet he was cheerful, and happily relating to the others. As he walked along with his trolley, a nurse who had been very alert in the doctor’s presence just moments before walked down the passage towards him. “When he saw her R.C. noticed that he raised up his head in acknowledgment, and his face brightened in anticipation of a greeting. At almost the same moment the nurse tilted her head forward and stared at the floor as she walked by briskly. The man’s face lost its cheer, and his pace became noticeably slower as he continued on his way with the laundry. Sproul realized that this is what ‘dropping the head’ meant. It was a refusal to acknowledge the other person. It was like saying that the human being was invisible, that he or she did not count. In the initial analysis this is what matters to most people. It is not the position we hold, whether it is high or low, management or labour, or even (in a certain sense) slave or master. What matters is whether we are treated with dignity, whether we are regarded as having real worth. Christianity declares, ‘You do have real worth! You are made in God’s image! What you do does matter!’.” (James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians, Baker, 1998, p.222). Do not threaten them!

So what is the alternative to threatening people? You encourage people don’t you? Isn’t this the great ministry to which we are all called and in which we often fail. All of us long to be appreciated. We want somebody to be pleased with us, to accept us and like us and value us. Even a slave wants what he has done appreciated. A boy longs for his daddy to praise him. The little chap beams when his father hugs him and says, “Well done, son!” A wife longs for her husband to praise her. She glows when he compliments her beauty, her dress sense, her cooking, her brains, and her value to him. A student longs for praise from a teacher. If a teacher gives a high grade and a word of encouragement, it can make a student want to make a career in that field of study. Teens want praise from their friends. Politicians want approval from voters. No matter who we are, no matter how strong and confident we may seem, we all yearn for someone else’s approval.

Threats are so counter-productive. Without a father’s affection and approval, a boy suffers, and he may carry the wound with him into manhood. He is at higher risk of becoming an alcoholic or a workaholic. Without a husband’s love and admiration, a wife may feel depressed and worthless. Isn’t she open to unfaithfulness if her husband never praises her but some other guy doesn’t stop saying how gorgeous she is? Likewise, a husband longs for his wife to respect him and be proud of him, and encourage him; he may feel like a failure if she treats him like one.

Threats never motivate anyone. The desire for praise, or the wound from lack of praise, drives much of what we do. Part of our trouble may come from the failure of others to praise us when they should have, and part of our trouble may come when we haven’t been very praiseworthy. The biggest trouble comes when we don’t desire or expect praise from God. Jesus said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) Don’t you long to have the praise of God on your life as a congregation in 2005? “Well done my good and faithful servants this year. I am so pleased with the way you have served me.”

Don’t we want our parents to be glad they had us? Don’t we want our wives to be glad they married us? I want my girls to be glad I’m their dad. I want my friends to be glad they know me. I want the congregation to be glad they have me as their preacher. But above all I want God to be glad he made me. I want the Lord to accept me and delight in me. But what about the fact that I’m not good enough to meet his standards? I put my faith in Jesus’ blood. I trust that my sins are forgiven and that God won’t punish me for them. But that’s not enough to satisfy my soul. I don’t just want to be pardoned. I want to be treasured, approved, even praised. I want God to be pleased with me, glad that I’m his. On Judgment Day, I don’t just want to hear Jesus say, “You’re an awful sinner, but I’m going to overlook how bad you are and let you into heaven.” I want to hear Jesus call me “good and faithful” and to say, “Well done!”

When our children are little they wanted to please us, and it didn’t take much for us to be thrilled with them. Sometimes your children try to help you in the garden. They usually get in the way more than they help. The work would go a lot faster if you just did it all yourself. Their raking scatters more stuff than it gathers. Their digging in the garden makes them so dirty that it takes longer to clean them up than it took to do the actual gardening. Still we are pleased with their efforts. As they grow older, we expect more. We expect them to grow in skill and wisdom. But already now their desire is to be with us and please us and it’s a delight to us. If our children draw picture for us, it may not be a masterpiece, but we praise them for it and we hang it on the walls. We have two little wooden whales which have been in the bathrooms for thirty years. We’re delighted that children develop their skills and are trying to please us.

Don’t you appreciate that your heavenly Father feels about you the way you feel about your children? The Lord delights in all who trust him and seek to serve him, even if we fumble and muddle along. We have a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do. God won’t stop working on us until he has made us perfect. But the Lord is already pleased with us – long before we are perfect and fully mature in Christ. If we believe in Jesus and want to please him, he will not hold our sins and shortcomings against us.

We don’t threaten our children – we encourage them. At the end of a busy day, after we’ve put our children to bed and kissed them good night and prayed with them, we sometimes go back to their bedrooms after they’ve fallen asleep. We put our fingers on their hair or we just watch them for awhile as they breathe peacefully. During the day there may have been some bad moments, harsh words, disobedience, and punishment, but when the day ends, we don’t think about that stuff. As we watch them sleep, all we can think about is what a joy it is to have each child. Our hearts almost burst with love for them.

When I myself go to bed and fall asleep, what does my Father in heaven do? Does he look at me sleeping and smile tenderly? Does he put out of his mind what I did wrong that day for Jesus’ sake? Yes. Does his mighty heart swell with love? Yes. The Bible says that the Lord “grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). Like a father whose children are tucked in for the night, God loves and enjoys those who trust him and want to please him. “For the Lord delights in his people… Let the saints rejoice in this honour and sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:4-5).

How blessed for a slave to have a master like that, who didn’t threaten, but who encouraged his servants day by day. What a happy household that would be. Whom do you want to please? Maybe you’ve been wounded by lack of approval from people close to you. Perhaps you’ve never gotten over the hurt of disapproving parents, and even after they’ve grown old and died, something inside you still drives you to prove yourself to them. It’s normal to want to please your parents, but don’t be dominated and destroyed by your inability to please other humans. Put your faith in Jesus. God the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). If you trust Jesus and are linked to him, God loves you with the very same love he has for Jesus and is as pleased with you as with Jesus.
Believe that God accepts and approves of you for Jesus’ sake. Paul urges us, “find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10), and “make it [your] goal to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Love Jesus Christ, masters and slaves, and do what he says – that’s what delights him. Aim your whole life toward that final day when you will see Jesus face to face and hear him say, “Well done!” “At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

3. MASTERS YOU MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT TO THE LORD FOR YOUR DEALINGS WITH YOUR SLAVES.

This is another crucial motive that should govern the whole of our Christian life and living; namely, our accountability to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the realization of the fact that we are all his slaves, and that a time will come when we shall have to render up an account to him. There is a day of judgment coming for these extraordinary lives of ours; we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, “This is a principle which many dislike at the present time; indeed a dislike of this whole idea of accountability and judgment has been characteristic of much religious thinking during the whole of this present century. It is disliked, and has become most unpopular. People say, ‘Ah, but that is a very unworthy motive for living the Christian life’. You should live the Christian life, they say, because it is a noble and exalted life. You must not live it in terms of the fear of hell or of the hope of being in heaven. You must live the life for its own sake, because it is so good and so wonderful. You find that sentiment in some of the hymns. They condemn what they regard as a mercenary and a selfish motive.

“There was an ancient story which was quoted frequently in sermons and books a hundred years ago. It told of a man somewhere in Arabia or some such place who was seen walking along one day with a bucket of fire in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. Someone went to him and asked him, ‘What are you doing with that bucket of fire in one hand and that bucket of water in the other’? ‘Well’, said the man, ‘I am carrying the one bucket to burn up heaven, and I am carrying the other to quench the fires of hell.’ He was represented as being such a fine idealist, such a noble-hearted man, that he was not interested in avoiding hell or in gaining heaven; he believed in ‘goodness, beauty, and truth’ for their own sake.

“That kind of teaching came in about the middle of the nineteenth century. Men called ‘scholars’ began to say that the Bible was not divinely inspired in a unique sense, and they began to substitute for it their own philosophy. They put up ‘goodness, beauty, and truth’ in the abstract as the great principles for which men were to live, and they said it was not desirable that you should think of yourself at all. But that is by no means the Christian position; it is philosophy, idealism, but not Christianity. I say so because of the teaching of the New Testament, indeed I say so because of the teaching of the whole Bible. The Bible from beginning to end holds before us the idea of heaven and hell. It is God who appointed the two mountains Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal – in order to teach a vital lesson to the Children of Israel when they entered their Promised Land. According to whether they obeyed him or not they would have blessing or cursing” (D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit, Banner of Truth, 1974, pp.362 & 363).

So, masters, “Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.” Well, that’s your opinion, you say. How can anyone know it? I will tell you, it is because of Jesus’ resurrection. Just think of what happened to Jesus. Men in leadership, most of them slave-owners themselves, committed a terrible injustice in killing him, but God reversed that injustice by raising Jesus from the dead, showing him to be God’s Son and appointing him as judge over the entire world. Judge Jesus has endured horrible oppression and injustice, and he is perfectly equipped to judge slaves and their owners. His resurrection encourages us as we nurse our wounds and think what an unjust world this is. Never give up on justice; believe that the Lord will always have the final word. If you know that Jesus lives and that he is the appointed judge, you know that justice will triumph and that injustice will be overturned and punished.
It made a big difference for a slave to know that everything he did would be reviewed by Judge Jesus. It makes a big difference to me! Suppose you’re a local magistrate, a Justice of the Peace, then you know that if you make the wrong decision or you issue the wrong ruling, it can be appealed to a higher court. If you don’t want your decision overturned, you try to make the right decision. In a similar way, if you know that the supreme-court above all courts, the judge above all judges, Jesus Christ, will review your actions and consider appeals from anyone you’ve wronged, you will be more eager to do justice.

In Isaiah 11 the Bible describes what sort of judge Jesus will be:
“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.”

He has the whole world in his hands. The Lord Christ has the divine Spirit of knowledge, so it’s impossible to fool him. He doesn’t need to study evidence to figure out what happened or who is guilty. He doesn’t go by appearances. He doesn’t depend on hearsay or even on sworn testimony. He doesn’t need anyone to tell him what happened. He already knows. He doesn’t need to hear slave owner blame a slave and try to explain his behavior. He knows the exact degree of responsibility. He doesn’t need a jury to decide whether someone is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He already knows without any doubt at all. High-powered lawyers won’t help the guilty. Lack of lawyers won’t hurt the innocent. Money won’t buy Jesus off, and lack of money won’t matter. He will judge rich and poor alike according to his justice, not according to their wealth or influence.

Those who are wicked and won’t turn to God from their evil ways are doomed. That part of the judgment is often seen as bad news, but it’s necessary for what comes next: a world of perfect harmony. After telling how Jesus will judge in wisdom and destroy the wicked, Isaiah 11 says,
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

That is where the world will end, not where the evolutionist says it will end, and not where Bertrand Russell thought it would end, but God has gripped this world in redeeming love and his intention is to flood it with the knowledge of his own glory. It’s this magnificent future that makes God’s people sing about judgment. Final judgment is the step that will take this world beyond injustice and bloodshed to a flourishing new creation. The triumph of justice will mean the triumph of joy.

Deep down we all know evil ought to be avenged. The news dominating Wales last week was of a village bank where a local man gained the trust of many ordinary people who handed over their life-savings to him for investment. He lied to them of the great dividends their money was earning, but he stole it all and spent the money on gambling, race-horses and holidays in the most expensive hotels. He was sent to jail for twelve years, much to their satisfaction. It was not just a lust for punishment that makes us want court cases to end with the bad guys getting what they deserve, but we feel satisfied when justice is satisfied, when evil is conquered and punished. The book of Revelation says that when the Lord judges the world and punishes his enemies, God’s victorious people will sing, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments… He has avenged… the blood of his servants” (Revelation 19:1-2).

Do you know that someone has keeping an exact record of every moment in your life – not just the cruel slave-owners? Everything you’ve ever done, recorded by a video camera. Every word you’ve ever spoken, picked up by a microphone. Every thought, every mood, every secret desire that passed through your mind, picked up by some sort of mind reader. Even worse, imagine all this information being brought into the open and made public? Frightening, isn’t it?

We’re glad when the rotten behavior of certain people in places of trust and responsibility has been recorded and brought into the open. A politician tries to cover up his scandals, only to have clear records of his crimes uncovered, proving his guilt. A drug kingpin counts on high-powered lawyers to keep him out of prison, only to be confronted with a recording that shows him in the act. Most of us are glad when these people have to face up to their crimes; but how would you like it your entire life was placed on record and then laid bare for inspection and judgment?

Well, like it or not, it’s reality. Whatever your secrets might be, they won’t remain secret forever. Each and every moment of your life is being entered into a complete record, and that record is going to be evaluated publicly. Oh, there’s no camera or tape recorder following you around and no secret mind-reading device attached to you. But something more penetrating and accurate than any of these things is keeping track of you. The eye of God is on you. According to the Bible, God knows everything you do, everything you say, everything you think, and he stores every detail in his memory with greater accuracy than any notebook or video camera or computer disk. Nothing escapes his notice, and he forgets nothing. The day is coming when you will stand before God, and every detail of your life will be examined and judged by the standards of divine justice.

At the final judgment, every action will be examined. The Bible says beware slave owner, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Every action, whether good or bad, is on record: the gentle touch and the brutal blow; the time you helped your neighbor when he was sick, and the time you cheated on your wife or husband and nobody found out; the cheque you wrote to help needy children, and the shady business deal that made you richer at someone else’s expense; the days you worked hard and the nights you got drunk. God has a complete record of your best actions, your worst, and everything in between.

Along with all your actions, your words are also part of God’s record. Everything you’ve ever said is recorded word for word in God’s memory. As Jesus put it, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3).

Everything you’ve ever said, good or bad, has been recorded word for word: the hymns and the swear words; the encouraging compliments and the angry insults; the helpful instructions and the sexual smut; the promises you kept and the promises you broke; the helpful discussions and the cruel gossip. It’s all on record, and at the final judgment you will answer for each word. Jesus said, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

At the final judgment you will have to give account for everything you do and for everything you say and also for everything you think. When you act polite on the outside but are full of anger and hatred on the inside, God knows. When you undress someone in your mind and burn with lust for another person’s body, God knows. When you act religious, not because you love God, but because you want to impress others, God knows.

God says, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10) Scripture says says, “[God] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Hebrews 4:12-13 puts it this way: “The word of God… judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13). God can read your mind, and he judges what he finds there.

At the final judgment, there won’t be any need for DNA evidence or expert testimony or eyewitness accounts. The rich slave owner cannot escape with his bluster. God will know it all and he will bring it all into the open. There won’t be any lawyers or loopholes or appeals – God’s judgment is fair and final. God will issue his verdict and announce your destiny.
In Revelation 20, the Bible reveals a stunning vision of that day. The apostle John says:
“I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’

Men and women, that’s not just a vision or dream; that’s a glimpse of the future. When Jesus returns in blazing majesty, every last person who ever lived will be resurrected and will appear before the great white throne of God’s judgment. Slave and slave owner will be there. Caesar and the poorest beggar will be there. Those who died at sea will be there; those who died on land will be there. The important people will be there; the little people will be there. You’ll be there, and so will I. It’s a moment no one can avoid.

When you turn away from Jesus, you show that you don’t want a place in the book of life, and you add to all your other sins the terrible sin of spitting in God’s face. God sent his only begotten Son to open the way to heaven, so when you refuse God’s dear Son, you are insulting God himself. You ignore God’s revelation, you refuse his love, you reject his beloved Son Jesus, and for that, there is hell to pay.

So how about it? Are you ready to stand before the great white throne as the books are opened? Have you received Jesus as your Savior? Is your name is in the book of life? Are you living in the awareness that you will answer to God for every thought, word, and deed? Are you ready for the final judgment?

13th November 2005 GEOFF THOMAS