The final judge = only God

By Dave Henning / March 29, 2023

“Here is the essence of what Christianity gives us.  Only God is the final judge of who we are and what we have done.  If — and only if — he is, then God can overrule our heart’s guilt and condemnation.  If he says we are forgiven, then we are, and we can tell our hearts to quiet themselves.”- Timothy Keller

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”- 1 John 3:20 (NIV)

In Chapter 9 (“Receiving God’s Forgiveness”) of Forgive, Timothy Keller underscores your need to first experience God’s forgiveness of your sins against Him.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to fully forgive others.  To deal rightly with others’ guilt, we must first deal with our guilt.

However, Pastor Keller notes, secular approaches provide no way to help anyone judge between true guilt and false guilt feelings.  So, the author asks, how do we respond to someone who frankly states, ‘I cannot forgive myself’?  Modern culture declares the individual their own highest authority.  Hence, Pastor Keller wonders, what happens when the self is weighed down with guilt nonetheless?

No outside human agent possesses the power to overturn self-inflicted sanctions.  Only God serves as the final judge.  Most significantly, Pastor Keller explains:

“Christianity does not minimize the wrongness of sin yet still provides a powerful antidote for guilt.  The ‘sweet antidote’ that Macbeth yearned for does exist.  But to experience divine forgiveness requires making a crucial distinction — between true and false guilt.  After doing this, it requires turning to God.”

In conclusion, Pastor Keller describes two kinds of guilty people.  People who:

  1. should feel guilty for their deeds.  Because, on an objective basis, some things are evil.  Therefore, the perpetrator is guilty, regardless of his/her beliefs and feelings about the deed.
  2. bear inordinate guilt feelings that seem out of proportion to the deed.

As a result, Christianity provides enormous help.  It applies a standard by which to discern true guilt from false guilt.

Today’s question: How do you respond to people who dismiss God as their final judge?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: True guilt and false guilt feelings”

About the author

Dave Henning

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