St. Paul's Lutheran Church

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Scripture: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:10

According to the Scripture, God has setup two seats. One is for the judgment of those who are proud and refuse to confess their sins. The other is the mercy seat for the poor, timid, and burdened consciences who feel their sins and confess them, who fear God’s judgment and hope in His grace.

Paul calls the mercy seat Christ Jesus (Romans 3:25). This mercy seat is also found atop the Ark of the Covenant where the lamb’s blood was poured each year on Yom Kippur. At the mercy seat, we find refuge because, on our own, we could never stand to God’s judgment. Even after our justification and sanctification, we continue to sin, and we sin much, and we do so little to curb our sin; we hardly help the poor or the needy at all. We sin against God’s Law by dishonoring His name, His gifts, and His glory, and we sin against God’s Law by refusing to be the help and image of God to our neighbor. No matter how we might look to others, our hearts and our consciences will count for nothing on judgment day.

But our hearts and consciences are covered by a great and mighty canopy called mercy and forgiveness! May our hearts and consciences crawl beneath it and be safe.

This is why God has taught His apostles and pastors to preach that everyone who believes in Christ will receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43) and “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), and why Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the mercy seat of God — Christ Jesus our Lord — and only in Him are we taken away from the judgment seat.

No man can hide his sin behind human endeavor or attempts at self-worth. This was the miserable work of Adam and Eve who, after sinning, covered themselves in their own workings and tried to hide from God. They stood before the judgment seat, and God wrapped them in animal skins both to show them the miserableness of what they had done and draw continued repentance, but also to prefigure how He would save them from their sins, through the death of an innocent. The animal skin was a sign of God’s mercy to come in His only Son.

Likewise, we cannot hide our sins behind good works or excuses. Our attempts at justifying ourselves by blaming others, blaming society, blaming circumstance will only lead to judgment. Instead, our Lord calls us to repent of our sins, to confess them as an impoverished beggar confesses his need for help, and to hide ourselves in the greater garment, the covering of Christ and His righteousness.

Heavenly Father, save me from the wrath of Your judgment and cover me instead with the blood of Your only Son. Give me faith that I might daily repent of my sins and works of the flesh and ignite in me a love of good works and service to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.