The Full-Blown Consequence Engine
Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
–Galatians 6:7-9, emphasis added
God always rewards good and eventually punishes all evil. No detail, no matter how minute, escapes His attention. But most lost people and many immature believers speculate that God, because He is good, grants some type of general amnesty to people by adding up the good deeds and subtracting the bad. And then, they suppose, He throws in some extra mercy here and there so that just about everybody can make it to heaven one way or another.
Nothing could be further from Christ’s Word in the Bible. Every human choice and action has consequences, whether good or ill. We are all affected by the choices others make as well. This reality of consequences, and God’s laws that govern the physical and spiritual universe, I like to call “The Consequence Engine.” The concept of the consequence engine is captured in Galatians 6:7-9.
The negative consequence engine operates for everyone in daily life. For example, driving over the speed limit can get us a speeding ticket, and driving under the influence can have more severe consequences. Not paying the rent usually causes a renter to lose his residence. Not showing up for work on time can get one fired. And the slightest disobedience to the Drill Sergeant in military basic training can prove painfully costly.
“Sensible people” who are law-abiding and “moral” cause less trouble for themselves in this life, and are better as long as they live–compared to the person who is irresponsible, promiscuous, or abuses alcohol or drugs, and can’t hold a job.
Neither type of individual may end up in heaven, but this present life is less painful for people who see the intrinsic order in the world and who follow it as best they can, even if their motives are self-serving, and even if they do not know God.
Always remember that God takes note of everything that is going on. Nothing escapes His notice, especially a person’s motives: Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light . . . the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:5, NIV).
The record books of life are being kept up daily by recording angels who miss no details. Judgment is totally fair and just, even for the lost. Punishment is appropriately proportional, following the great principle outlined in Romans 2. God weighs the motives of the heart as well as behavior, and He takes into account the individual’s actual knowledge of God.
Nonbelievers do not cease to exist when they die, nor do they pass into limbo or purgatory. After death they end up intact and conscious at the last judgment, which is the full-blown consequence engine in action for what was done in the flesh on earth: I saw the dead . . . standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea . . . and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works (Revelation 20:12-13).
For the Christian, however, all sin is forgivable, but all sin also has consequences. We will not be judged for our sins, which have been paid in full by Jesus, but, like everyone else, we certainly will be thoroughly evaluated for all our choices in life. We cannot escape this fact: all choices in life have positive or negative consequences.
We only have two building materials in life-what will last (positive consequences) and what will not (negative consequences). That is another New Testament description of the consequence engine at work in the believer. What we do (build) will ultimately either endure, or suffer loss (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
What counts most, actions that lead to positive consequences, are the works Jesus does in and through us when we make ourselves available to God. The basic rule of Christian life is this: “Nothing coming from me–everything coming from Christ!”
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