“Even if we trust Christ for our acquittal on the final day, we can all too easily seek to establish our own identity today. Even as we preach justification by faith, we can be practicing justification by preaching instead, where our sense of well-being depends on how our sermons are received. We can think our approval before the Father depends on our behavior. And if you fear God’s disapproval, then you will not approach him with joy.” Tim Chester.
Imagine facing Judgment Day every week.
Near to where I grew up, in the Oxfordshire village of South Leigh, is the parish church of St. James the Great. Over the chancel arch is a medieval wall painting depicting the final judgment.
To the left, the righteous rose from their graves to be welcomed into paradise. To the right, the damned were roped together to be dragged towards the gaping mouth of a huge red dragon. This is what the churchgoers of South Leigh saw every Sunday. And they would find no relief, even if they turned away. For on the wall of the south aisle, another wall painting depicted St. Michael weighing souls in a balance. More demons hover, ready to carry away those found wanting.
Heaven was a possibility for the churchgoers of South Leigh — but so was hell. And the church offered no assurance…
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