Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Be Extra Careful How You Judge" (Part 1) (Sept. 27, 2018)

          Throughout time, people have had the tendency to judge other people by different standards than they judge themselves.  Within the church this is also true.  The sins, faults, and shortcomings of others are often judged harshly while glaring sins in one’s own life are ignored.  Someone has wisely said “We need to deal with the faults of others as gently as our own.”  Jesus knew our tendency to judge with unbalanced scales would always be a problem for people; therefore He gives plenty of warnings to judge all things righteously.  Judgement itself is not really the problem, but it is the type of judgment we often use that is at issue.  Judgment should always we discerning and compassionate and free of hypocrisy to the greatest degree possible.

          We cannot make “righteous” judgments until we have the right view of God.  Many who do not know God at all are commonly passing judgments.  Many who could not quote John 3:16, the 23rd Psalm, or The Golden Rule seem to know Matthew 7:1 which says “Judge not that you be not judged.”  It has become a mantra for the biblically illiterate generation to justify their own behavior and the behavior of others to whom they are sympathetic.  The world likes the adage “I’m ok, you’re ok,” but that cannot be true.  It is not true because it would elevate diversity of thought to the place of the highest good over and above God’s Word or any other truth that could be viewed as absolute. 

          Sadly, many who do not care about the Ten Commandments, the resurrection of Christ, the second coming, Heaven, etc. somehow care about Matthew 7:1.  The reason is clear.  This verse is used by many to selectively “self justify” themselves, and is further used as a battering ram against anyone who tells them they are wrong. 

          If we take Matthew 7:1 in its most literal sense we cannot or should not judge anything, but is that what Jesus is teaching?  Clearly, no one could make it through a day of their lives without making many judgment calls.  In most contexts no one really cares if judgments are made.  For instance, consider two people watching a football game.  One says, “that coach should be fired!” Does the other one say “Judge not that you be not judged?”  How about two people watching a presidential debate.  One candidate says something one person watching does not like and he comments “That person should not be allowed to run for President.”  Does the other person respond “Judge not that you be not judged?”  What about if two people are talking and one says “I think Whataburger makes the best hamburgers around; they are so much better than McDonalds.”  Does the other respond “Judge not that you be not judged?”  What about a judge in a courtroom rendering a verdict?  Does the lawyer for the losing party stand and shout out “Judge not that you be not judged?”  What about if two people are talking and one says “I do not believe two men should be allowed to marry one another.”  The other responds “Judge not that you be not judged.”  Awe . . . Now finally, here is where we are likely to hear this verse quoted! There are plenty of examples that could be used here but we can easily see how selective we are about how that verse is used in our society?

          What is really going on here in Matthew 7:1 when Jesus warns about judgment is that He is continuing the same theme of the entire Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7) and emphasizing the necessity of making righteous judgments in all things.  Again, apart from a right view of God, there will be no righteous judgments made.

          Jesus made judgments all the time.  He judged people, He judged places, and He judged things.  He is though emphasizing the importance of exercising the right kind of judgment as a part of overall righteous living in all things.  Commentator David Turner writes “The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount clearly would not deny the existence of moral absolutes from which one can make absolute statements about right and wrong, good and evil . . . Jesus Himself makes such judgments.” (David L. Turner; Matthew; BECNT; 205)  How then can we be righteous in our judgments?  Hebrews 5:14 is very instructive here. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  The key word here is “Maturity.”  Without spiritual maturity we will not be able to make righteous decisions; we probably will not even come close!  Right judgment begins with God’s Word; not with us!

          We have probably all made statements which were perceived by someone else as passing harsh judgment and condemnation on another and it was not received well.  I remember one such time where someone reacted to something I wrote by responding “Only God can judge.”  My response to this lady was “You are absolutely right.  But, on what basis does He judge?”  What I wanted this lady to see was that God has already told us in His Word, the Bible, how He judges all things.  It is no mystery; there is no guesswork when it comes to major moral issues.  Any ambiguity is only in a person’s mind or can be attributed to their lack of understanding.

          When people say we cannot and should not judge things that are clearly discussed in His Word they are, in effect, saying God’s Word is not sufficient on the matter at hand, or perhaps on any matter!  That is a grave error.  What kind of God would tell us something is wrong in His written Word when He really considers it right or ok?  Or, what kind of God would tell us something is good or ok in His written Word when in reality He does not consider it right or ok?  Only a very cruel, whimsical, sort of God would mislead the ones He created down the wrong path.  Scripture says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  We can be supremely confident that God will judge all people according to His written, revealed Word.  It is the most fair and loving thing He could possibly do.

          When we judge with righteous or Godly judgment, we are judging with God’s Word clearly guiding us.  With the knowledge we then poses we can help guide others toward the truth.  To accept everything at face value and leave people alone in their sins just because they quip “Judge not” is not the most loving thing to do.  Jude, in his epistle, warned others to have compassion and save some so as by fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude vs. 22-23)  Satan has fooled and is fooling many into thinking their sins are all ok, and further he has fooled many into believing that acceptance of sin and sinful lifestyles are the most loving thing to do; but God’s Word is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword and can cut through everything else finally making its way to the sinful human heart.  It is the heart that needs to be changed.  Until the heart desires God, everything else it desires will fail to satisfy.  As we judge righteously, we need to remember everything begins with the right view of God.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"The Rule that is Golden" (Sept. 19, 2018)


          One of the basic laws of physics is that for every action, there is a corresponding reaction.  We learn this principle as children.  I learned early on that certain behavior would cause me to be spanked, certain behavior would earn me compliments and praise, certain behavior would cause me to get hurt, and certain behavior would bring me happiness.  Very early in our development we come to understand that actions carry consequences, therefore we have great need to control our actions.

          In Matthew 7:12, Jesus gives what came to be known as “The Golden Rule.”  The verse says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV)  The basic principle of this Golden Rule shows up quite often in a variety of places and forms.  It is unique in that it is stated positively.  There are several ancient sayings from various writers that are comparable to The Golden Rule, but these writers and philosophers always stated it in negative terms.  Probably the most famous of these sayings comes from the Great Rabbi Hillel who wrote “What is hateful to yourself, do to no other; that is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.” (Rabbi Hillel; Shabboth; 31a)  Notice his negative perspective.  It has been pointed out that Rabbi Hillel, and other writers and philosophers, are coming at it from, what is in fact, a selfish perspective.

          The Golden Rule that Jesus gave us is simple enough that it is one of the first things children are taught in Sunday School and one of the first verses they memorize.  However, truly living by The Golden Rule is difficult.  Even the secular world recognizes the need for people to live this way and occasionally makes attempts to get people to follow the concept.  For instance, The Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles’ final word for those who must take their safe dirving course is “Treat other drivers as you would want to be treated.” 

          Some have called for the performance of random acts of kindness based on this verse.  You have no doubt heard of persons paying for the person behind them at a toll booth or a drive through.  Most anyone could agree that if we lived day by day by The Golden Rule, the world would be a much better place.  The implications are limitless but just a few examples make the point.  If you do not want someone littering on your property, then do not litter on any one else’s property.  If you do not want to be laughed at and made fun of then you should not laugh at and make fun of anyone else.  If you do not want anyone to lie to you, you should not lie to anyone else.  If you do not want anyone cheating you, you should not cheat anyone else.  If you want others to tell you the truth always, then you should always tell the truth.  There really is no end to the practical implications of what Jesus teaches in Mat. 7:12. Sadly, as sinful human beings, we often have a double standard.  We are much more likely to live by the adage “Do not do to me what I am doing to you!”  Far too many people live by the “Law of the Jungle” (“Kill or be Killed”) than by The Golden Rule.

          One mistake many make is trying to follow a social or secular version of The Golden Rule done only in human strength, will, and determination.  It fails because people fail.  The best approach is to start where Jesus taught we should start and that is with God.  How much you really love God and how committed you are to His Word will determine, more than anything else, how much you love other people and therefore respect them and treat them properly.

          The Golden Rule is regarded as an exegesis of the great positive commandment of Leviticus 19:18 which says “You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”  In Matthew 22, the religious leaders had come to Jesus, questioning Him, and asked Him which is the greatest commandment of all.  Jesus’ response is given in vs. 37-40.  “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Mat. 22:37-40).  Until we love God properly, we are not going to love people properly.  Nothing should characterize God’s people (the church) any more than “love.”  We should love one another and care for one another!  First John 4:7-8, 11 says “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  If you claim to be a Christian and the concept of love, and talk about love makes you uneasy or uncomfortable, then you might want to consider that you do not know Christ as Savior.  Love is what it is all about!  What then sums up the Law and the Prophets?  Love!  God gave His law because He loved His people and wanted them to do what was right.  He knew that He needed to tell them what was right or they would not know.  God sent His prophets because He loved His people and wanted to warn them that they faced discipline for their sin if they did not return to Him.

          One of the most important things we need to keep in the front of our minds as we go through life is that we are sinners.  If we ever lose sight of our own “humanity” and subsequent “sinfulness” we will have a highly skewed view of God and others.  The key to success is to keep the proper view of God; then having the proper view of others will come surprisingly natural.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way “It helps us to see others as we should see them.  We see them now, no longer as hateful people who are trying to rob us of our rights, or trying to beat us in the race for money, or position or fame; we see them, as we see ourselves, as the victims of sin and of Satan, as the dupes of ‘the god of this world,’ as fellow creatures who are under the wrath of God and hell bound.  We have an entirely new view of them.  We see them to be exactly as we are ourselves, and we are both in a terrible predicament.  And we can do nothing; but both of us together must run to Christ and avail ourselves of His wonderful grace.  We begin to enjoy it together and we want to share it together.  That is how it works.  It is the only way whereby we can ever do unto others as we would that they should do unto us.  It is when we are really loving our neighbor as ourselves because we have been delivered from the throws of self, that we begin to enjoy ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God.’” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Vol. 2; 214-15)

          Love must be the motivating factor if we are to live out The Golden Rule.  We must first love God supremely and then because of that love for Him, we are able to properly love one another and treat others the way, we ourselves want to be treated.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor