The Prodigal Son made 2 mistakes:
1. He rejected his father’s authority. The first step that gets us into trouble is the one that takes us away from God. Like the prodigal, you leave home saying, “Give me.” If you’re fortunate to come to your senses you’ll come back home saying, “Forgive me.” God loves you. Everything we need He provides.
2. He left his father’s house. The Devil will do whatever it takes to get you out of the influence of God and His protection. He’ll put a restless spirit in you so that nothing makes you happy.
2 areas he’ll work hard to generate discontent:
A. Your marriage. That’s why you constantly need to be working on it. Your marriage isn’t just a covenant before God, it’s a shelter for your passions and dysfunctions.
B. Your church. Who feeds you spiritually? Would you let your children stay home from school because they don’t like the teachers? We need to be a part of a fellowship where we are learning AND giving.
The thief on the cross teaches us three important truths:
1. No one is ever too far gone. When you’re tempted to think anyone is beyond the reach of grace, remember the criminal on the cross.
2. Your real message is your life. When your life draws the attention of lost people, you have sufficient proof to back up the words you use.
3. All God requires and accepts is simple faith. The thief didn’t doubt…he didn’t have to make any promises. He believed with all His heart and was saved.
If you read yesterday’s post then you know that I think the Scriptures teach us that we’re responsible for our fellow Christians and that part of that responsibility is “judging,” that is discerning right from wrong in hopes that we can become all that God is calling us to be. I was also clear that this not include “judging” those outside the Body of Christ. That’s not our job and why should we expect anyone outside the Church to live by God’s standards.
So Paul says a certain kind of judgment among followers of Christ is kosher. What are some parameters for this judgment?
Let’s start with a warning from Jesus:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
Rule #1: Hypocrisy is out. Jesus says that we are not to judge as if we’re exempt from judgment ourselves. Don’t go around pointing out specks while acting as if you don’t have planks of your own. In other words, humility is a pre-requisite.
Rule #2: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty” (James 2:12). “The law of liberty” means that when we judge ourselves, or others, or a situation, we are to do so guided by the belief that Jesus brings freedom, not condemnation. Our guiding principle for disciplining and rebuking is not malice or jealousy or despair, but love and concern and hope. We judge not to tell people they are going to hell, but to remind them that Christ has brought heaven. It’s not to say, “This is where you’re going,” but to say, “There’s a better way.”
Rule #3: Be very careful. If more Christians practiced judgment of each other that was devoid of hypocrisy and according to liberty, we’d not only all be better off, we’d also have a better view of judgment altogether.
There’s a difference between judging and being judgmental. People have been burned too many times by judgmentalism, but the Church could use a whole lot more righteous judgment. What’s the difference? Judgment says, “This falls short of God’s standard and He calls us to a better way.” Judgmentalism says, “Everyone but me falls short of God’s standard, and thank goodness I’m here to constantly remind you that you are probably condemned.” One is a reflection of God’s holiness; the other is a reflection of man’s works. One is in respect of God; the other is in admiration of self.
Are we allowed to judge others? Because if iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), and if we are to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16), and if we are meant to rebuke sharply (Titus 1:3), and if those who are in authority are to be submitted to (Romans 13:2-3)…How does any of that happen without judgments occurring?
Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save the world through himself (John 3:17).
Jesus will convict you, and Jesus will judge your sin. But provided you repent and follow him, Jesus does not bring condemnation. He brings forgiveness.
That is the spirit of judgment we are to have for each other. We are permitted, and in fact commanded, to judge others. First of all, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about judging those inside the community of faith, not outside. This tells us 2 things:
- We’re responsible for our brothers and sisters in Christ, to bring discipline and conviction to each other in the hopes of further making the body of Christ holy as God is holy.
- We have no business judging people who are not Christians.
Look, lost people do lost things. That is just common sense. Treating people who don’t know Christ like they should behave as if they do know Christ is just naive, and it says more about our own state of ungodliness than it does theirs.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about parameters for this judgment.
1. A thorn-cursed creation. When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, “Cursed is the ground for your sakes…thorns…it shall bring forth for you…In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground (Genesis 3:17-19).” Everything changed in that moment to frustration, brokenness…thorns.
2. A thorn-crowned savior. “When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on his head (Matthew 27:29).” The curse that fell in a garden was lifted in a garden! At the cross, Christ became our Savior and Substitute, securing our salvation. Adam lost fellowship with God, immortality, sinless perfection. At the cross, Christ reclaimed and restored all those to us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Notice the words “in Christ.” Thirty-one times in the New Testament we read these words of affirmation that God loves and accepts us “in Christ.”
Heaven’s answer to a thorn-cursed creation/fall was a thorn-crowned savior. But notice something important. God didn’t remove the thorns. He uses them for redemptive purposes.
That’s why we get 3. A custom-designed thorn. Paul describes his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
If Paul’s experience is anything to go by, the Christian life is a series of blessings and buffetings. And the God who promises the first, permits the second. Why? To make sure we live our lives dependent on Him. Look what God used to make sure Paul relied totally on Him!
A hot temper…
1. Drives a wedge between you and your loved ones. Angry people intimidate others and rob them of their sense of security. Psychologists say it’s a leading cause of divorce, child abuse, and addiction.
2. Undermines a life that pleases God. James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Your anger isn’t just “your own business,” it’s God’s business too because it hinders your ability to live the life He intended.
3. Blinds you to reality. Looking through the lens of misguided anger, you see only what you choose to see. It causes you to focus on options like revenge and retribution.
Sometimes I hear a Christian say, “I left that church because I wasn’t being fed.” That’s always sad, assuming it’s true. It’s sad that their pastor wasn’t preaching winsome, Bible-centered messages (assuming he wasn’t). But it’s also sad because why did that person think it was only the preacher’s job to feed them?
Mark Batterson put it this way in his book Primal,
“My kids learned to feed themselves when they were toddlers. If you’re not being fed, that’s your fault. I’m afraid we’ve unintentionally fostered a subtle form of spiritual codependency in our churches. It is easy to let others take responsibility for what should be our responsibility. So we let our pastors study the Bible for us. Here’s a news flash: the Bible was unchained from the pulpit nearly 500 years ago during an era of history called the Middle Ages (75).
If you are relying on a pastor to be fed, I feel bad for you. Listening to a message is secondhand information. It’s not replacement for firsthand knowledge. I’d rather have people hear one word from God than a 1000 from my sermons. And that happens when you read, study and meditate the Bible.
What do I ACTUALLY value? Well, what’s the first thing I think about in the morning? What do I find myself talking about the most? What’s the last thing I think about when my head hits the pillow at night?
When you boil it down, questions about priority are questions about faith. If I have faith that God will care for me, it frees me to live with a certain set of priorities (that don’t have a lot to do with money, possessions, or leaving a good impression).
God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.