Christianity 201

January 19, 2018

The Struggle With Judging

So there I was at the devotional page at Daily Paradigm Shift, reading the devotional which follows and I was thinking that it was a bit shorter than what we usually use, but something about it struck me as worth bookmarking for later use.

Then yesterday, I came back to the site and reexamined the article, and discovered it was written by Rebekah B. who is only 15 years old, and I’m asking myself, ‘Why do I have so many problems getting adults I know to consider writing devotional pieces, when here is a 15-year old doing so well at this?’

Crickets.

Anyway, when not at Daily PS — or six other websites where her material has appeared — her own blog is The Narrow Road for Teens.

Should Christians Judge?

What does God say about judging others?

Christians sometimes get confused with the concept of judging. Biblically we are commanded to judge (John 7:24 says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make it right judgement). Then at the same time we are biblically told that we are not to judge. (Matthew 7:1 NIV, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.)

So, which is it?

Jesus knew that we would struggle with judging.  This is why He gave us a strict warning in His Word saying, Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure that you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 NIV)

This verse is not telling us that we should never judge. Obviously, we make judgments every day between right and wrong. What Jesus is telling us here is to not judge others hypocritically. He is telling us to remove the plank from our own eye so that we may help the other person.

We should not be judgmental of others when our own sins need to be corrected as well.

Just as we are commanded to not condemn others, we are also commanded to not ignore sin. This requires the act of judging others in a biblical way.

It is important to be able to discern the difference between the judging.  There is judging that is mentioned in Matthew 7:1-5 and the biblical kind of judgement mentioned in John 7:24 NIV.Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

If I am to see a fellow believer sinning, I am biblically instructed to confront the person. In a respectful and loving manner of course.  Matthew 18:15-17 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just go between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen to even to the church, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.  

The ultimate goal in confronting someone is to bring that person to repentance. We are called to judge sin with the goal of bringing repentance and reconciliation.

God commands us to point out the truth with hope, love, and Christ-like compassion.

Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

I hope this helped you understand the difference between biblical judgement and non-biblical judgement.

In closing I leave you with this verse. “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

 

December 29, 2017

When is it Right to Judge?

I mentioned on December 20th that I was so impressed by the material by Colin Sedgwick at Welcome to Sedgonline, that we now return for an extra visit this month (plus a link to a third article) before our “six month rule” kicks in!  Click the title to read the first one at source.

Is it ever right to judge?

Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”. Matthew 7:1

The minister stood at the church door to greet people after the service. The sermon hadn’t been an easy one to preach. He had spoken about sexual morality, and had stressed particularly the biblical ideal of marriage – one man and one woman, for life – and he knew that not everyone would take it kindly.

(He knew too, of course, that the ideal is exactly that: an ideal. And that God is compassionate and forgiving towards those who may have failed to achieve it.)

One woman had just a very brief comment to make: “I prefer to live my life according to Matthew 7:1. Goodbye.” By which she meant, of course: “I believe in not making judgments on the way other people live their lives.”

Was her frosty comment right?

In one sense, of course, yes. We should not judge others in the sense of condemning them. We are all sinners, so the sins we should take most seriously are… our own. Jesus goes on to make this clear in his words about the speck of sawdust and the plank: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?… You hypocrite…” Point taken!  Ultimately, God alone is qualified to judge.

But in another sense she was wrong. Taking Matthew 7:1 as a stand-alone text – treating it as if it says everything that needs to be said – simply creates chaos.

Somebody has calculated that the Bible as a whole contains 31,102 verses (depending on which version you use), so if that minister had had the chance he could well have replied to the woman, “Er, yes, of course, Matthew 7:1 is great verse – but what about the Bible’s other 31,101 verses? What about verses that put a different angle on the matter – shouldn’t they be taken into account as well?”

For if you take Matthew 7:1 as the only word on the subject of judging, it implies that there are no rights and wrongs at all. Somebody commits murder? Oh dear, that’s bad – but, of course, Jesus says I mustn’t judge them. Somebody operates an internet scam and robs people of millions of pounds? Mmm, that sounds pretty dodgy as well. But of course Jesus says I mustn’t judge them…

Fact: some things are right and some things are wrong. And we shouldn’t shy away from saying so.

Jesus himself wasn’t afraid to point this out: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13) Not exactly non-judgmental, that, eh?

In the early days of the church Simon Peter had to deal with a case of gross dishonesty by a couple called Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). So what did he say: “Ananias and Sapphira, you have done a seriously bad thing – but of course I am forbidden by the Lord Jesus to judge you”? Er, no. No: he spoke some quite frightening words: “… how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…?” Non-judgmental?

A little later Saul (before he became known as Paul) was confronted on the island of Cyprus by “a sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus” (Acts 13:6-12). This man comes in for similar rough treatment: “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!” Again, non-judgmental?

The fact is that when we see evil and wickedness, whether in others or mainly in ourselves, something is wrong if we don’t recognize it as such.

But, having said that, shouldn’t our main reaction be one of sorrow?

This, I think, is what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). He wasn’t talking about bereaved people or people attending a funeral; he was talking about people who shake their heads in sadness as they look into the darkness in their own hearts, and as they survey the sorry state of our world – the lies, the corruption, the greed, the vice and immorality, the violence.

Such people aren’t self-righteous or “holier-than-thou”; no, they are people who have looked a little into the heart of God, who have been moved by the beauty and purity they have seen there, and who long for things to be different. They are people who pray, as Jesus taught us: “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) – and who add “including in my heart”.

Is that a prayer you can pray with sincerity? If it is, I think that means you can stand up for what is right, and denounce what is wrong, without being guilty of judging others where you shouldn’t.

Lord God, save me from fault-finding, criticizing and condemning others. Help me to see clearly my own sins and failings – but at the same time not to be afraid to uphold what is good, right and true. Amen.


This topic raises another important issue – how easy it is, like that woman at the church door, to misuse the Bible. It might be helpful to have a think about that next. See this article by the same author.

November 3, 2012

Giving Your Best to God

Just as parts of the southern hemisphere are, I’m sure, switching to “summer time,” as it’s called in many places, we here in North American are changing from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time tomorrow morning. The graphic above infers that people who chronically arrive late for church may experience the horror of arriving early.

I don’t know why it is, but some people who would never for a moment consider arriving late for work think nothing of arriving late for church. We touched on this very briefly here once before, but I want to look at it more closely this time.

Maybe it’s because Christianity is all about grace, but we tend to have a rather casual approach to worship, to scriptures, and to God Himself. I’ve quoted this before: “It is said that of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their own scriptures.” We hear stories of evangelical church buildings in disrepair, of ministry organizations that don’t return calls or emails, and of Sunday School teachers who don’t prepare their lessons, opting instead to ‘wing it’ each week.

While the idea that we should “give our best to God” is well known, it is not well practiced. The Bible tends not to talk about “best” so much, but adheres to the more agrarian language of “giving our firstfruits.”

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops

This nomenclature is unfamiliar to most of us; but my first observation is to note that the NIV (and other translations) don’t treat this as an adjective followed by a plural noun (as in “first fruits”) but as an entity onto itself, as one word, “firstfruits.”

Related to this is the similarity in scripture to the concept of “firstborn.”

Psalm 105:36
Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their manhood.

Unfortunately today, there is a great cognitive distance from thinking of our firstborn children, to setting aside the first part of our “increase” (which today is mostly wages, but could be investment earnings or business transaction profits) to God. Our offspring are extremely personal, but the value of our firstfruits isn’t highly regarded.

In fact, we tend to look an opt-out wherever possible.

  • Should I tithe on the gross income or the net income?
  • Isn’t tithing an Old Testament concept?
  • Is God interested in excellence, or does he just want our hearts?
  • Isn’t requiring weekly church attendance more about law than grace?

There’s a lot of opting out going on right now. Has God changed his mind on ideas like,

Exodus 23:19
“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.

The term fristfruits doesn’t appear in the New Testament, but there are more than hints of excellence in worship and life:

1 Corinthians 14:40
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

1 Corinthians 16:14
Do everything in love.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Personally, I think that arriving late for church is symptomatic of a greater problem. Or several problems. The same goes for halfhearted singing, preaching, praying and serving.

We should approach weekend worship as though we are coming directly into the presence of God because, well, we are.

~Paul Wilkinson

June 13, 2012

Guardians of Truth

The last twenty-four hours have been rather stressful here, so today I clicked over to Daily Encouragement because I knew that their devotional ministry is reliable.  I think it’s important that certain kinds of blogs, and all churches and small group meetings be consistent.  People need to know they can depend on you to be there.  And Stephen and Brooksyne embody all that: Dependability, reliability and consistency.

Their message on Tuesday was titled “To avoid being pulled into error, keep a firm grip on the truth!” That is certainly needed these days. Because we operate the only Christian bookstore in our county, one local pastor referred to us “gatekeepers.” I hadn’t thought about that aspect of our role until he said that, but I now see what he meant. Certainly every book or CD or DVD had to pass through our filter in order to get stocked in the store. (And a few times that judgment got criticized by people who wanted to nitpick over the inclusion of a title they personally disagreed with!)

Anyway, I encourage you to read what follows, or better yet, click here to read today’s thoughts.

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9). “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14,15).

The daily texts describe the volatility of those who fail to grow and mature in Christ and become properly grounded. They become unstable like “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” The writer of Hebrews warned, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines”.

Today we see a departure from the course of Biblical faith and standards that our forefathers could hardly have imagined. Even in my own lifetime who would have predicted just thirty years ago that something as foundational as the basic constitution of holy marriage between a man and a woman would be a serious issue of departure?

Some of our readers have been forced by biblical conviction to leave their church due to leadership that has deviated from God’s Holy Word. Tragically, some pastors are basing their teaching more on the popularity of opinion polls than the unwavering truths presented by our Creator. I am very wary of “evolving views” based on current opinion polls and the views of popular entertainers and supposedly elite academics.

False teaching is a perpetual danger for God’s people. It was a concern in the New Testament age, all through church history and certainly abounds in our own day

1) I call on my pastor peers to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2) and “Teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Resist the temptation to preach so you will be loved by the world or following after the fads that flood the church.

2) I call on dedicated followers of Christ to implement the God-ordained means to stability and health in your spiritual lives. Through our unwavering commitment to read God’s Word and through the practice of other spiritual disciplines the character of Christ is developed in us as we are rooted and grounded in Him who is the Head, which results in long-term spiritual stability.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
(click this link for the main site and bookmark it in your computer)

Daily prayer:  Father, Your warnings regarding the deluge of deceitful tactics from the enemy is evidenced all around us – through the media, books, false prophets and even well-meaning but confused individuals. Your Word is the stabilizing and authoritative doctrinal manual for all that we need for life and godliness. Help us to be wise, studied, and vigilant so that we correctly discern good from bad, truth from error.

In Your holy name we pray, Amen

June 7, 2012

Redemptive Non-Conformity

The nonconformity we have been called to embody is a sort that is about healing not wounding, including not excluding, loving not despising, peacemaking not war mongering. It is a redemptive nonconformity to which we have been called…

Today’s post is from the blog Red Letter Christians (Tony Campolo and Friends), and was written by Disciples of Christ pastor Craig M. Watts.  You are encouraged to read this at source — you might find other articles there you like! — where it appeared under the title Gracious Conformity.

As followers of Jesus we are to be different from others. We are to be, as a biblically derived phrase puts it, “in the world but not of the world” (John 15:19; 17:14). Our perspective and actions are supposed to reflect something heavenly. It is not that we are to be so “heavenly minded” that we’re “no earthly good.” But we are committed, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer, to God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” So if we are not a bit odd in some ways, we are probably not doing discipleship right.

To put it in another way, following Jesus requires that we be nonconformists. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your minds that you know what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). But not all nonconformity is equal. As Christians we are not to be different as an end in itself. Unfortunately, too often Christians have been different in ugly, unredemptive ways.

Sometimes Christians and churches get known above all for what they are against. The most publicized small church in the country is the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. It made its reputation through the crass, over-the-top anti-homosexual protests the church members have staged around the country. They have even picketed military funerals and trampled on American flags, while waving crude signs claiming God “hates” one group of people or another. They even created a song called “God Hates the World,” an adaptation of “We Are the World.” While the Westboro bunch is the most visibly extreme, they certainly aren’t alone, far from it.

We who follow Jesus are called to be nonconformists but not because we judge, condemn and hate more than others. The nonconformity we have been called to embody is a sort that is about healing not wounding, including not excluding, loving not despising, peacemaking not war mongering. It is a redemptive nonconformity to which we have been called. Ours is a life-affirming, hope-filled, gracious nonconformity. This is not to suggest there is nothing we should oppose. We oppose those things that promote hate, callousness and self-centeredness. We oppose attitudes that excuse violence and ignore suffering. We must do so because such things undermine the broad and generous love shown to us in Jesus.

Jesus never threw his support to the best positioned, best armed or most wealthy people of his time. When he spoke words of judgment, these were the ones on the receiving end. The poor, persecuted or marginalized were not; instead, these were bestowed with the word “blessed” and Jesus called his followers to welcome them (Luke 6:20-22; 14:12-14). But those who cast their lot with outcasts often share their fate. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “I choose to identify with the underprivileged, I choose to identify with the poor, I choose to give my life for the hungry, I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity.” And we know his fate.

It is not easy to be gracious nonconformists. Tremendous pressure- something subtle, sometimes overt- is placed on us so that we will align ourselves with the powers-that-be. Fear of rejection and reprisal, on the one hand, and hopes of reward, on the other, keep us in line. Self-deception allows us to plead ignorance even when we should know better than to go along with those whose interests are too narrow and whose methods are too harsh.

Conforming to the standards of those who are at the center of power and privilege surely has its rewards. But the One we claim to follow was not an advocate of self-interest but a model of self-sacrifice. He reached out to the rejected and reached down to the fallen to the displeasure of the powerful. This One we believe to be God incarnate calls us to follow him. “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Craig M. Watts

December 18, 2010

When Worldliness Invades

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

Other than perhaps a much more liberal use of the word ‘crap’ in the last 2-3 years, I am somewhat guarded in my speech, at least when there are ladies, small children, or anyone else present.

As a writer, I’m also very conscious of changes taking place in language. So back a few years, I couldn’t help but notice the way the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty Pennington advanced the broadcast use of the expression, “Oh, My God!” The show’s final segment — called “the reveal” — would contain at least a dozen utterances of this phrase which, unless the participants were truly calling on God to give thanks for the new housing they were about to receive, amounted to a needless invocation of God’s name that I believe the third commandment is referring to.

The proliferation in print and texts of its abbreviation, “OMG,” unless it a reference to the Ohio Macrame Guild, is equally disturbing.

There are some lines I am very assured I will never cross, and speaking the OMG line in either form or using it print is certainly one of those lines. Still, I often find myself falling into an OMG mindset, where I don’t audibly say the words, but think either them, or something reflective of the spirit of them. Unless I am truly crying out to God — and I wonder how many of us today really cry out to Him — I shouldn’t allow that phrase to be part of my unspoken vocabulary.

But what do I mean by the “spirit” of that expression?

I can probably best illustrate that with another three-letter text gem, ‘WTF.’ If you believe this has something to do with a wildlife federation, then I envy you, since such ignorance is truly bliss. It means something else. (Go to the last letter for clues…)

WTF is somewhat of an attitude. It expresses a familiar kind of bewilderment, but is in some respects a statement of a kind of confusion or Twilight Zone moment that didn’t really have a previous equivalent in colloquial speech.

Which is why I was rather amazed to hear it in church recently.

No, it wasn’t uttered out loud — either as an acronym or fully — but the highly respected Christian leader I was talking to was clearly dancing around it. You could feel the tension of the self editing taking place. The words used were different, but the articulation was intended to convey the spirit of WTF. The attitude was 100% present.

For the reference, file away the phrase “Twilight Zone moment” when trying to describe something of this ilk.

Another point — he said, anticipating the comment — is that if we really believe that in all things God is working for our good, should we really ever experience WTF moments? If we are trusting, clinging and relying on God, while unexpected things happen, and while they do bewilder and confuse, should we embrace the WTF kind of attitude? (A friend of ours call these “sand in the gears” moments.) Aren’t these weird and wonderful things the cue for a “count it all joy” attitude? And what about the idea that Christians are expected to “maintain a distinct identity” from the world?

I think it is only a matter a time before OMG and WTF arrive at church. As programs like Extreme Makeover program becomes more entrenched, and other broadcasters follow the trends, it’s easy to predict OMG being on the tongues of people at Sunday worship.

Another translator — it might have been the old Living Bible — put the verse I started out with this way…

Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold…