Judgment

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Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38).

Did you hear that? From the very lips of Jesus Himself – you shouldn’t judge! Instead you should be showing forgiveness and generosity. You should be accepting and loving of all lifestyles and choices. That’s what it means, doesn’t it?

These are familiar verses to Christians and the world. Many are quick to quote verses like “Judge not” if they feel morally attacked. However, not judging is not the same as acceptance. If we read a little further in the same passage we will see that is not what Jesus said at all.

In Luke 6 Jesus did not prohibit the judgment of others. He said, “the same measure we use will be measured back to us.” According to the Blue Letter Bible Commentary that means our judgment is to be fair and only done with a standard we would also like to have measured to us.

The commentary goes on to say often times the problem is not with our judgment but the exercise of judgment according to our own hypocritical standards. The wrongs we are quick to point out in others we hardly acknowledge or perhaps even notice in ourselves.

Three verses later Jesus asked, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?” Jesus knew we are more susceptible to or tolerant of our own sin than that of others. However, our hypocrisy is always evident to people even if not to ourselves. Therefore Jesus is not telling us to not judge.  Rather He is giving us warning in how we do so.

In fact, helping someone with a speck or sin is a good thing. After all, that is exactly what Jesus did. He saw the giant plank or sin in us and did something. He came to earth, made us aware of our sin and need for a Savior, and died so we could have life and see clearly.

However we cannot help others if we are trying to point out the same sin in someone else that dwells in us. The passage goes on to say, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch,” (Luke 6:39). Unless we have effectively dealt with our own sin we are like a blind person leading another blind person. We will lead them into a ditch and cause them more damage.

Therefore, according to Enduring World Bible Commentary, it’s clear some sort of assessment is not only important but necessary. As Christians we should not be seeking the counsel or guidance of others who are living in the same sin as us.

Instead we should be looking to those wiser than ourselves who see more clearly. Luke 6 also says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher,” (Luke 6:40). It is clear we will become like those we follow. Therefore, we must decide to listen to and follow good teachers – teachers like Jesus Himself and others who mirror His image.

Towards the very end of the passage Jesus instructs us how to judge for ourselves who is a good tree and who is not.  “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:43-44).

If we do (put into practice) these things, we are “like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” However if we don’t then we are “like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation…and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46-49).

Jesus sees us for what we were and still are – sinners, imperfect beings in desperate need of a Savior who cannot even perceive alone how gargantuan our planks are. Despite that, He loves us and at the same time does not accept our sinful ways.

In light of all this, we should be slow to judge and quick to look within our own hearts. We are called to love, show mercy and forgiveness while also practicing good discernment in our assessments of the world around us.

 

Delighted

Untitled design (6)“So many of us are afraid to come to church, afraid to pray or afraid to read the Scriptures because we believe God doesn’t want us. We believe that God is this almighty smiter…sitting on His cosmic throne, rubbing His hands together saying ‘Oh, here it comes! I’m going to get them!’ A lot of us live our everyday Christian lives that way and our Christianity is more trying to avoid God’s getting mad at us than our trying to live life in a loving relationship with God.”

– Josh Peterson

 

It seems ridiculous to think God does not want or like us. After all, He sent His son across the universe to die a slow, painful and brutal death so we “may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Notice the “have it to the full” part. That doesn’t mean just surviving on earth. It means thriving. Yet, God sent His Son knowing that wouldn’t be the reality for most people. In fact, He knew most people would reject Him. Still, He went to the greatest lengths to save the few who wouldn’t. You can’t honestly believe someone would do that for you but still not like you?

 

Sadly, that’s a common state of mind for many Christians and non-Christians alike. Maybe it has to do with a background where you weren’t so much delighted in as tolerated. There are a number of experiences that can easily shape the way you think God sees you…some positive, many more negative. Thankfully, when confronted with the truth of the gospel, there’s no room to question what God really thinks and feels about you. Oh yes, He does think about you – often and favorably (Psalm 139:16-18).

 

As we looked at John 8:1-11 on June 24, we heard about the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. According to the Jewish Law, anyone who commits this was to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). The Pharisees saw this woman’s sin as an opportunity to trap Jesus. If Jesus had agreed to stone her, He would have been going against the mercy, grace and forgiveness He was preaching. If His answer had been not to stone her, He would have been in direct violation of the Jewish Law. Either way, the Pharisees were not seeking justice and were exploiting this woman.

 

You might be thinking, “but she was an adulterer – caught in the act!  She’s obviously guilty, so who cares if the Pharisees exploited her? She deserved it!” That’s the messed-up thing about our view. Where most of us want to condemn others, even if what they did was truly vile, God wants to show mercy. Jesus said to the Pharisees and everyone there,

 

“ ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’…those who heard this began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left…Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you’ ” (John 8:7).

 

Isn’t it crazy the one person who has power and authority to condemn (defined as expressing complete disapproval and giving out punishment) took our condemnation for us? Yet we are afraid to pray, come to church and read the Bible because we think He doesn’t like us.  Nothing could be further from the truth! The real truth about being a Christian is God’s delight in you. That doesn’t mean we get a “sin whenever we want” card. It means we need to take Him on His word when He says He loves us and delights in us; and we should therefore trust Him when He tells us not to sin.

 

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing”  (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

Fear Not

The N Commandments – essentially what not to do if you’re a Christian. It’s only the second of Josh’s six-week series, and already it seems impossible to live out the expectations to which God calls us. Last Sunday Pastor Josh talked about Jesus commanding his people not to be afraid.  Yes, commanding as in the present tense. Instead we are to

“…be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Matthew 10:28

It’s as if Jesus is saying that fear is a choice. As if we can control our fear by transferring it from one person or thing to another. Some of you live with anxiety on a daily basis and might be wondering if that’s even possible. To better understand the answer we need to look in the Bible. Earlier in chapter 10 of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples He is sending them out like “sheep among wolves.” Since “disciple” means “follower of Jesus” and the disciples are compared to sheep, then shouldn’t we rightfully and logically have a fear of wolves? After all, they want to eat us and that would be very painful. So why wouldn’t, and how couldn’t, we be afraid knowing that?

Let’s dial it back a bit. There is no literal wolf out to get you, but there are wolves in your life.  Maybe it’s a looming divorce, or the stress of making financial ends meet. Perhaps it’s a broken relationship or the uncertainty of a job. Maybe it’s passing a class, earning good grades, or any one of a plethora of other things. To be human means to encounter wolves. There is no way around it. Jesus even told us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). So not even He denies the difficulties you will face. Yet, at the same time He tells us to “Take heart!” (John 16:33) and to “…not to be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).   

We are not to be anxious about anything. Anything is an absolute word. It means no matter what. So no matter what, we aren’t supposed to be anxious or fearful. That includes not fearing for your life, your job, your marriage…literally and physically everything. Instead, we are to pray about everything. In doing so God tells us, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Therefore the Bible makes the answer clear. It is definitely possible to find lasting peace. It comes with a realization of who God is. It also comes by making a choice. For some of us that choice must be made daily by continually laying our requests at the feet of God through prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. This is not a promise that your circumstances will get better, but the assurance that your heart and mind will be at peace.

Jesus told us not to be afraid of those who kill the body. However, there is one thing He did tell us to be afraid of – the one who has power to destroy both soul and body. There is only one in existence who has that kind power. If you are a follower of Christ then the one who is bigger and badder than all of your circumstances is in your corner – and He is for you.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

FINAL DESTINATION

Have you ever started something and not finished?  Maybe it was improving at a sport or doing well on a project.  Have you had a vision of something you wanted but sold out short on? Maybe your vision was more difficult to attain than you realized, became too time consuming, or a number of other things. I know I have and I settled for less than best for reasons such as these. If I am being honest I think this is true of a lot of us in our walk with God.

I mess up so much and I can be really hard on myself. I also forget stuff like it’s nobody’s business.  (You can ask my friend Sarah, she is always reminding me of things we have going on).  But I’m the worst when it comes to God.  I forget so easily the things he’s done for me, his promises, and the things he teaches.  I lose my vision of him and as a result I lose sight of who I am in him.  Instead I become discouraged and distracted because somewhere along the way I got side tracked and am not where I want to be.

Like a road trip to Disney, I lose the bigger picture and become focused on the wrong things. Things like traffic, being cramped in a car, the many pits stops, detours we have to take because accidents happen, and so on keep getting in the way. I forget that going through the less-than-fun times is worth all the struggle because at the end I will finally be where I want to go.  What I am learning is this: the journey is just as important as the destination.  It’s in the journey process that we learn, grow, and bond with God and others riding with us.  Therefore, just keep swimming. At times you may only be moving inches but at least you are moving towards the goal, you aren’t alone, and that is huge.

I am currently doing a study on Colossians that reminded me of something  Josh talked about Sunday: the key is consistency.  The more I walk with God the more I find this to be true.  This thing called life is a journey.  We will mess up, maybe lose focus, and face road blocks.  But we cannot be lackadaisical in our walk.  We must continue, remain, abide, persist, and press on in the journey because where we end up is more than worth the challenges we face. I leave you with two verses from Colossians that have been a great encouragement to me and I hope for you too.

You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.  Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.  As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.  But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. -Colossians 1:21-23

“Let your roots grow down deep into him, and let your lives be built on him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” -Colossians 2:7


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Katrina McElvain is the daughter of Trisha, and oldest of her siblings, Grace and JP.  She loves spending time with family and friends, watching movies, dancing, and writing. She teaches dance at night and is a teacher’s aide by day. She also loves Immanuel and listening to the sermons every Sunday morning.

 

 

FEELING VS. TRUTH

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel like the daughter of the King, much less that the Holy Spirit lives within me.  I make a ton of mistakes.  I still get angry, frustrated, and depressed at times.  I know no one is perfect.  Even if you have been faithfully walking with Christ for years, I know the truth of humanity is that everyone messes up.  We all struggle with something regardless if you are Christian or not and no one gets it all right all the time (…unless you’re Jesus).  Yet knowing all this, at times I still struggle with feeling like a child of God, feeling the Holy Spirit living within me. Well, thank the Lord that our adoption to sonship, through the Holy Spirit, and our Christian faith is not based on feelings.

It is hard to be a Christian.  People are dying for the faith, facing persecution, and oppression.  While we do not face any of those harsh realities in America, it is nevertheless hard here too.  In the American culture we are taught to be independent, follow your heart, be happy, and do what feels right to you.  It’s literally reinforced everywhere: in schools, music, movies.  We are taught from a very young age that those are the honorary goals to strive for throughout life.  

The problem is that feelings are fleeting and ever changing.  So today I might feel on top of the world, but tomorrow I might suffer from feelings of condemnation because of a mistake.  Whatever the case, the Bible tells us feelings cannot be trusted.  We literally have to unlearn everything we have been taught. Thankfully, we have a God who is never changing and tells us truth through scripture to battle the ever raging war on feelings versus truth.   

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool…”  -Proverbs 28:26

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick.” – Jeremiah 17:9

 The human heart, both mine and yours, is deceitful and desperately sick.  But even during the times when you don’t feel like a child of God, or like the Holy Spirit is even there, when you feel condemned because you have made yet another mistake, rest assured that that is not the truth. We have hope. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  In the battle of feeling and truth, truth always wins.  So choose to live, act, and believe based on what the Bible says, not on what your feelings tell you.      

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:20.


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Katrina McElvain is the daughter of Trisha, and oldest of her siblings, Grace and JP.  She loves spending time with family and friends, watching movies, dancing, and writing. She teaches dance at night and is a teacher’s aide by day. She also loves Immanuel and listening to the sermons every Sunday morning.