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

ADVENTURES IN GETTING TO KNOW PEOPLE

My mom is awesome. Around 8AM every day of the week, she sends me a quote. She’s been collecting them for as long as I can remember and ever since I stepped into the lead role at Immanuel Church, she’s been sending me a little encouragement each day from her notebook. It’s great. One in particular has been stuck in my mind for a while now and I thought I’d share it with you: “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” Joe Anis said that; an executive with GE who sounds an awful lot like a philosopher from centuries gone by.

Could a statement be more true? Why is it that the closer we seem to get to people the more flaws we find in them? I mean, who annoys you more than your family? And yet, when you look at everyone else, they seem to be all smiles, hugs and kisses. Everyone else’s office is normal. Everyone else’s neighbors are normal. Everyone else’s cousins are normal. Or so we think. With this misconception of everyone else in mind, we go about trying to fix the people we do life with. We try to adjust them so they can be normal too.

But what if there aren’t “normal” people? What if life isn’t about conforming to a standard; a usual, a typical, or the expected? Last time I checked, our society values being unique; being who we are and not apologizing for it. So why then are we so consumed with being normal? Normal is average. And who wants to be average?

I love these few sentences from the Bible: “You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this” (Psalm 139:13-14). “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

To think God made us on purpose with a purpose is nothing short of mind-blowing. David says that we’re “amazingly and miraculously made.” Those are gigantic words to describe you and me. Then Isaiah says that God made us like a potter forms clay into a bowl or vase. Think about that, a potter shapes that clay into precisely what he or she wants it to be, and then people pay good money to put them in their homes. Astounding, right? That’s you! You are the priceless piece uniquely made by the Potter. There’s nothing normal about that. No two are exactly the same.

So what if getting to know people well, blemishes and all, really is about seeing how they aren’t normal? And what if instead of trying to reshape them into a standard, you were appreciating the uniqueness of who they are? This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t all be striving to change into the likeness of Jesus; of course we are to do that. But I know an awful lot of Christians who are good, God-loving people, but don’t seem “normal” to some. Think of how different the 12 disciples were… Peter was loud and brash. John was quiet and reflective. Thomas was a skeptic. And yet they all followed Jesus.
We’re going to find differences with whoever we’re close to, I promise. But maybe, just maybe, we can come to appreciate that, instead of long for someone to be more like someone else. What would that do to our marriages? What would that do to our friendships? Our work relationships? The dynamics with our kids? I think it would do a lot. So Mr. Anis, you’re right about normal people being the ones you don’t know very well, but that’s what makes God all the more incredible and the adventure of getting to know people so great. Here’s to abnormal.

THE “SO FAR”

Lately my son has become obsessed with being in a band and becoming a world-famous rock star. He’s eight years old. But he is determined and convinced it will happen for him. So he’s begun writing songs–lots of songs. Everywhere I go in our house I find pieces of paper with lyrics scribbled all over them. And any time I go to use the family iPad, it’s too full of videos to do anything else. Here’s the thing: if you read those lyrics and watch those videos you’ll find that they’re pretty repetitive; seriously, it’s the same line over and over again. It’s not Grammy-winning material, so far…

And that’s the thing I can’t shake: it’s “so far.” Like I said, he’s an eight-year-old boy who has a wild and crazy dream, and if he has the wherewithal to write down even simple lyrics at this young age, what might he be capable of in 10-15 years? It would be easy for me to not think that way; it’s my default after all. Be realistic. Be serious. Think reasonably. Most people never make it as musicians; at least to a level that can support a family. As his father, isn’t it my job to help him grow up with his “head on straight?”

Can I be honest with you? I hate how that’s my default. I hate that I’m not better about dreaming with my kids and fanning sparks into flames. What if Justin Timberlake’s parents told him that a music career wasn’t a serious one? I bet they’re glad they didn’t when he pays for a nice vacation or meal. And I don’t want to think of this from the perspective that sees a possible retirement plan via my child’s riches, but the perspective that’s simply trying to love my son and grow him into the man God has created him to be.

Have you ever thought about that idea for very long? The fact that God created your children? We love to take the credit for that, but we overestimate ourselves. Psalm 139 reads, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (v13-14, NIV). My son is fearfully and wonderfully made. He is a wonderful work of God Himself. And let me tell you, God has knit together one created little boy. So I’ve begun looking at the dreams of my sons as an opportunity to shine light on the amazing creativity of God. Their creativity is His creativity. Me cheering them on and at times playing along is a chance for me to worship God and celebrate His creative work.

I don’t know if my son will ever stand in front of an auditorium and sing songs he’s written… but he might. Because right now, he’s just in the “so far.” Isn’t it interesting how much we are all in the “so far?” We’re all becoming. Whether we’re 7, 17, 37 or 77, we’re growing in our person. Some of us are simply growing in our knowledge and understanding. Others of us are doing our best to grow in our likeness to Jesus. We’re not very much like him, so far, but we’re working. So what if we did a better job of cutting each other a little slack? What if we understood that we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made? You may not have children of your own, but you have co-workers, or brothers and sisters, or neighbors that aren’t quite where you think they should be. Do you see their potential? Or their shortcomings? Do you see the lyrics they’re writing and think, “that’s not much to write home about” or do you see what they could become one day?

I’m thankful God spends more time thinking about the latter with me. And my goal is to spend more time thinking about the latter with my sons, my co-workers, the people I go to church with, and the people I sit in traffic with. Because in the end, we’re all still in the “so far.”