1 "Do not judge lest you be judged.
2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3 "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
6 "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Perhaps there is no verse in all of the Bible that is quoted more, especially by those who don't believe the Bible, than Matthew 7:1, "don't judge, lest you be judged!" Perhaps there is no verse in all of the Bible that is more misunderstood than Matthew 7:1, "don't judge, lest you be judged!" There are many who have taken this statement of Jesus and have attempted to turn it into a fundamental, absolute axiom, which must be upheld at all times. We told that Jesus instructs us never to judge anyone at anytime for any reason, whatsoever! We are told, "Didn't Jesus say, 'Don't judge!'? Doesn't that mean that we ought not to judge?"
This is the whole political climate of our day in which we live. Today is a day of toleration. Today is a day of liberty. Today is a day of "do what you want to do, it doesn't really matter. God will still accept you and we will still accept you, regardless of your actions, because, after all, 'God is love' isn't He?" People don't like it when you are critical of the actions of others. People use this verse in the fight to allow all men to do whatever they want to do and be fully accepted by everyone.
I find it curious that this verse usually comes up as a response in conversation when someone is pointing out some sinful actions of another person. This verse is used as a catch all to defend that person. "Don't judge, lest you be judged." The strategy used is often that of counter-attack, "You are pointing out the wrong in somebody else. Well, let me show you your wrong. You are wrong in judging them." You might well retort, "Well, I guess you are judging me that I am judging another person. I guess you are also wrong in judging me, because Jesus told us both not to judge."
The problem with this type of usage of this verse of Scripture is that it fails to take into account the entire breadth of Scripture. One of the cardinal rules of Bible interpretation is that "Scripture interprets Scripture." In other words, we use the entire Bible as a guide to understanding each particular passage in the Bible. And since the Scripture never contradicts itself, we can never interpret a verse of scripture so as to contradict another passage of scripture. Let me demonstrate this with our verse under consideration this morning.
Some say that Jesus prohibits us from ever judging another person, "Do not judge lest you be judged." However, there are several places in the Bible that demand that we judge another person.
1. Our courts
We are instructed to submit to our governmental authorities. And these authorities must judge. Peter told us, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right" (1 Peter 2:13-14). How can you punish evildoers and how can you praise those who do right without judging between the two? You have to decide who is the evildoer and who is the one who does right through pronouncing a judgment!
Romans 13:4 says the same thing: the governmental authorities are minister of God to avenge those who practice evil. How can you avenge those who practice evil without first judging their actions to be evil? Our human judicial system in America is called a minister ()or servant) of God. The fact that our judicial system pronounces judgements on right and wrong in no way violates Jesus' statement here, "Do not judge." So this statement cannot be an absolute that we are never to judge another.
2. The church
The church must pass some sort of judgment on other people as well. In Matthew 18, we are instructed to reprove the sinning brother. We are to do so first in private, then with two or three, and then by the whole church. You cannot reprove a sinning brother without passing some type of judgment upon them. Notice further, that it simply isn't the institution that passes judgment, it begins with the individual, discerning sin in the life of another.
Matthew 18 isn't the only passage that instructs the church to judge those in sin. In Titus we are told to "reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10). We are told not to associate with those who refuse to work and demand the church to provide them their every need (2 Thess. 3:14). We are told to "keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them" (Rom. 16:17).
3. Individual Christians
All Christians must constantly judge what they are hearing. Do you realize that several of the books contained in the New Testament are written for the sole purpose of helping those in the church to recognize false teaching and to continue on in the truth?
- Galatians was written to attack the errors of legalism.
- Colossians was written to attack the errors of gnosticism.
- Hebrews was written to attack the errors Judaism.
- 2 Peter was written to attack the false teachers who lived sinfully.
Furthermore, in every book of the New Testament, there is reference made to false teaching. In each of the gospels, (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Jesus is depicted as being in a battle with the false, religious establishment of the day. The book of Acts tells of how Peter and Paul continued the battle against the Jews of the day, along with idol worshippers such as at Athens and Ephesus. Each of the epistles were written to strengthen believers in the faith, part of which involves discerning true and false teachers.
It is the duty of each Christian to constantly be judging the teaching they are hearing to make sure that it lines up with the truth of the Scripture. In 1 Thess. 5:21 we are told to "examine everything." In 1 John 4:1 we are told to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
So, there is a clear sense in the scripture that we need to judge others. You cannot use this statement of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 as a categorical rejection of all forms of human judgment. If so, our society would collapse. Without our courts, wickedness would run rampant. Without our churches, people would be kept in darkness. Without discerning Christians, the church will go astray.
There is a judgment that is necessary, but there is also a judgment that is prohibited. Jesus will address both of these sorts of judgment in our passage this morning.
I have four points this morning, according to the text before us
1. The Command (verse 1)
2. The Reason (verse 2)
3. The Illustration (verses 3-5)
4. The Clarification (verse 6)
Rather than starting with point #1 this morning, I would like to take them in reverse order this morning. (At the end of my message, I will tell you why I did this.) So, let's look my fourth point...
It makes sense for us to look at this point first, because it is where my introduction has been heading. Even Jesus Himself sensed a need to clarify His strong statements against judging another so that we wouldn't take what he said in an absolute sense, like I have been describing. He clarified Himself in verse 6, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
To our ears, we don't quite feel the full force of Jesus' words here, because our dogs and our pigs are a little different than they were in Jesus' day. In Jesus' day, most dogs weren't the cute, tame, domesticated animals that we have in our houses today. Rather, in Jesus' day, as is still true today to some extent in the Middle East, there were wild, unclean dogs who scavenged the street. You might think of them as acting like coyotes. For the most part, they were dangerous. As such, they used to describe wicked people. In Phil. 3:2, Paul described the false teachers as "evil workers" and as "dogs." Thus, when Jesus said, "you don't give what is holy to dogs," He was describing something very vivid to these people. You don't want to feed the coyotes, they will only encroach upon you more and more.
The "holy things" of which Jesus speaks were the remains of the sacrificed animals. As you know, in the Law the Jews were required to bring animal sacrifices to atone for their sins. The priest's were (in some measure) financially supported from the remains upon the altar. They and their family could eat it after it was sacrificed (see Lev. 22:1-16). However, the leftovers of what they could not eat, they were to burn. It wasn't to be put out in the temple's trash. Those who weren't priests (or part of the priest's family) were prohibited from eating the sacrifice upon the altar, because the sacrifice was "holy." To give holy things to dogs was to profane the holy things.
Furthermore, the swine in Jesus' day weren't simply muddy animals, who stink. Rather, in Jesus' day, the swine was considered to be ceremonially unclean. The law prohibited the eating of pork. To the Jews, Pigs were the epitome of uncleanness. You might think of the pigs like our possums. We recently were attempting to catch some chipmunks around our house using a live trap. On two occasions, we caught some possums instead. When my wife found out about this, she shuddered, because possums are so detestable to us. The Jews weren't pig farmers, any more than we are possum farmers.
Pearls, on the other hand, were very costly in those days. Jesus tells the story of a man who goes to sell all that he had to gain one pearl (Matt. 13:45-46). By mixing the pig and the pearl, Jesus was contrasting ultimate, costly beauty with unclean ugliness. Jesus' point is that they don't mix. In fact, the pig will simply pounce on the pearl, smash it underground, and soon it will be lost in the slop. When Jesus said, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces" (verse 6), He instructed us not to give the holy things to unholy people. Otherwise the holy thing will be profaned.
Here are some examples of this type of thing. Should you begin happy hour at the tavern with a word of prayer? Should a man of God perform a marriage ceremony with two homosexual lovers? Should the church give sanction and approval to those wanting to abort their babies? ... obviously not. To open happy hour at that tavern with prayer defiles our holy God. To perform a marriage ceremony with two homosexual lovers defiles the holy institution of marriage. To support the abortion of babies defiles the sanctity (i.e. holiness) of life.
Jesus says that there are cases in which we are to make a judgment upon others, which will affect our actions toward them. We need to discern who are the hogs and who are the dogs.
Throughout the life of Jesus, we see Him doing this all the time. Do you realize that in the preaching ministry of Jesus, He changed His message according to His judgment of those who were listening? To the hypocritical Pharisees, Jesus spoke one way. To the crowds, Jesus spoke another way. To the disciples, Jesus spoke yet another way. You know how often He plainly rebuked the Pharisees in their hypocrisy. (Read Matthew 23). To the crowds, Jesus spoke in parables (Read Matthew 13). To the disciples, Jesus very intimately and plainly. On His way up to Jerusalem, He took His disciples aside privately to tell them what was going to happen to Him when they came to Jerusalem (i.e. delivered up, crucified, and resurrected) (Matt. 20:17-29). But this information was never given to the multitudes or the Pharisees.
This wasn't only Jesus, either. When Jesus sent out His disciples, of some didn't receive them, they were simply instructed to continue on, shaking the dust from your feed as a protest against them (Matt. 10:14). When Paul encountered the jealous Jews in Pisidian Antioch, who contradicted Paul, he turned to the Gentiles, because the Jews had repudiated the word of God to them and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46).
Its application to us is that we ought to be discerning in our ministry. We ought to make judgments upon others and act appropriately towards them. Perhaps you have had the opportunities to share the gospel clearly with someone you know on repeated, multiple occasions. Yet, time after time, they have continued to reject it and have demonstrated themselves to be clearly hostile towards it. They have loved their own sin far more than they have loved Jesus Christ. I'm not sure that you need to continue to repeatedly press the gospel on them. (What is more holy than the gospel? Who is more wicked than those who have rejected the free offer of salvation?) They have already clearly rejected it on numerous occasions, and have so proven themselves to be a hater of God. Now don't misunderstand me. You should still love then ans care for them and live as an example before them. You should also realize that if God so softens their heart, there will be a time when your words to them won't be wasted. But you don't need to "give what is holy to the dogs."
Here is another example. Perhaps you have had encounters with people involved in cults. Certainly, you should share the gospel with them. Certainly, you should be compassionate towards them. But, you need to realize, that many of those in cults have a good knowledge of many Bible verses. Yet, they have clearly rejected the truth of the gospel and are actively spreading lies about God. Who else could we describe as an "evil worker," than those who say that anything other than a simple trust in the saving, sacrifice of Jesus Christ will save you? They have seen the truth. They have rejected the truth. They have demonstrated themselves to be a "hog" or a "dog." Jesus says that you can (and should) make a judgment about these types of people. Over the years, I have noticed that my time conversing with many of those involved in cults has been useless. Today, I often simply rebuke them and tell them that they need to believe the gospel of Christ, rather than continuing to throw holy things to dogs.
We need to "be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16) in our dealings with others.
I have already spent some extensive time describing to you what
Jesus certainly doesn't mean by the phrase, "don't judge, lest you be judged." Let's
look now at what it actually means. Let's look at ...
3. The Illustration (verses 3-5)
It is reasonable for us to look at these verses next because Jesus is illustrating what He means when He says, "Do not judge" (in verse 1). He said, "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
The Bible is filled with humor. This is one of those humorous passages. Picture it, you have two people. Both of these people have something in their eye. One has a "speck," or perhaps better, a "twig" or "splinter" in his eye. In classical Greek, this word is used to describe the materials from which a bird builds its nest. At any rate, it is some type of small, foreign material, which has come into to bother the eye. Another has a "log" in his eye. Other translations says, "beam" or "plank." You might think, "floor joist." As a result, they both have problems with their eye. Yet, the point of comparison is that one has big problems -- huge problems, while the other one has little problems. Jesus says that it is the one with big problems, who is concerned with the one who has little problems. It sounds silly, but it happens all the time.
As I reflected upon this I thought of the things for which I have criticized others in the past. I remember how I used to laugh at my wife's uncanny habit of dropping the shampoo bottle in the shower. I would make some type of comment, "what's a matter? Slippery hands?" Then a few days later, I would find myself losing my own grip on the shampoo. I remember how I used to laugh at her ability to slice her fingers with a knife. Each time she would do it, I would roll my eyes. Then, while helping her in the kitchen to slice something. You guessed it. I cut myself also.
Even this week, I realized how quick I am to judge another. We were recently invited to a cookout. There was a larger woman, who had come. She was looking over the food and said something like, "Oh my, would the children mind if I had a hot dog?" I was thinking to myself of what poor eating habits this woman has. I told Yvonne later how I cringed when she said this, thinking that she certainly didn't need to eat another hot dog. She needed to eat something healthier. So, yesterday at lunch, you know what I had, right? I had a hotdog! Only after I had finished eating the thing did I begin to see my own hypocrisy.
I heard the story this week of a typical family on their way home from church, which illustrates the ease at which we judge. The father began to moan about the length of the preacher's sermon and about how boring it was. Then the mother began to complain about how the organist, in the second line of the third hymn, was playing too loud. Then the little sister, who is studying music at school, piped up that the soloist was flat in the third verse of her solo. Then granny began to complain that she couldn't see the preacher, and she couldn't hear what he was saying (needless to say she was sitting in the back row of the church). Then little Willy was hearing all that was going on in the background of the car, and he began to fuss about the woman who was sitting in front of him with the big hat, and he couldn't see anything that was going on. But just after a few moments' complaining, he nudged his dad in the ribs and said: "But dad, you've got to admit, it was a good show for the $5 you put in the offering box, wasn't it?!!" (adapted from an illustration used by David Legge, pastor at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when preaching on Matthew 7:1-6).
I read of easy it is for pastors to be judged. "If the pastor is young, they say he lacks experience. If his hair is gray, he is too old for young people. If he has five or six children, he is irresponsible; if he has no children, he is setting a bad example. If he uses a lot of illustrations, he neglects the Bible; if he does not use enough, he is not relevant. If he condemns wrong deeds, he's cranky; if he does not, he's compromising. If he drives an old car, he shames his congregation; if he drives a new one, he's setting his affection on earthly things" (Richard DeHaan, as quoted by Kent Hughes in The Sermon on the Mount, p. 227).
It is so easy to criticize others, isn't it? I believe that it is easy because it is simply an expression of our sinful nature. We want so much to appear superior to others, so we put others down, so we can lift ourselves high. John Calvin said that we have a disease, "which appears to be natural to us all. We see how all flatter themselves, and every man passes a severe censure on others. This vice is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people's faults" (Commentary on Matthew 7).
In James 2 we are told the difference in treatment between the rich and the poor. We pay special attention to the rich and treat them kindly. We treat the poor indifferently. We can easily look upon unbelievers with contempt. Particularly when they are engaging in something we view as sinful (i.e. like smoking or drinking). When we see them trapped in blatant sin, we so easily judge them, rather than realizing that we used to behave just like them before we believed in the gospel of grace. We ought to have compassion on such people, and lovingly lead them to the savior.
At times we can have huge blind spots in our own lives, and yet, still be highly critical of others, based upon some extraordinary standard of righteousness. Perhaps the classic example of this type of thing is the story of David as told in 2 Samuel. You remember how he committed adultery and attempted to cover it up by murdering Uriah, Bathsheba's faithful husband. For a year, he kept silent about his sin. He didn't confess it at all. Then, along comes Nathan the prophet, who came to him and said, ...
"There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him. Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion. Nathan then said to David, 'You are the man!'" (2 Sam. 12:1-7).
Here was David, ready to pronounce capital judgment upon a man for taking advantage of a poor man. All the while, he was guilty of a far worse crime. I know of several, very famous pastors used to be on the radio, who have preached strongly against sexual immorality, all the while involved with prostitutes or having an affair. I remember how one man wrote a book, which examined the personal lives of some of the most influential thinkers of the modern world. He demonstrated how their immoral they were and how their immorality shaped their immoral ideologies. Yet, it came out later, that his lifestyle wasn't any better than the intellectual that he studied. For he, himself, had several mistresses.
This type of thing ought not to surprise us. The heart of hypocrisy is within us all. Don't think that the exhortations of Jesus in the first 18 verses of the chapter were directed only to the self-righteous Pharisees. They were directed toward us as well.
This is why Jesus says in verse 5, "You hypocrite [This is our heart] first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Jesus instructs you to spend your time first focussing upon your own sin before you ever focus upon the sins of others. This is completely in line with Paul's exhortation in Gal. 6:1, "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted." You spend time first focussing upon yourself. Then, and only then, will you will be able to focus correctly upon the sins of others. It is when you see your own wickedness and your own hypocrisy that you can come to others "with a spirit of gentleness." It is only when you understand that apart from the grace of God, you would be right there with the one who is "caught in a trespass." But, when in this process, be careful, "lest you too be tempted," because it takes great care to do this type of thing.
Church family, I would exhort you, before you spend your time criticizing others, spend your time first examining your own heart before the Lord. Deal with your log first. You will often find that your criticisms are unjust in the first place, because of the log that is in your own eye.
Let's look now at ...
Jesus says in verse 2, "For in the same way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." If you, with your tongue, setup some guidelines by which you are judging another person, realize that God will take that same guideline and apply to you. Again, we need to be reminded that this here isn't an absolute statement, any more than verse 1 is. Ultimately, we will be judged by the law of God and His perfect standard. We can't get out of that judgment by simply having a lower standard of judgment ourselves, accepting everybody and everything. Ultimately, the only way for you to come through that judgment is to place your hope completely upon Jesus' blood and righteousness.
Jesus' words ought to be a deterrent for you. (At least, this is how Jesus viewed it). This ought to motivate you not to be critical of others. Perhaps your judgmental spirit will bring upon you curses in this life. Perhaps you will lose eternal reward in the life to come. I don't know how God will deal with you. However, I do know that God's final, ultimate judgement will make all wrongs right.
There is some discussion and debate here whether Jesus is speaking about eternal judgment or earthly consequences. I tend to think that a measure of both will take place. We have Biblical examples of both.
I believe that James wrote about eternal judgment when he said, "Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy" (James 2:13). Those who have come to know the mercy of God upon their lives cannot help but to be merciful to others. Peter knew his sin of forsaking the Lord, despite great promises to the contrary. Do you think he was merciful to others when they faltered? Paul knew of his sin. He called himself the "foremost of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). Certainly he was merciful and patient with others. But if you show no mercy to others today, neither will God show mercy to you in the eternal judgment. "In the same way you judge, you will be judged."
We also have examples of earthly consequences as well. Among the Canaanites, there was a certain ruler named Adoni-bezek, who conquered 70 other kings. As punishment, he had their thumbs and their big toes cut off. When Adoni-bezek was captured, his thumbs and big toes were cut off. He said, "As I have done, so God has repaid me" (Judges 1:7). Jesus says that when you judge another, you will be judged by your own criteria, either on earth or in eternity.
Jesus' words ought to deter us from judging others. Paul warned the Romans at the very beginning of chapter 2, "Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things (as described in chapter 1). And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgement of God?" (Romans 2:1-3). The standard you apply to others will be applied to you. We all ought to take heed to Jesus' command, "do not judge."
Finally, let's look at ...
1. The Command (verse 1)
Jesus says, "do not judge." What this means is really simple. We have already discussed it quite a bit. I simply exhort you, church family, "do not judge" one another. Don't foster a critical, judgmental spirit towards others. Rather, be gracious to them.
Things aren't always as they appear. I would exhort you to love, which "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7). When you hear something bad about someone, love them and believe that there is some kind of explanation. When you see something bad about someone, give them the benefit of the doubt and don't rush to judgment. Everything isn't always as it appears.
Do you remember when Israel conquered the promised land? They crossed over the Jordan river (from the east to the west) to take possession of the land. After they did, the land was divided up among the 12 tribes of Israel. There were 9½ of the tribes which took possession on the western side of the Jordan and there were 2½ tribes who took possession on the eastern side of the Jordan. The 2½ tribes returned to their land on the east and began to settle there. One of the first things that they did was build an altar there, right by the Jordan river. When the 9 ½ tribes in the west heard about this, they were up in arms!
They said, "Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an alter at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh, to go up against them in war" (Josh. 22:11-12). So they sent Phinehas, the priest to inquire, "What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the LORD this day, by building yourselves an alter, to rebel against the LORD this day?" (Josh. 22:16). They were ready to fight against these tribes.
Until the 2½ tribes on the east described why they built they altar. It wasn't built in rebellion. It wasn't built to create a division within the nation. Rather, it was built to preserve unity. The river formed a natural barrier between the nations and the eastern tribes were worried that their sons would rise up and question what sort of unity they had with the western nations. So, the altar was built, not for offering or sacrifice, but as a witness of the solidarity that the tribes have on both sides of the Jordan river. So Phinehas, the priest said, "Never mind."
Everything isn't always as it appears. I remember hearing Scott Ardavanis preaching on this passage at Grace Church of DuPage. He told the story of man who got onto a New York subway train with his three little children. The children weren't particularly well behaved. They were noisy. They were running up and down the train car. They were out of control. The whole time, the father was just sitting there, staring into space, apparently unconcerned for the behavior of his children. One woman was watching this entire thing take place and rebuked the man with a judgmental spirit and said, "Sir, could you please settle your children down, they are disturbing all of us. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for not disciplining your children." The man, was a little startled, and said, "Yes, I'm sorry. I guess I hadn't noticed. We just came from the hospital. My wife, their mother, just died. I guess we are all having a hard time dealing with it. I don't know what to do." Jesus says, "do not judge."
I mentioned near the beginning of my message that I would tell you why I took this text in reverse order. The reason is simply this: the particular danger at Rock Valley Bible Church is to have a judgmental spirit. Those who need to pay very close attention to Jesus' message are those who are well defined doctrinally. Many of us at Rock Valley Bible Church are well defined doctrinally. We know our Bibles well, and we are set in our convictions of the truth. This is a good thing. Yet, it holds the danger of judgmentalism when someone doesn't quite cross all of their "t's" and cross all of their "i's" exactly right. Because those who are grounded in the truth, can smell falsehood a mile away. You can hold a critical, judgmental spirit against them. I believe that this is especially true of our attitudes toward non-Christians. What sort of attitude do you have with those who haven't yet embraced Christ? Are you critical and judgmental or are you gracious and kind toward them?
Rock Valley Bible Church ought to be known for its love and graciousness towards others. Let's be patient with each other, as we watch those who are weak grow in strength year by year by year. I remember being at Grace Community Church in California, where John MacArthur is the pastor. Someone made the comment to me that people come to Grace Church to hear John MacArthur teach, but people stay at Grace Church because of the love the people have for one another. (The church never advocated this. It was simply someone's observation concerning the church -- an observation, by the way, which was never contradicted in my eyes).
So I ask you, will Rock Valley Bible Church be known as a cold church that has its doctrine tightly wound up in a ball? Or will Rock Valley Bible Church be known for its balance between truth and love. Discerning the truth, but acting in love, which isn't critical of one another.
In Romans 14 there are some verses that speak about how we are not to judge and condemn one another on peripheral issues. "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Rom. 14:1-4).
Paul puts before the Romans the picture of eating meat. Some wouldn't eat the meat. Others would eat the meat. He instructs us not to pass judgment in such cases. We ought to "accept" one another (verse 1). Particularly, it is the strong, who ought to "accept" the weak. It is those who are strong in their doctrine and in their convictions who ought to accept those who are weaker. Those who are strong aren't to demonstrate how much greater and stronger they are by crushing the weak. Do you see how this is an expression of love?
Paul continues on in this passage to talk about the Sabbath day. Some say that Sunday is the day of days, where we can worship the Lord and rest on the Sabbath. We must do no work on that day. Others say that every day is alike. We worship God every day. The Sabbath rest of the Old Testament doesn't apply anymore to us as Christians. This ought not to be a place of judgment. Each ought to be accepted, for each are still worshiping the same risen Christ. "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. ... Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine [i.e. "judge"] this -- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way" (verses 10 and 13). This is the way of love. This is the way that Rock Valley Bible Church needs to accept one another.
These two issues that Paul brings up in Romans 14 are simply examples of many other greater issues that face us. I want to be real practical here. There are issues that face us that we ought to "accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God" (Rom. 15:7).
There are dietary issues among us. There are some among us who eat a certain way on a strict diet. There are others who eat anything. This ought never to become a judgmental issue between us.
There are schooling issues among us. Most of the children in our midst are home schooled. Which can lead to many problems, when we think (by majority) that home schooling is the best and only way. I am grateful to God that we have those who attend Christian schools in our midst. I am grateful to God that we have those who attend public schools in our midst. Because you aren't more righteous than another person if you home school or if you public school. There ought never to be a judgmental spirit among us, "I home school, therefore, I am the righteous one."
There are medical issues among us. Some of us are more traditional in our health philosophy. Others of who take more of an alternative approach. Neither approach is more godly than each other. We ought not to be judgmental because of the person on the "other side" of the issue than me.
There are infant feeding issues among us. Some say that you should schedule your infant's feedings. Other say that you should feed your child when he/she appears hungry. Again, let's not cast judgment upon those who believe differently than we do.
There are musical issues among us. As I am up here each week leading the music, I'm aware of the differing preferences among us. Some would prefer only hymns. Some would prefer only choruses. Some would prefer it louder. Some would prefer it softer. Some would prefer it more upbeat. Some would prefer it more contemplative. Some would prefer it faster. Some would prefer it slower. May your preferences never be an issue of passing judgment upon the preferences of others. I have tried in our music to be content driven in our worship, while at the same time, attempting to satisfy as many preferences as we can.
The list could go on and on and on and on. Some like the tables in our worship center, others don't. Some like food before the service, others only want it afterwards. Some think I need a microphone, others think I shouldn't have one. ... The more and more people we get, the more and more problems we will have. We need to keep these things in perspective, that we might not judge one another over these issues.
Again, I wanted to end on this point, "do not judge" (of verse 1). I didn't want to end at the point of being discerning and not casting our pearls before swine (of verse 6). Because I believe that our greater need at Rock Valley Bible Church is for mercy toward one another, rather than for discernment toward others. Perhaps if I preached this passage in a liberal church, I would preach these verses in the order that Jesus gave them.
We need to keep a Biblical balance. We can't become so lovey-dovey that we overlook sin and false doctrine. Neither can we become so well defined in all of our doctrine and practice that we cannot accept and love those who don't believe and practice everything that we do.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
September 1, 2002 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.