Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2020 Sermons . Who are you to judge? (Part 4)

. Who are you to judge? (Part 4)

WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE (PART 4)

JUDGING OUR JUDGMENT (PART 2)


Introduction.

One thing that I am becoming more and more aware of as we march on through this series ‘Who are you to judge’ is the critical value this series can play in our relationships and the unity of the church. But even more than that, I believe that the two parts we are doing in ‘judging our judgement’ should achieve a lot in reminding us to be very careful that we do not find ourselves guilty of confusing our traditions, prejudices and preferences with Scripture. The golden rule of Biblical interpretation is always that Scripture must interpret us and command us, rather than us interpreting Scripture and commanding it to say what we want it to say. We can so easily prove anything from Scripture that we want to if we want to. It is and always will be the Ancient Word of God to us, and not our word to our neighbour. God therefore has the clear and final say in all matters and He will be the ultimate judge regarding those things done in darkness and the motives of a man’s heart.

 

Now, as I mentioned over the last 4 days, is that we need to realise that it is one thing to sort out the visible judgment that is so often seen amongst believers that reveals itself in harsh words, comments out of place and slandering, but there is a deeper level that we need to take care of and that is in our minds. That which reveals itself in the open is simply an overflow of judgement that has taken place in the heart and mind already. Now we know that all of us will evaluate people and events in our minds. There is a right judgment which we are entitled to, and there is a wrong judgment which we are not entitled to. The sin of judging is to negatively evaluate someone’s spiritual state or conduct on the basis of non-biblical standards or suspected motives. Our problem is that we look at people and we decide what they are doing is wrong, even though the Bible is not clear about it, and we have no clue what is in their hearts.

 

Our text for these two parts is 1 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another.”

 

What I am seeking to achieve is to give us 5 questions that we need to ask as we discover that we are busy forming a negative judgment of someone’s spiritual state or conduct. If we can memorise these questions and apply it, I believe we are going to find ourselves being much more gracious and seeing ourselves in the mirror as we truly are instead of having a puffed-up opinion of ourselves while looking down at others. That is what the Pharisees did, right?

 

We looked at two of the five questions last week. The first question we asked is: “Are my opinions firmly based on Scripture?” Here I gave 5 examples of areas that we are prone to judge others in, when Scripture is not clear on the issues. If you are struggling with making sense of those examples – good – because we need to think through these things. Later, in this series we will look at Romans 14 which will help us further to evaluate these things, but in the meantime, be careful before you force the Bible to say what you want it to say. So, for now we are not making a clear judgment on those issues, but simply to say that while Scripture might be clear on an issue, we are not always sure what Scripture says on an issue, and we must not force our preferences on the text.  Also, at the same time we are not called to be ‘Bible police’ who are continuously looking out where we can catch a brother or sister in sin. Sometimes we need to step back graciously and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work of convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgement, as you and I are not the Holy Spirit. That is His job.

 

The second question we need to ask when we find ourselves judging others negatively in our minds is “Does the formation of this opinion include any judgments about a person’s thoughts or motives?” There we saw that only God is omniscient, we are not. You do not know what others are thinking.

 

Let me give you three more questions that you need to ask as soon as you find yourself negatively judging somebody in your mind.

 

Question 3. Am I missing any facts that are necessary for an accurate evaluation?

One of the saddest realities in life is that believers will judge one another without always knowing the facts. When there is an accusation against a brother or sister we immediately say, well ‘where there is smoke there is a fire’. And so many believers are judged by smoke and not by fire. Can we not rather develop an attitude; ‘where there is smoke, there might be a dry ice smoke machine in the hands of somebody generating smoke?’ Smoke does not always imply fire.

 

The fact that there is smoke, does not imply that a fellow brother or sister in the Lord does not get a fair hearing. Proverbs 18:13 (ESV) 13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Oh, how we can all learn from this Proverb. How many times do we find ourselves in conversation with people and we do not listen to what they are saying? We interrupt, we pretend we know what they are thinking and what they are going to say, and we bombard them with answers to questions that they are not asking. Proverbs 18:17 (ESV) 17 The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” I was under personal attack, the sad thing was that the conversations went as far as the one who states his case first, and I was absent and not allowed to examine the persons.

 

I believe that we could experience so much more unity in the body if we just listened more, instead of having our mouths in gear and our brains in neutral. All our relationships will be so much better off if we get all our facts together before making any judgment.

 

Question 4. How would I want this person to think of me if the roles were reversed?

There is a remarkably simple question we need to ask. Would I like it, if someone would conclude that I was sinning without all the necessary Biblical evidence and facts? Would it be fair if they judged your motives in a way that seems to indicate that they know you better than you know yourself? I am sure that all of us would love another person to withhold judgement of us until they have fully and sympathetically listened to our side of a story. The golden rule expressed in words of Jesus comes to mind here in Matthew 7:12 (ESV) “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." If this is faithful to the teaching of the Law and of the Prophets and of Christ should we not take it seriously? Put yourself in the shoes of the other person, when you come down on them in judgment that goes beyond what is clearly written and imply that you know their motives.

 

The rule that I have just shared applies to many more areas than our judgment of one another. But let me share a text in which Jesus puts the shoe on the other foot as it applies to our judgment of one another. Matthew 7:1-2 (ESV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

 

We find an example of this in Matthew 18. We all know this section well, where we are told that if our brother has sinned against us, we must go and sort it out privately, if that does not work, then you take somebody with you, and if we still cannot sort out the issue then we take it to the church. Now without doing an exposition on this text here, I just want to say this, that too many theologians view Matthew 18 as a four-step process of Church Discipline when it should be a three-step process of loving restoration, and if that does not work then we treat the brother as an unbeliever and lovingly evangelize him.

 

Allow me this to disagree this morning and then to agree with a man I highly esteem and whose sandals I am not worthy to tie, and that is Dr MacArthur. Dr MacArthur talks about the fourth step in Matthew 18 and then explains it in his commentary: “The fourth and final step in church discipline is ostracism. If a sinning believer refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be ostracized from the fellowship. Let him be to you, Jesus said, as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. Both were seen as despised outcasts.” Now, with this part of the statement I want to disagree with Dr MacArthur, because if the person is a sinning believer, we need to ask what God’s view on the matter is. If God according to Romans 5 gives more grace the more a believer sin, should we not? To ostracize means to banish, to hate, to cold shoulder, to shun, to ignore and to excommunicate. We need to ask ourselves if we are going beyond what is written when we ostracize a believer in sin.

 

I have two problems with this view.  Firstly, if it is our view that Gentile and Tax collector means to be ostracised. Was that clearly the view of Christ?  Secondly, will Christ use common sinful human behaviour as a reference point for how we must treat people? Did He not set different standards for believers so that according to Matthew 5:48 we may be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? Were the Jews not commanded throughout scripture to reach out to and to evangelise the gentiles and not to shun and to hate them? Did Jesus not reach out to the Tax-collectors and prostitutes? I believe that this man I highly respect joins the great throng of theologians who are forcing their own preferences on the text. By this I am not claiming that he is entirely wrong.  I think the spirit of Matthew 18 requires a deeper look and a more balanced approach. We would have been on safer ground if Christ actually used the words, ‘cut him off’, ‘ostracize him’ etc.

 

Well, I said I am going to disagree and then agree with Dr MacArthur. What can Jesus mean with the words ‘let him be to you… as a Gentile and a tax-gather”. Here I need to agree to a certain extent, with Dr MacArthur in the commentary in his MacArthur study Bible and I quote him again: “the idea is not merely to punish the offender, or to shun him completely, but to remove him as a detrimental influence from the fellowship of the church, and henceforth to regard him as an evangelistic prospect rather than as a brother. Ultimately the sin for which he is excommunicated is a hard headed impenitence.” This is a very different comment between his commentary and study Bible. Now why did I go to the trouble to agree and disagree with Dr Mac Arthur? Firstly, because we need to heed the warning that we must not go beyond what is written and even in the context of Matthew 18 we must be careful to enforce our views on the text without clear views of Scripture in its entirety.  Secondly because Jesus continues with an illustration that will make clear the dilemma of being judged with the same judgment we measure out. Jesus continues in Matthew 18 with a statement to Peter to forgive seventy time seven and He then continuous with an illustration in Matthew 18 of a man who was forgiven debt of app. R 7 million. He then went and found a man who owed him about three months’ worth of servant wages and had him thrown in prison. What did the King do when he heard about it? He had this man thrown in prison and he was to be tortured until he could repay his debt.  The man who could not forgive his fellow servant forgot the golden principle; he forgot what it is to be in the man’s shoes. He forgot what it was to be a forgiven person.  So, before you go beyond what is written, ask yourself the question, what if I was in his shoes? And remember that according to the same judgment you measure out you will be measured.

 

Question 5. How can I show the grace of the cross to this person?

There is no place in Christianity for an ungracious, pharisaic, judgmental Christianity of Bible police who go around with one purpose and that is to discover and pronounce error in the lives of fellow believers. Who needs the devil, when Christians fight one another? Who needs the devil as our accuser when we do it well enough for each other?

 

 

One of my life philosophies which I have applied on various levels is to always believed the best of another until proven wrong. Why should we do that? Scripture is clear; ‘Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Do we realise that we have been forgiven, are being forgiven and will be forgiven. If Christ’s grace to us is so amazing, should we not be the ones whose grace to one another is amazing as well? In actual fact the Greek word for ‘forgiving’ in verse 32 is charizomai {khar-id'-zom-ahee} which can be translated “to show one's self gracious, kind, benevolent or to grant forgiveness or to pardon’. The Greek word for ‘forgave’ in verse 32 is exactly the same. So, in the same way as what God has shown Himself gracious to us we must show ourselves gracious to others.

 

 

How gracious has God been to us, and how gracious if He still to us? Romans 5:8-10 (ESV) “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” So, let me ask you, if you have received so much grace while you were a sinner, and if you are receiving so much grace now that you are redeemed, who are you not to show grace?

 

Well, you may ask, does this person in the light of what I think he is doing deserve any grace, we’ll let us go back to our previous point and put the shoe on the other foot. Did you deserve any grace at all? Do people you are tempted to judge deserve your love and acceptance in the first place? Probably not, because it might be true that where there is smoke there is a fire. Even if it is not only dry ice causing the smoke, our responsibility always has to be helping one another to grow and mature in the grace we all have received.

 

What is better, strained relationships because of my judgmental criticism, or being able to sit back and say, ‘thank you Lord for allowing me to be Christ to that person, for helping me not to go beyond what is written, for allowing me to bring healing to their lives and for helping me to see that person restored to you.’ The theologians who see Matthew 18 as a four step disciplinary process are severely blinded in their understanding of grace. Let us rather give one another the benefit of the doubt and pray for one another, and minister to one another, and even when we need to apply admonition, let us always do it with restoration in mind.

 

I trust that this bit of humour will allow us to understand the gravity of what we are dealing with. A judge once sat in the dentist chair and asked the dentist; ‘do you promise to pull the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.’ So, before you open the next case, in which you will be evaluating another Christian, make an oath to the Divine Judge that you will base your conclusions on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And before you close the case by delivering a negative verdict about that other person, may you cross-examine your judgments with the five questions we have asked in this two-part sermon.

 

Make sure that your thoughts regarding any fellow believer comes from the Spirit of truth and that it will be consistent with the word of Truth and are centred on the One who is the Truth.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

12 - 13 February 2021 – Logos Community Church.