. Who are you to judge? (Part 3)

WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE (PART 3)


JUDGING OUR JUDGMENT (PART 1)


Introduction.

This sermon is the third delivery in the series “who are you to judge?” I believe that this series is critical in the life of the body and want to encourage you to follow faithfully. It is critical, because more churches are split and more Christians are destroyed by the evil of legalism, judgmentalism and slandering. Sadly, as mentioned over and over again, these sins are some of the most overlooked and tolerated in Christian circles.

 

Before we march on, I need to remind you that ‘judging’ means to ‘examine’. Now there is a level in which we all will examine others and that we will examine deeds, but the sin of judging is to negatively evaluate someone’s spiritual state or conduct based on 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.

 

So, in the first part of this series we put the whole issue of judging under scrutiny and discovered from Paul that he does not judge others, and that he does not even judge himself. The reason is that at the best of times we are incapable to judge because we are severely limited in our knowledge and understanding of the person or situations. We also saw that we do not even always know ourselves. It is only God who has perfect knowledge and understanding. We must never forget the words of Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV)9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Now if we cannot even judge ourselves accurately, we must be careful when it comes to others.

 

In the second part which was my sermon yesterday we asked the question: “who is He to judge”? The ‘He’ here is with reference to Christ. Paul warned us not to judge, because it is the Lord’s work, and when He appears during His second coming, He will judge righteously, because he knows the things that are at the moment darkness to us, meaning we do not have all the light on the subject necessary to make a judgment, and He knows the motives of a man’s heart. So therefore, we must leave it up to Him, because He is capable, because of who He is and because of what He knows.  At the end of the day, He will not condemn us, but He will commend us, because there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

 

Before we move on to the theme for today namely: “judging our judgment”, I want to make a comment. I was asked the question before. What does the Bible mean when it says: “judgment will begin in the house of the Lord?” You read this in 1 Peter 4:16-19 (ESV) 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" I do not want to spend time on this, but to simply say that the judgment that is referred to here is a present judgement towards believers. It is divine judgment that God can render on a believer’s sin, which includes chastening or discipline and subsequent cleansing. This is not a judgment that is futuristic, and it does not lead to condemnation, and you do not have to be ashamed of it. Why does God judge the household of God now? Paul answers it clearly in 1 Corinthians 11:32 (ESV) 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” So, our judgment is now, but as far as future judgment is concerned, we are not condemned because Jesus was condemned for us. And remember He can judge us now and discipline us, because He knows the things done in darkness and He knows the motives of our hearts.

 

Let us make this our departure point for today’s devotion. So, if judgment starts with the house of the Lord now, and if He is the one who judges and disciplines, how then can I get rid of this negative judging that so easily happens in my heart and mind? It is one thing to stop external judging, but it is another thing to guard my heart and mind, when I know that Scripture says that we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I want to join Dave Swavely in his book: “who are you to judge” by giving you five questions you can ask yourself whenever you find yourself forming a negative opinion about another person.”  I have shared this before, but years ago a dear old lady taught me some lessons I needed to learn about slandering. She said: “before you talk about somebody, ask yourself, if what you want to share is true, then if it is true, find out if it is necessary to share it, and if it is necessary to share it, ask yourself if it is going to glorify God?” These have been such valuable lessons I needed to learn before I said anything about anybody else, so let us learn a few more questions we can ask before we build that negative opinions about others and judge them in our minds. Join me as we “judge our judgment”. I want to encourage you to memorise these questions as you will need them today and in future.

 

Question 1. Are my opinions firmly based on Scripture?

Are my thoughts clearly and firmly based on Scripture or on my own ideas and preferences? In my last sermon we spent quite a bit of time in understanding ‘things done in darkness’, and one of the angles of approaching that thought is that it can refer to things Scripture is not clear about. Paul continuous in the very next verse 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.”

 

Paul says that we must not go beyond what is written. When we go beyond what is written, ‘self’ becomes the rule and that is the best way to build barriers between yourself and others. In evaluating the deeds of others, you can only go as far as Scripture goes. You should preferably have more than one verse so that you can be sure about your thoughts about another.  And we must also realise this that at time we may even be wrong about what Scripture says. I have seen people misinterpret the Bible so that they can enforce their preferences on others.

 

Let me give you a few examples of where we can go beyond Scripture.


1.1 The intentions of a man’s heart.

I shared this example in my sermon on Sunday. I thought I will touch on it again as it is such a clear indication of judging the intentions of a man’s heart and being adamant about one’s conclusions. In short, I told you how I organised the National Baptist Union Assembly in Polokwane and worked hard to make it a success and a success it was. Many visitors from around the country commented that it was the best assembly they ever attended. One of my personal life philosophies is that I always do the best I can with my time and resources available, because I do not work for my own glory but for His glory. My God always deserves the best, doesn’t He? Sadly, a few months later a fellow pastor walked into my office and reminded me how well the Assembly went and also told me that he has observed that I always do things professionally, and there is only one reason for that and that is that I am seeking personal glory. Here is a lesson on judgment. What does he base it on? Is there a Biblical text that says that whenever a Christian does something well, it is for personal glory? How does he know the motives of my heart? On the contrary, Scripture is clear in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I struggled with his judgment, because I know that if I did things in an opposite manner, slap dash, disorganized, I would then also be judged and rightfully so. I personally believe that much of this fellow pastor’s criticism was purely professional jealousy. Let me give you another example.

1.2 Your taste in Christian music is wrong.

This is the age-old criticism between the younger generation and the older generation. Let me just say, that there is no verse in the Bible that is written with the purpose of addressing the style of music. The only way you will ever convince one another that your preference is right is to bend and twist Scripture. If you only like the old hymns, be gracious with those who prefer the newer songs and vice versa. Remember that the old hymns at a time were new as well. If you don’t like to clap or raise your hands, be gracious to those who do, and if you do like to clap or raise your hands, don’t look down on those who don’t. If you do not prefer certain instruments, be gracious to those who enjoy certain instruments. God did not ask us for permission before He gifted people with musical abilities, as long as they are glorifying God with their gift, you and I must live with it. At the end of the day the Lord wants to be worshipped in Spirit and in truth and God alone is the judge if that is truly happening or not.  Do not confuse preference and tradition in this case with Scripture. Go and read our philosophy on worship on our website.

 

1.3 You DO NOT dress modestly.

This very statement from Scripture is so often quoted to those who do not dress my way. Now we all know that there can be some clothes that are worn to tempt others, and people can wear clothes to show forth their personal pride, but again you and I cannot go beyond what is written. I have often thought of bringing out a new version of the Bible with ‘cut out patterns’ in the back so that all Christians can know how to dress. Be careful in your judgment on this one. Do not go beyond what is written. Wendy will remember a day when we were walking in a mall in Nelspruit when a young girl came past and she had a top on that showed her tummy with her belly ring. A man who was with us made the following comment: “she is looking to be raped.” Really? I think that while her dress code may say something about her, his statement says very much about him. We do not know what her relationship with the Lord is, or even if she has one, but with him being a qualified pastor and making the statement he did, raises many questions about his view of women and sin. Do not be too quick to judge. Remember how acceptable minis were in the church years ago. Ladies who wore pants of any kind were judged. Does scripture say something about dress. Sure, it does, but understand what it says and do not go beyond what is written.

 

1.4 Mothers are not allowed to work.

There are those who believe that if a woman works, she is grieving God and neglecting her family. Who are you to judge, if those are your views? There are stay home mothers who are neglecting their children and there are women who work who are neglecting their children. Does Titus 2 not teach us that a woman must be unemployed and stay at home? No, that is not clear. Titus 2:5 (ESV) simply says that a woman is 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” There is no proof that working at home implies occupation, otherwise all women must have some kind of home industry. I personally believe that if a woman works and neglects home, we have a problem, but there are stay home mothers who even though they are at home are busy bodies and not busy with the right things. And then there is the famous text in Proverbs 31 that is used to prove that a woman must not work away from home. Does it teach that? Can we say beyond a shadow of doubt that it is written? No, it does not prove anything. It could actually prove the opposite.

 

1.5 Birth control/family planning.

From time to time we all will bump into people who have very large families who would look down on those with small families and accuse them of going against God’s will. They will then go further to tell you that it is a sin to use any form of birth-control. Now because the Bible does not say anything about family planning, or anything against birth-control, once again Scripture is used to make their point and you dare not disagree with them. Seminar teacher Bill Gothard instructs people since God is the one who opens and closes wombs, birth control is wrong. Therefore, parents should have as many children as possible because conception is determined by God, not you. According to Mr. Gothard, any interference through using methods of birth control is fighting against God's plan. (Bill Gothard has never been married and has no children). They will use verses like Genesis 1:28 (ESV) where God talks to Adam and Eve. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” They will also use verses like Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV) 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Neither Genesis nor the Psalms reveals to us sufficient information to disallow man to determine how many children they as a family can handle. We must also understand that not everything in Scripture is a command to us in the new dispensation of grace, even though everything in Scripture is for us.

 

Another favourite section that is quoted and used to put many Christian couples under major guilt trips is Genesis 29:31 (ESV) 31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” And then we see in 1 Samuel 1:5 (ESV) 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.” Those who love to quote these verses will tell you that you must have children continuously from the moment the Lord opens the womb to the moment that He closes the womb. There are only 5 verses in Scripture, of which two refer to Hannah that talk about the Lord opening or closing the womb. Most of these are where the woman could not fall pregnant and God intervened.

 

All these verses mean is that God is in providential control, but we must not forget that God uses our choices towards providential end. We do not get behind the steering wheel of a car with closed eyes, because we believe that the Lord has determined the end of our life.  In trusting God in the realm of childbearing does not mean that we cannot do family planning. There are those who have so many children, that they battle to give them a lifestyle that is Godly, disciplined or controlled. Others again cannot feed, clothe, or provide the medical care for the many children that they bring into the world, and they end up being a burden on the shoulders of their fellow humans.

 

I have seen believers who refuse to take out health insurance even though they can afford it, because ‘they are trusting in God to provide for them’, and those of us who take out medical insurance are judged as not trusting God. What they actually mean, is, we don’t want to spend money on medical insurance and when calamity strikes big time, the children of God who have been paying their own medical insurance must look after us as well. All I do is, I become a sponge and absorb what others can provide during my irresponsibility. I believe that is sin.

 

All the above examples are not dealt with in depth as this sermon does not allow us the time. Our concern today is with believers manipulating Scripture to make it suite their preferences, and we all can be guilty of that at times.

 

Question 2. Does the formation of this opinion include any judgments about a person’s thoughts or motives?

We saw this in verse 5. We do not know a man’s motives or what is in his heart, but the Lord does. 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” As humans we are so prone to think that we know what others are thinking, because we see some body language or mannerism, that we think we can accurately interpret. Someone might look unfriendly on the surface, but below the surface they are struggling with issues that require your support not criticism. Others might look aloof of ‘mightier than thou’ but in the meantime they actually feel inferior to you and do not open up to you. Someone else might look angry with you, but if you were to dig deep into their heart, or head in this case, they might be suffering of migraine. All of the above does not mean that we do not speak up and find out what is bugging them, but you do not judge them.

 

We must even guard ourselves when it comes to people’s theological views. Reformed Christians are often some of the most intolerant Christians you can ever meet. They will often look down on those who do not understand the spectrum of what could be classified as the doctrines of grace. They will so easily judge that others do not really love the Lord and are not really learned. Be careful, that person may actually love the Lord more than you, but might not have been exposed to the doctrines that you have been exposed to in the same depth. Charismatic believers will often judge non-charismatic believers as not being spirit filled, because you do not have their particular gift. The answer is simple, who are you to judge? If they do not have your gift, with respect, blame the Giver.

 

What about believers who use anti-depressants? Do they trust God or do not they, as the statement is often made that they do not, as they rely on tablets? I have read the views for and I have read the views against. Us as theologians need to be careful to think that we are experts on all levels. I am not a good medical doctor and neither am I a good judge of a person’s heart and motives. I have seen God fearing saints use anti-depressants and it did not take them any further from the Lord. Unless a person says to you that the reason they are taking the medication is because they do not trust God as a believer, we are in no position to trust the motives of their hearts.

 

So, for this week’s part of this series. Let us not go beyond what is written, and do not believe that because something is either your tradition or preference that it is necessary clearly Biblical.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

8 - 11 February 2021 – Logos Community Church.