Week 41 – Be an Advocate for God’s Redemption
Prayer– Our Father, we love you. Thank you for Your amazing love that frees us to walk as new creations. Thank You that Your life and kingdom is great news. Thank You for changing us to bring change to others. This is why we ask that You would continue to shape Sandy Ridge to be a community of good news. Open our ears so we can do something with what we hear. In Jesus Name. Amen.
This past week we read a verse that appears near the top of two lists. The first list is the most quoted Bible verses. You may be thinking John 3:16
which says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” For good reason this is one of the most famous Bible verses. But John 3:16
does not appear on the second list which is the most misunderstood and misquoted Bible verses. The verse that is near the top of both lists is Matthew 7:1
which says (show slide 2) ‘don’t judge unless you want to be judged”. In fact, this verse is so popular that many not yet Christians know this verse and will quote it to defend their beliefs and lifestyles. Even Christians will use this verse if another Christian calls a certain behavior sin. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have heard this verse quoted before in conversation, perhaps at times you did the quoting. Now the thing about this verse is it is covered with tension. On one hand, the Bible is clear that Christians, you and me are called to promote what is good, stand up for truth, protect what is right, and redeem what is broken. This cannot be done without forming judgments or evaluations of what is ugly, destructive, and false. Also, the Bible speaks that people need to be confronted at times. Personally, I am glad that I have a group of pastors and men here at Sandy Ridge that at times have confronted me. Some of you need to be confronted but those who have the courage to confront someone might here the words you don’t have the right to speak into my life or you’re being judgmental. So there’s that weirdness. Yet on the other hand, when judgments form in our minds some of us may have this thought playing in the back of your head saying, “don’t judge, don’t judge.” So what do you do with all that tension and confusion?
Thankfully, there is a passage that I pray gives you greater understanding of when you should and should not judge or how can you confront without being judgmental. This is huge in any kind of relationships. So I invite you to turn with me to Matthew 7
. If you forgot your Bibles make a note to bring it with you next week. Until then Matthew 7
is on pg. 840. We will begin reading in v. 1. Now as you turn there this passage is found in a larger message known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. If you read it aloud it will take you around 30 minutes. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount describes the kind of life Jesus envisions His followers to live. So if anyone is considering surrendering their lives to Jesus then you should strongly encourage them to read Matthew 5-7
. So let’s begin reading God’s Inspired and Authoritative Word. Read.
Here are a few questions that come to my mind from this passage. Maybe these questions are ones you are asking too. (show slide 3) What is Jesus saying? Why is Jesus saying this? And what does Jesus want people to do? So first what is Jesus saying here? Is Jesus saying it is never appropriate to judge a person? Is He saying that when you see a person, a group of people, doing something wrong, sinful, destructive you should remain quiet and just pray? Is He saying that judging a person actually could be the most loving thing you could do? Well, let’s look at Jesus words starting in v. 1. Do not judge. Some suggest there is no point in reading further. There it is. And if that was all Jesus said then we could have this big discussion that when anyone makes a judgment about anything that you need to go to them and say, “ohhhh…. you judged. You need to confess and apologize.” However, we should continue reading because ‘do not judge’ is an incomplete sentence. But before we read further it may be helpful if I mentioned that the word ‘judge’ in the original language has 2 meanings. One of which means to analyze or evaluate but looking at the words ‘do not’ and the words coming from Jesus’ lips after it is more likely the second meaning which is: (show slide 4) do not condemn, put down others based on your opinion.
So based on this understanding Jesus in v. 2 says when you put others down, condemn their character you can expect it is going to come back to you. The question is by whom? God, other people? Jesus doesn’t answer that question. He wants the listener to think about it. Jesus was great at this. He would throw out a big statement to create tension before He communicated His main point. Now the popular interpretation of v. 2 which you may have heard before goes like this: the way you judge others is how God and others will judge you. So how do you want God to judge? I don’t know how you would answer but for me it is with a lot of slack. I want God to take everything into account. I want Him to see the whole picture including how I was raised, where I lived, how my parents got divorced when I was a kid. I want God to take into account how my sister pushed my buttons and that made me respond to her in a certain ways. And I could go on and on to the point where I would want Jesus to just come and put His arms around me and say something like: “poor Travis, you had a tough life. When I think about your life, Travis, I need a Kleenex because you had so many things to deal with like your speech problem, your parent’s divorce, an absent father, not having most of the things you friends had, or how your junior high basketball coach was really too hard on you which created a great deal of insecurities but now look at you. Look at where you are today. I am so proud of you. So if you are wondering if you are going to be in My Kingdom then of course. How could you not? You are amazing to overcome all those things.” That’s how I want to be judged by God. I wonder how many of you feel the same way. And for the people who judge me I want a lot slack as well. If someone is thinking of confronting me I want them to think perhaps I should just ignore, minimize, downplay it because I am sure there are some issues that I am not aware of that if I was then I would understand and would not confront him in the first place. Plus, isn’t there a verse that says if I confront others then I am inviting others to confront me so who wants that? So I think I will give Travis a lot of slack.
But is this really what Jesus is saying? If so, it is quite problematic for God’s holiness. For example, if someone decided to become the king or queen of giving slack to people because that is what they want God to do for them. This will in no way exempt them from a Christ-less eternity if they never bow their knee to the leadership and authority of Jesus. So let’s not forget that (show slide 5) God will never lower His standards just because we lower our standards or choose not to communicate His standards with others. So what then is Jesus saying? Simply, if you are overly critical of others, if you are actively jumping on people’s failures then expect the same kind of treatment from others in this life. Jesus uses a common sense statement that is similar to the Golden Rule that when you have to make a judgment, not the kind that condemns or puts a person down by your opinion because Jesus already said don’t do that in v. 1, but in your judgment you treat them in the way that you would want to be treated. Then you will find others doing the same thing to you. Not everyone but some. But if you judge critically, if you actively jump on people’s failures then you can expect that same kind of treatment. Basically, you reap what you sow.
So as Jesus’ audience is taking all this in He moves His listeners to the main point. Which means vv. 1-2 is not His main point, like so many want it to be. Vv. 1-2 just sets up where He is going. So Jesus’ big idea, the key takeaway that v. 5 reveals is: (show slide 6) God wants to use you to help others see what He sees but God cannot use you if you are blind. Why is Jesus saying this to His disciples and potential followers? Simply, God knows people. He knows humanity has a tendency to focus on the sins and faults of others while ignoring and/or minimizing their own. So in vv. 3-4 Jesus makes a joke by using the illustration of a person who focuses on the dust particle in someone’s eye while ignoring the plank in their own. The word here for plank describes the weight loading beam in a house. The picture here is laughable that something small is in a person’s eye is trying to be taken out by a person with a giant beam in their own eyes. It’s nonsense but don’t miss the truth that small something in the eye does need to come out.
Nowhere in the Bible does God tell His followers to stop exercising the type of judgment that analyzes and evaluates beliefs and behaviors that are harmful, less than God’s best, destructive to oneself, their family, to one’s community. In fact, if we truly love and care for someone, our community, then we will speak up and act in a way that does not want them to continue with their deception, excuses, blame, or rationalizations. People need their eyes open and this is part of why Jesus came. Now if anyone is thinking, “that is something that only Jesus should do” then you probably don’t want to read His words that occurred earlier in His Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:15-16
calls His followers the light of truth and goodness among all the darkness in this sin-stained world.
Now to the question - What does Jesus want people to do?Jesus says 2 things. Both are found in v. 5. Let’s read v. 5 again. Now when Jesus says first it means a second is around the corner. Perhaps some of you may want to write this down. Read rest of v. 5a. What? Really? I need to focus on me first. God, I am confused because that person, that group of people are the ones who have the issue, they are the ones hurting themselves, they are the ones mistreating others, they are the ones believing that lie? To which God would say, “I know. Someone needs to talk to them. Someone needs to stand up for what’s good, right, and beautiful. Someone needs to stand up for the life I want people to live and experience. But I am just wondering if that person is you.” So let me suggest the first thing Jesus wants us to do is ask you question like: (show slide 7) Why do you care that they have a problem? Why does their sin make you feel the way you do? What is about them, this issue, that God You see in me? And just in case any of us ever think well the reason why I am angry, passionate, so worked up is because God and me are like this. No, that statement reflects a lack of self-awareness. Your passion, my passion for righteousness and truth are not even in the same league as God’s. So what happens is that we often avoid these self-reflection questions under the banner of our righteous anger or passion for God’s heart. Now to be clear Jesus followers certainly can demonstrate these emotions in response to the sins and lies of people and our culture but before Jesus will use you and me to perform spiritual surgery on others He wants to see if we are ready and that requires self-reflection like asking ourselves questions like those are the screen.
Now the second thing Jesus says is (read rest of v. 5) is you need talk to them, write the letter, ask the tough questions, show how their belief and/or behavior grieves God, how it is less that God’ best, how it hinders them from experiencing healthy relationships. Jesus cares for their soul and you and I are His instruments or better yet advocates of His redemption. When this happens yes we are analyzing and evaluating based on God’s Word and Jesus calls this making a righteous judgment. This is what Jesus invites you and me as His followers to do in John 7:24
. The world is full of people who ignore and minimize their own sins but (show slide 8) God is looking for people who have come to terms with their own sins which enables them to be the person to talk to others about theirs.
Now this is the way of God’s kingdom. Let me illustrate this idea of being an advocate of God’s redemption by something that all of us have done which is visited the dentist. Now if your dentist ever said, “Wow, you’ve got some problems in there. It is probably because you are lazy, undisciplined, and basically worthless. Now rinse.” What is the likely outcome? You aren’t going to listen to anything the dentist said even though you need hear how to take care of your teeth. And you most likely will not return. This is the way of condemnation. Now, on the other hand, if your dentist said, ‘Well, I’ve found a few cavities and some gum disease. It looks serious but you are only human and to be honest, I’ve seen worse. Especially that woman who was here before you... yikes...So I wouldn’t give yourself too much of a hard time...And make sure you work on that smile by taking some candy on your way out.” Now what is the likely outcome there? You would feel good and probably return but if you do then your teeth are in real trouble. It is just a matter of time before the pain catches up to you. This is the way of indifference.
However, there is another alternative and it was like my experience with my dentist 10 years ago. During my first visit he asked me a fascinating question. He said, “Travis, what goals do you have for your mouth? I thought what? I should have goals. The only goal I could think of was no cavities. He said “that’s good” but what else? Honestly, I didn’t know that I should have goals for my mouth. But he did and that made him a great advocate for my mouth. I need that. He mentioned several goals to consider which I nodded in agreement. Now when I leave my dentist I hear the good news that I have no cavities but he and the hygienist also share a few goals of how I can better care for my teeth. I would suggest to you that is how Jesus overall dealt with people? Not with indifference or condemnation but He was an advocate of God’s redemption and His mission still continues. So people of Sandy Ridge, may you and I embrace Jesus’ invitation to be advocates for God’s redemption as we allow Him to work in us and through us. May our longing for His redemption in us and in the lives of others only grows as His grace continues change us. People of Sandy Ridge, may we be able to see clearly what God sees so we can judge righteously not only for our sake, the sake of others, but ultimately for God’s sake. I invite ? to come up to pray for us.