Judge Not?? [Part 1]

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In recent years, the doctrine of “non-judgmentalism” is becoming more and more popular.

Non-judgmentalism means that you are not allowed to declare something wrong.  If you do declare something wrong, then you are guilty of being “judgmental”. To attempt to prove this, part of what Jesus said is trotted out: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”.

So, if, as a Christian, you make any sort of moral judgment, the non-judgmentalist says “So you claim to be a Christian? Jesus did not judge. Who are you to judge?”

But let’s respond by considering Jesus’ whole quote.

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.    For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

So, Jesus is not issuing a blanket order against judging, but rather is emphasizing having the right attitude when we do judge.

See how Jesus deals with a woman caught in adultery. As her accusers are preparing to stone her to death, Jesus says “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7b) His intervention prevents the woman from being stoned to death.

But Jesus’ final words to the woman are often overlooked:

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

So, Jesus did not tell her: “Who am I to judge?” He is judging, but his attitude is much more “I am grieved that you are doing this” …. than “Ha, Gotcha!”

Think of the mercy of Jesus showed when, instead of condemning us, he died on the cross for us. In the light of this price Christ paid for us, how could we dare to judge with a harsh attitude? Doesn’t Jesus make us merciful people?

Do we render our judgment tempered with mercy? Or prefer to risk judgment without mercy? It’s the very attitude we judge with that will be applied back to us

A “Gotcha” will be repaid with a “Gotcha”. A merciful attitude when correcting someone will be repaid with the same mercy.

Bite the Bullet

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Today I’m giving two translations of a well-known verse. One translation makes our lives look like the bullet-biting picture above. The other one gives us hope.

The verse is Philippians 2:4. First, the translation that makes life very hard for us, from the New International Version:

 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Here is what’s so discouraging about this translation: It looks like we are not ever allowed to ever take some time for rest or something we simply enjoy doing; that would be selfish. We must be 100% dedicated to the service of others 24/7. We must bite the bullet.

The NIV translation is especially harmful for someone with a sensitive conscience. Reading it recently, I felt all beat up since I surely don’t measure up to it. How could I ever please Jesus? So, using the interlinear Bible1, I researched what the verse said in the original.  The meaning is quite different!

The King James Version captures the original Greek meaning perfectly.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Of more recent translations, the New American Standard translation is spot on too: do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

So, I saw the Lord is not saying for me to never think of myself, but to think of myself in the right way.

All day long, Christ is present in us, via his Spirit.  Both when we’re giving ourselves to help others and when we are enjoying personal downtime, we can still enjoy the presence of the Lord. For myself, that means the Lord is present even when spending an evening out listening to music at a jazz club.

Wonderfully, the desperate feeling that we must bite the bullet and hammer ourselves down or Jesus won’t like us starts to disappear!

Instead, since Jesus has given us a clean slate, then in all that we do, we know that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19b)  

 

  1. http://biblehub.com/interlinear/philippians/2-4.htm

Looking Towards 2018

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News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:22-24)

You know when you take a walk on a familiar path and you give a double take and say “Oh, I never noticed that before?” That can happen while reading the Bible, too. Recently I saw something new in a very familiar passage.

In today’s passage we read about Barnabas and about people becoming believers. What’s new is to see there is a connection between us being filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, and people being brought to the Lord.

It’s easy to view coming to belief in Christ as believing the right facts and assenting to some propositions. When people assent to these propositions, perhaps by praying the sinners’ prayer or coming forward in an altar call, they are “in”. But doesn’t Jesus affect the grand totality of who we are? The facts of the gospel should not be detached from the overall change in us that Jesus does. He grabs our mind, heart, will, and emotions.

Barnabas lived as if the gospel were the most beautiful thing in the world. He must have been a joy to be around, as they called him the Encourager. When people who met him would ask him what was behind his attitude, he could reply with the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus.  So, Barnabas united the facts of the gospel and the life of the gospel.

Unfortunately for us, though, there can be a gap between the facts of the gospel and the gospel as we live it out. Sometimes the gospel is not the most beautiful thing in the world for us.

Here is quote from Jesus:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27a)

When we ask Jesus to build that kind of love into us, knowing that we sure can’t build it on our own, the gospel in our lives becomes increasingly beautiful.  The gap between the facts of the gospel and the gospel as we live it starts to disappear.

May we invite our King to live more fully in us in 2018!

 

An Ordinary Couple Meets an Extraordinary Baby

This week, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I am presenting a guest post. It’s from Dig Deeper Devotions and my guest poster is my lovely wife of 35 years, Nancy.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Can you imagine Mary as she looked eagerly at the tiny bundle of flesh that Joseph held in his hands. As he placed the baby in her arms and sat beside her to look at Him, what could Joseph have been thinking? What did they expect to see?

The baby did not glow. His head was not circled by a halo. He looked like other newborns they had seen. He had ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, dark and curly hair. His red wrinkly face protested the travail He had just experienced.

Often we see idealized manger scenes, some of them fancy crystal crèches, and forget how ordinary this event looked in spite of the identity of this extraordinary baby.

Joseph and Mary knew the miraculous circumstances behind the conception: she was a virgin and had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus began kicking at Mary from the womb—gentle nudges to acknowledge His Presence and eagerness to be born—Joseph and Mary had each been visited by angels. They hadn’t spent hours picking a name: the angel told each of them that His name would be Jesus, yeshua, which meant “savior” or “Yahweh saves” (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:30-31).

The people of Israel had long anticipated a Savior, a Messiah, because God had made promises to Abraham, King David, and through the prophets. Now Joseph and Mary looked into the face of someone like them and yet not like them at all.

As you look at the tiny babe in the manger this Christmas, can you feel the awe Joseph and Mary must have felt as God broke into history to dwell with His people and be their Savior?

DIG DEEPER:

Read Luke 1:26-38. What else did the angel tell Mary besides the name she was to give her child?

What was the repeated promise in these OT prophecies: Isaiah 40:2; 53:6; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:25–27; Dan. 9:24; Zechariah 13:1?

Read Matthew 1:22-23 and Isaiah 7:14. What is the meaning of another title given to Jesus?

Read Exodus 19:12-25 and Hebrews 12:18-24. Why do you think the coming of God to meet his people at Mt. Sinai was so different from the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem?

Nancy J. Baker

An Ordinary Couple Meets an Extraordinary Baby For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 Can you imagine Mary as she looked eagerly at the tiny bundle…

via Mary and Joseph — Dig Deeper Devotions

Righteous and Devout?

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Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. (Luke 2:25)

In this Nativity passage, Simeon is eagerly anticipating the birth of Jesus. As I read this passage, a question came to mind: what did it mean that Simeon was called righteous and devout?

For a long time, I think, I viewed that description, at best, as meaning someone who exists on a heavenly plane and is just so far above lots of the stuff that bugs us.

And at worst, it would be someone just like the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live pictured above. Someone who is just a little bit holier than everyone and quite the judge of everybody and who is just so special!

But let’s take a fresh look at what being righteous and devout might mean:

  • Someone who is genuinely humble and instead of being self-righteous, is quick to confess their sin.
  • Someone who, instead of being holier than everyone, laughs a lot, enjoys life to the fullest, and does not take themselves too seriously.
  • Someone who is heading to Christian maturity, is Spirit-filled and has the fruits of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

In Luke, Simeon was looking forward to the consolation of Israel (Jesus) — and don’t we look forward to when Jesus returns and sets up his kingdom? Didn’t that hope affect Simeon’s whole life? Shouldn’t it affect ours?

Simeon had a dose of the Holy Spirit that was very rare in the Old Testament. But Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us every day. Now we get a daily taste of what righteous and devout really means…and that joyful life is nothing like being the Church Lady!

Dare to Be a Daniel?

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I recently spent 2 weeks reading the book of Daniel in my personal devotions.

Daniel seems to be an unblemished Bible hero, meaning that none of his specific sins or character weaknesses are ever mentioned. At first, I thought this made the character of Daniel seem rather unreal to me. I mean, I like how the Old Testament has so many guys who are portrayed as real, warts and all. Think of David with his adultery, Jacob with his trickery, Abraham with his lying, etc.

And since Daniel is regarded as the opposite of those flawed heroes, this leads to a heroic hymn like “Dare to Be A Daniel”:

Hold the Gospel banner high!
On to vict’ry grand!
Satan and his hosts defy,
And shout for Daniel’s band. 

Reflecting on this lionhearted song, I want to first give a warning and then an encouragement. My warning is of this danger: thinking that Daniel is just a good moral example for us; we should be brave like Daniel; we should copy him. We can triumphantly be just like him; indeed, something is very wrong with us if we are not this kind of shining example.

That’s sure hard to live up to, isn’t it!

But let’s move on to the encouragement: Daniel did have sin. And he confessed it.

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— (Daniel 9:20)

Now, the rare and special strength of Daniel is that he confessed his sins quickly, before they got a chance to mess him up badly. In other words, what if David had quickly confessed the sin of lusting after Bathsheba, long before drifting into adultery with her and then murder to get rid of her husband?

So, Daniel shows us that if we do get entangled in a sin, there is repentance and forgiveness for it. And as Christians we understand the source of our forgiveness and power to live well is Jesus Christ. His forgiveness is there for us even if, like David, we have messed up big time.

Daring to be a Daniel includes knowing the ways we are weak and blow it, and having a repentant heart. With a humble, Spirit-filled perspective as a starting point, we avoid simply telling ourselves and others that we need to try harder to behave better.

Amazingly, by seeing how weak we are, we can begin to draw on the power and example, not just of Daniel, but of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tear up that Contract!

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 “But he [the landowner] answered one of them [the hired workers], ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’  (Matt 20:13-15)

Every so often you will hear about an athlete under contract who wants his contract ripped up due to jealousy over a new player getting more money. “If you don’t tear up that contract and give me a better one”, he tells the team owner, “I refuse to play. After all, I am a star who deserves to be the highest-paid player on the team.”

Does the team owner have the right to pay the new player what he wishes and to say, “I can do what I want with my own money”?

 Does Jesus have the right to bless any other believer more than I?

In today’s parable, “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard”, the later-hired workers get told by the owner “I will pay you whatever is right.”  So they went to work. They were glad to get any work, they didn’t even ask what they would be paid. The guys who worked all day got paid the same amount as the guys who worked fewer hours. But the first-hired don’t regard the owner as being generous to the new hires, but rather as being stingy to themselves!

Do I rejoice in others’ blessing, or does it tick me off a little bit?

How much of a feeling of entitlement do I have?

Notice how the Parable concludes:
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matt 20:16
What a contrast between the thankful-for-grace person and the entitled person!

I can grow to be more and more thankful for any grace that is given to me, and less and less concerned about what someone else gets —- except to be rejoicing when they do receive more grace. 

May our thankfulness for Jesus’ grace working in our own lives life and others’ lives increase!