This message is part of a series entitled, “God Tries His Children”. To see all of the messages in this series, please click here.
Tests of preference first involve being able to live with all men peaceably. We understand that our challenge is not to provoke purposefully, but our passions to serve the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him can be provoking. We need to accept the fact that while we may have control over our passions, we have no control over the response of others. Our passionate faith in Christ may offend.
We also found that a very vital test of preference involves not impeding the development of a believer. We should prefer a successful relationship with the Lord in all believers and endeavor to do nothing whatever to hinder that development.
Identifying with the whole truth of these two texts we found that Jesus is fighting for us. He also stands to convict and encourage us. Jesus is our advocate before the Father and we rest in His perfect love. The tests of our preference come through the temptation of our flesh that can outwardly provoke another or if we take action to lead someone down a road away from the Lord and resting in His pure provision.
Another issue that occurred to me is where a perfect storm of growing faithlessness and sin can develop. As we prefer our fears or reasoning over faith, or we prefer our desire to control and completely understand over faith, we can impede the faith of those around us. As we let our personal pride dominate, faith and the great power of God grows dim in the rear view mirror. Pessimism breeds pessimism, faithlessness feeds further faithlessness. When we promote our abilities over that of the Lord to do His will, we fail Him. Where we offend others in the process we violate Matthew 18:6. As we choose to prefer ourselves, our smarts, our abilities and our rationale over faith, we choose to ignore God’s mercy, power, grace and love. We should always prefer God.
Today we talk about judgment. We open a discussion concerning our attitude with respect to judgment. We find in our scriptures that judgment is not discernment and discernment is not judgment.
We consider two passages in scripture today. Both will require context to develop. First, we return to the Sermon on the Mount and then we return to our passages in Romans from last week. In the Lord’s inscripturated Sermon, we will look at a verse that is probably the most oft quoted by unbelievers. Man’s heart (believer and unbeliever alike) does not desire conviction. Natural man wants conviction even less.
Chapters 5 through 7 of the gospel of Matthew carry great heavenly truths and establish these great truths for His Kingdom residents. Jesus is laying these spiritual foundations in those gathered around Him. These truths, as we identified them in the Sermon on the Mount exposition, are clear and growing character traits of the believer who belongs not in this world, but in Heaven. Believers are citizens of another realm, the realm of the almighty God. There is no Christian that does not exhibit these character traits.
Matthew 5:13-16 teaches us about the functional Christian in the world. The question we are forced to ask ourselves is, “What is God’s will and will you submit to it or capitulate to the world?” Christians are the light and salt in a corrupt society. They come into the world and work among the worldly but are not changed by the world or its inhabitants. Christians should have the effect of changing the world around them. We hold back complete spiritual deterioration with our testimony through the Holy Spirit. We are spiritual light and salt in this sea of darkness. Christians are never content with mediocrity before a perfect God who encourages our faithfulness for His provision and His glory, which demands perfection.
From 17-40 we find a discussion of the Christian relationship to the law. We might ask, “What is the Christian position before God in accordance with the law of God?” With Christ active in the believer’s life, the authenticity of righteousness is the moral law of God alive in the life of a believer. The purpose of the moral law is manifest in the Christian. God writes His law on our hearts (Jer 31:33). Authentic inner righteousness lives. It is what a Christian really is. We find the antitheses of the moral law in adultery, divorce, murder, oath taking, and revenge. This is where the Christian has to let his yea be yea and his nay be nay (Jam 5:12). Christians are not content with existentialism, just looking like a good Christian. The Christian must be authentic, functional.
Chapter 6 is practical application, the Christian lives out these things. Christian and religious life, giving, good works, fasting and praying are all alive and vibrant. If a Kingdom resident in Heaven can immediately commune with God, they take full advantage of the privilege of talking with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at every opportunity. Why should any believer on earth be any different? In praying, giving or fasting, our motives must be focused upon God’s glory, not for men as the Pharisees did. Your heavenly Father sees all things – always remember that.
The Christian’s attitude toward material things is wholly different from the world. Desires for food, clothing and other material possessions must be without covetousness. We should live without anxiety for daily provision. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and you shall receive and exemplify all these things.
Our overall life as a Christian is supposed to be lived before God for His glory. Because we live out a Christian life before covetous man, he compares us to himself and those whom he respects (2 Cor 10:12). Therefore, man requires the Christian be a model human being, as natural man defines it. Real challenges develop when Christians press personal and biblically cloudy convictions upon others.
I. Judge not, but discern (Matthew 7:1-2)
Everything we do is scrutinized by the Father. Further, every day brings us closer to that day when we will see God and make an account for ourselves and how we have lived, or not lived, for Him.
Many cry the “judge not lest ye be judged” foul when they are convicted. This claim is often used to cover up false teachings or hearts bent to sin that want to deny conviction. Many react against discipline using this verse. The test for the real Christian is to know judgment and discernment.
Jesus does not mean we are not to discern. Is it a statement of character? Are we to never pass judgment on whether or not someone is a hypocrite or unbeliever? That is not the testimony of scripture. Consider verse six. We are supposed to know what is holy and what is unholy, where the dogs and swine are. When we obey these scriptures, we discern the character and what we suspect is another’s position before God, saved or unsaved. How do we know if we do not make a decision based upon some facts – a discernment?
Verse 20 tells us that we will know them by their fruits. Once again, we look at what others have produced. We scrutinize the labors of others to determine their teaching ability. Romans 16:17 tells us to go further and mark them which call divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrines of the scriptures and avoid them. Whether by their lips or their actions, we are to mark those who divide us and offend other believers as contrary and stay away from them.
First Corinthians 5:9-10 becomes very important after we exercise proper discernment. We do not keep company with fornicators, covetousness, criticizers and pessimists (railers), drunkards or idolaters. You are given authority to pass judgment on those who profess Christ. Doing it in a right and proper way is being a loving Christian brother or sister. We do not want to hear this as individuals, but the fact remains. Each one of us is given to judge one another in order to practice the priesthood of the saints we find in 1 Peter 2:5.
Second Thessalonians 2:14 says we must stay away from those who walk disorderly. We have to determine, judge and discern what is and what is not disorderly. We cannot permit men and women to be accepted when they are exhibiting the things listed as sins in Galatians 5:19-21 and other passages.
We are also given to discern false teachers and stand for truth, opposing error. Neo-Evangelicalism and the other ecumenical efforts fly in the face of this doctrine. We have to make our discernment strictly with scripture, but we have to make them all the same. We should never pressure someone to conform to our personal convictions, nor force those personal convictions into the church as many have done. However, we should notice Christian growth and encourage that change as it develops naturally through the Holy Spirit.
Look at Matthew 7:15. Beware of false prophets – you will know them by their fruits. We have to know what they are and treat them accordingly. We do not just drop all our decision making abilities in order to accept all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to point to others who claim Christ and tell them when they are falling away, encourage them to come to this church because we teach the scriptures, and not deny Christ as He is preached here, but instead deny the heresy as it is preached there.
Galatians 1:9 tells us we have to let those who preach and teach another gospel be accursed. They are as sheep on the outside, but inside like wolves that will devour you. These false teachers appear as sheep but they desire to devour the souls of those before them. Second John also gives us more information in verses 9-11. Those who do not abide in the doctrine of God do not have Christ. In 1 John we read that if you do not have the Son you do not have the Father. In 2 John we read that without the doctrine of Christ we deny the fundamentals of the faith. Without the fundamentals of our faith, we cannot grow in knowledge of who Christ really is. John goes further than just not letting them in your church. John says you should never even let them in your home. You should not even permit them room in your house at all.
Sincerity is no substitute for the truth. The scribes and Pharisees, Saul of Tarsus, Buddhists, Islamists all of them were and are sincere. What matters is not their sincerity, but those things in which they place this sincerity.
Jesus does not mean we are not to discern the character and activity of others. We are not supposed to dismiss our discernment with respect to teachings of men.
II. Unity in Humility (Romans 12:16)
This passage in Romans brings to fruition the scriptures before. Romans 12 opens with an encouragement to present ourselves as living sacrifices. We should not be conformed to this world, but transformed in our mind. This transformation proves our faith that God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect.
In our next verses, beginning in verse 3 we find we are not to think ourselves higher than others. The exhortation is to discern whether or not we exalt others higher than ourselves. We also find that each of us is a vital piece of the body of Christ. Each one of us must work in the body to have the body work properly. None of us have the same function, none of us should presume the position of another as we discussed some weeks ago. The reason for these differences and the things associated with them is that we are all uniquely gifted within the body. We are all given individual powers to edify, build and encourage the body. These powers tie us together just as a real physical body is tied together. If we pictured the body again, we would see each of the parts of the body as the functioning elements, and the Holy Spirit is the skin the holds it all together. We know that the Head is Christ. Our gifts are wide-ranging and individual. We are exhorted to prophecy if we are prophetical, we must serve if we are servants. Teachers are encouraged to teach. As we go down the list in verses 6 through 8 we find that every individual must serve, for each individual is gifted to do so in some way, by some gift, for some reason.
When we look at verse nine we are strongly exhorted to love without hypocrisy and abhor evil, cling to what is good. We should devote ourselves to one another with a brotherly love. Here we get our words to have preference toward one another in verse 10. We should honor one another and love one another with a fervent spirit, serving the Lord. We are called to rejoice in hope and persevere in tribulation and strife. Our life is devoted to prayer and hospitably contributing to other saints as unto the Lord. We are even supposed to bless individuals who might cross us or wrongfully accuse us. We rejoice with everyone who rejoices and we equally understand why others weep, and share in their deepest sobs.
Now we come to verse 16 and find that we are to be unified in mind. The word for mind is a word that means understanding or wisdom. We are given to keep the same goal in mind – to glorify God in all things. We are given to focus upon honoring Him in a faithful following of our Lord, and in faithful diligence in His work. That work may be great, and yet it may be small in our part. However, all God’s works are eternal and everlasting. If we only fold a paper as a part of that ministry, we have done something on a scale we might never understand.
We are not supposed to be grasping for the gold ring all the time. We do not deny others of lowly estate to try to build something around us that looks like a palace a king would be proud of, all in an effort to make something of an upper crust ministry. Folks, ministry in the trenches is dirty. We have to be willing to get down in that dirt and help the lowly of the world out of those trenches.
We certainly are blessed to be in a country of great prosperity. We do not mean to diminish wealth at all in this discussion. The issue we have is with those we might all call snobs; those who might put their chin up to certain individuals. Those mentioned in this verse, who are haughty in mind, are individuals who would not be caught dead with “those people.” I saw a great illustration of this one time where a group of ladies were gathered around a lunch table eating expensive salads. They were all white, wealthy and successful or married to successful men. One of these ladies had adopted an older black child. The other women there were mortified that she might consider it, let alone actually adopt a black child, especially when the woman had a young daughter in her home. Her response to these attitudes was, “Shame on you.” Shame on us when we contemplate such vile things, such as considering others lower than ourselves and unworthy of our attention, time, money or accommodations. That a Christian would place a life somewhere below them simply because we are affluent or we desire to be in the upper crust is reprehensible. One of the most common responses is, “Well, we just don’t do that.” Another one is, “You have to be careful.” Paul wrote be careful for nothing (Phil 4:6).
We often do this with how we expect things in our life to be. We seem to press upon other things that they are somehow sacred or so precious that we might disparage someone or press ourselves upon someone because of this pre-conceived notion. We presume we are the Christians after whom others have to pattern their lives. We presume above all that we have the existentials right. What we frequently miss about our attitude is that our Lord often slept on the ground. In Judea the list of critters that bite and hurt you is long, painful and scary. From scorpions to tarantulas to snakes, they are all out there. Our Savior had no place to lay His head. The transformed Christian has to understand that we begin in the ground, among the dirt and filth of sin. Jesus came down here, dug deep into that ground and saved us from that mire.
Have you ever considered what it would have been like for our Savior to sleep at the bottom of a fishing boat? Folks, in those days where did they put the fish? That boat more than likely reeked of fish. Jesus fell asleep among His disciples in the mire of a fishing boat. We might speculate that since He knew there was a storm coming, He may have invited the cleansing of rain and sea.
We can too often throw people aside that we do not consider to be worthy of our time, equal to our status or in our league. I pray you never fail in this level of judgment. Can we be the Savior, walking into a leper colony and witnessing to them with full faith in that if we are afflicted it is God’s choice, not ours? We must give up our stereotypical attitudes of people and be flexible for all of God’s tools and belongings. They are His to use, they are His people to save, they are His sheep we serve, it is His will that will be done.
We can be discerning but we must not be judgmental. When we judge we place people into categories and determine who gets what. We have no right nor authority to do that. What we should do is discern real Christian character and encourage others to grow in Christ.
We further develop unity as we humble ourselves to understand the complete truths associated with our own standing before God. It’s easy to say we know where we came from. It is much harder to actually live out that truth. We are judgmental when we forget where we came from and where we must go. We must be humble in our lives and the things of our lives. Nothing belongs to us. It all belongs to God.
Above all things, we remember the great glory of an almighty omnipotent God of the universe. His power is over all, for all and always positioned to glorify Himself. We can position ourselves to take advantage of that power when we focus upon glorifying Him. That is done by positioning ourselves in faith before His throne, trusting only Him and not in ourselves. We should rest in this power, in His position and seek always to glorify Him by completing His will. When we look to Him, commune with Him, take all our cares to Him and not to others we eliminate our judgmentalism and the propensity to be judgmental. He is a great God. He will hear your prayers.