Not Jesus, Not God, but Us?

John 5:22

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son.

Yesterday we saw Jesus saying, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him,” (John 3: 17). Today we get to see more about what Jesus had to say regarding judgment. There are many messages we receive from this short statement. Although not the topic of today’s Word of the Day, I do think it worth noting for those who characterize God as a vengeful, angry God that Jesus, who probably knows Yahweh best, said, explicitly, that God is judging no one. That is a pretty big statement, well, huge in fact. He is not attempting to wreak vengeance on a disobedient generation.

Taken together we learned, first, that God did not send Jesus into the earth to judge the world. Second, we are told that the Father is not judging anyone Himself. Therefore, if we are judged it is by our own actions and of course, by other humans. Judgment and salvation stand in opposition to one another. If God wished to judge us, then he would not have sent Jesus to save us. In fact, Jesus saved us from judgment in his coming to earth. We would have been judged by the law, but the saving grace of Jesus and his blood saved us from judgment. This is the basic tenet of Christianity. Therefore, we especially need to come to grips with judgment both of ourselves and that which we direct towards others.

Being saved from judgment is huge. It isn’t just good news. It is Great News! One might think this truth is being shouted and taught from every pulpit in the world. Yesterday I revealed why it is not. We, ordinary Christians and clergy, are not motivated to give up judgment. That, I believe, is why you don’t hear these lessons taught frequently.

First, clergy. If we give up being able to pass down judgment on the laity, then how will we keep you in line. You see, clergy can brow beat you with the threat of judgment and that works to keep people toeing the line. If we give up judgment with what will we threaten people? Instead, if we preach gloom and doom judgment, people may be more inclined to curtail bad behaviors and add good behaviors like working at the church. So, if we give up judgment, we, the clergy, may not be able to control you any longer.

What about us as normal, everyday Christians? Well, some of you are good at being non-judgmental. Others of us, not so much. Why is that? One of the truths about judging others’ behaviors and finding them below par is that it makes us feel better about ourselves. We do not look so wretched when compared with some of the folks around. The problem with this philosophy is that we are, perhaps, committing an even bigger sin by our judgments. Paul warns us about having a critical, cynical nature in Ephesians 4 and instructs us to use our words for only those things which are edifying. I find, instead, that we can be very critical of the unsaved and even of our own brethren.

None of us has received a judicial appointment from God. He has reserved judgement only for His Son. I have written on this because I think it is very important and probably more important now than ever. We must look to our own transformation and allow the Holy Spirit to do a work in us. As long as we cast aspersions on others we display evidence that our own hearts are not yet mature. I do not deny that this is a challenging topic, but if we want to be a blessing in this time of great trial, it must begin with a cessation of judgmental attitudes. People are damaged and people are hurting. Often it is that damage that creates the “sins” we so easily recognize in others. So, we judge their actions rather than praying for their hearts. It is easy to do but we need to step up in our position in Christ and stop criticizing and condemning those for whom Christ died. We need to stop compounding their sin with ours. Let’s pray for healing and release so that our critical natures may be relieved. Let us be the voice of Christ in this world. The accuser is not Christ. He is the sacrifice. It is an important distinction.

Grace and Power

Acts 6: 8

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

If you don’t know Stephen’s story you might like to read the rest of this chapter and chapter 7. He was remarkable in his faith.

This eighth verse really struck me today. I am always interested in hearing about the great signs and wonders being performed because I am passionate about us interacting with the world in such a fashion. We are disciples of Jesus every bit as much as Stephen so we should walk in and exhibit the same power and anointing that he did.

The reason this verse arrested me is because of the word grace. Stephen was full of power. We know that because of the many signs and wonders he performed. But what of grace? Why is grace mentioned in conjunction with a declaration about signs and wonders? Could it be that grace is a critical component of miracles? We know that Jesus was full of grace and compassion and we also know that the miraculous was common with him. 

I believe that the miracles are simply the release of God’s power into the earth through the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus worked hand in hand with the Holy Spirit and as you read about Stephen you will conclude that he did too. So, is it by the grace of God, then that we all are able to not only receive the Spirit of Jesus to live within us but also to release the love and compassion that is in His heart? And you see, if grace is a key element then that takes our cleverness, creativity and holiness out of the picture entirely. It is only by grace that we are saved and by grace we can walk in this awesome power. Because God’s grace is the fuel then we do not have to be anything other than willing. We only need be vessels of grace. However, being vessels of grace means that we cannot be instruments of judgment and condemnation. That stands to reason doesn’t it? Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It is unearned; willingly given by a loving God. Therefore if we wish to flow in God’s power as did Stephen, then we must learn to flow in grace. We cannot be critical and judgmental while letting love flow. A critical, judgmental nature will cut off the flow completely.

Let us abound in this grace that so empowered Stephen. Let love honestly have a place in our hearts and thoughts. And, let us extend the precious love of God first to ourselves. Be not critical of who you are but rather revel in who Christ has made you. You are hidden in Christ and a glorious creature. Now let that glory flow to others.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Matthew 7: 1 – 2

Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

This is Jesus speaking. One might think that he could have stopped with “Do not judge.” Shouldn’t that end the conversation? And yet we really have a pervasive problem in our society and in our church body with judgment and condemnation. As we address this question of judgment we need first understand that Jesus was speaking to us as believers. Secondly, he was not protecting the people that we judge. This passage, this speech was meant to protect us.

We must understand the grace of God and the work of Jesus in order to conceptualize the meaning in today’s Biblical passage. God has endeavored throughout the time of humanity to draw us into a close relationship with Himself. When we blew it, He sent Jesus to cover our mistakes so that we could be again reconciled to Him in that devoted, personal relationship. So, it is God’s grace and Jesus’ death and resurrection that have placed us back in a place where our sin no longer separates us from God. You see, Jesus’ victory has removed us from judgment. He bore our sin right to the pit of hell so that we would not have that sin taint on us any longer. He removed the judgment that was upon us because of our iniquities. But, when you judge others you take yourself out of that grace and put yourself back under judgment. Okay, I know that is a stupid thing to do but, of course, we don’t mean to condemn ourselves. So why do we do it?

One might think that we judge others out of a sense of arrogance. Well, that may be true to an extent but the greater reason seems to be that we judge others when our soul condemns us. In other words, it seems that our critical assessment of others springs from a failure within ourselves. We see our own inadequacies but they are so daunting and embarrassing that we hide from the truth. As we shy away from the truth about ourselves we manifest that disappointment in ourselves as judgment of others. We become very critical. If you will notice, people who have a lot of unresolved personal issues tend to be critical of everyone around them. They are never satisfied with the sermon on Sunday, the choir was off pitch, the servers took too long, etc. It becomes all about everyone satisfying them because they are so dissatisfied with themselves.

But, shall we also look at ourselves. Let me be the first to say that I have been too judgmental. It seems so clear at times, “That person is a jerk.” Okay, well maybe he is but that judgment is really self-condemnation and we must allow God to free us from it. Once we are whole then we are able to accept others complete with their warts. We must learn to love the unlovely but I think the only way we can do so is to finally, once and for all, learn to love the most unlovely one of all, the chap in the mirror. We can dress him or her up, fix our hair and put on the best image we know how to create but in the end the scalawag always shows up. Hurting people hurt people. We’ve all heard that but did we know that it applies to our perceptions of others and the judgment that emanates from them?

Sure sometimes we can so easily see the flaws in others but seeing those yet unregenerated areas is not the same as judging that person. Do you ever feel or express that criticism. Are you saying to others negative things about someone else? Are you judging them or their actions as wrong? Most importantly, is this your habit? Do you find that you are often critical? What would your spouse and children say?  

Most of us still retain some of the scars and warts from the world. Hopefully we are all growing in the fullness of God’s grace for us and the wholeness that Jesus purchased for us so please do not condemn yourself if you find that you are critical and judgmental. It just means that you have identified an area where you might want to throw the door open to Jesus’ ministrations. Remember that self-condemnation is really where this all begins. Once you truly love yourself with the love of God, then you will be more accepting of others too. You will no longer need to divert attention from your own failures and short-comings. That anger that is deep within you, that self-revulsion which has been so deeply buried and hidden can finally be exposed and expelled. When you embrace that God absolutely loves you just as you are you will be free to love others. Open your heart, soul, spirit, all that is you to the river of living water which is the Lord Jesus himself. We washes clean. He covers all your short-comings with his perfection so that you can stand in the very presence of God Himself with confidence. If you will learn to love yourself and let God love you, if you will learn to accept yourself and know that you are accepted right now by God, then you can cast off that critical, judgmental nature. You will be able to get along with others and others will be able to get along with you. Look, there is freedom in Christ so let’s get free. Let us walk in the liberty and life that Jesus came to give us. 

One last thing, I understand that you are afraid. If you were not then you would never have sublimated those truths about yourself. It is okay. God is loving, kind and gentle. He wants to help you. He is not trying to punish you. It is you who punishes you. You can spend a life time of misery or a few minutes of honest self-assessment. Sure, sometimes the healing is a little bit painful but it is so miniscule in truth and it is so very short in duration. Why be miserable and make those who love you miserable forever when you can spend a little time with God being honest and healing. Don’t let your epitaph be about your untapped potential. Don’t leave people standing beside your grave grieving over what could have been. That is the saddest thing of all. Live this life God has given you wide open full of the joy of the Lord. Let Him touch you. Allow Him to breathe into you the life He ordained for you. Let Him heal you and let Him love you. Accept Him, His love and yourself. In Jesus’ name, I pray.