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.

The Next Words

John 3:17

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

I have been riding my bike quite a bit this summer and one interesting observation of note is the number and variety of places I have seen quoted John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” You will not be surprised that I have seen it on more than one church sign but would you believe I have ridden by private residences with this verse posted in their yard or at their mailbox. It is encouraging that people are devoted to Jesus’ words and sacrifice on behalf of the world. I would hazard a guess that John 3: 16 is the most widely known verse in the Bible. What I find interesting, though, is that so few people have any idea what Jesus said in the very next verse, practically in the same breath. It seems to me, that verse 17 is at least as important as verse 16. Verse 17 tells us that God sent the Son into the world for salvation. He came to save the world. It goes further by relieving our anxiety about judgment in that Jesus explicitly says that God did not send him to earth to judge the world. Whew! Salvation without judgment. Does the Good News get any better than that?

It seems clear that one of the reasons we do not know verse 17 is because it is not taught to us or drilled into us the way verse 16 has been. Truly, there does not seem to be as much teaching, especially good teaching, on judgment. Recently I dialogued with someone about sin. What caused it to be enlightening is that, for many people, though they are happy to hear that Jesus isn’t judging them, they shy away from verse 17 because it might force them to drop their negative judgments of others. If we don’t preach verse 17 then we are free to go on judging others. Afterall, it is their sin which is compromising the world, not mine.

This is dangerous theology at best; an all out denial of the Gospel of Christ at the worst. I do not deny that living a judgment free life is extraordinarily hard. That is why we need a daily walk with Jesus. Only by his wisdom and strength can we learn to let go of the painful reality of a critical spirit. We suffer greatly if we fail to let go of judgment and criticism. Jesus died for the people we like to denigrate. I can’t think that makes him feel very good or very proud of us. I write this today in the hopes that we will begin to think about John 3: 17 with some of the same fervor that we have given verse 16 and in meditating on it, that we might become a gentler, more compassionate body of believers.

The Crimson Lens

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

In 2015 I wrote a devotion titled “The Crimson Veil.” The substance of that article is about the effect the blood has on our relationship with the Father. When He looks at us, He looks through a crimson veil, that veil being the blood of Christ. God sees Jesus’ righteousness and worth when He looks at us because He looks through the veil of sacrificial blood. Speaking for myself, that is a powerful image and certainly helps me understand who I am in Christ. And, it is a relief because which of us wishes to stand in our own right?

I had another thought about the crimson veil, though. You have heard that we all perceive the world according to our own filters or through the lens of our world, hence the rose-colored lens. It dawned on me that if I saw the world through a crimson colored lens it would most certainly color my perspective. What if I was able to see other people through God’s crimson-colored lens? I think that would change my world, and that would be a good thing.

Imagine if we all looked at the world through crimson-colored glasses. Think of some of the challenges of 2020 and then put on Dad’s glasses and look at them anew. Does it change our thoughts, our prayers? What does the world look like when it is covered in Jesus’ blood? Oh my!

This one observation shows why God cannot be the judgmental, vengeful God some people make Him out to be. He sees Jesus’ blood everywhere He looks. Imagine if Christians saw every other person through the crimson lens. What if, when we looked at someone who might not even have a redeeming character, we, none the less, saw them splattered with that precious blood? How would that change things? Well, it is something to pray for. I think I would be much more gracious and accepting. Wouldn’t anger recede? What about a sense of betrayal? Think about someone who really gets under your skin and imagine Jesus’ blood covering them. Isn’t it harder to feel the anger and frustration that you might normally experience? Maybe we should all take a deep yoga breath, slowly and fully exhale, and picture our adversaries covered in the sacred blood. I believe this could change the world and in a hurry.

Fish or Snake

Matthew 7: 7 – 11, 12

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

This passage has been on my mind a lot lately, but I wasn’t inclined to write on it. Not every verse that comes to me is for the Word of the Day. Some are just for me. It kept circling around and around though, different parts of it at different times because, as you see, there are several parts to this. It wasn’t until I sat down with my Bible and read through it that I realized that verses 7 through 11 were part of the same message. I was thinking about our Father being a good father who would not give us a snake if we asked for a fish. Then another day ask, seek, and knock came to my mind. I wasn’t putting it all together in my head. Then when I actually took the time to see the words, I found another interesting tidbit, i.e. verse 12. What is going on here? There appear to be at least three thoughts here, yet it seems Jesus delivered all this, practically, in one breath. Could it be these are all related?

That is the message I received out of this passage. God is not denying me anything, or you. We should ask expecting to receive, seek expecting to find and knock expecting God to open the door to us. However, the grease on the hinges of the door just might be the way I treat people. Worse, what if the way I think about people or talk about them, even in private, affects my receiving, finding and opening?

I am trying to learn to be much less judgmental and much more compassionate. One person’s acts, thoughts or words can look very wrong from our perspective and not even wrong in a sinful way but just “not right.” That is a hard lesson. Sometimes the world is very different from their spot on the earth and that difference yields different thoughts and choices. So, from my perspective their decisions may look completely ridiculous but be completely rational from theirs.

Even when you know someone to be wrong, there are times you just have to let them be. I am a teacher, so I want to teach. I need, though, to learn not to judge them or their ideas bur rather just accept them where they are. What a challenge! However, I think this is part of what Jesus wants from us. It is not a blessing to others when I judge them.

The judgement and condemnation we pass on others just might be causing our door to remain stuck closed. That is frightening. What do you think your Father has to say about this? Do you journal with Yahweh? This might be a good question to take to Him. What, if anything, does verse 12 have to do with 7 through 11?

Our Father wants to give us good gifts and bless us. He said to ask, and we would receive. Perhaps if we think about and speak about people in a gracious manner it will be easier for us to receive of His goodness.

There is a Log in My Eye

Matthew 7: 1

Do not judge.

I was reading a little book of quotes the other day. It is fun little book because it has quotes from people aged 5 to 95. This one jumped out at me, “I’ve learned that when you judge others, you are revealing your own fears and prejudices.”

One of the things that bothers me about the modern church is how judgmental and exclusionary we are. Sometimes it feels like the Christian church is a club where membership is limited to those few we deem acceptable. The rest of the folks are just going to hell. I really don’t like that about us. I hate the way some of the non-saved look at us, like just a bunch of holier than thou hypocrites. Just once I would like the church to lead the way of acceptance and tolerance and leave our judgments out of it.

This quote makes one think that it is our own damage that causes us to be judgmental. When I think of some of the most judgmental people I have known this thought gains traction. I remember one person who judged everyone and found none to be worthy. She was friendless and definitely broken but she cleaned up well on the outside. It was sad.

I don’t know where we get the idea that we are supposed to judge others or even allowed to. Jesus said of himself, “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). If Jesus wasn’t judging, what makes us think we were appointed the role? Maybe he couldn’t handle it so God appointed us.

I guess what makes me saddest about this reality is that we judge and condemn others out of our own brokenness. The Church of our God is supposed to be a place where we can heal. I fear few of us spend enough quiet, quality time with the Father for that healing to take place.

Here is what I will take away from today’s Word of the Day, when I catch myself judging others, I will look inwardly to see the source of that criticism. Then I can take that to the Father and be healed. Criticism and judgments are pointers to our own stuff and we need to spend our time on getting our stuff right. We need to let the Father heal us. Maybe, if we let the Father touch us and improve our attitudes others will find it easier to join our club.

Judgment Rendered

Psalm 76: 8 – 9            GW

From heaven you announced a verdict. The earth was fearful and silent when you rose to judge, O God, when you rose to save every oppressed person on earth. Selah.

There is so much confusion surrounding God’s judgment. Well, today you can bask in the good news because when God arose to render His judgment, it was to save every person on earth. Selah!

If you say anything about God’s judgment, most people are as described in this verse, fearful. When God arose to give His judgment, the world held its breath. There was complete silence in fearful anticipation of His wrath. It seems generations of people have misunderstood God. He is always good. He is benevolent and kind. Therefore, when He stood to give His judgment it was so that He could save every person on earth. He was compelled by love and compassion, not anger.

We think God is angry because of our own guilt feelings. We transfer our feelings of unworthiness onto Him so that, in our eyes, the only logical response a Holy God can have is vengeance and wrathful indignation. That, however, is a human perspective born of brokenness and guilt. God’s perspective is completely different. He looks through the eyes of love. He is motivated towards actions which help us. We know we don’t deserve His goodness, so we don’t look for it. Further, we recharacterize His kindness into something which is coherent with our feelings about ourselves. None the less, God is good. He is nothing but good. He is only good and every act of His is good and for our well-being. That is why he pronounced judgment, so that He could be good to us, so that he could save us.

If you will always look at God through this lens, you will see Him clearly and come to know Him as He is.

No More Stumbling

Romans 14: 13

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

Paul has an interesting message for us today. He was dealing with a problem of people judging each other. The Christian church had both Jews and Gentiles and their customs and beliefs were very different. Even their diets were different. Paul opened up the chapter by writing, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgement on his opinion.” (V. 1). Interesting!

We have not been called to judge others, but we are very prone to it. We don’t like being judged either and we don’t usually make friends with those who judge us. So, why do we think people are going to want to become part of our Christian group when we begin with judgment? And here is a worse problem, will we have to account for those who did not receive salvation because we ran them off? That is a frightening thought.

We are told not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in another’s way. The implication is that we are barring people from reaching their place in Jesus and Paul said our judgments are largely responsible. We need to stop being the reasons people don’t want to meet Jesus. We must stop creating obstacles to salvation. Our ideas of people’s worthiness or what they should be are not furthering the Kingdom. We just haven’t been equipped with the knowledge or wisdom necessary to make those determinations. And why do we want to shoulder such a huge burden anyway?

Earlier in this same book Paul wrote, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8: 1). He was trying to introduce people to Christ and have each one accept and honor the other. He had quite a task on his hands as the early church sought to integrate people with very different lifestyles, cultures and values. Then again, it’s not so different from what we are dealing with today.

There is not a person on this earth that God doesn’t love. They (we) are all His kids and thus, all brothers. Even the ones who do not call Him Father are still His and He loves them despite any and all flaws. He sees His beautiful child, not a flawed person. People are fleeing from the Kingdom because of obstacles we have erected. Let us make a concerted effort to break down the walls of obstruction. And by the way, most of those walls are in our own minds. Let us no longer create separation and hurdles which are causing people to stumble. Instead, let us create an inviting, loving space where all people can enter and come to know God for the first time or to get to know Him better. He is love, let’s prove it.