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Judge Not and Christian Discernment

January 6, 2008 Pastor: Don Green Series: Matthew

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Matthew 7:1-5


This morning, I am very happy to go back into the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 7, if you want to start to turn there. One of the benefits of being able to teach like this is to give you that which helps you walk through your own spiritual life and to be able to walk through with discernment – knowing that it is not possible to personally interact with everyone like I would like to – to give you certain principles that can help you in difficulties that are bound to come, and that is something that is going to be evident today.

This morning we are going to go to a passage that has several implications for your Christian character and for the nature of your eternal reward. The passage that we are going to be looking at today and next week is really going to have a tremendous impact on what the nature of your eternal reward from God is. It is a well-known text, but at the same time, it is one that is often abused by those who wish to avoid legitimate spiritual accountability. I want to be able to deal with that and be able to help you think through some things today because it is an issue that we all face.

Matthew chapter 7 – I am going to read the first five verses and then we will get into the text this morning. Beginning at verse 1, Jesus continuing on in His sermon said:

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

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

This passage is absolutely vital for your Christian life. On the positive side of this passage, its implications guide you on how to deal with difficult people. It guides your spiritual life in the midst of weighty responsibilities and hostile forces. And as we will see more next week, responding to its teaching in a godly way will increase your eternal reward before God. I know of few passages that so directly speak to that matter and the standard by which God will judge even Christians when they stand before Him to give an

account of their lives. So this is a very important passage that, as it were, kind of puts its finger under our chin and lifts us up to think above and beyond today – to look beyond to that point where all of our lives are actually going as it speaks about approaching judgment even for believers.

But on the negative side, this passage is a favorite shield, a favorite weapon, in the hands of false teachers and professing Christians who are living in sin. They misuse Jesus’ words where He said, “Judge not, so that you will not be judged.” False teachers and professing Christians who live in sin will latch onto those words to intimidate people into silence who would otherwise bring a proper scrutiny to their lives and teaching – with words and attitudes to this effect, with their arms folded across their chest: “You are not supposed to judge me. Jesus said, ‘Judge not’ – I don’t have to answer to you.”

Now here is the question that is before us this morning: is that what Jesus intended when He taught His disciples on the mountain? Did He intend to give a pass, as it were, a get- out-of-jail-free card, to people who were twisting and distorting the Scriptures and living in sin? When I frame the question in that way, the answer is rather obvious, but I need to explain to you why that is true – why it is true that that is not what Jesus intended. You need to know how to respond to that because that is an ongoing problem in the life of the church.

Speaking of the church in the broadest sense, not only Grace Community Church but in the broadest sense, the question is: How do we justify exercising discernment if Jesus told His disciples not to judge? Now, as in all biblical interpretations, context is essential to get into the true meaning of what Jesus was saying.

It has been at least three months since we were in the Sermon on the Mount. I do feel embarrassed to say I am continuing my series when it has been broken up in so many different sections. But even if you didn’t know that I have been doing a series on the Sermon on the Mount, I want to reset the context as we move into Matthew 7 because it is going to help us understand this passage that is before us today.

As you know, Matthew is a gospel – it is giving an account of the life and teaching and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; it is an account of His public ministry. If you look with me in Matthew 4:17, you will see that there is an opening summary of the nature of Jesus’ message that Matthew gives for us. After He had been tempted by the devil, after He had been in the wilderness, Matthew records this for us in verse 17 of chapter 4 – he says:

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

To repent is to turn fundamentally away from sin and toward God in submission to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is the only way to be saved from your sins. You must put your faith in Christ alone if you want to be rescued from eternal damnation. Acts 4:12 says:

There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

There is no need to dialogue with Catholics or Mormons or Muslims about any kind of supposed points of common truths or common ground that we can find. It comes down to Christ and Christ alone, and if that is not the message of salvation that someone brings, they are not to be listened to, because they are only teaching a broad way that leads to destruction. The Bible is not unclear about this, and it is a travesty that so many evangelicals want to dialogue instead of proclaim the truth. It gets my dander up and I’m just five minutes into this!

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is explaining to His disciples what the repentant life looks like. He is describing the repentant life and He is commanding the nature of the repentant life as we go into chapters 5-7. You know that is the case by the way the opening verses are recorded in the Sermon on the Mount. Look at Matthew 5:3, where Jesus says:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Notice that the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” appears in verse 3, the opening verse of the Sermon on the Mount, and it also occurs in that summary statement of Jesus’ teaching that we looked at earlier, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And so what that is showing us is that there is a link between those two verses, a link that is designed for us to see that Jesus is expanding on that summary statement, “Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The contents of the Sermon on the Mount explain what that is like.

And what does that life look like? What is the repentant life? Very briefly, two points. This is by way of review from quite a long time ago, but again, we are setting the context here. First of all, the life that Jesus describes for the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, the life of the true Christian, is:

1. A Life of Blessing

I love to make this point. God saves us in order to bless us. It is the only way that it could be because God is a good God, He is a gracious God, and when He saves someone and brings them into His kingdom, He is saving them in order to bless them.

Look at the opening verses of the Sermon there, Matthew 5:3-10. Over and over again, Jesus says, “Blessed” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are the gentle,” “Blessed are the pure in heart,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and on and on it goes. This sermon opens up with the statement of blessing, saying that these people are the privileged recipients of divine favor. People who are manifesting repentance in their life are people whom God has blessed, is blessing, and will continue to bless – a wonderful thing! Even though it means we recognize our own spiritual

bankruptcy and we have no merit to commend ourselves to God, Jesus says when you are repentant, you are blessed.

There is another aspect of this that we can look at if you will turn over to chapter 6. Just emphasizing and reviewing very quickly that Jesus is describing a life of blessing to His disciples – as Jesus is teaching against hypocrisy in chapter 6, verse 3, He says:

When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret – here is what I want to show you – and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

In verse 6, as He talks about prayer – at the end of verse 6, Jesus says:

Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

And in verse 18, when He talks about private fasting, He says:

Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Look at chapter 7 with me, verse 11 – Jesus says:

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!

All of that little quick survey to say that God intends to bless His children – God rewards His children when they are obedient to Him. God gives what is good to His children.

Beloved, if you are here in Christ and you know Christ, and you have repented of your sins and put your faith in Him and you are on your way to heaven, you are blessed. You are a privileged recipient of the favor of God that distinguishes you from the mass of people who are unsaved. That should cause your heart to well up with gratitude and thanksgiving and assurance to have realized that that blessing has been bestowed upon you, because this is grace. If you have been born again, you are blessed. These promises belong to the children of the kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount describes a life of blessing, and that is one of the big overarching themes of this entire sermon.

Now secondly, again by way of review, this sermon is describing more than a life of blessing, although that is a central part of it. This sermon is also describing and commanding:

2. A Life of Righteousness

The Sermon on the Mount is a call to a righteous life. It is a call to express – get this – it is a call to express the dynamic character of the citizen of the kingdom of God that increasingly conforms itself to the commands and character of God Himself.

The standard and the call to righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount is very lofty, it is very noble, it is what every Christian heart should aspire to both in its internal manifestations and its external manifestations. Jesus particularly emphasizes the internal in this sermon. Look at Matthew 5:6 with me, so that you can see this theme of righteousness in this sermon as well – Jesus says:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Your goal in the Christian life – please hear me carefully – your goal and the aim and the purpose of your spiritual life in Christ is not your personal happiness. Your goal and your aim in the Christian life is your personal righteousness. And as you aim for righteousness and trust God, that happiness may or may not be a byproduct of that.
Sometimes righteousness leads us into difficulty; it leads us into sorrow and difficult situations, but you are able to live above that difficulty. No matter how hard it is, you are able to live above it because the supreme desire of your heart is the righteousness that God calls you to, not contentment in your personal circumstances.

That beloved, is where you need to train your heart to go: “I want to be righteous more than I want to be happy.” And as it works out in the Christian life as you pursue righteousness, God gives you a deeper joy over time than you would have had if you had sought happiness and pursued your own version of what you wanted your circumstances to be like. The person who is blessed is the person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness; contentment is the byproduct of that search. Look at Matthew 5:20 with me – Jesus says:

I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

We spent a lot of time on that verse, simply saying that the Pharisees were content with an external show of religion that was devoid of the inner reality. Jesus says to His disciples, “You must pursue the inner reality, and you must have an inner righteousness that goes beyond their hypocrisy if you wish to enter the kingdom of heaven” – it points us to our need to be born again.

Look at Matthew 5:48, as we talk about the Sermon on the Mount being a call to a life of righteousness:

Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

That is the standard. We aim for the character of God, and even though we fall short, we don’t lower or reduce the standard of what righteousness requires in our lives simply because we don’t meet it. Our failure to meet it – in the ways that we fall short and sin and fall short of the glory of God – simply drives us back to our own poverty of spirit, our own need to be confessing our sin, and it points us beyond ourselves to the person of

Jesus Christ, who alone can provide us the righteousness we need to be right with God and to stand before Him when judgment comes.

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, beloved, throughout this sermon, Jesus is reinforcing the themes of blessing and righteousness in the kingdom of God. I really believe that any passage that you could look at, any individual verse in the Sermon on the Mount, you could connect them to one or both of those two themes – that is what He is describing; this is His opening salvo in His public ministry.

When we were last in the Sermon on the Mount back in September, we finished chapter 6 and we finished Jesus’ teaching on anxiety. Throughout chapter 6, Jesus had been describing the Christian’s relationship to God the Father. And at the risk of oversimplification, for the sake of time, Jesus taught us that it is enough for us – what I mean by that is that it is enough to satisfy our souls and to have a sense of contentment and peace in our lives – it is enough for us to know God the Father, to obey Him and to trust Him to reward us in His good time. And you see this in chapter 6:33 and you see this reinforcement of what I said about seeking righteousness first not happiness, because in Matthew 6:33, Jesus commands His disciples and tells them:

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

It is the matter of where you establish your priorities and what you aim your life at. If I am aiming after righteousness, and difficulties and sadness come, I can take that, I can accept that, I can embrace that, because happiness was not the goal to begin with – that is fundamental to Christian living.

Now with all that said all too briefly, that is the context as we move into chapter 7, as we move into this great passage that is going to conclude Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Chapter 7 – speaking of it as a big unit, all 29 verses of it – introduces the final section of this sermon. And we could title this final chapter, to kind of orient us to the whole context of it – we could talk about it in terms of the Christian and coming judgment, or living out the Christian life in light of the fact that judgment is coming. I want you to see this theme of judgment clearly so that it would help us interpret this passage properly.
Chapter 7:1 – notice that Jesus says:

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged.

We are going to talk about this more next week, so we are not going to get hung up on this point. But notice that Jesus says, “You will be judged,” and He is talking to His own disciples. Each one of us is going to stand before God and give an account for our lives, even as believers. Now listen, that is a fearsome thing for me to think about it – to say when I stand up before so many of you, I realize, I am mindful of the fact, that each one of you is moving toward a personal appointment with God. And the nature of what happens there is going to be affected by what Jesus teaches in these two verses here, the

first two verses of chapter 7. And so I feel a tremendous weight of responsibility as I stand up here, not only to get it right, but to impress the importance of that upon you that you would take it seriously, and that is the whole idea that Jesus has in mind here.

Now, we are going to come back to that next week and discuss that and explain it more – I promise that we will go into that in great detail – but what I want you to see is this theme of judgment as it runs through chapter 7. Look at verse 13 with me – Jesus says:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

The whole mass of humanity is walking through two gates: a wide gate that leads to destruction and a narrow gate that leads to life. The ultimate destination is either destruction or eternal life. These are weighty issues that Jesus is impressing upon us. Look at 7:21 – Jesus says:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.

Many will say to Me on that day – that day, that coming appointment that every man has; it is on his calendar whether he recognizes it or not – Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then – the Son of God says – I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Jesus says in the opening words of this chapter, you will be judged. Now beloved, the true Christian, particularly when he sees and understands this teaching – which is why Jesus gave it – the true Christian understands that he faces a final accountability before God. How he responds to good times, how he responds to bad times, how he responds to the law of God, the person of Christ – the true Christian understands that there is an accountability and an account that will be given before God one day. Right now, we are just in the antechamber before we go in for our appointment.

Here is what I want you to understand; here is what I want you to think about; this is what I want you to embrace in your heart: That knowledge of coming judgment, that knowledge of final accountability, should have a very profound effect upon you and upon me. That knowledge of coming judgment – get this, because this will reverberate throughout all of eternity – that knowledge of final accountability should motivate you to live out this sermon and not settle for outward displays of religion apart from the inner reality.

Let me say that again because that is really why I believe Jesus ends on this note: The knowledge of future accountability before God should motivate you to live out this

sermon and not settle for hypocrisy, not settle for outward displays of religion in your life that are divorced from an inner reality in your heart.

There is no other way to view this. How could anyone in their right mind, anyone that sees anything about what the Scriptures have to say about this – how could you possibly be in your right mind and be indifferent to your coming appointment with God?

So I plead with you, for your sake, to take what Jesus says seriously, to examine your heart first of all to see if you are even in the faith at all to begin with, to see if you truly know Christ, because your appointment is coming. And if you do know Christ, to rest in the fact that your sins are forgiven, to know that God will open the doors of heaven to you as it were and to rejoice in that, but at the same time to realize there is still an accountability to be had for the stewardship that He has given to you in this life. That, beloved, is a great thought, a great motivating influence to holiness as we embark on a new year.

That’s the broader context, the more immediate context as we come to Matthew chapter 7: Sermon on the Mount – life of blessing and righteousness. Chapter 7 – the Christian and coming judgment and accountability before God. Now we come into the more particular verses that are before us today, beginning with Jesus’ opening words:

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

A.W. Pink says this about those words: “Unless the meaning of these verses is opened to us, we will be at a loss to repel those who would bring us into bondage by the corrupt use they make of it. There are few verses less understood by those who are so ready to cite them and hurled them at the heads of those whom they ignorantly or maliciously suppose are violating them.”

That’s a bit of a mouthful there. Basically what he is saying is this, and this is the situation that he is pointing to: There are some men, there are some false teachers, there are many false teachers, building up to what I am about to say, and many professing Christians who if you question their teaching and say, “That doesn’t sound right,” or if you approach them about sin in their lives – you say, “You know what? I don’t think, my friend, that you are living up to the standard that God requires here; you are living in sin”
– there are many people whom you would approach in that manner who will respond like this, in essence if not in exact words: “Don’t judge me. Jesus said, ‘Judge not, so that you will not be judged,’ and here you are, judging me!” What do we to say to that?
That’s what we are going to spend the rest of our time on this morning.

Beloved, I realize that for many of you – and I am like this too – none of us really enjoy conflict too much. None of us like getting involved in a battle like that. But when somebody responds to you in that way, understand this, that the response “Don’t judge me; Jesus said you can’t do that” – understand that that response is nothing more than this: it is sheer manipulation and Scripture-twisting when someone speaks that way. It is not an honest effort to engage the merits of an issue. It is a thinly veiled effort to

manipulate you into silence and to avoid what may be legitimate accountability for a man’s teaching or his lifestyle – that is not an acceptable response.

Your job as a Christian, when you find yourself engaged in that, is not to be intimidated into silence because that is not what Jesus was talking about and it certainly was not a weapon that Jesus gave to those who would oppose His teaching in order to silence those who would bring them to account – that’s ridiculous.

But let’s be honest: There is a superficial plausibility to that objection, isn’t there? The whole point of the objection is to kind of put you on your heels, put you on the defensive, and it makes you wonder if you are doing the right thing – or maybe you are the one that is off-track, not the one who is twisting the word of God.

I want to spend some time on this faulty use of Jesus’ words so that you can be equipped to deal with such situations in the future with confidence, with a gracious spirit, but with a tenacious spirit as well.

Now, how can this passage be misused in that way? Why is it so easy? Why is it such an easy weapon in the hands of false teachers and Christians who are living in sin?

Here is why, on a linguistic level: The reason that can happen is because people – and you and I included – we don’t stop to think about the different ways in which we use the word group that includes words like judge and judgmental and judgment. In English as well as in the New Testament Greek, the word “judge” is used in multiple ways, depending upon the context. My abridged English dictionary, for example, gives at least 8 definitions of the word “judgment” and 15 definitions for the word “judge!”

Now think with me for a moment. This is all designed to help you defend yourself against false teachers – this is why we are doing it. Think with me for a moment about how we use those words. We just do this automatically without thinking about it, but sometimes we need to step back and analyze it: We talk about a judge who presides in a court room. We use the word “judge” as a verb to refer to making a decision; for example, we might say the elders have to judge this dispute between the church members.

In a different sense, we use the word “judgmental” to refer to someone who has a critical spirit: “That man is so judgmental I can’t begin to please him no matter what I do.” We speak about judgment in a legal sense: “The court entered judgment in favor of the defendant.” But we also speak of judgment as expressing sound wisdom: “My best judgment is that you should finish college before you get married.” We can use judgment in a lesser sense to simply express a biased opinion: “In my judgment, the Chicago Cubs should not be considered a major league baseball team” [laughter]. Half of you are nodding your heads – “Ha, he’s got a point!” We use judgment in a biblical and a theological sense: “At the end of our lives, we will appear before God in judgment.”

Now beloved, keep all of that in mind as I ask this question: When Jesus said, “Judge not, so that you will not be judged,” did He intend to insulate false teachers and sinners

from accountability? The answer to that question is no, clearly not. The only way – now stick with me; actually I hope that you were sticking with me the whole time, but you get the idea: follow the logic here – the only way that you could reach that conclusion is if you confused the different ways the term “judge” and “judgment” is used.

We have to look at Jesus’ words more carefully. Because the word “judgment” can have a broad meaning, we have to ask ourselves, what specific kind of judgment was Jesus talking about? Because part of the righteous life that Jesus calls us to even in the Sermon on the Mount is a life of discernment, of distinguishing truth from error, of distinguishing right from wrong – that’s part of living a righteous life; you must know the truth and apply it to the world around you. Even in this very chapter, you can see that that is true. Look at 7:6 with me – Jesus said:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Jesus says – and we will look at this more in the future, but for now just to say this – Jesus says that there are some men who are dogs and there are some men who are hogs. You treat those kinds of men differently. How can you obey that commandment from Jesus unless you make some negative judgments about what people are like?

More clearly, look at verse 15 with me – Jesus says:

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Jesus says, watch out for false prophets; be on guard. Beloved, you need to know doctrine and righteousness so you can evaluate whether a man who claims to speak for God passes the test. Some times it is obvious that we have to conclude that the man is a false prophet – he is a false teacher. Based on that judgment, we do not give that man a platform to speak into or lie about the nature and commandments of God. That kind of judgment, which is very serious, requires spiritual judgment and spiritual discernment – that’s right there in chapter 7, beloved.

And so here is my point: Even in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was obviously not teaching that you should remain silent in the face of false teaching. Or stated differently, even if you are not in a position to say anything about it, Jesus is not saying that you should simply continue to let every manner of teacher speak into your life no matter what they say – that is not the intent of what He has to say here at all. This point is not even debatable.

Listen, judgment by men is an intrinsic part of the way God has ordered the world and His church. God intends for thinking men to exercise judgment and to make distinctions in their thinking.

What I want to do now in the brief time that we have left is to quickly give you three kinds of judgments that God intends for us to respect and support in our lives, and then that will help us flow into next week:

1. God Requires Judgment in Government

In Romans 13:3-4 the apostle Paul says this:

Rulers… bear the sword… as a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

God gives authority to government and to the agents of government so that, in part, they can be agents which restrain evil in the world – they bring punishment upon evil doers. That requires judgment about what is right and what is wrong, what the law is, who is breaking it and who is keeping it, and those who break it feel the penalty of it – it requires judgment.

Jesus in Matthew 7:1, when He said “Do not judge,” was not vitiating everything that God had established from the beginning of time about human government – that couldn’t possibly be what He meant. God restrains evil in the world in part through the actions of our government, so they have to exercise judgment.

2. God Requires Judgment in the Church

Judgment in the church in terms of making informed discretions and informed decisions about what is going on around us. Turn to Matthew 18:15 – we’ll go to a familiar passage briefly. Jesus says:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Now, all I want to point out with that passage is that in the church, believers are commanded to confront open sin in the lives of other believers. That requires judgment of what constitutes sin; that constitutes judgment as you move further along in the process. And – this is one of the difficulties that elders face as they deal with church discipline – it requires judgment to determine whether the person is truly repentant or not, and those can be pretty difficult situations to face.

But all of that just briefly to point out to you the fact that the very nature and the structure of the way that the church operates requires judgment as we contemplate restoration of sinning believers and what we do with them after that – that all requires spiritual judgment and spiritual discernment.

3. God Requires Judgment in Doctrine

And for that, I’ll just read one verse here out of literally hands-full that we could talk about. 1 John 4:1 – kind of an echo of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount – the apostle John said:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.

He is saying the same thing that Jesus said in Matthew 7:15. He said there are an abundance of false prophets that are lurking about in the world. You are not always going to be able to recognize them by outward appearances. And so you have to test what they say to see whether they are from God and whether they meet the standard of truth or not – that requires judgment.

Jesus was not forbidding in Matthew 7 what His Spirit later would inspire the apostles to say – that would be ridiculous. The Scriptures come from the same Spirit of God who inspired them all, and so we can expect the consistency among the different teachings of Scripture when we examine them and understand them properly.

All of that to say this: understand that when, at the first sign of scrutiny, a teacher or someone in sin says, “Judge not – back off” – understand this, beloved: all they are doing there is misapplying that verse in order to protect themselves so that they can keep their shtick going. And for false teachers, some of those shticks that they have got going are pretty lucrative. The last thing that they are really concerned about when they quote that verse – the last thing that they are concerned about is to uphold the righteousness which Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount – otherwise they would not twist Scripture that way.

No, Christians are not to be uncritical at the teaching of God’s word. Rather, you and I are to be like the Bereans who heard Paul’s teaching in Acts 17:11, where they are described like this:

They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

The Bible says that they were noble-minded – that is what the believer is to be like. We could summarize it this way, beloved: You are to be teachable. You should be receptive to the teaching of the word of God, and the fact that you have come to GraceLife week after week, month after month, so faithfully – so many of you – is an evidence that you are like that and I thank God for that. It is a privilege to teach people like you. You are to be teachable, but beloved, you are not to be gullible. You search the Scriptures and exercise discernment so that you can know what God says – the Bible is exceedingly clear about that. This verse does not silence your judgment and turn off the discernment switch, never to be turned on again.

You say, “Okay, what did Jesus mean then, when He said, ‘Judge not so that you will not be judged’?” As we will see, this is a question of eternal significance for every one of you, and that is the question that we will discuss next week. Let’s pray:

Our Father, we thank You for the clarity of Your word on these issues. We thank You that You have given us minds to know the truth, the minds to know You and hearts that can respond to You.

Father, what we are talking about here is the fact that we are made in Your image – intelligent, thinking creatures that can understand and appreciate truth and exercise knowledge and discernment to see what is right and wrong. Help us, Father, to that end. And help us to have hearts that are always receptive to the truth and yet discerning at the same time. And as we will see next week, Father, as we exercise that discernment, help us to do it in a gracious, generous spirit that would be worthy of Christ.

We thank You for this time and for this new year. We pray, Father, for the challenges that are current and the challenges that lie ahead in the coming year. We pray that You would be faithful to help us rise to the occasion and meet those in the power of Christ, to His glory and to our good. These things we ask in the name of Christ. Amen.

This transcript was prepared by Shari Main.

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