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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Lord Jesus Teaches Us about the Right Way to Judge
Text:Luke 6:37-45 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Humility
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-06-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 131:1,2,3                                                                                      

Ps 119:47,48

Reading – Luke 6:27-49; James 2:1-13

Ps 94:1,4,5,7

Sermon – Luke 6:37-45

Ps 139:1,2,13

Ps 133:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters in Christ, have you ever been accused of being judgmental? If you have, you probably remember that it stung. You might even have walked away feeling like a bad Christian. For we’re expected to be non-judgmental. Christians are expected not to say anything against the beliefs or behaviours of another person. We hear that a lot today, when there are discussions of personal morality: Don’t judge me!

In situations like that, the words from our text often come up: “Do not judge.” For that admonition has been used as the key to freedom and tolerance. “Who are you to say anything against anyone else, their lifestyle or opinions?” someone asks. “Didn’t Jesus tell his followers not to judge?”

He did, of course, and there’s a good reason that He did. But let’s be clear that Christians should in fact be active in judging! According to the Bible, it’s even one of our obligations as believers; it’s a duty that we can’t avoid. A few examples will do: “He who is spiritual makes judgments about all things,” Paul said to the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:15). Likewise the apostle John wrote, “Test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). And even in the same sermon as that command not to judge, just a few minutes later, we hear Jesus telling us to judge “a tree”—to evaluate a person—by the quality of his or her fruits, whether good or bad.

We have a duty to test the words of the people around us, their beliefs and behaviours. Particularly within the church, this is our calling. But there’s more to say. Because there’s a right way to judge others, and a wrong way. We can be charitable, or we can be judgmental.

And in teaching on this subject, Christ shows his deep insight into the human heart. For He says that so much depends on how we view ourselves. Do we think that we have it all figured out? Do we reckon that we’re hardly in need of help and correction? Or are we humble on account of our sins and shortcomings? Humble, and therefore also patient and understanding toward others? I preach God’s Word to you from Luke 6:37-45 on this theme,

The Lord Jesus teaches us about the right way to judge:

  1. be cautious in judging others
  2. be humble in judging yourself

 

1) be cautious in judging others: In the verse just before our text, Jesus sets the bar for our conduct very high. It’s the challenging command in verse 36, “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” God our Father is the divine example of love and patience, and we must strive to imitate Him in all our dealings with other people.

With that command still in the air, Jesus now continues on a closely-related theme, for He speaks about things like judging and forgiving. After all, being a citizen of the Kingdom—being a living Christian—isn’t simply about having a personal relationship with the Lord. No, if you’re a believer, that means you’re also part of a body, a communion, a church. God places each one of us in relationship with others, so it’s essential that we learn how to live together in a way that pleases our King.

And Jesus knows the true atmosphere of our hearts—He knows what we’re like. Why else would He begin this section with those direct words of admonition, “Judge not”? Even as fellow citizens in the Kingdom of Christ, those who share in all the riches of redemption, we make unfair judgments about each another.

What is “unfair?” It is forming a harsh opinion about someone, because you’re not being patient with his weaknesses. It’s dismissing someone as annoying, because you’re not considerate of the struggles that she’s going through. Christ knows that so quickly we can reach the wrong conclusion about a person, and we can settle on the wrong reaction.

For it could be that we sit in judgment on a brother without first giving him a chance to explain himself. Or we might believe the worst about some other member in the church, even if it’s really only a rumour. We find it hard to be impartial.

And what do we based these judgments on? Sometimes they’re based on outward things. We might look at their face, the shape and size of their body. We might look at their clothes. We might only listen to his or her opening words, but in a matter of seconds, we’ve decided what someone is like. It’s probably an inaccurate judgment, and uncharitable, but an impression has been formed, and we let it shape our words and actions toward them.

James speaks of this in chapter 2. There he warns us against showing favoritism: “For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (vv 2-4).

The way James puts it sounds so obviously wrong. Of course the scenario that he describes reeks of sinful favoritism and evil judging! But isn’t it true? We can let our behaviour towards other people be shaped by worldly standards: we see people, and we’re thinking about wealth and intelligence and power and attractiveness.

And then it’s even harder not to be judgmental if we’ve known each other for a long time! Sad to say, but it’s especially in the church that judgmental attitudes seem to thrive. Why is that the case? It may be because we’re part of small community. Many of us have lived in this area for many years. We’ve gone to school together. We’ve gone to church together. We know families: grandparents, and parents, and children. We have history—and so we can remember the mistakes that others have made. By now we know each other’s weaknesses and personal quirks. Can’t we almost predict what some people’s opinions will be, even before they’ve opened their mouth to speak?

All that means perhaps we’ve already made up our mind about a person. We’ve decided that he’s too difficult. She’s too awkward, or too needy. That brother is too opinionated, or too easy-going, or too whatever. And then the hard question is whether these judgments stop us from showing Christian love. Do we let favoritism decide who we’re always going to speak to, and who we’ll avoid? No wonder Jesus says, “Judge not.” Because when we do judge, we’re on dangerous ground. We’re not living like citizens of the Kingdom.

No, in this area of church life we need a lot of caution. In the first place, we never know all the facts about a person. I mean that we don’t often realize where a person has come from, and even where they’re situated today. We don’t know the challenges that they’ve faced spiritually, or understand the burden of their responsibilities. Of course, we can’t know this for everyone in the church. But you can be sure that if we had even a glimpse of it, we’d be less quick to gossip and judge. This broken life weighs heavy on people—on all people, more than we know.

Christ goes on with a more positive application of the same truth: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (v 37). This is related to judging, isn’t it? Sometimes we condemn people for their past mistakes and offenses, like it can’t ever be put aside. We can still remember exactly what words they said in that public meeting, or we can picture how they reacted so sinfully in another situation. But we should be ready to forgive them, freely and fully.

And when we talk about forgiving, it’s much more than just agreeing that it’s a good idea. It’s easy enough enough to say, “No, I don’t hold it against him. Doesn’t bother me.” But forgiving also means not bringing up that sin anymore. What we must not do is let that past sin affect how we keep treating someone. As far as we’re concerned, the sin is done with, it’s off the table and out of the equation. So don’t keep mentioning it.

For isn’t that how God looks at our sins through Christ? Scripture says that God casts our sin into the deepest depths of the sin, He throws them behind his back, He blots them out of his book—that’s the divine model of free and full forgiveness. And that’s the way forward for our own relationships too, in our families, and in our churches.

Christ then expands on this principle of forgiveness in the next verse. It’s the same one that is built right into the Lord’s prayer, where we pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” If we treat one another with patience and consideration—more than that, if we treat them with generosity and kindness!—then that’s how God will also treat us.

Jesus borrows an image from the ancient marketplace to show this: “Give, and it will be given to you: [a] good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom” (v 38). What does that mean? Back then, a seller in the marketplace would pour his grain into a container for measuring. After pouring it in, he would shake it hard to level and settle it, to ensure that the buyer was getting a fair amount—no air-pockets, no empty corners. That’s how God dispenses grace to those who are generous: grace that is pressed down, shaken together, even running over. For we have a giving God!

And then the same is applied to us. “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (v 38). The merciful will receive mercy. The loving will be loved. This isn’t trying to earn salvation—doing good things for the good we get back. Rather, this is living in the joy and generosity of one who’s been redeemed. Give to others, just as God has given to you! Show goodness to others, like God has shown it to you!

A couple verses later, Christ brings it back to the theme of judging, and He warns again that we shouldn’t be too hard on one another, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?” (v 41). Picture it: one carpenter with a speck of sawdust floating in his eye, the other with a big timber beam lodged there—he is oblivious to his own serious troubles, and deeply concerned about his co-worker’s minor irritation. This picture would be pretty funny, if it wasn’t so true-to-life!

For we all know how to be speck-hunters. We know exactly what our neighbour’s problems are: they should discipline their kids better; they should keep their house neater. We see what character improvements someone else in the church needs: he should stop talking all the time; he should be more assertive. We notice that speck of sawdust in his eye, and to us it looks like big trouble. But Jesus says it’s foolish to talk about someone else’s faults, while acting like we have hardly any of our own.

And it’s always easier to be a sideline observer. From the sidelines, someone can criticize other people constantly, and rebuke them for every little mistake. A person can come across like they have all the answers. This too is looking at the speck, and ignoring the plank. This is being judgmental, being uncharitable, being unchristian. And we should not do it!

This is not to say that we can never speak a word to someone else about his or her shortcomings. Jesus teaches us that we actually need to do so. But we have to do it in a way that is cautious, and humble. As fellow members of the body, we are accountable to one another, and we’re called to hold each other to the truth of God’s Word. That means if you see someone whose behaviour goes against the Bible, the thing not to do is let it occupy your mind endlessly, and remain there. It’s also wrong if we discuss it with other people first, gossiping about a person, or speculating about them, and letting them go their own way.

Sometimes we think we’re allowed to pass judgment on the opinions of others, even when it comes to the many things on which the Bible doesn’t speak directly. The person who is “stricter” on some of these things looks at the less-strict with a degree of suspicion: they’re not being faithful! And the person who is a little more permissive can become arrogant towards the strict: they’re so uptight, they’re even legalistic! But we must approach each other in love and humility—ready to hear them out, to admit our lack of understanding, ready to seek God’s truth.

Finally, being cautious in judging also means seeing the good in others. This is what Jesus speaks about in the next part of our text, about trees bearing different kinds of fruit. Looking around the church, remember that each one of God’s children has something good to offer, something worthwhile. For in every brother and sister in the Lord, God’s been doing a miraculous work by his Holy Spirit. Every member of the body, every branch of the tree, has a place and a role.

Always remember that for this brother, for this sister, Jesus Christ was willing to lay down his life. They belong to Him. That’s how precious they are! That’s how important they are! So we dare not discard them, or devalue them, or judge them unworthy. Within the fellowship of the church, let’s be cautious in judging others, and humble in judging ourselves.

 

3) be humble in judging yourself: Let’s look again at Jesus’ lesson about the two carpenters in verse 42. It’s commendable, of course, that the second man wants to help the first man with his work-safety violations. But if he’s going to be any help at all, Jesus tells him, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” The essential attitude here is humility.

Jesus says that we always need to begin with our own shortcomings and weaknesses. Look at that timber beam, protruding out of your face and getting in the way! First things first. Scripture says each one of us should make self-examination a regular practice. And self-examination is more than running a scan on our lives every two months, like you’d run an anti-virus scan on your computer. Self-examination is not automatic, and it can’t be thoughtless.

“First remove the plank from your own eye.” Of course if we’re proud, we won’t be able to see this. If we’re convinced of our own wisdom, we’ll never realize our faults, or find areas in our life that we can improve. Such a proud attitude won’t bring us anywhere but into danger. As Jesus continues, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?” (v 39). It’s another exaggerated picture, and it’s meant to make a point. A clueless person isn’t going to be able to find his way, or help anyone else find his way. Just like a person who knows nothing about taxes shouldn’t being give out tax advice. It’s bound to end badly.

And it’s a serious lesson. The Bible often presents physical blindness as a symbol of spiritual blindness—you’re blind when you’re not clear about who God is, or who you are, or where you’re going. Those who are in the dark need to be very careful about what guides we follow, and what voices we listen to. If we know that we’re blind in ourselves, we shouldn’t lend too much authority to our own view of things. We shouldn’t be too confident in our ability to resist temptation. We shouldn’t let our feelings decide between what is right and wrong. Then we’re being blind, and we’re about to hit the ditch.

Instead, says Christ, we need to be teachable. If we’re humble in judging ourselves, and then we’re ready to be taught. We’re ready to be led. In the context of Luke 6, there’s no doubt about what Teacher we really need to follow. The one who will open our eyes is Christ Jesus! His words of truth, his holy example, his perfect Spirit, will faithfully lead us in the way of life. Jesus explains, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (v 40). If you admit in all humility that there’s many areas of shortcoming, and if you go the good teacher, you can be well-trained. You can begin to lead a wise life.

There’s a sure way to see our progress in the faith. Christ teaches it in those following verses, where He says we ought to check the fruit: “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (v 43). Any orchardist knows the quality of a tree by considering its fruit over the last year or two. Is the fruit good or bad? And does the tree bear it consistently? If we apply that to people, the same holds true. We produce good deeds from a good heart, while evil people bring forth evil deeds from an evil heart.

There’s often people who refuse to listen to the claims of Christ because they know of Christians who are hypocrites. “I don’t want to go to church, because no one there walks the talk. They’re all two-faced and inconsistent.” When you hear that accusation, there’s of course value in pointing out that Christians aren’t perfect, that the church is a hospital for sick sinners.

Yet such an answer only goes so far. For the church needs to be full of people who know God, and whose lives show the evidence of this. We have to be disciples who resemble our Teacher. By our fruits, it should be obvious that we’re deeply planted in the soil of the Kingdom.

So we should humbly examine ourselves—judge ourselves—in the light of God’s Word. What kind of fruit are we bearing for God and for others? Are we growing in the Spirit? Do our neighbours and fellow church members see in us the attitudes and words and deeds of a person who knows Christ? They should, “for a good tree does not bear bad fruit.” God’s forgiving grace must mean a changed life.

We already mentioned words as an example of this. Jesus too highlights our words, because they so clearly demonstrate what lives within us: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (v 45). Our mouth is like a pressure-release valve on a pipe that has a constant flow of water rushing within. When the pressure builds too high, some water gets released, so that the pipe doesn’t burst. That’s what our mouth is like: it lets out what’s really churning around inside us. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks!

So listen to your words, in a spirit of self-examination. What kind of things do you talk about? What sort of words are so often on your lips? Does the conversation always have to go back to you and your accomplishments? Is it sports, or money, or movies that’s the constant refrain of your conversations? Listen to your words: Are they often critical of other people, negative about how things are going in the church, and what should be made better? Or is your mouth filled with grace? Do people hear words of kindness, and generosity? Do you broadcast thankfulness and praise for God? Out of the abundance of the heart our mouth speaks.

This same principle applies more broadly: What’s treasured up inside of us? If it is God’s love and mercy, then these things will come out through our life. If we’re filled with adoration and trust in God, this will be seen and heard and experienced by those around us.

Day by day through all our life, may we always be humble in judging ourselves. Realize how much you need the grace of God in Christ Jesus. If you have repented from your sins, know that God has granted the free gift of his forgiveness. And then rejoice to stand side-by-side with others who have received the same gift—believers who are just like you in their sin, and who are just like you in their salvation through Christ. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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