Judging The Right Way

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I have probably heard this verse quoted more by non-Christians than any other verse: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). 

Does Jesus mean that we can never point out to anyone else an area of concern? No, because Jesus Himself did this as well as nearly every epistle writer of the New Testament. What it does mean is that confrontation needs to be truly corrective and never condemning. 

Correcting means that I am never serving as the judge and jury. But it does mean that I can lovingly help someone before they have to stand before God on Judgment Day. Jesus said that if I am a mean, self-serving judge of others, I can expect to receive that same treatment (v. 2). 

Instead, I need to first recognize that what I may see in another person may only be apparent to me because I am afflicted with the same thing. So my first response when I see “a speck” in someone else’s eye is to ask the Holy Spirit to show me a possible “plank” in my own eye. Only after I have dealt with this through repentance and making appropriate changes, will I have the necessary empathy and gentleness to help my brother or sister deal with their own eye speck (vv. 3-4). 

Jesus said that trying to get someone else to repent of something that still exists in my own life is being a hypocrite. It’s playing a role that isn’t me. So Jesus says “first” deal with my own sin, “then” I may help a brother or sister (v. 5). 

Notice that I have been very careful to use the phrase “brother and sister.” I believe that Christians should deal with fellow Christians, but we shouldn’t try to bring correction to those who don’t come from the same biblical paradigm that we have. In legal terms, I may say that we have no standing, or that non-Christians are out of my jurisdiction. 

One final thought. I think I need to treat a concern that another person brings to me in a very similar fashion as I would treat an eye speck someone else. Perhaps God sent them to me, so I need to ask the Holy Spirit to show me any “plank” that may be in my eye, even if it has been brought to my attention through a judgmental person. It is very God-honoring for me to give that person the benefit of the doubt by saying that they cared enough for my well-being that they would be willing to point something out to me. 

Correction is an important aspect of Christian maturity. But we need to make sure we do it in a Christlike way.

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Our Blessed Hope

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

As we wrap up our series looking at our foundational belief statements, I want to combine the last four statements together, not only because they all cover the same theme of end-times events, but also because these statements should give every Christian hope! 

  • “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.” —G.K. Chesterton 
  • “One of the great enemies of hope is forgetting God’s promises.” —John Piper 
  • “Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing!” —Craig T. Owens 

Christians have a fantastic, unshakable, blessed hope on which we can stand not only secure but joyful! 

Foundational truth #13: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.” 

This blessed hope in the future helps us live with joy today! Knowing that death has been defeated and Jesus will come back to take us home with Him should fuel us to say “no” to the temporary pleasures of sin, and live such godly lives that it turns others’ eyes to Jesus (Titus 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). 

Foundational truth #14: “The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years.” 

Sometimes you will hear Christians talk about the “rapture” of the Church. Although this word itself isn’t in the Bible, the Greek word harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means “catching up.” It also means “to eagerly claim for one’s self,” which reminds me that Jesus is thrilled to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever! After the Church has been caught up to Heaven, a period of tribulation will plague the earth, followed by Christ’s Second Coming and His millennial reign (Zechariah 14:4-5; Revelation 19:11-15; 20:1-10). 

Foundational truth #15: “There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” 

Christians have no fear of the second (or final) death because our names are written in the Book of Life (Luke 12:4-6; Revelation 20:11-15). Not only is there judgment for the wicked, but there will be rewards for the righteous. 

Foundational truth #16: “In keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Revelation 21-22 give us a small glimpse of our eternal home. 

In light of these truths, how should Christians live while still on earth? I think there are three ways we should live: 

  1. Live circumspectly
  2. Live on-mission
  3. Live unafraid

(see Ephesians 5:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Proverbs 24:11-12; Jude 1:20-25) 

With this blessed hope of the Second Coming of Jesus and our security in knowing we will remain with Him forever, let’s tell everyone we can how they too can know what it is to live with this hope in their heart. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Really Bad News And Really, Really Good News

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote in his book Missionary God, Missionary Bible, “Since good news must often indeed rectify bad news, the gospel message is both warning and invitation.” This is so appropriate when reading the prophet Zephaniah: He wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he must make us confront the really bad news. 

Zephaniah prophesied near the end of Judah’s decline toward exile. He saw the great revival in King Josiah’s day, and then watched his fellow Israelites once again turn their backs on God. If Jeremiah spoke to faithless Israelites, and Habakkuk spoke to faithful Israelites, then Zephaniah spoke to fake Israelites—those who appeared to be religious, but whose hearts were not actually devoted to God. 

This whole book looks backward in history and forward to soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy. Most of the time when God speaks, He is asking us to look forward to what is unavoidably coming. Zephaniah then takes God’s words as a call for us to apply them to our lives today. 

In the first chapter, God’s forward-look is a warning of the judgment that most assuredly is coming. Built into His warning are two backward looks to the law of Deuteronomy (vv. 13 and 15 look back to Deuteronomy 28:29-30). 

Zephaniah uses this warning as a wake-up call for us, telling us to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility” before the day of God’s judgment comes (2:1-3). 

The fact that God’s judgment would fall on godless people shouldn’t surprise anyone (2:4-15), but when Zephaniah says, “Woe to the city of oppressors” (3:1), he’s talking to the people of Judah! Zephaniah addresses his warning to the fake Israelites, the hypocritical people—those claiming God’s name but not God’s nature. 

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to New Testament Christians: 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:6-14) 

The really bad news is ALL of us have sinned and we have ALL fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a result, ALL of us would stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. 

But the really, really good news is that Jesus allowed our penalty to fall on Him instead! So if we put our faith in Jesus, God’s judgment will be appeased in Christ instead of on us! 

Christians, then, take the name of Jesus Christ, but we need to make sure we also take His nature.  Fake—hypocritical—Christians are those who are “Christian” in name only. 

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the 1 Corinthians passage above—These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message) 

As we read those words, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” I’d like to suggest four action steps:

  1. Hear the Word of God to YOU—not your neighbor—but you personally. 
  2. After you hear the Word, examine yourself to see if you are truly living in God’s nature and not just using His name. 
  3. Respond like King Josiah did when he heard God’s Word: He made a public commitment “to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with ALL his heart and ALL his soul” (2 Kings 23:3). 
  4. Stay diligent—Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” 

Don’t delay—the Day of the Lord is closer today than it’s ever been before! Pay attention to the really bad news that Judgment Day is coming, but then make certain you are standing in the nature of Jesus Christ on that day so that God’s judgment will pass over you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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Watch Your Horn

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

During my freshman year of college, I was once the butt of a good-natured joke. I didn’t mind it so much except for the fact that there were several people in the room that didn’t know me, so they would have walked away thinking I was a jerk. As I vented to my roommate about this, his counsel was simply, “Just forgive ‘em, man!” 

Yeah, right … easier said than done! I didn’t want forgiveness—I wanted payback! Ever been there? 

The Hebrew word Selah is a call for us to pause and calmly think about what’s going on in our heart and mind. For instance, in those moments where we may want someone to get justice for the way they hurt us. 

In Psalm 75, God is literally the One who speaks the Selah. In fact, God speaks twice in this short psalm: once in verses 2-5 and again in verse 10 to close this psalm. Putting together His two speeches, God says, “I choose the right time, I judge perfectly, I hold everything firm. Selah. I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.” 

What is meant by “the horn of the wicked” or “the horn of the righteous”? Literally, it means a show of strength, but it can be used in both a negative or a positive sense. 

In the negative sense it means:

  • boasting of your own power 
  • standing in defiant opposition to all other powers 
  • proudly trumpeting your own strength
  • the English words “arrogant” and “boast” in verse 5 are both the same word Hebrew word halal. This means to shine a light on yourself, literally to say “Hallelujah!” to or about yourself! 

This pride is so dangerous! As C.S. Lewis said, “Pride is ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on the self.”

In the positive sense, a horn means the righteous person who shines a light on God, who concentrates on Him, who knows that anything good they have comes from Him. 

The wicked lift up their own horn (literally lift up themselves), while the righteous bow their horn (literally lift up God). What does God do? God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). 

This psalm essentially has God giving two warnings:

  1. To the wicked He says, “Do not lift up your horn against Me.” 
  2. To the righteous He says, “Submit to Me and do not try to rush My timing.” 

Notice that Asaph says “a cup of foaming wine” is coming to the wicked (v. 8). This symbolizes God’s judgment (Revelation 19:11-16). This was to be our just punishment too, but Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath Himself, and in its place gave us the cup of God’s blessing (Isaiah 51:22; Matthew 26:39-42; 1 Corinthians 10:16). This switching of the cups is what we celebrate every time we drink the cup of Communion. 

God was patient with us and He is still being patient with the boastful wicked, which is why He warns them—and us—to Selah. We were rescued from judgment and now God calls upon us to tell others about Him, so that they may also be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ (Proverbs 24:11-12; 2 Peter 3:9). 

Here’s the call to Christians: Watch your horn! Don’t shine a light on yourself, but shine a light on Jesus Christ and remain on-mission to rescue those who persist in blowing their own horn. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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What We Can Know

… we know … (1 John 3:16, 19, 24; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:2, 13, 19, 20).

God clearly reveals Himself to us so that it is not a mystery of how to abide with Him. 

The word John uses for “know” in the Greek is ginosko. This is a knowledge through personal, firsthand experience; not knowledge someone told us about secondhand. 

God reveals Himself in Creation, in His law, in the rituals of worship, in our conscience, and in the voice of the prophets. Ultimately—and most unmistakably of all—God reveals Himself in Jesus (John 14:9). 

So here are 8 things we can now know…

  1. We know true love because of the sacrifice of Jesus (3:16; 4:7-10).
  2. We know we have God’s love in us by the way we treat others (3:17-19; 4:11; 4:20-21).
  3. We know our hearts our confident by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit Who assures us that we abide in God and He in us (3:20-24).
  4. We know how to discern deceptive spirits (4:1-6).
  5. We know what it means to be confident on Judgment Day (4:12-19).
  6. We know that loving others fulfills God’s commands (5:1-13).
  7. We know God hears our prayers (5:14-17).
  8. We know that we can be victorious over sin (5:18-21).

WE KNOW!

No doubts, no ambiguity. It’s crystal clear, pure knowledge through Him Who loves us!  

Thursdays With Spurgeon—You Cannot Hide Your Heart From God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

You Cannot Hide Your Heart From God

Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men? (Proverbs 15:11 KJV) 

     God knows the burial places of all His people. He notes as well the resting place of the man who is buried tombless and alone as the man over home a mighty mausoleum has been raised. He saw the traveler who fell in the barren desert, whose body became the prey of vultures and whose bones were bleach in the sun. He saw the mariner, who was wrecked far out at sea and over whose corpse no dirge was ever wailed, except the howling of the winds and the murmuring of the wild waves. God knows the thousands who have perished in battle, unnumbered and unnoticed; the many who have died alone amid dreary forests, frozen seas, and devouring snowstorms; all these and the places of their sepulcher. God has marked that silent grotto within the sea, where pearls lie deep, where now the shipwrecked one is sleeping, as the death place of one of His redeemed. …

     Yes, hell, horrible as it is and veiled in many clouds and covered over with darkness, is naked before the vision of the Most High. There is the grand fact stated: “Hell and destruction are before the Lord.” After this the inference seems to be easy: “How much more, then, the hearts of the children of men?” … 

     God who sees death and hell sees our hearts, for they are far less extensive. … Scarcely have we time enough to tell the story before it comes to its end. Surely, then, God may easily understand the history of a man, when He knows the history of the monarchies of death and hell. [see Psalm 44:21; Jeremiah 23:24; Revelation 2:23] … 

     God does not judge by the appearance of a man’s great heart, or the outside appearance of a good heart. But He puts it in the scales and weighs it; puts His own Word in one scale and the heart in the other. He knows the exact weight. He knows whether we have grace in the heart, which makes us good weight, or only presence in the heart, which makes us weigh light when put into the scale. He searches the heart in every possible way. …

     Oh, you may endeavor as much as you can to hide your faults from God. But beyond a doubt, He will discover you.  

From God, The All-Seeing One

When—not if—God looks at your heart, what will He find? 

Yes, we should pray—Search me, O God, show me anything that is offensive to You [Psalm 139:23-24]—but then we must repent and ask forgiveness when the offense is revealed. No excuses, no covering up!

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Will Not Acquit The Wicked

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Will Not Acquit The Wicked

     The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked [Nahum 1:3]. The Lord is slow to anger because He is great in power. ‘How say you so?’ says one. I answer: He who is great in power has power over himself. And he who can keep his own temper down and subdue himself is greater than he who rules the city, or can conquer nations. … When God’s power does restrain Himself, then it is power indeed—the power to curb power. The power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. God is great in power, and therefore does He keep in His anger. … We bless God that the greatness of His power is just our protection! He is slow to anger because He is great in power. …  

     I have blotted out like a thick cloud your transgressions, and like a cloud your sins [Isaiah 44:22]. Not of one of all those sins that have been pardoned was pardoned without punishment. Do you ask me why and how such a thing as that can be the truth? I point you to yonder dreadful sight on Calvary. The punishment that fell not on the forgiven sinner fell there. … Sin is still punished, though the sinner is delivered. … 

     And now we trace this terrible attribute to its source. Why is this? We reply, God will not acquit the wicked, because He is good. What? Does goodness demand that sinners will be punished? It does. The judge must condemn the murderer because he loves his nation. …  

     Mercy, with her weeping eyes (for she has wept for sinners), when she finds they will not repent, looks more terribly stern in her loveliness than justice in all his majesty. She drops the white flag from her hand and says, “No. I called and they refused. I stretched out my hand and no man regarded. Let them die, let them die” and that terrible word from the lip of mercy’s self is harsher thunder then the very damnation of justice. Oh yes, the goodness of God demands that men should perish if they will sin. …  

     Can you by humble faith look to Jesus and say, “My substitute, my refuge, and my shield; You are my rock, my trust, in You I do confide”? Then, beloved, to you I have nothing to say except never be afraid when you see God’s power. For now that you are forgiven and accepted, now that by faith you have fled to Christ for refuge, the power of God need no more terrify you than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify his wife or his child.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

Have you looked in faith to the work Jesus did on Calvary so that your sins could be forgiven? If so, wonderful! You have nothing to fear from God’s justice. 

If not, I plead with you—look again. God’s mercy has been extended to you at least long enough for you to read this, but His justice must fall. Don’t procrastinate another moment: Allow the acquittal of your sins that Jesus purchased with His blood to be yours this very moment!

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is Slow To Anger

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God Is Slow To Anger

     God is “slow to anger” [Nahum 1:3]. When mercy comes into the world, she drives winged steeds. The axles of her chariot wheels are glowing hot with speed. But when wrath comes, she walks with tardy footsteps. She is not in haste to slay; she is not swift to condemn. God’s rod of mercy is ever in His hands outstretched. God’s sword of justice is in its scabbard, not rusted in it. It can be easily withdrawn, but is held there by that hand that presses it back into its sheath, crying, “Sleep, O sword, sleep. For I will have mercy upon sinners and will forgive their transgressions.” … 

     God will not at once slay the man whose character is the vilest until He has first hewn him by the prophets. He will not hew him by judgments. He will warn the sinner before He condemns him. He will send His prophets, “rising up early” and late (Jeremiah 7:13, 25; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 33:15), giving him ‘precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little’ (Isaiah 28:13). … 

     God does not in grace, as in nature, send lightning first and thunder afterward, but He sends the thunder of His law first and the lightning of His execution follows it. … But best of all, when God threatens, how slow He is to sentence the criminal! When He has told them that He will punish unless they repent, how long a space He gives them in which to turn to Himself! …

     Although God is slow to anger, He is sure in it.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives…. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… (2 Peter 3:8-11, 14-15).

The Day Of The Lord

All we know about the prophet Joel is that he is the son of Pethuel, and his name means Jehovah is God. He appears to be addressing the southern part of Israel (Judah/Jerusalem). 

What is interesting to note about Joel’s writing is a recurring theme that goes something like this: 

Foreshadowing (or prophetic foretelling) → Calling for a godly response → God’s blessing on a right response or God’s punishment on a wrong response → An outcome which foreshadows or foretells another more dire event → repeat…

For instance, in Joel’s prophesy the massive invasion of locusts was intended to get the Israelites to pay attention to their sins. Joel calls for fasting and repentance and warns (foreshadows/foretells) that an invading army at a later date would do even greater damage (1:2-14). 

Likewise, the invading army—which would do more damage than the invading locusts—should also call the Israelites to repentance and imploring God for His help. 

Jesus, just like Joel, taught that whether it was an evil man, an accident, or even a natural disaster, painful things should cause us to consider the state of our eternal soul (see Luke 13:1-5). And Jesus and Joel both foretell of the Day of the Lord when there will be no more opportunities for repentance. 

To prepare God-fearing people for this dreadful day of the Lord, Joel foretells if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the same empowering Spirit that Jesus said would equip His followers to take the message of salvation to all four points of the compass (Acts 1:4-8). And just as Joel foretold 800 years earlier, on the first Pentecost Sunday after Christ’s ascension back into heaven, the Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, prompting Peter to quote an extension passage from Joel (compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:14-21).

Joel’s final chapter talks about Judgment Day, and about the multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Peter confronted his audience as well about the decision they should make to turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. 

The Day of the Lord could come at any moment and millions around the world are still in the valley of decision. I find these words quite sobering—

“Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we—who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not—can be saved.” —Charles Spurgeon 

We are even closer to the Day of the Lord today than we were yesterday. What will you do?

Please join me this Sunday as we continue our series learning the major lessons from the minor prophets.

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