Friday, June 10, 2011

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To Judge Or Not To Judge

“Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head:”
(Psalm 141: 5)

I have been led to do a study on where a believer in Christ should stand when it comes to confronting sin in our own life or the life of those that we love, whether it is a friend or family member. The struggle stems from trying to know when or how to speak the truth in love out of concern for what I perceive to be a very real threat and possible danger to the eternal lives of those I hold so precious and dear to my heart. The lies of the enemy, Satan and the dark powers of this world, are infiltrating the very fiber of the hearts and minds of the people, even those who believe they are followers of Christ to such an extint that they are causing many to fall away from the truth of the one true living God. I do believe that Satan is unrelenting in his constant attempts to seek to steal and destroy any and every one he can, for he knows his time is so very short.

Deception is rampant in the world and is coming in like a flood even into our churches which are supposed to be a sanctuary or safety through the teaching of truth, God’s Word. Yet, if we are not diligent to study and keep God’s truth ever in our hearts and ever before our eyes to shine as a light to expose the lies of the enemy, we make ourselves vulnerable to the disastrous consequences of the eroding of our very faith. Faith is a gift from God, but we have a responsibility to guard and nurture, defend and protect that very gift lest it become compromised, diminished, perverted or even destroyed. That is why we are exhorted to put on the full armor of God that we might withstand all the fiery darts of the enemy. The Word of God is our shield of faith.

None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow so heed the call today to follow the Lord in faith. I have felt the urgency to take a stand and sound the alarm, to cry out to all, “Wake up! Wake up people! While you are slumbering in your indifference and apathy, Satan is roaming over the Earth, seeking whom he may devour. We must expose his lies and urge our loved ones to be careful, be aware, be on guard! You must be diligent to put on the whole armor of God. Have you forgotten to use the sword of the Spirit, a two edged sword, that rightly divides the Word of God? The truth of the Word must be the one and only yardstick by which to measure what you believe. Yet many of us scurry around in the business of our daily lives giving little or no attention to the Word of God, as if its application in our lives has no meaning or worth at all.”

My heart is crying out in concern for the danger I fear is coming upon those I love. Yet, as a result of doing so, I have been accused of being judgmental. I was rebuked and told that judgment was supposed to be left in the hands of God. Not wanting to be guilty of judging or condemning others, for that has never been my intent, I decided to “practice what I preach.” I began to search the Word that it might shed its light into my heart to provide understanding and any needed correction within my own self, for I know that Jesus said, “And why beholdest though the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. 7: 3)

So it is my desire to take you with me into this journey of study in an effort to discover together what God says about our proper stand where judgment is involved. Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matt. 7: 1, 2) At first glance I might then jump to the conclusion that a follower of Christ is never to speak out against sin or deception, but keep silent and “forever hold your peace.” But I would be dead wrong in making that declaration, for I have not yet sought out the full counsel of the Lord. So let us not linger, but venture further down the path of discovery for the truth.

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Judge not”? He was speaking against the kind of hypercritical, judgmental attitude that tears others down in order to build up one’s self. It is not meant to be a generalized statement against all critical thinking, but an urgent reminder to be discerning rather than negative. Jesus taught us to discern false teachers and teachings (Matt. 7: 15 – 23), and Paul taught that we should exercise church discipline (I Cor. 5: 1, 2), and trust God to be the final judge.

So now we begin to form our basis for understanding, at least in part, about judgment. We are not to judge others hypocritically, or to judge on the basis of personal preference in matters not commanded in scripture (which is forbidden in Romans 14). However, there is not only a right, but an obligation of every follower of Christ to judge everything by the only yardstick that is straight and true, and that is the Bible.

In I Cor., we see the example set by Paul. He loved the people of Corinth dearly, and because he did, he was quick to confront them with the sin and false teaching that was prevalent among them. He did not view them from just the stand point of a teacher, but as a parent who loves his children, and is therefore responsible for their nurturing and care. Loving parents do not just feed and clothe their child, and then say that by doing so that is the full extent of their responsibility to that child. No, for when they see their child walking into harm’s way, whether it be out of disobedience and rebellion, or out of immaturity and ignorance, it is the parents’ duty to do all that is needed to teach, correct, and protect the child with every measure within their arsenal of defense. Therefore, Paul did not refrain from criticizing, or judging, them. His intent was not to “condemn” them, but to save them from condemnation by confronting them with the sin in their lives, whether it was sin of commission or omission. He rebuked them because they were careless in that they were allowing false teachers to bring in corruption and compromise; thus, twisting and perverting the true Gospel of Christ. (II Cor. 11: 1-4) His rebuke was not meant to condemn them, but to call them to repentance that they would not have to receive the devastating consequences of sin and deception in their lives.

The Bereans, on the other hand, were commended because they carefully tested everything by the Scriptures. (Acts: 7: 11) The Bible says
“he that is spiritual judgeth all things.” (I Cor. 2: 15) Jesus taught that we
should “judge righteous (correct or morally proper) judgment.” (John 7: 24) We are urged to judge any preaching or teaching (I Cor. 14: 29), and sin in the body of believers (I Cor. 5). We are to “try the spirits.” (I John 4: 1) This kind of judging is not a matter of pride, or disdainful treatment of others, but rather wisdom and obedience.

When someone confronts us with the judgment of error or sin in our lives, whether it is manifested in our behavior or the words that come out of our mouths, we have a choice of how we are going to receive and respond to the possibility of the truth of that judgment. We can choose to become offended and cast it off as being hypocritical and judgmental and unworthy of our consideration; thereby rejecting what may or not be true before we even “test the spirits” to discern whether it is true or not. Adversely, we can make the choice to search the Scriptures to shine the light of the Word into our hearts and expose any wrong way that it may lead to correction and a change of heart. The Word of God, when applied, can lead us to repentance, and if we are willing, the Potter will gladly melt us and mold us more into His image. His love toward us is without limits.

Too often, we reject rebuke and reproof when we are confronted with sin in our lives. It is often hard to hear the truth. It is even harder to accept the truth, for then it means that we have a responsibility to submit our will to the Lord. It means that we must be willing to obey, that is to be a doer of the Word, and not just one who hears but does not obey the Word of the Lord.

I have been rebuked and had my conscience seared many a time. Boy does it smart! It is not a fun thing to experience. Sometimes I have responded inwardly, if not openly, with the attitude of “Who are you to judge me?” Eventually, the voice of the Holy Spirit would cause me to be honest with myself and God. I would know that I had to submit my heart and ask the Lord to “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Just as any loving parent will do all that is possible to discipline and correct his/her child, so too does the Lord in His even greater love and wisdom for each of His children.

I do not suggest that just because someone may point to wrong in our lives that we are to receive it automatically as the gospel truth. That would leave you and I open to constant manipulation by anyone and everyone. I do mean to suggest that perhaps it might be worth your while to check out whether the criticism may be valid. If you are willing to search and discover if the judgment lines up with the Word of God, it may turn out to be a precious gem from God that could possibly bless or even save your or my eternal life. It is easy to receive flattery and compliments about one’s self. However, judgment or criticism can bring about quite a different response within each of us. I read the following scripture years ago, and God has used it more than once as a beacon of light to change my attitude about being judged by another. “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head:” (Psalm 141: 5) Though no one enjoys being criticized, everybody can benefit from it when it is given wisely and taken humbly. King David has herein given us some good advice about how to accept criticism:
(1) Don’t refuse it, (2) consider it a kindness, and (3) keep quiet, that is don’t fight back. When I have been obedient and really practiced applying this in my life, it has helped me to receive and respond to criticism in a more positive manner, making it more productive rather than destructive, no matter how it was originally intended.

I urge each of us, including myself, to always study and test all things by the Word of God which is the only real and absolute truth. It is the only measure by which we are to judge all things. God and His truth never change; they are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Man’s ways are forever changing and adapted to fit their own beliefs, opinions, and needs which they deem to be relevant at any given time or place. Therefore, you and I can not put our trust in the thoughts and ways of man. But God is truth, He never waivers. We must not let sin or lies and deception take root and grow in our hearts. Sin and deception can only lead to doubt and unbelief. Once one has been given the truth, it is then left up to the individual to be willing to submit to the will of God in our lives. His purpose and will for our lives is proclaimed in His Word. It is the obligation of each follower of Christ to speak the truth in love. All else is then to be placed in the hands of God, for only He can judge the heart.

I pray our journey together has been helpful in finding God’s truth about judgment. As always, I encourage the reader to never take my word or anyone else’s word as the gospel truth. Search the Scriptures for yourself. Always question anyone’s “truth” to see if it lines up with the full counsel of the Word of God. May His Word forever shine as a beacon of light in our hearts that we may forever glorify the Lord. May His Love forever be shed abroad in your heart. May His face shine upon you and bring you peace.

Ginger Rahn


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