Who Are We to Judge? We May Have It Backwards

Though the Bible tells us to judge, who we’re supposed to judge may shock you

Don't judge the world. God will do that.When Paul writes to his friends in Corinth, he has much to say because they struggle with many things. He spends a whole chapter in his first letter addressing sin within their assembly: sexual sin, specifically incest.

In reading between the lines, it seems the people involved think God’s grace gives them the freedom to pursue this lifestyle, to live as they wish, while the rest of the church remains quiet on the issue.

Paul is concerned one bad example will infect others and embolden them to go wild as well. As the saying goes, “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel,” though Paul’s first-century version says a little bit of yeast affects the whole batch of dough.

He tells them how to deal with this issue and the perpetrators. Though he expects them to assess the situation and take action, he places limits on the scope of their role as judge.

Specifically he says not to worry about those on the outside, that God will deal with them. Instead, they need to worry about the people within their group, that self-policing is in order. Paul reminds them that they should judge folks within the church but they have no business judging people in the world.

Much of today’s church has this backwards. We delight in pointing a condemning finger at the actions of the world, all the while ignoring the behavior within our own community.

It’s no wonder the world thinks the church is comprised of close-minded, judgmental, hypocrites—because it is.

It’s no wonder the world fails to see the love of Jesus, because his followers fail to show the world his love. Instead they show judgement, mean, hateful judgement.

Though we need to judge ourselves, we have no business judging the world in which we live. So stop it.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.]

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Why We Shouldn’t Take God’s Grace for Granted

We dishonor God by persisting in sin because we assume his grace will cover it

The deeper the sin, the greater God's graceA highschool friend heard about the doctrine of eternal security—which some people shorten to the more accessible mantra of “once saved, always saved”—and latched onto it. She reasoned this creed allowed her to act any way she wanted, that she and God were in a good place in their relationship, and her behavior didn’t matter anymore.

In short she took this as a license to sin.

She thought she had her get-into-heaven card, and that was all she cared about. She disconnected her reality on earth from her future in eternity.

Though she rightly embraced God’s grace, she incorrectly assumed it came with endless abundance. This didn’t feel right to me. Surely she overreached and grabbed onto an unwise conclusion. I tried to talk her down from her extreme position, but she wouldn’t listen.

Instead she clung to her steadfast belief that nothing she did from that point forward would have any bearing on her spiritual future. After all, she had said the prayer, so she was in. I wish I had read Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. I wish I had known about the sixth chapter.

In it Paul addresses this topic of sin and grace. The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. This is true. Yet some go too far and claim our ongoing sin serves to elevate God’s grace.

Paul says, “No way!”

When we follow Jesus we turn our back on our wrong behaviors (Romans 6:1-2).

I wish I had known that to tell my friend.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 6, and today’s post is on Romans 6:1-2.]

When God Says Enough

Despite God’s longstanding patience giving us time to shape up, judgement will eventually come

When God Says EnoughThe book of Ezekiel is an interesting one, packed with evocative prophetic imagery that portrays God’s power, patience, and eventual judgement. As follows through much of the Old Testament the people disobey God. He warns them to turn things around and is patient, hoping they will avoid the consequences of their wayward actions. He wishes for the best, and the people let him down.

But Ezekiel is confronted with a peculiar response to his messages of impending punishment. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” the people dismiss Ezekiel’s warnings (actually God’s warnings). They say, “Time passes on but these threats never happen.” They stop taking Ezekiel (and God) seriously, which they never fully did to begin with. They feel quite justified in ignoring the word of God because they think there is no downside for disobedience.

To this God says “enough.” He will withhold their punishment no longer and will fulfill all that he said. There will be no more delays.

I wonder how much we today are like these people of old, viewing God’s warnings as meaningless threats that will never happen. Since our wrong behavior receives no immediate punishment, perhaps we’re not so bad after all. Maybe God doesn’t really mean it when he says our wrong actions are sin.

To this I hear God again saying “Enough.”

There are consequences for disobeying God, and I fear our time is up.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 10-12, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 12:21-28.]

Are You a Friend of Sinners?

It’s hard to embrace those who are different from us but we should

Jesus is a Friend of Sinners, by Peter DeHaanThe word sin is an unpopular one in today’s culture. Postmodern thinking rejects moral absolutes and advocates that anything goes. Under an ideal of tolerance, society claims that to label an action as sinful is judgmental, closeminded, and unacceptable. Ironically they become intolerant of people who talk about sin.

In reality, everyone sins (Romans 3:23).

It’s just that we downplay or even ignore our own sins, while we recoil from the sins of others, which we deem as more objectionable or even abhorrent.

The Bible says Jesus is a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34). This slur comes from his detractors, and he repeats it. They intend it as criticism, but we see it as a badge of honor. We admire Jesus for hanging out with the people that the righteous religious society rejects: prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, lepers, the sick and unclean, other races and mixed races, and so forth.

It seems Jesus accepts everyone the religious leaders discard. In fact he makes a point to do so, often going out of his way to welcome them. He embraces them; he loves them.

We respect Jesus for doing so. Shouldn’t we do the same?

Shouldn’t we make a point to behave more like Jesus and reach out to those the organized church reviles? Who might this be? The other political party? Muslims? The LGBT community? Pornographers? Those with a criminal record? The list goes on. There is no end.

Hosea writes that God desires mercy not sacrifice, that is, offering mercy trumps following a bunch of rules (Hosea 6:6). Jesus confirms this and adds that these folks are the reason he came (Matthew 9:12-13).

Let’s be more like Jesus and befriend those who the church rejects.

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Should We Confess the Sins of Our Nation?

Daniel reads the scriptures, fasts, and prays, confessing the sins of his people

Should We Confess the Sins of Our Nation?When I think of praying, confessing my faults to God is not the first thing that comes to mind. And when I am convicted of the need to admit to an errant act or a missed opportunity, I don’t linger there. I make it quick and then move on to more pleasant communication with my Maker, Savior, and Guide.

Basking in the spiritual reality of the almighty God is where I want to be. Acknowledging my faults to him is not nearly so much fun.

Personal confession is hard enough; corporate confession – admitting the faults of our community – is barely comprehensible to me. Yet that is exactly what Daniel does.

Daniel studies the prophecies in scripture. He sees that his people are receiving punishment for turning away from God. He reads the foretelling that their exile will last seventy years. That time is almost up.

Yet instead of thanking God that the allotted season of deportation is about over, Daniel is driven to contrition and fasting. He confesses the sins of his forefathers and countrymen. It’s as if he takes the sins of the nation upon his shoulders and confesses them to God: “We have sinned …”; “We have been wicked…”; “We have turned away…”; We have not listened…”; “We have not obeyed…”; “We have rebelled…”; and on he goes. Mixed in with his confession for his people is praise and affirmation to God.

In this Daniel, for whom the Bible records no sin, takes on the collective “we” to confess his nation’s faults. He doesn’t need to do this, but he does. Maybe we should do the same for our country.

How do you feel about personal confession? How do you feel about confessing the wrongs of our nation? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Daniel 7-9, and today’s post is on Daniel 9:1-19.]

One Mistake is One Too Many

Last week we talked about Moses’ mistake of hitting the rock instead of speaking to it. He did this in disobedience to what God told him to do. The Bible calls this sin.

As a result of Moses’ mistake, that is his sin, he was only permitted to see the land God promised to give to the people, but he could not enter into it. This is a great illustration of the idea of following all the rules but one and then not getting into heaven because we’re not good enough.

We can’t earn our way into heaven, because just one “oops” removes that chance. Fortunately, the way to heaven is much easier; it’s called faith.

[Deuteronomy 32:51-52, Deuteronomy 34:4, James 2:10, and Ephesians 2:8-9]

It’s Not My Fault

We live in a society of blame. People shun taking responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings. Instead they blame someone else: “It’s how I was raised,” “He talked me into it,” “It’s her fault not mine,” “If only I had a better education,” “I had no choice,” and so forth.

In doing so, they fail to take responsibility for their own actions. They attempt to pass their error onto someone or something else and thereby avoid God’s censure for their sin.

In God’s perspective, that’s not how things work. Each person is responsible for the things he or she does. Through Moses, God said that each person would die for his or her sin, not the parents but them.

Fortunately, Jesus offers a different solution: Saving people from their sin.

[Deuteronomy 24:16 and Matthew 1:21]

Three Things to Remember About Temptation

In Three Things About Sin, the prescription for sin is to deal with the temptation before it gives way to sin. It’s like getting a vaccine; preparing now to avoid a bigger problem later.

The Bible teaches us three things about temptation; they’re in the form of promises that we can claim and rely on.

1) Our temptations are not unique to us: Others have struggled with the same issues in the past.

2) God will limit temptation to what we can handle: God doesn’t tempt us and he does limit the enemy’s power to do so.

3) God will provide a way out: We can ask God to enable us to see the way out, give us the will to take it, and the strength to persevere.

And then we can withstand the temptation — just as he promised.

[1 Corinthians 10:13]

Three Things to Know About Sin

The book of Genesis in the Bible gives a concise three-point teaching about sin. This was written about Cain, but equally applies to us.

1) Sin is crouching at our door: The word “crouch” reminds me of a cat getting ready to pounce on its prey. The situation is ominous.

2) Sin desires to have us: Once the cat leaps for its quarry, there’s little doubt over the outcome. Sin is crouching for us; it is getting ready to leap and destroy us. There’s little we can do — or is there?

3) We must master it: Sin is much easier to master beforehand rather than in the midst of it. When it is crouching, the potential for sin is there, but it’s not actual sin; it’s temptation. We know what to do with temptation and the devil who promotes it; we are to resist.

[Genesis 4:7, James 4:7]

What Does Jesus Want Us to Forgive?

In my post Be Careful What You Pray I mention a line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Different groups have different wording for this line. There are three I’ve run into:

1) “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The word debt, conjures up thoughts of loans and money. That limits what Jesus meant and isn’t helpful.

2) “Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The word trespass evokes walking uninvited on someone’s property. That’s not helpful either. (However, the dictionary gives a broader understanding for both these words.)

3) “Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” To me, sin is the word that conveys the full impact of this phrase, but I understand some people are put off by that word.

I recently heard a fourth version, which I like for its clarity:

4) “Forgive us for the wrongs we have done, as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.”

That connects with me. I hope one of these four versions connects with you. Now we just need to pray it — and do it.

[Matthew 6:12]