Monday Morning Pulpit: Judging

Sometimes you run out of room or time in your Lord’s Day sermon, and so “Monday Morning Pulpit” is a chance to expand upon or reinforce ideas you didn’t have a chance to finish during the sermon.

We wrapped up a short, topical series on God’s Judgments and Judging at Zion Ev. & Reformed Church. Especially in the second sermon in the series, we looked at what it means for God to Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 50:1 – 6). After demonstrating his judgments in Creation by issuing divine decrees on His own handiwork (“it was good,” “it was very good”) God shows His just judgments in salvation history. God’s judgment climaxes in condemning our sin at the cross, and vindicating Christ at His resurrection (Romans 4:25; I Timothy 3:16), and thus pronouncing us to be justified by faith in Christ (Romans 8:1).

Since God is Judge, how then should we live?

Since God is Judge,

then let us judge ourselves before judging others. The blind cannot lead the blind, (Luke 6:39). If we are guilty of sin, we must first confess our sin. As Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye, (Matt. 7:3-5).”

If I want to obey Jesus, I must judge myself! We are so therapeutic in today’s culture. We hear we must “forgive ourselves,” “love ourselves,” etc ad nauseum. But Jesus ignores the culture of the day and calls us to judge ourselves.

Since God is Judge,

then let us not judge the world. The Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:12 – 13, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'” We must not condemn unbelievers and those rejecting the Gospel for failing to obey laws when they reject the Lawgiver. God will judge them at the right time by the perfect standard of His Law, by their failure to obey and believe in Jesus Christ, and in accord to the revelation they have received. Ours is not to judge them, but instead to love our enemies, pray for and bless them, and principally to proclaim the free offer of forgiveness and grace in Christ Jesus that can be theirs by faith alone.

Therefore, I shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers want to enter into same-sex unions, or watch depraved movies, or live autonomously. If believers want to do that, we need to address this, but unbelievers need to hear the Gospel.

Since God is Judge,

then we must judge after His standard. Jesus commands us to “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). We must not demonstrate partiality or favoritism (the whole book of James), nor attempt to judge based on motives. Jesus knew what was in the heart of man, but we don’t. Therefore, we judge based on fruit (Matthew 7:20).

Further, we don’t have the privilege of not judging. Christians are not to be sponges, retaining the good, the bad and the ugly, but filters that remove all unwanted materials. Solomon wisely informed us that “a simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (Prov. 14:15). Christians must not believe and agree with everything you see and hear. Therefore what we see on television, hear on the radio, read in the newspaper and experience at home and work, needs to be evaluated and an opinion formed. We need to discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil, wise and unwise, and good, better and best, (Philippians 1:9; Hebrews 5:14). Paul commands us to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (I John 4:1). The mention of “every spirit” (panti pneumati) reminds us how often our judging and testing must occur.

Since God is Judge,

then we ought to judge the actions of our fellow believers. When Paul heard that “sexual immorality was reported” among the Corinthians, he called for them to judge the situation and remove the offender (I Corinthians 5:1 – 2). He explains that Christians alone are uniquely qualified for this kind of judgment:

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
I Corinthians 6:2 – 3

The Scriptural command is to not allow judges or the civil courts to enter into these situations, but instead to make sure they are tried in the courts of the Church.

Today, we so often disobey this command by abdicating our responsibility to judge either by turning our disagreements over to the civil courts, or (more often?) ignoring the problem until it is too late. We have a duty to judge these things in a just manner.

Since God is Judge,

we can judge in love and meekness. While many would argue that this kind of judging is harsh and cruel, Scripture portrays this as just the opposite. Far from being unloving and cruel, rebuke can be an expression of love. Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” And Proverbs 28:23 agrees: “He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.” Jesus was “meek and lowly in heart.” Moses was the “meekest of men.” Yet, both Jesus and Moses judged what they saw and heard. We aren’t to judge with self-important flattery, despising others or in anger, but with gentleness seeking repentance (Romans 2:1 – 4).

Since God is Judge,

we do not need to judge believers on disputable opinions. Paul expressly forbids passing judgment on things like special days, food & drink, and anything that would destroy the work of God in your brother (Romans 14 – 15). God will judge them, and they are His servants, so do not try to judge another’s servant (Romans 14:4)! If a person holds a position or action that is not clearly condemned by Scripture or good and necessary consequence, and your neighbor does so for the glory of God (Romans 14:6 – 8), then let that one alone to stand before God.

This grants us freedom to not be morality police, but rather encouraging one another to police their own conscience, and build one another up in maturity of the faith so that we would all be “strong brothers.”

Since God is Judge,

we do not let others judge us. This does not mean we up to other people and say, “Stop judging me!” Rather, we ignore the judgments of the world, the flesh, and Satan, and find our identity in the judgment God has already passed over us in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We stand or fall before God alone, and no other verdict that vies for our attention is to be listened to, only our justifying verdict that is granted to us by sovereign grace.

Other verdicts produce all sorts of feelings and effects: guilt, discontent, frustration, and multitudes more. But the verdict God pronounces over us leads to a very different result:

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

May we all live in the confidence and strength of God our Judge.

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