Was Jesus Judgmental?

“Jesus wouldn’t judge someone, why should we?!” This is something we’ve all heard, and something we may have even said. But is it true?

In Matthew 7:1-6 when Jesus says, “Do not Judge” is he really saying we should be completely accepting of everyone? On another occasion (John 8:1-11), the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, and instead of condemning her he replied, “If anyone is without sin let him cast the first stone.”

Since these are the two most strongest and most popular examples, these will be the two we’ll look at below.

“Do Not Judge” (Matthew 7:1-6)
Jesus was constantly battling the Pharisees, who were known for their righteousness and strict study of God’s Word. They were also known for adding extra burdens on people, just to make sure they don’t fall into sin. They were so focused on preventing sin, it seemed that sin was always on their minds.

Instead of focusing on other people’s sin, Jesus told them to look at themselves first. “Take the plank out of your own eye.” Sometimes we point out other people’s sin because it’s so much more comfortable than paying attention to the sin in our own lives. Ironically, we even notice the very sin we are blind to in ourselves as what is most repulsive and off-putting when we see it in others. Jesus’ reminder to look in the mirror is something everyone needs to follow.

It is important, however, to notice that Jesus says, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus does not say, “Only worry about yourself, accept others just as they are.” Instead, he reminds us that if we’re going to do surgery, we need to make sure we can see clearly. If we are going to help others walk faithfully with God then we should be faithful too!

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Jesus is talking about helping a “brother.” Christian, you cannot expect nonChristians to follow God’s Word. We are to encourage and rebuke others to claim to be Christians, to direct them towards godliness. Those who are not Christians need the Gospel more than they need the Law, they need to know who God is and how to get right before a holy God before they can be expected to live rightly.

Jesus and the Adulterous Woman (John 8:1-11)
As Jesus was teaching in the temple, the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. Leviticus 20:10 says that both the woman and the man should be stoned to death. Curiously, the man is absent from court before Jesus, further showing that the Pharisees aren’t truly interested in justice but only in trapping Jesus between Scripture and popularity. Will Jesus choose to condemn the woman who is obviously guilty of adultery, or will let her free and show that he values the people’s opinion over what the Bible says?

Instead, Jesus turns the tables. He tells them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her.” Everyone slowly walks away… except for Jesus. The sinless judge remains. But instead of throwing a stone, he acknowledges her sin while showing grace. “Go, and sin no more.” That simple statement is Jesus telling her, “Yes, you sinned. You are guilty. But I will show you grace. Go, and let that grace change you so that you aren’t found guilty again.”

Jesus is THE Judge
Jesus wasn’t only judgmental, he is THE Judge (John 5:22John 9:39, Acts 10:42, Romans 2:16, Revelation 19:11-21). Jesus will be the one who separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-20, 36-43), the good fish and the bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50). Not only would Jesus judge someone… one day he will judge everyone. Judgement is real, and God’s judgment is eternal. It is not pleasant to talk about. If you truly believe in any kind of judgment before God, warning others would be the kind and merciful thing to do. We are not the judge, but shouldn’t we warn others if we are persuaded they would be found guilty?

Bring us to the Cross
Unfortunately, Christians today are known by the way they have judged others and shown themselves to still be sinners in need of grace. Yes, we have judged others in ways we should not. But some of that “judging” is right. For we are called to call sin “sin” and bad “bad.” When we accept with is sinful and say that it is fine and good, then we have lost our saltiness and we our light has been snuffed out (Matthew 5:13-16).

Jesus frequently issued warnings about judgment and the wrath of God, and he called people to repentance so that they would stop sinning and start doing what is right. He did so with love and mercy, because he never wrote anyone off as “too far gone.” As we follow Jesus’ example, let’s be sure to remember the two examples above.

In the midst of trying to discern how to show love and grace and humility while acknowledging the reality of sin in our own lives and in the lives of others, may we continually point people to the love of God poured out for us on the cross. For it is on the cross where the wrath of God was poured out against all sin, even while the love of God was fully displayed, because he took that wrath upon himself so that we could “go, and sin no more.”

Thinking About Self-Righteousness

Don’t be this guy!

Self Righteousness… does anyone like it?  You know the type… those who walk around like they’re holier than thou, judging everyone else for not being as godly as they are.  That’s basically the stereotype that every Christian needs to fight against (see the above image!). 

But here’s the thing… you can’t be a Christian and be self-righteous.  

Self-Righteousness says:

  • “I am better than you are.”
  • “I am good enough to be acceptable to God.”
  • “You can’t judge me, only what I believe matters.” 
  • “You need to do and believe what I do and believe, because I’m the one who’s right.”

Those are things no Christian can say.  If you are a Christian and you say those things, then you have not understood the Gospel.  (Yes, I realize the irony here. Before you accuse me of being self-righteous, please finish reading this post.)

As Christians, we completely rely on Jesus’ righteousness, not our own.  The only thing my righteousness earns for me is judgment (Romans 3:23-24, 6:23).  The Gospel shouts, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). 

The ironic thing about accusations of “Self-Righteousness” is that every religion other than Christian actually teaches self-righteousness.  I know that’s a huge claim to make, and I’m willing to be proven wrong in the comment section below, but I do think it’s true.  Only Christianity teaches that we are acceptable to God because of someone else’s righteousness; other religions and philosophies teach that you are required to improve yourself before God in order to “attain righteousness.”  

When we build our understanding of “truth” on our own interpretations or opinions then aren’t we defending our own self-righteousness by saying that we are the ultimate knower and determiner or what is real?  Instead, when we rely on what God has revealed through the Holy Scriptures and we seek to understand what God has spoken and how the Scriptures still speak today (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then we are again relying on the righteousness of the God who speaks rather than on ourselves.  

Ultimately, Christians, we must remember that we are not self-righteous… we fully rely on the righteousness of Jesus.  Let us live in such humble and faith-full way that the righteousness of Jesus would shine through us, and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).  

I don’t want anyone else to be more like me!  I want them to be more like Jesus… because I want to be more like him too.

Christians, Generosity, Tithing, & Fancy Cars

I had a really interesting conversation with a Christian friend the other day who asked a question I’ve been really working through, and since I think best with my fingers on a keyboard, here are some of my thoughts.

The question was something like this: “If God has blessed me financially, is it ok for me to buy a nice car or do I need to give it away?”  Here we go…

First, I think this is a great question that I wish more people would ask and discuss.  It’s such an honest and down-to-earth question that makes the issue of tithing and Christian giving real and practical, I love this.  The question itself comes from a heart that’s doing one of two things: Looking to trap God/Christians into a “they’re only after my money” situation, or (as is the case with my friend) it’s an honest internal struggle to be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to our care.  I hope that we can all agree that we are stewards, not owners, of the things we have – because we will all one day give account for what we were given and how we used it.

Second, We need to consider the 10% tithe.  I don’t feel the need to go into why a 10% tithe is biblical (if you want more on that, read what Tim Challies wrote HERE).  What I want to focus on is our recognition that we have received much grace from God, and when we realize how deep our need is, how much Christ has given for us and to us, then the Holy Spirit will form within us a generous heart.  If we aren’t generous towards others, it’s probably because we don’t realize how generous God has been towards us.  Christians should be marked by generosity.  Stinginess is distinctly anti-Gospel and unChristian.  I’m not really too stuck on the 10% number, and I’d focus more on the heart and the WHY behind the giving than the numer and the HOW MUCH.  God loves a cheerful giver more than he loves a generous giver, but cheerful givers are usually quite generous.

Third, I think we need to simply ask, “Are you tithing at least 10% of your income?”  If the answer’s no, then don’t buy the car.  If buying the car might cut into your “ability” (or willingness, really) to continue tithing at least 10% then don’t buy the car.  If there are people close to you who are in legitimate need and you’re in a position to help but you choose to buy a newer expensive car instead, then that’s probably a decision to reconsider.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s sinful, and I personally wouldn’t hold it against someone (as I explain below, I think a lot of this is a conscience issue – my counsel here is to help individuals work through the various questions that apply), but I do think you should prayerfully consider whether or not buying an expensive car will reduce your ability to give towards the needs of others.

Fourth, I think a lot of this could be a conscience issue.  We all have different idols we fight.  Some value appearances and spend significant money on their wardrobe, hair, etc. to look a certain way; others buy houses they can’t afford because they think it’ll buy them happiness and the ever-elusive American Dream; others buy more books than they have time to read (guess who that would be?!).  If buying this new car would become an idol, a source of temptation, a way to change how others look at you, an object to obsess over and value more than a car should be valued… then don’t buy the car.

Fifth, Will it bring you joy or will it be your joy?  God blesses us in order to be a blessing, but he also wants us to simply enjoy being blessed!  We should not turn God’s blessing into a curse because we’re afraid to take joy and delight in what He’s given us!  God isn’t trying to set you up for a fall by blessing you financially.  If you’ve been faithful with little and He chooses to give you more, continue handling your money the way you have in the past and enjoy the ride.

 As Christians, we should be a people who are marked by generosity: not because we are forced or feel an obligation to give, but because we know how much we have received from our generous God.  If you can buy a nice new car in good conscience and with the above-mentioned questions being answered appropriately, then by all means do so… and enjoy it.

Time for Tebow: What I Love & What I’m Concerned About

This is my first post on Tim Tebow.  Honestly, I simply haven’t known what to say!  Personally, I’m torn about him as a quarterback (although he’s starting to make me look foolish when I say things like, “Don’t you need to be consistently accurate to be a good quarterback in the NFL?”), I don’t know many who could even attempt to question his character.

Especially after his latest come-from-behind victory against the Chicago Bears, bringing the Bronco’s to a 7-1 record as their starting QB, it seems that Tebow-mania is in full swing.  I’ve been holding off on writing about Tebow until now, but since he seems all the rage I figured it was time to put some thoughts to writing.

So far, Tebow is a living example of Titus 2:7-8

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Here’s what I love about Tebow:

  • He seems so genuine.  I don’t know him personally, but I haven’t yet heard of anyone who does know him from college coming out from the woodwork saying that he’s a phony.  If he’s a phony or a hypocrite, surely someone would’ve surfaced by now to let us know.
  • He’s not ashamed to give Jesus the glory.  Sure, you can debate whether or not he should “tone things down” about his faith, but everyone knows what he believes.  I frequently cringe when musicians give Jesus the glory for their Grammy (often, for a song that glorifies violence, sex, or drug-use), but when Tebow does it he seems totally genuine and humble.
  • He’s a great role model to look up to.  When we look around at people who are frequently named in magazines and the news, Tebow stands out among the rest.  In the midst of our fascination of all things “Rich and Famous,” Tebow stands out for being so drastically different and mysterious.  He keeps on winning, even though he shouldn’t.  He doesn’t fit the mold for anything.  He doesn’t really fit into any box that anyone tries to squeeze him into.
  • He wins, and he inspires those around him to win.  It’s not always pretty, but he wins even when the odds are stacked against him and people are hoping that he fails.  I’m not so certain that he’s “God’s Quarterback,” but he doesn’t give up when others would.  People point to the Bronco’s defense as the reason why they’ve started winning, but they have the same defense they had when they were losing all those games before Tebow started as QB.  Not only does Tebow win, he makes those around him winners too!

Here are a few things I’m concerned about:

  • Idolatry.  I’m not concerned that Tebow would become an idolater as much as I’m concerned that he’d become an idol.  Criticizing Tebow’s form or game-performance is fair, but there are some Christians out there who refuse to hear it.  Tebow points to Jesus, not himself – let’s follow his lead.
  • Persecution & Tebow.  I’ve heard people say that Tebow is being persecuted for being so vocal about his faith.  Persecution is intentional harm done to someone because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  Gossip and slander isn’t persecution unless they bring about actual harm to the person.  So far, I simply don’t see any cause for making Tebow a martyr.
  • Failure.  If Tebow fails, will my faith in Christ be shaken?  No… but I fear that many people could be placing faith in Tebow that doesn’t belong there.  If he fails as a NFL Quarterback or if he fails morally, we will be disappointed, but we should be  careful to not place our faith in Tebow but in Christ.

I’m not convinced that God is making Tebow win.  If you watch the games and know a bit about football you can see a lot of things seem to happen for Tebow late in the fourth quarter that he’s capitalized on.  He’s a good, smart football player.  Do I think it’s possible that God has chosen to give Tebow success so that Christ would receive the glory?  It’s possible.  The Gospel Coalition posted a fantastic article written by Owen Strachan today on this very issue, please take a few minutes to read it (yes, it’s very theological, so it’s not really “casual reading,” but it’s a great article to chew on):  “Tebow, Calvin, and the Hand of God in Sports”

If you haven’t watched the video embedded above, do yourself a favor and take two minutes to watch it.  Bob Costas did an excellent job highlighting Tebow in a very honoring and fair way.  The script to what he wrote can be found here.

The most clever article I’ve read on Tebow comes from Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal, “What Tim Tebow Can’t Do.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Despite all of these issues, people still like Tim Tebow, which is mystifying. It’s as if they can’t recognize his flaws. They’re blinded by hype. They’re willfully ignorant. They want to believe in a myth.

One day they will see all of Tim Tebow’s shortcomings. How he’s never once sang O Canada at a Vancouver Canucks game. How he’s never captured a live dinosaur. How he’s too chicken to run for President.

Tim Tebow never, ever makes everybody happy. He can’t really do anything besides win football games. Since when did anyone care about that?

Here are two more good Tebow posts I’ve come across:

Movie Remakes and Changing the Church

I was listening to a podcast yesterday where the speaker mentioned the Karate Kid, and for some reason it made me think about what a shame it is to remake such a classic like they recently did.  Confession: I haven’t seen the remake with Jackie Chan (who is amazing) and Jaden Smith.  I thought about what I know of the remake: Chan is Mr. Miyagi and Smith (who’s maybe 10 years old?) plays “Daniel Son” and it takes place in Hong Kong.  It’s a total remake but keeps the same plot and story-line.  By and large, I think most people in their twenties and older thought the idea of remaking such an amazing and iconic movie was ridiculous and unnecessary.

Then, since I had this thought while listening to a podcast about leadership in the Church, I jumped ahead and made the connection to how movie remakes are in some ways like changes we make in the Church.  Keep the same message, but communicate it in a different way (change the sermon’s presentation style, change the music style, change the church’s architecture, change the pulpit/sanctuary to be more laid back, change the “dress code,” or whatever other changes we can make).

Maybe some of us from the “younger generation” who are more accepting of some of these changes can learn to identify with our older (and more mature!) brothers and sisters in the faith and can learn to give them some grace when they are resistant to changes we would like to see happen.  Paul encouraged in Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

You don’t want people messing with your movies… and let’s be honest, it’s just a movie.  Let’s be careful that we aren’t changing too much in our churches so that we’re cutting out what’s “classic” and “iconic” about our Christian Faith.

Dangerous Faith

(disclaimer: this is very much a “stream of consciousness” post, just thought I’d warn you)

A friend of mine posted the following story to Facebook with the question, “Would you go to church on Sunday morning if there was the potential of the church being attacked?”  Here’s the link to the story: Warning to Western churches after al-Qaeda call to attack sacred places. Here’s an excerpt:

According to a report by ABC News, a new video message released this month showed the American-born al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn calling upon jihadis in the West to get hold of guns and carry out lone terrorist attacks on institutions and public figures in their home countries.

“What are you waiting for?” said Gadahn, in the first video message to be released after the death of Osama bin Laden and published by Al-Jazeera’s English language channel.

He also stated: “Muslims in the West have to remember that they are perfectly placed to play an important and decisive part in the Jihad against the Zionists and crusaders, and to do major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on their religion, sacred places, and things, and brethren.

So would you, would I, go to church if there was a threat that we might be attacked?  This isn’t just about going to church on Sunday morning, but, in the bigger picture, about meeting together publicly with other Christians.  Around the world, many “churches” are simply gatherings of people in homes or small buildings.  The reality is, this dilemma is commonly faced by many Christians around the world.  However, this isn’t something most Americans (I’m absolutely including myself here) give much thought to… we take our religious freedoms for granted.

As Christians, we believe in a dangerous faith that calls us to give our everything to Christ.  There is a line between being stupid (needlessly walking right into a situation that will certainly cause you harm) and walking by faith in a risky situation (obeying God even in the midst of risk).

This article is making me ask myself a few questions today:

  1. What am I really trusting God for?  What am I doing that would fail if God doesn’t “come through?”
  2. Why don’t I pray more for the Church (with a capital “C”)?
  3. Would I go to church if there was a standing threat against Christians meeting together, or would I isolate myself from other Christians in order to stay safe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pilgrim/Indigenizing Principle: How Christians can Faithfully Live in Culture

I have recently come across Andrew Walls’ “Pilgrim & Indigenous Principle” and have found it a very helpful guide for how Christians can faithfully live in their culture.  Justin Taylor has written an excellent and far more in-depth take on Wall’s principle than I intend to provide here: “Two Essential Gospel Impulses: The Indigenizing Principle and the Pilgrim Principle.”

I’ve written on this issue before by referring to what’s been labeled “Cave Dwellers & Feflon Christians.” “Cave Dwellers” take the stance that we should reject culture completely in order to prevent it from having a negative influence on us.  “Teflon Christians” are those who deny that culture even has an influence on them, and so they just do/watch/listen to/consume whatever they want while believing it makes no impact on their faith.  I’m going off on a limb and am going to make a very general statement saying that most American Christians fall more into the Teflon Christian camp… at least that’s how it seems when we look around.

Pilgrims are simply men and women who are traveling through a country in order to get somewhere else.  They are not residents of the country where they are presently, rather, they consider themselves as citizens of their homeland.  The “Pilgrim Principle” has to do with what makes us Christian.  Paul tells us “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) and Scripture reaffirms this teaching that we must not squeeze ourselves into the mold of the world/culture around us.  Rather, we must proclaim Christ Jesus and obey the Lord.  Christians should be different from everyone else… if you are a Christian and people can’t tell there’s anything different between you and your non-Christian neighbor then there’s a problem.  It’s good to revisit 1 Corinthians 8 and to remember Paul’s warnings about the strong leading the weak into sin by exercising their freedom.

Indigenous” means that something has to do with culture in which it is found.  A great example is folktales: every culture has its own folktales that are well known by the people of that culture, but it makes no sense to those outside the culture (try dressing up like Johnny Appleseed in Beijing and ask people who you look like!).  So the “Indigenizing Principle” teaches that there are aspects of culture that are entirely appropriate for Christians and the Church to embrace.  For instance, unless you read the Bible in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek then your church has adopted the Indigenizing Principle to some degree, because you read the Bible in the language of your culture!  Jesus prayed, “I ask that you do not take them out of the world, but that you keep them free from the evil one” (John 17:15).  Ultimately, God himself embraced this principle by sending God the Son to take on flesh, to live in our world in order to redeem it (Remember, “Emmanuel” means “God with us!”).  We also see the Apostle Paul embracing this in Acts 17 while in Athens.

So what does this mean for us as Christians as we seek to go about our days, praying and seeking to faithfully honor Jesus Christ in all that we do so that the lost might receive the Word of Life and be given the gift of faith and eternal life?  I believe we must hold these two principles in tension: Be a Pilgrim (don’t conform to the pattern of this world) and Be Indigenous (be all things to all people so that some might come to know Christ).

Most importantly of all: Focus on Christ.  As soon as we shift our focus onto being “relevant” we’re missing the point.   We do not work to make Scripture relevant, we work in order to demonstrate that it already is!  As we give our lives to Christ each day, focus on Him and pray for those around you…